Oliver Twist Vs “Donate Button” Hikers


“Please, Sir, I want some more?” (photo from the movie, “Oliver!”)

The first time I saw a Donate button with a “Buy Me a Meal” tagline on a hiking blog, I immediately thought of that famous line from Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist.

You know the one I’m talking about. When Oliver was fed up (figuratively rather than literally) with gruel, and after a bit of nudging from his mates, gets up the courage to ask for some extra food:

Please, Sir, I want some more.”

After a wee chuckle to myself, it struck me that aside from the fact that these hikers and Oliver are both requesting additional alimentation (or in the case of the former, it could be beer, coffee, straight out cash, etc.), they actually don’t have that much in common.

So without further ado, here’s the tale of the tape. Oliver Twist Vs “Buy Me a Meal/Donate Button” Thru-Hikers. What the hey, for good measure let’s throw in the “GoFundMe” crowd as well:


Oliver Twist – Rail thin nine year old orphan born into abject poverty.

Donate Button/Buy me a Meal hiker – Twenty to forty-something middle class bloggers…………occasionally older hikers get in on the act as well.



Oliver Twist – Oppressive workhouse, nineteenth century England.

Donate Button/Buy me a Meal Hiker – Some of the most beautiful natural surroundings of America’s lower 48 states (fingers crossed).


Oliver Twist – Chronically underfed and overworked.

Donate button/Buy me a Meal Hiker – They haven’t saved enough money to fund their trip themselves, so for the price of posting the occasional paragraph and photo on social media, they decide to ask complete strangers to chip in and help pay for their holiday.



Oliver Twist – Plate in hand and lump in throat, Oliver approaches the exceedingly well-fed Mr. Bumble and quietly asks for a bit more food.

Donate Button/Buy Me a Meal Hiker –  From what I can tell, the process goes something like this:

1.  Read a hyperbole filled long distance trail journal in which every chilly morning potentially means hypothermia, and every warmish day could result in severe dehydration and an intravenous drip. Or alternatively, just pick up a copy of “Wild.”

2.  Sufficiently inspired, convince yourself (but not really) that you are doing something “out of the ordinary.” That being the case, surely folks will pay to help you achieve your goal…………I mean really, why wouldn’t they? It’s not like they have more important things to put their money towards.

3.  Embellish your back story as much as possible. Be sure to mention that you’ve worked hard for years in order to realize your dream, however, you’re just a little shy on the savings front, and you sure would appreciate a helping fiscal hand.

4.  Be shameless……..#*!# it……….you’ve come this far…………why not go the extra cyber mile? Ask readers to pay for town accommodation, flights to trailheads, maybe even big-ticket equipment items such as tents and sleeping bags.


I suspect that this post will get up some peoples noses (e.g. hikers with donate buttons, the people who give them money, folks with no sense of humour, Cheryl Strayed fans and maybe the family of the old guy in the photo asking for $10).

However, after seeing a bunch of these donate buttons and GoFundMe campaigns in recent times, I couldn’t resist any longer.

As a person that has spent most of his adult life living, working, volunteering and travelling in developing countries, I have seen more than my fair share of extreme poverty. But at the same time, I’ve also seen countless cases of men and women working their guts out twelve hours plus every day, seven days a week, year after year, just to put food on their families tables.

All jokes aside, the idea of comparatively well-to-do long distance hikers from first world countries, asking strangers to help pay for what ostensibly is a multi-month walking holiday, just doesn’t seem right to my way of thinking.



Oliver Twist Vs “Donate Button” Hikers — 18 Comments

    • Really Swami, you aren’t going to fund my super EPIC hike. really, it’s EPIC. Combine Curmudgeon 1 (Swami’s) gofundme post with Curmudgeon 2 (Mags) Epic post and we have the whole sad state of entitlement hiking.

      Curmudgeon 3 (Malto)

  1. I work hard, I’m trying to gather gear for my bucket list of backpacking and I would never consider asking someone to fund me. The gofundme requests have watered down what I believe it was intended for and trust me, I’ve sent many small donations (all I could afford) to help someone with an unexpected debt like illness, funeral, etc. I have even resentfully sent money to fund someone’s honeymoon so I’m not immune to event hings like that. FOR ME and my opinion is it doesn’t feel right to be asked for money when many of us are working for our goals.

  2. Interesting! I hadn’t even noticed such requests, probably not looking in the right social media.

    Gifts are fraught with danger, social faux pas, outrage, insult, offense. When my husband and I got married, we didn’t want kitchen crap for wedding gifts, cute things for a house, etc. We wanted money to travel for as long as possible. That seemed crass to ask for though (does anyone know what crass is these days?) so instead we said something like – no gifts needed, give to your favorite charity instead. Of course, some people (relatives) gave us money, so we put that toward travel (and truthfully, we knew that would happen). Others did give to charities of all sorts (would have been good to specify, since we didn’t like some of them values-wise), and close friends made stuff or gave gag gifts – very cool! I guess now people could register at REI, we didn’t even think of that!

    No, I can’t imagine asking anyone to fund my fun, then or now. Nor would I fund anyone else’s on a website, especially a stranger. I would certainly help a friend in need by sharing gear, food, transport, etc. And I still pick up hitchhikers. Credit card donations to random individuals online? No thanks.

  3. I suspect that you bloggers will run across this type of thing more often than most. I don’t look for this and don’t frequent many of the forums that might have posts of this sort. None the less, it seems that this sort of things happen all the time and is accepted behavior in these times. I’ve seen gofundme accounts for dental work, funeral expenses and other odd requests. This may be the electronic equivalent to hitchhiking. The difference is that the hitchhiker is just asking for a ride in the general direction of his destination and not expecting you to drop what you’re doing and take him there.

