What does it mean to travel local?
It means going beyond prefabricated tourist attractions and interacting with local culture, people, and businesses first-hand. Living in the Brooklyn bubble means this is second nature… but it also comes from a lesson learned after seeing the impact of big business in Manhattan.
Let’s face it: mass tourism is unsustainable. It means packaged holidays, Times Square, selfie sticks, chain resorts, and foreign investment large food-chains—these are not known for giving back to their communities. Next time you travel, instead of booking an all-inclusive buffet style tourist-trap, try staying at a small-scale hotel and eating the local flavors. You’ll be directly exposed to local culture by choosing to stay at a family-owned hotel. Here in NYC, there’s hoards of boutique hotels, shared spaces, and affordable ways to put a roof over your head during your visit.
Why not enjoy the closest shave in India or get a gorgeous handmade rug in a Moroccan market? As a result, you’ll make a direct impact on the local economy. When you support support smaller family businesses, this revenue is reinvested back into the community. You will also help generate jobs. Run-of-the-mill souvenir shops usually carry mass produced trinkets and most times you’re getting ripped off. Places like Artists & Fleas are where you’ll get lost in the possibilities.
Buying local means less transportation pollution, less need for packaging and in the case of food, goods are fresher and cheaper. New Yorkers are lucky to live in a city where jewelry, clothing, even food markets, are abound. One of my favorite spots is Printed Matter, my go-to shop for niche magazines and art publications. Truly, the sky is the limit here. When in France, bring home artisanal French olive oil or handmade soap. It’s much more gratifying than a miniature Eiffel Tower. It’s not interesting and guaranteed you could buy that off eBay. It’s a win-win.
In short, make a positive impact on a community instead of handing your cash over to the large brands; they’re already well off. I can’t think of a better way to learn from the native culture and, who knows, you’ll find great satisfaction in how much you can absorb. You’ll come home with unique stories and the perks may just be delicious like the finest Panamanian coffee and Costa-Rican chocolate.