Support Local!

Tourism can be the biggest money maker for a city, or even an entire country. Tourism brings about economic development, job creation, and a centralized location for businesses. Think about it like this: a cruise ship decides to add a stop at a small island in the Caribbean, for example this happened to the island country of Dominica. They never had a cruise port before, so thousands of jobs are created to build this cruise port and the cruise port terminal that includes a number of shops and restaurants. Since a couple days a week ships will be stopping there, they need more taxis and busses to transport these people which creates more jobs. They realize the roads are run down for heavy motor activity so they need to fix the roads especially around town which creates more jobs. Businesses and restaurants start to appear close to popular spots the ship will have excursions at.  New excursions for the ship are developed, involving the hiring or boat captains, diving instructors and tour guides. When the ships finally start stopping there, families make crafts and sell them in the street to the visitors. Dominica is a beautiful island and country and I am so thankful that our cruise ship stopped there.

dom

This is my now husband on the cruise ship with the island of Dominica in the background.

domi

This waterfall is one of the main highlights of the island of Dominica.

Rick Steves, a well-known travel writer, says cruises are an example of hedonism and not real travel. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure or indulgence in pleasure. Yes, cruises are definitely all about comfort and pleasure. I think to really get a real understanding on a country and to really learn about it you need to spend some time there and not just a day stop…HOWEVER, I do think you can get a good glimpse at the culture. It depends on what you do on your trip and what you make it!

So yes, I was only in Dominica for a day, but I think I got a good glimpse on the poverty the people go through and how their economy completely depends on tourism.  While driving around the single main city on the island, and crossing the island to go to the waterfalls and river tubing, I saw that most people lived in shacks and children wandered down the street without shoes. Most buildings did not have windows or doors. Some people washed their hands in pots filled with water outside their homes. While driving us across the island, our bus driver and guide talked about the struggles the country has. They explained that the average salary was $14,000 a year and that many people in the country get their clothing from charity shipments sent to the island. The five men leading us on our river tubing adventure all wore Phoenix Suns jerseys and basketball pants that they all received from one of these charity shipments. We drove through the jungle up to the starting point of the river and one of the men pointed out their families old home – three pieces of wood and a tin roof. We stopped by an outside bar on the side of the road. The bartender explained that it was mainly there for the cruise tourists, as going to bars was too costly for the actual residents.

If the cruise ship didn’t stop there, I would have never had my eyes opened to the struggles this country, and others like it, have. It was also very clear how much they depend on tourism to survive. This is why in all my travels I always try to support, shop, and eat locally. Maybe this isn’t joining the Peace Corps in an effort to change the world for the better, but I have come to realize that actively trying to support local businesses can greatly help that culture and its people. Plus, by doing this even on these small day stops on cruises, you get the opportunity to see more of the culture and really experience it. If my husband and I hadn’t decided to take up a local on river tubing, we wouldn’t have gone to a tiny village of 30 people and try a bunch of authentic food and fruits I have never seen or heard of before. We wouldn’t have gone to a tiny local bar to have a beer with our guide or eaten coconut that they picked for us right from the tree.

Image

My husband and I getting ready to go river tubing in Dominica.

Image

My husband and I river tubing in Dominica.

Image

Our local tour guides (in their Suns gear) climbed up some palm trees, picked coconuts and cut them open for us with rocks so we could try some.

Spurr, another well-known travel writer, says. “Let us hear, in unmediated purity, the testimony of those who are the objects of colonization and exclusion” (193). So my question to Rick Steves is, isn’t traveling anywhere and just getting a glimpse of that culture better than doing nothing? Doesn’t allowing us to contribute to that society help us gain empathy for it in a way, even if it is just a fun cruise stop for the day? Rick Steves also said that travel is a “wonderful way to gain empathy for people outside our borders.” I definitely think I have seen and experienced cultures while traveling, even in cruise travel, and gaining empathy and understanding of another culture is one of the biggest rewards and one of the biggest points of why I like to travel. I love Rick Steves, but I disagree with cruising is complete hedonism. Any travel is better than no travel.

Going back to supporting locally; only eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores rather than chains, allows you to really benefit that culture and therefore helps you become an agent of change for that culture that helps to better it and strengthen it.

Some benefits that come to mind:

  • You keep the money you spend in the local economy, more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community. Research on This
  • You get to experience the local character.
  • Locally owned business build strong communities.
  • More local jobs.

Here is a good website also discussing the benefits of supporting local: https://sustainableconnections.org/thinklocal/why

Here are some other examples of how my husband and I always try to support locally when we travel.

Image

Here is an authentic Czech meal. We stayed with a friend I met in previous travels in his local village about 45 minutes outside of Prague. We walked down to the main dirt road in his village to the restaurant, which was also the restaurant owners house. Her little kids brought us our beer after we ordered and then went back inside to watch TV in the living room. However, you don’t need to go to these great lengths to eat local-why not just try a restaurant you wander past during your travels.

Image

Here is a Frites shop in Belgium. It was a tiny room that you basically just ordered in and were handed your food. When we walked up to the frites to-go shop, the guy in the picture was outside smoking and got up to go inside to help us. After he gave us our food he came and sat with us outside while we ate. You can see local food vendors throughout any city you are in, give them a shot!

