There's a reason we travel. We want to see new things and have unique experiences. We want a real change. Something entirely different. Out of the norm.
But how often is that actually the case? Are things really all that different anymore? Are our travel itineraries truly as exotic and original as we think they are? As they once were?
If not, why?
What is happening to make us lose out on the novelty of life's adventures? Have the wonders and surprises of exploration simply been exhausted?
Some believe that no, discovery and authenticity is still there; it just needs our support; the concentration of business and wealth has placed a cap on the degree in which our experiences home and abroad now differ. Corporate sprawl and the rise in globalism is hurting local jobs, shutting down local businesses, and diluting whatever remains of homegrown pride and national identity.
But if scale is so pervasive, what, if anything, can we do about it?
Some suggest that, because fewer individuals have the means for ownership, production, and competition in such an expansive and oversaturated marketplace, protectionism is the only way forward. In other words, only by imposing new government policies restricting trade, for example, will smaller local businesses and jobs be protected from foreign competition; and thus allow for local businesses (and local pride) to thrive once again.
Many in the US, for instance, point to the shifting of production to Mexico by US companies after the passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which reduced or eliminated tariffs and quotas between the two countries. Still, others contend that the US should continue to aggressively engage its foreign trading partners and that NAFTA has been a net positive for workers overall.
Whatever the case may be, and whether enforcing "Buy America" legislation is the answer or not, it is clear that right now, the best way we can help our local community is to keep producing local products and services that our particular community actually wants. And for us as consumers to spend intentionally.
Phoenix, AZ, for instance, recently ranked no. 15 in Yelp’s “Top 20 Cities to Shop Local in 2016.” Its vibrant downtown is a hands-on reminder of what small, individual efforts can become. Indeed, Phoenix is also home to Local First Arizona, one of the largest local business coalitions in the US.
Of most recent import, nonetheless, has been the opening of The FOUND:RE hotel in downtown. FOUND:RE is what I consider a boutique, art-filled hotel with really an overwhelming emphasis on preserving local Identity - it showcases local food, local art, & local design. The FOUND:RE is an Arizona triumph that allows its guests to embrace the desert the way Phoenicians do and experience the city through the eyes of a true native.
And it’s not the only local champion out there. There are others.
While diminution of local prowess is causing many to look inward and begin to reevaluate our attitudes on trade and foreign policy, rest assured, our identity is still here. We need not completely shut ourselves off from the rest of the world quite yet. We may just need a bit of thoughtful spending here and there; some extra effort to help local continue to thrive, to help small businesses grow, and help make sure our hometowns remain those unique places that we too would want to visit.
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