Backpacker Blues

Ahead of catching the bus into the city tonight, I called in for a bite to eat at the Crystal Palace Hotel on George Street. In the midst of chrome and floor boards that characterises so many pubs these days, Crystal Palace is one of those old fashioned city hotels with awful RSL style carpet, a pokie and smoking room out the back and one of those old fashioned bistros which serves calamari and chips and lasagne, for example.

While eating my calamari and chips, I sipped on a glass of house chardonnay ($3.50, can you get better than that?) and read a copy of a rather curious publication aimed at the UK backpacker market. Maybe over 100 pages, it’s a mixture of the kind of information you could easily find on the internet, including soap opera updates, along with local advertisements for backpacker nights where you can eat and drink a lot on a limited budget.

British BallsIt also contains a lot of classified advertisements, with one in particular catching my eye. In essence, the advertisement is an invitation for cash-starved people to take off their clothes for a photographer in exchange for $400-$1000 in cash. Other similar advertisements told me “thousands of backpackers” had done the same for “non-explicit men’s magazines”.

Reading this leading me to wonder what happens with these photographs once the women have long forgotten they were taken. But could you forget? For a relatively small amount of money, could you ever forget the time you went to Australia as a young naive backpacker and took off your clothes, knowing in the back of your mind that in the age of the internet those photographs could end up anywhere.

We all make choices in life, and we’re all in control of our own destiny (to an extent), but when you’re cash strapped and willing to do just about anything, it just doesn’t seem right to me that $400-$1000 is somehow considered a fair exchange.

And it’s not just backpackers. All over the world, of course, there are thousands, millions of people – including children who don’t have a say in their exploitation – who compromise their dignity on a daily basis. It just doesn’t seem right…

Gosh I sound old fashioned and moral don’t I? And maybe a little naive, but that’s okay isn’t it?

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