  4. Great point but keep in mind some people spend hours a day writing blog posts and putting up photo’s with the expectation that some people will donate money to their hike. The people I know of who do that are self funded but the donations help offset the cost or make their hike a little more comfortable.

  5. I love the spirit of your post Cam, and both agree and don’t agree with the implication. I regularly give money to crowdfunding projects and support people on Patreon which allows people to receive money (usually microdonations) from their community who believe in them and what they’re doing on an ongoing basis. I also called on my community through a crowdfunding project to help me go to Ireland to study, and it gave me a taste of the gift economy and what participation in it does in me: puts me in a position of sacred exchange with my community in which it can never be far from my mind: how is it my turn to give? How and to whom? Who is next? How is this to be of service to others? That’s the power of the gift economy to me. It changes what money is for me, and increases my sense of responsibility and service. And yeah, I’m probably not going to sponser a bozo to have a paid holiday… but if I sniff out a real pilgrim spirit in what someone is up to, then I would donate money without thinking twice. Love your work. Wildgoose

  6. I’m surprised I haven’t run across someone on the internet who claims that living their dream outdoors is akin to being an outdoor evangelist, then asking me to pledge $10 per month just for their writing and entertaining me while I am still unfortunate enough to NOT have time to thru hike the AT/PCT/CDT and also live a dream. Maybe when someone decides to “leaves no trace” time automatically goes pre-internet and we should not even know their face and I would have no idea what took place – unless the local news broadcast it or I saw their book for sale. I hope this doesn’t sound cruel even though it says, “It’s better to give than to receive” and I like reading about personal adventures.

  7. I’m not so much bothered by the asking for money but for the lack of quality and honesty in the work behind. This is sad. In the end, it’s quite meaningless. Better to move away from the crap and concentrate on the good stuff out there as well as one’s own with quality and honesty as key goals.

  8. I was texted and woken up at 4am by a personal trainer at the Gym, who wanted funding for his upcoming triathlon in Hawaii.
    You have got to be kidding. When I go to Hawaii for a holiday, and I’ve worked and saved all of my life to get there I don’t ask random people I know to throw in a few bob for the “cause”.
    Keep on hiking.

  9. I don’t have a donate button for me, will soon have one to raise money for The Optic Neuritis Foundation once I start my AT hike. I don’t expect anyone to pay my way but have enlisted several companies that have donated products for my hike. Ie:shoes,protein bars,soap, mushroom tea, etc.

    IMO Don’t expect others to fund your adventures.

    Ps. I’m legally blind.

  10. Couldn’t have anything to do with an entitlement mentality, could it? Maybe back in the early days of GoFundMe, when there were less people on the trail, when we had more disposable income – maybe this panned out for some. Today, everyone is on the AT. Or the PCT. I have a Great Idea (TM), I’m going to start a GoFundMe page for people to donate so that I won’t hike the AT and bombard them with boring, grammatically lacking drivel every other day, splashed with pictures of Nature (TM) and other flora doing nothing but sitting there being natural looking. Or you could do what Adam Baker over at Man vs Debt did (manvsdebt.com). SELL ALL OF YOUR SHIT, GET OUT OF DEBT, AND DO WHAT YOU LOVE. Then you can write books about it and sell a ton of them on the internet and make some bread in the process. But in either case, you’re using your own money to finance your own vacation (which is what a thru-hike is, even if it also winds up being “spiritual” or LifeChanging (TM). Hike because you love to hike. Pay for it yourself. If you can’t do that today, make some changes instead of shaking a tin cup. 🙂

  11. I passed a guy standing on the corner today, holding a sign and begging for money. I regularly see some of these same people, who probably take home as much money as some people who work for a living do. And the guy on the corner probably isn’t paying any taxes, and is getting free health care and food stamps. Yes, some folks really do need help, but there are plenty of panhandlers out there who really don’t.

    Your post reminded me of a story in Dervla Murphy’s book Full Tilt: Dunkirk to Delhi by Bicycle, in which she talks about a couple of Westerners traveling in Afghanistan, who blew most of their money on Persian rugs. They then proceeded to accept money from the locals, who were already poor but offered help to the strangers, as is customary. The travelers then used that money to buy even more souvenirs. That’s the attitude of the entitled. Murphy’s book was written in 1965. Some things never change.

  12. Maybe, some people donate funds to “causes” like these so they can engage in the next supposedly best thing to living their own lives…living through others. Maybe, it’s similar to those living vicariously through the abundance and popularity of irreality, um I mean “reality” TV programming, soap operas, social media, blogging, etc? It can make one wonder how much of behavior like this is a consequence of general culture and, some would say, spiritual waywardness.

    The deeper one investigates the more it’s revealed that to some extent there exists a degree of entitlement behavior in all of us. It’s not new. However, narcissism, worldly selfish ambition, and conceit certainly seems on the rise. Where are folk’s humility to keep their egos in check?

    Going to Nature, backpacking, and even the simple act of walking can be a vehicle for greater humbleness, keeping self esteem in balance.

    Time for me to do more hiking.

    Solvitur ambulando.

  13. Really people ask for a donate or go fund for a hike? WOW! Thats incredible, I would never think of doing that. I worked and served for 22 years in the US Navy. I also went over to Afghanistan, land of sand and stink and worked shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan Military. Come on hit the donate button folks get off your arse and go work and save for your dream. Plenty of other cause for me to actually donate to!!!

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