In Chapter 9 of Patrick McIvor’s series “Have Shears Will Travel, Patrick gives his perspective on a topic called “Money Votes.” It’s a look at how you’re spending your money while traveling and asking yourself, “Who is going to benefit the most and who is on the receiving end of the profit?”
In private, I am far more politically opinionated than I am in our very divided world, though some may know my leanings based on an occasional post. But when it comes to my money, I am far more likely to spend or not spend depending on the company and what they believe or where my money goes. There are major stores and food establishments I avoid and others I patronize because I want my money to be used to support the things I believe to be good and not to be part of profits or used as part of donations by companies that publicly support something or encourage something I don’t favor. Things as simple as free range, wild caught or hormone-free can be an example of this. So when I travel, I always try to make sure my money gets used for good wherever I spend it, and here’s how:
One of the best ways to help the local economy is to eat at local establishments. Avoid the chain establishments including the regional ones. When eating outside of the major cities, if it isn’t a big chain or diner there is an excellent chance that the food is farm to table and even more likely when you’re international. What it means for a local community to have visitors eat in local places is huge! Fisherman provide for their families and so do local farmers, vendors at local markets, hunters, cheese makers, beer makers, bakers, the staff, and their families all get a portion of the money you are spending. My only rule is I try to make sure the local food chain is being managed and what I am eating is sustainable and not just for visitors. For me one of my favorite things is local street food; wherever I go, that’s what I want to eat! If that’s what they’re having, that’s what I’m having.
I love to shop while traveling, and it’s so much fun when someone asks, “Where did you get that, jacket, shirt, shoes, scarf or ring?” To be able to say some far off place, and to share the story of being there when I purchased it is a thrill. Shopping from local stores to open markets, flea markets, and even garage sales and estate sales, lots of things from local lives, customers, and decor can easily be found and brought home to add to your life. The challenge can be at what cost or benefit to the locals. The key is to learn before you buy and the more natural the things you want to buy today the less likely they travel well. And take note, they may even be illegal to transport or buy. Buying flowers in places like the Netherlands (Holland) could get you in trouble unless the flowers have a special permit attached to them, and most islands don’t allow you to remove coral from the island. Importing, carrying these items in your suitcase like fruits, food, seeds, and even meat can get you in a lot of trouble with customs. So can counterfeit merchandise like fake bags, watches, and DVDs, so watch what you purchase because customs is looking for more than just drugs. I also like to make sure the purchases I make are “made fair.” I love my hat from New Zealand that I bought from a woman who was knitting it. I had to wait for her to finish it knitting it before I could even buy it!
Finding local craftspeople, artists, or purchasing something in a local market or private store is an excellent way to take some memories home and leave the community better.
Services and Local Fun
A supportive way to show you are interested in a community or culture is to invest some money into getting to know it better. Some tours take care of this for you, but as a more independent traveler, I like doing this on my own. From local drivers, to even hiring a local guide (and for me, I also ask my Airbnb host) to finding out what is there to do and how would the locals book it or do it. This way I can make sure my money is getting me the biggest bang for my buck and at the same time I can also make sure it’s going to the right people. What’s wonderful is so many times the authenticity of the experience goes way up, the cost goes way down, and the locals who are now becoming friends are also making money. Depending on where you are going in the world, someplace if you don’t have a local guide or fixer, you are not only not using your money to vote, you might be gambling with your life. With some local knowledge, you will not only know what to do, but when to do it, and you might also know how to fit in a little better and not feel so much like a visitor.
Money in business votes, and the more popular a business is generally, the more money it makes, and if the business grows, the more business it can do. I try to remember that when I travel. I try to use my money to vote for the things I like and I want others to experience too. From the street performers to the local restaurants, pubs, art galleries, markets, etc.
If it’s good, buy something!
It’s the best way to say that you think they are great and that they have your vote.
Photo Courtesy: Patrick McIvor via Instagram @patrickmcivor
Need to catch up? Check out Patrick’s previous chapters:
Chapter 1: Remember, You Are Going Someplace
Chapter 2: Packing Better
Chapter 3: Playing Games
Chapter 4: Reality Wins
Chapter 5: Collaborative Travel
Chapter 6: Importance of Ratings
Chapter 7: Plan Ahead
Chapter 8: Living Locally