I’m sure you’ve started to see a trend when it comes to my travels. I collect local art from every new place I visit. I figure I’ll one day be able to create a gallery of adventures. Buying local is a huge part of that wanderlust. When I’m experiencing a new community, I want to support it the best I can. For me, that means eating local, ideally staying local, and buying local.
What is “buying local”?
So, this is one of those buzz phrases tourists and travelers will throw around probably way too much. Let me break down what I mean by buying local:
Locally Owned: Simply put, buying local means supporting a local business as opposed to a large retailer or e-tailer. Your money goes back into the community you’re visiting.
Locally Sourced: Even better than just locally owned is also locally sourced. This means the business you’re supporting gets its products or materials from other locally owned businesses which continues the intent of keeping your money in the community you’re visiting.
Small Business: At the end of the day, supporting small businesses is a huge part of this. A mom and pop shop. An independent artist. A local baker. Again, it’s all about your money staying in the community.
Now that we understand what I mean by “buy local”, let’s talk more about why it’s so important to me that I do just that. Why do I buy local art everywhere I travel?
Why buy local?
Authenticity: Whether you’re staying at a local house, eating at a neighborhood restaurant, supporting an artist from the community, or even hiring a photographer, you will get a more authentic experience when you buy local. When visiting a new place, having a truly authentic experience will help you really learn about that community. Especially when visiting places that are more highly touristed. Instead of that tour with 150 tourists, find a smaller, local guide to support. Instead of going to a chain restaurant, find a local option. Where do the people in that community eat? Want family photos? A local photographer will know all of the very best spots.
Culture: If your goal is to learn more about the place you’re visiting, buying local will help connect you to the local culture. Talking to local business owners and artists will give you the best insight into the culture of the community you’re visiting. Not just that, but they’re more likely to share input about that culture with you. They want you to support local, so they’re invested in showing you the beauty in their community culture. Better customer service will be a huge factor when thinking about experiencing a new community.
Economics: Buying local puts money right back into the community you’re visiting. So many communities bank on tourism dollars as part of their revenue. When you don’t support local, those tourism dollars are helping to pay local employees who work at chains, but they aren’t actually supporting the entrepreneurs and innovation of the local community. By buying local, you are also empowering local decision making, meaning the money is going to the individuals who need to have the input about how that community is governed. More local ownership is better for the community.
Ethical Tourism: Buying local is a big part of being an ethical tourist. Ethical tourism and responsible tourism means thinking about how your actions, as a tourist, impacts the community you are visiting. What are the consequences? How does your tourism affect the local people and local economy? As a tourist or visitor, do you recognize not only your privilege but also your responsibility when it comes to your actions, not just as they impact local people, but also the wildlife and environment. Think of it this way, locally owned businesses make more local purchases which means less transportation required which means buying locally directly and positively impacts the environment.
Uniqueness: And finally, it’s all about what makes that community special. Supporting larger businesses steeped in mass overseas manufacturing does not give you a unique experience. Eating at a chain restaurant does not give you any experience with local cuisine or locally sourced ingredients. One-of-a-kind businesses giving you unique experiences really allow you to immerse yourself in the community you’re visiting. I buy local art because not only is that art made in the community I’m visiting, but it’s a direct representation of the culture I’m visiting. I can purchase something that is a tangible representation of my favorite memories of my travels while also knowing I’m positively impacting that same local community.
What do you think? Are you more likely to support a local business when you travel next? Share your thoughts in the comments.