As I sit in the breezy courtyard of my pansiyon in Antalya, Turkey – I get into a discussion about travel with a fellow solo female traveler from Tokyo, Japan.
After traveling to 43 different countries so far, I’ve walked through numerous touristic shopping areas, and markets. For a person who enjoy window shopping, real shopping and haggling, I could say I’m in my element.
However, I have noticed on my travels that it can be challenging to find that unique piece of souvenir which was not mass produced in a foreign land.
For example, I have seen a dress of the same style and made from what seems to be the same material consistently in 4 different continents. I kid you not. This dress I’ve seen in Thamel (Nepal), Cusco (Peru), Athens (Greece) and Toronto (Canada). How? Why?
Same, Same but Different – is the quote that comes to mind.
Let’s think about the roots of this dress. From this website, it mentions Turkey as the 8th largest producer of cotton in the world. If you’ve touched a nice Turkish towel you will understand and appreciate it’s beauty. Cotton is best.
So let’s say the cotton for this dress was grown in Turkey. Shipped to China to be processed and woven. The fabric then is shipped elsewhere to be dyed. The dyed fabric then gets shipped to Bangladesh to be made into this dress. Then the dress is labeled and distributed for sale. (I’ve made this chain of steps up in my mind – this is fictitious but I know each step is plausible.)
From an environmental standpoint, this one dress has a massive carbon footprint.
From a traveler standpoint, this dress is an experienced traveler.
From economic standpoint, the production of this dress has created jobs for many citizens of the world.
From basic needs standpoint, this dress has served the purpose of providing protection and coverage for its future owner.
From my point of view, this dress has removed true expression of traditional culture at its location. It is providing a misguided interpretation of traditional culture at its point of sale.
The sale of these types of mass produced souvenirs are marketed to those who seek a cheap, affordable deal. Some are bought in bulk as gifts for friends, relatives and coworkers at home.
Forgive me but my background is not in finance nor economics. So my mind explodes when these globally manufactured goods are often cheaper than locally made goods.
Locally made souvenirs are typically priced higher, sometimes a LOT higher. Some destinations sell their locally made goods in cooperatives. Some artisans sell their work in their own shops or mobile stands.
What gives?! Why are the boundaries blurring, culturally misleading, globally manufactured goods – the norm!?
Why is it so difficult and expensive for travelers to help preserve traditional skills and crafts?
Can balance be found between consumerism and tourism?
Feel free to engage and help me keep thinking out loud.