Image

 My husband enjoying some homemade salsa and a beer at a beach bar in Puerto Vallarta. Rather than staying at a resort, we liked to wander into town and eat where we would stumble upon. The owner of this place had their kids playing games at the table next to ours.

ImageIn a previous blog post I talked about the market in Budapest. We love to frequent the markets at each city we stay in. Here is a market in Vienna, Austria. I got some honey from the honey vendor and we ate some sandwiches at the butcher shop.

 

 

Multiple Views on the Same Country: Turkey!

For our Honeymoon we took a Mediterranean cruise. While I don’t think cruises can always give you a real in-depth look into whatever place you are visiting, I do think they are a lot of fun and you get a great “glimpse” at that culture.

When you book a cruise you can choose to book either a private table, or be at a larger table with other couples or families. We always choose to be at a table with other people so we can mingle and meet new people. We have been on four cruises and only have a bad table once – it is a gamble, but if it pays off you have lifelong friends!

Side note: Interested in cruising? Sign up for these websites NOW! Crucon, Cruise Critic, Vacations to Go.

TURKEY

ImageImage

Image

Here we are in Turkey. Before our travels, our family was uneasy about us traveling to Turkey.We had lots of verbal conversations with words of advice and things we needed to make sure to do or not do. Schriber is a travel writer who discusses women travelers and explains that women travelers “work against gender roles and the cultural forces that would ensure their continuation.” I think that quote is one of the many points of this blog. I also think that quote accurately explains why I wanted to travel to to Turkey, even when some family might be weary. While looking back on this and creating this post I went and read through old emails.

Here are some things that my dad said in various email convos:

Dad: “I am worried about you two traveling to Istanbul. They are turning more and more strict Muslim. Only travel with a group; you never know what could happen. I read in the papers all the time about another Westerner getting attacked.”

Dad: “Make sure to go with Alex everywhere. If you need to use the restroom make sure he waits outside the door.”

Dad: “Also make sure to dress conservatively; I have heard they are pretty strict on women’s attire.”

Here are some things my grandma said in various email convos (she spent a couple weeks there a couple years back):

Grandma: “The gyros are amazing! I think I gained 5 pounds that trip. Make sure to have a gyro for me.”

Grandma: “When I was there I smoked hookah a lot. My favorite flavor was strawberry. I am pretty sure people smoke other things besides tobacco though!”

Grandma: “Ephesus has great leather stores. You won’t be disappointed if you shop there. Make sure to bargain; no price is set!”

Our Experience:

Did I realize I was in a Muslim country?

Yes-in Istanbul, but No in Ephesus. They did the call to prayer multiple times a day in Istanbul, which I have never experienced. They separated men and women praying in some mosques. Istanbul was the first time I have ever seen women in a Burka or a Niqab. (Here is a good website to learn about the Coverings Worn by Muslim Women.) In Ephesus I did not see a single woman in a Burka, and I saw many women wearing short sleeves and without a head scarf.

Image Me in the famous Blue Mosque. All women have to cover their head and have their legs covered. Everyone had to remove their shoes.

However, what is a “Muslim Country?” So, I noticed these couple differences, but honestly, isn’t that just part of the “culture?” Holland and Huggan’s are two authors who discuss travel writing.They argue, “Travel writing, after all, is a pseudoscience of observation; inhibiting the indeterminate area between fact and fable, history and myth, it has thrived on a diet of whose geography is only partly covered, and whole multiple possible histories are only partly understood.” Maybe I only partly understood or my trip was a partial glimpse at the culture; it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still exciting and fun to experience a new culture. Spurr, a well-known travel writer, and says, “Western writers are united by “this idealization [that] always takes place in relation to Western culture itself…it conceives an idea of the Other that is readily incorporated into the fabric of Western values.” I have traveled all over Europe and I definitely noticed cultural differences while abroad: kissing on the cheeks in Italy and France, eating very late in Spain and businesses closing down in the afternoon for siesta, beer being more common than water for a drink during lunch and dinner in Czech Republic (water is much more expensive too!) All of these places are more “westernized” so maybe I find the differences fun and exciting and in a way “idealize” them as Spurr says, but Turkey is literally half in Europe and half in Asia, although most consider it an “Eastern” country.

The things I noticed in Turkey are nothing but the cultural difference of Turkey, right? I think so. I don’t think it is me idealizing it, and I really don’t think I idealize Western countries; I embrace it all! The only difference of traveling to Turkey is it was overall more of an experience that I am unfamiliar with because it is not  a “western” country. Eating late, kissing on the cheek and enjoying a beer, aren’t that “shocking” to a westerner like me, but yes, I have never seen a woman in a burka before or experienced a call to prayer five times a day. However, I view it as part of the whole wonderful experience. There is no better way to learn about a culture than to experience it, and I LOVED my experiences in Turkey and I LOVED to embrace the culture differences. My dad still might not understand why I find Turkey so appealing because of everything he reads in the papers, but I think he saw the joy I felt about my travels and accepted it more. And for the record, my grandma was right – I did buy a beautiful leather jacket in Ephasus, I ate lots of yummy gyros and I had some hookah!

Image

A woman making a Turkish rug. People all over the world pay great money for these rugs!

Image

Pulling the silk for the Turkish rugs from the cocoons. Such an amazing process!

Image

My husband in one of the famous Turkish rug shops.

Image

A yummy Turkish meal!