The Business of Traveling for Good

Okay, so none of us is traveling at the moment. But when we do start to travel, I think we could all stand to take a look at how we travel and how we impact the people and places we encounter. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with my dear friend and fellow entrepreneur Jillian Ryan, of Marie Mae Company, for her incredible Good Office Podcast! We talked about doing good in our travels, and I gave a few little-known tips for being a responsible traveler, wherever you find yourself.

The episode is live here! So tune in wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. For now, here’s a sneak peek!

How to Use Your Purchasing Power for Good in Your Travels

1. Always Look for the “Made In” Information

You know what I mean. If you’re in Ecuador, why would you want to buy something made in Vietnam? Or China? Or anywhere other than the place you’re hoping to be reminded of each time you look at it? Before you buy anything in your travels, whether it’s clothing, a serving dish, or a scarf, look for the “made in” label. No label? Ask the shopkeeper.

Personally, I always feel a little bit cheated when I find out something I bought was made in a different country. Not that I think shopkeepers are trying to cheat anyone, just that I buy things to have special meaning or to hold a certain travel memory for me, and when I realize it came from somewhere else, I feel like the experience was cheapened.

Curious? Go find something you purchased on a past trip abroad. Check the label and see where it really came from!

Marie Mae Company makes sure all their products are ethically made, whether that’s in the USA or abroad!

2. Seek the Small

Small businesses really do make the world go ’round! When you’re traveling somewhere new, don’t seek out the McDonald’s or KFC; go find the place the locals love! Don’t bother going into H&M or Nike; find the local shops to find things you can’t get at home. Seek out the small businesses for a more authentic (and more often than not, a more cost-effective) experience. Why travel if you’re just going to shop and eat where you’d shop and eat at home?

Starbucks doesn’t serve Turkish coffee and rice and date pudding, but this little coffeehouse in Cappadocia does!
More here: Small Businesses I Love to Support

3. Don’t Buy from the Kids

This is one thing that is not talked about enough. Kids are exploited all over the world because they’re cute, and they make more sales than adults. Even in many developing countries, children have access to education. I am guilty of buying souvenirs (which I don’t even have anymore) from children in Ensenada, Mexico, on a mission trip in high school, but once I found out that they don’t have to be out selling things on the street and they could be in school instead, I chose to never buy from kids again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning a strong work ethic early in life, and after school jobs are a great way to do that, especially when it’s a family-run business involved. However, education gives people choices for the rest of their lives and should be prioritized. Buying knick knacks from cute kids on a street corner might seem like the charitable thing to do, but it really only serves to perpetuate a problem instead of breaking the cycle.

I only buy from adults, just in case.
I also talk about this here:
7 Travel Rules You Don’t Know Until Someone Tells You

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle

This one is so hard for me! I do not like to haggle, but in many cultures, it’s the normal order of things. I’m always worried I’ll start too low and offend whomever I’m haggling with, but I’ve been assured many times from hagglers that’s not the case.

I’m also worried about cheating the shop owner out of their much-needed profit. Again, I’ve been assured that is not the case! A shopkeeper will not sell you something for less than what will make them a profit. This is their livelihood, their wheelhouse, their life’s work. They know what they’re doing! So don’t be afraid to haggle. You’ll get the hang of it, and honestly, they might even help you out. A shop keeper in Chefchaouen once pulled out a piece of paper to write down tips for me on how to haggle!

You never know what you might find in the souks!
Get Your Haggling Tips! How to Haggle in Morocco

5. Talk to the Shopkeepers

Y’all, this one is a life tip, not just a purchasing power tip! The shopkeepers are the ones in the know. They’ll tell you about where the items in their shops are made (they might even be making them behind the counter as you shop!), they’ll tell you where to find the best local food, they’ll even give you directions if you get lost in the old, winding marketplace!

You’ll also learn about their culture from them. People love to talk, and shopkeepers in touristy areas also love tourists. They want you to have a good time and a positive experience! They want you to tell your friends about what a great shop you found. They can give you insider information about their city or country. Let them talk and let yourself listen so you can learn and be a more informed tourist.

I never would have known about the Bantey Srai Temple near Angkor Wat if I hadn’t heard about it from a local!

6. Do Your Research

I’ve saved the best for last! Do a little Googling before your trip. Find out what the country you’re visiting is famous for. Poland and the Baltics have beautiful amber that comes in an array of colors. New Zealand has jade. Australia has opals. Ecuador has coffee. Hawaii has pineapple. The more informed you are about a country or city, the better tourist you will be!

Trip research should include clothing choices, traditional food options, things to do, and souvenirs to take home for the memories!
Read next: How to Plan a Trip

So, how have you used your purchasing power for good in your travels? Comment to let us all know! And don’t forget to listen to the podcast here for more!

Marie Mae Company’s unique one-for-one business model provides an hour of business training to victims of human trafficking for every item purchased. Check out more about Marie Mae Company and their do good, give back business model at their website!

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