Backpackers are a very loose subculture of travelers who carry all their stuff with them in a backpack. Typically they are driven by a sense of adventure, and as such are always trying to find somewhere beautiful, completely off the beaten track. They often travel as cheaply as they can to maximise the time they can spend on the road, accepting squalid accommodation or sharing rooms if it will save them any money. Most are in their twenties or early thirties, and almost all are between 18 and 40 though older and younger people aren't unheard-of. People go backpacking for all sorts of reasons but will almost always take offense if it is implied that they are 'on holiday'; backpackers typically consider travel a separate, more serious engagement, all about broadening the mind, experiencing other cultures and trying to satisfy what is often a deep-seated and more often than not insatiable wanderlust.
Backpackers tend to be highly inclusive for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, there tends to be a recognition that everyone is different. Backpackers are often driven to travel because they place a high value on difference and diversity. They live and let live.
Secondly, backpacking often sees you arriving in a strange city, alone or with few companions and possibly little or no grasp of the language. This forces you to be friendly with everyone; maybe you need a traveling companion, or at least someone to hang out with for a while. A friendly face who speaks your language is never unwelcome.
Because they are so inclusive backpackers tend to hang out in groups. The lingua-franca tends to be English, but groups may consist of UK, Americans, Europeans, Israelis, Japanese, Australians, Kiwis, Russians... Backpacking is a truly international identity.
Backpackers, being potentially highly exposed to threats associated with being far from home, in an unfamiliar and possibly unstable country with only complete strangers for company, tend to live by an unspoken, unwritten code. They live and let live, look out for each other, show and teach each other respect for local customs, do not steal from each other and are generally very open and non-judgmental. They will always pass on tips and share traveling stories though they will seldom give you the right name of a particularly great place they are telling you about because they just don't want too many people to go there and spoil it.
With every scene comes a bunch of posers who are too cool for school, often completely unadventurous travelers, who don't give a shit about the locals or anyone else, and invariably end up making idiots of themselves. These people ('buckethead
s' in parts of Asia) are not considered backpackers by the rest of the subculture, just morons who take up guesthouse rooms and ultimately contribute to the creeping spread of tourism-development that creates places like Phuket which have nothing to do with the local culture, only the local mafia and pink, sunburned expat enclaves.
Backpackers often associate themselves with other subcultures, typically ravers
and the like. There is no specific backpacker music, but a walk up and down Khao San Rd, the infamous backpacker ghetto of Bangkok, will involve drum n bass, psytrance, breakbeat, jimi hendrix, bob dylan, hip-hop, trip-hop, reggae and whatever happens to be popular in the west at the time. Drugs are not uncommon; smoking ganja
or at least acceptance of ganja is pretty much universal.
The Beach is a book / film about backpackers in Thailand, before it became a cliche place to travel.