Backpackers: The Phenotypes. A research paper by Stephen Kain.


A phenotype is, essentially, behaviour that is exhibited by an organism because it has a gene that directs it to behave that way when the circumstances present themselves.

For example, a bird building a nest. Birds don’t go around building nests all day, every day, but in the right circumstances the gene for building a nest provides the impetus for the bird to think “Damn, this egg is gonna be a bitch to get out. I’d better make sure I’ve got something to put it in.” Or, if it’s a cuckoo, “ Fuck it, I’ll just put my egg in somebody else’s twig bucket and head back to the club.”

Those crazy cuckoos. They’re cuckoo!

(That was a terrible joke, but a fun homonym. The word “homonym” is [in my opinion] part of the same family of words as cinnamon and sea anemone, in that they are so fun to say that you can’t help but throw in a few more syllables and/or swap a few letters around. Honomymanym. Cinnamonon. Sea ananomoname.)

So how does this information on genetically motivated behaviour relate to backpackers? Well, there is significant observational evidence that humans have specific genes that are switched on when they lug a backpack over their shoulder and get on a plane to lands unfamiliar. As we are quite a heterogeneous bunch, however, different genes direct backpackers to behave in different ways.

Having spent years observing these curious creatures, below are the results of my extensive research. Ladies and gents, I present you with The Backpacker Phenotypes.


The Reception Junkie

The reception junkie is a backpacker who must go to reception anytime they can, to ask any question they can think of. Once the question is asked, they will stand there for an uncomfortable amount of time trying desperately to think of something else about which to inquire.

The follow-up questions are delivered insecurely, a craven attempt to get attention: “So, where are you.. who… umm, is that picture bolted to the wall or does it just, y’know, hang on a string?”

Unlike the rest of humankind, the Reception Junkie is completely impervious to eye rolling.

The Raspy Dragon

The Raspy Dragon is a female of the species who always sounds like she has eaten three packets of cigarettes and downed a bottle of Jim Beam the night before, most likely because she has.

The Surfer

Hot? Yes. Retarded? Yes.

Dreadlocked Fire-Stick-That-Is-Never-On-Fire Twirler

The ultimate tool. Avoid at all costs.

“Umm, aren’t you the dude who when you arrived two weeks ago had Kesha playing in your headphones and one of those super-primped hair-gelled swishy haircuts? Yeah. I thought so. Keep being unique, man. You’re blowing my mind with your uniqueness.”

“Hammy” the burns victim

Arrives in the country and heads straight to the beach. Now looks like he should be purchased by the kilogram in the deli section of Coles. Spends the next two weeks leaving a trail of dead skin behind him wherever he goes. The Raspy Dragon will inevitably dare someone to eat a piece of it.

The One-Upper-er

“You think those are mountains? You should see where I come from! WE got mountains!!!”

99.9% of the time this person will be Canadian.

The Seagull

Never has any food and wanders around asking for scraps from others. Will do this for about 3 months before divulging that they have $10,000 in their bank, but “that’s their savings”.

The Lurker

“Who is that guy? Is he even staying here?”

The New Couple

Oh the pain: public displays of affection branching immediately into public displays of jealousy. Within weeks one of them sleeps with someone else, resulting in a huge fight that continues for days. They play their mutual backpacker friends against each other – causing rifts in the general population – and then make up and pretend it never happened. Play on repeat endlessly.

The Long Term Relationship Couple

They hate each other and will flirt with anyone as soon as the other is out of sight. Even The Lurker.

The Stable Couple



Malaria is covered in more mosquito bites than you ever thought possible, and picks at them endlessly. In front of you. Until they bleed.

The Agoraphobe

Never leaves the building. Watches Family Guy on the communal television from morning til night, except for the occasional moment when he walks out the door, to be met with cheers and applause from the reception staff… only to walk in two minutes later with a takeaway and sit right the fuck back down.

The 6am Curtain Opener

Touch that curtain again and I’ll cut you. Seriously. I. WILL. CUT. YOU.

The Tight Ass

“You just WALKED to Bondi? Isn’t that, like, 3 hours? You know the bus costs $4, right??”

Expensive Camera Guy

Will take 6000 pictures of the same thing and insist on showing you every damn one. “Wow,” you’ll say, “you’re really good at this. Yeah, that’s great… really great.. say, that thing DOES have auto-focus, right? Oh, you wanted it out of focus.. that’s great.. really great.. that’s a great picture.. ” before cursing your god-damn parents for teaching you manners.

The Spud Tugger

Backpacker: “The guy on the bunk above me keeps masturbating all night”

Receptionist: “Then tell him to stop.”

Backpacker: “Can’t you?”

Receptionist: “That would be less fun than watching you do it.”

The Lovely Local

Not a foreigner. Lives in the hostel for a year, being an all round great guy. One night he has a few too many drinks and tells you he’s out on parole, without telling you what for. He most likely only had a few parking tickets or made some harmless mistake in his past but, of course, you think rapist.

The High Expectation Social Executioner

“Come out tonight, it’s gonna be AMAZING!” they say. Everyone has a terrible night because this person can’t relax and wants to change venue every three seconds. Ends up coming back alone every night.

“I don’t know where everyone went! They were there and then, like, they just disappeared!” they’ll say. And never get it.

The Sexual Predator

Looks in the mirror and sees Johnny Depp. Looks like the lead singer from Simply Red to everyone else. Has sex in the dorm, which is met with a resounding “EWWWWW!” from the entire hostel when being discussed the next day.

“Who’s the girl?” everyone whispers. Oh, she checked out at 5am- a shame based exit.


So, there we have ’em. If you’ve been a backpacker you’ve been at least one of these, at least once. The question is: which one?




8 thoughts on “Backpackers: The Phenotypes. A research paper by Stephen Kain.

  1. Have never experienced being a back packer but am sure I would qualify as a 6 am curtain opener…..oh and lucky there is not the facilities to wash previous evenings dishes…..I could be a double C###t


  2. ditto with Kate… can name ALL THE CULPRITS… yes… by name! fuk i miss working with u!! xx c xx hang in there luv… yes… by the skin of ya balls!


  3. Oh this is just brilliant! Been working as a receptionist for over a year now and I can tell you that I’ve met most of those types. 😉


  4. …and the Compaliners, who complain about everything, the Sitters, who spend their entire time sitting in the common area, the Chef, who deters everybody from the kitchen, the Farters (no comment), the Smartass, who know the city better than the native receptionist, I guess the list is endless 😀


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