It wouldn’t be Christmas without a slightly uncomfortable family lunch. But when you’re travelling, you miss the opportunity to catch up with all those distant relatives who didn’t have anywhere better to be this year.
Thankfully, the advent of video calling apps like Skype has allowed backpackers to enjoy all the awkwardness of chatting to their racist cousins from the comfort of their hostel common room.
That’s what 24-year-old Sheree is doing right now.
After exchanging pleasantries with her parents and sister, Sheree is in for five to 10 minutes of tortuous pseudo-conversation. That’s because the iPad with her face on has just been passed over to some of her less charming family members.
“Allo there luv!” says Dave, the extremely handsy man who married her second cousin a few years ago. “You’re looking very nice today. Very nice indeed. Phwoar…”
Sheree smiles nervously and subtly adjusts the angle of the screen to remove any chance of Dave seeing her cleavage. She then waves as several other barely recognisable faces enter the frame.
“Merry Christmas Auntie Gretel! Glad to hear your haemorrhoids have cleared up,” she says to a distorted image of her great aunt’s nostril.
Just angle the screen up. Like that – no, the other way. Now your thumb is blocking it. Mum, can you help Auntie Gretel?
After several minutes of jostling and very patchy connection, Auntie Gretel – who turned 96 in September – finally manages to say “Happy Christmas Shirley,” although it’s not clear she has any idea who she’s talking to or where the sound is coming from.
Sheree’s cousin then grabs the iPad. It’s Darrell, the family’s token Brexit voter. He tells her not to freeze to death in Siberia (she’s in Serbia) and warns her not to marry one of those Muslims (or wait, is he actually confusing it with Syria? What a fuckhead).
Sighing, Sheree lamely pretends to not be able to hear Darrell, then hangs up. She messages her mum: “Sorry, bad connection, could barely hear you, whoops!”
Then she opens up her bottle of tequila. It’s time to truly celebrate Christmas, backpacker style.