Ethical shopping when traveling abroad : a guest post

Happy Friday my faithful, fair trade loving friends! Sorry it’s been a while… It’s been an eventful summer that started with a trip to Guatemala to meet Noonday Collection artisans. I had been last year and wanted to deepen the relationship by visiting again. Little did I know that I had an as-yet-unknown-friend who lived there and wanted to meet me! It’s always fun to get IG messages requesting a meeting when you’re in a foreign country. Especially when you have 1. an overactive imagination and 2. have been reading social justice/human trafficking books for the past 3 years. After thoroughly checking out the new friend on Instagram, I decided she must be safe. Seriously, just look at that angelic face! (side note: this clearance is from someone who met her husband by dialing the same wrong number twice in one night. It may not sound smart, but the odds have been in my favor to meet awesome strangers in random ways.) So this guest post is from my (now) friend, Olivia. Who went to live in Guatemala after graduating from high school. And worked in the local markets selling to people like me and my Noonday sisters who have a penchant for huipil textiles. Read on for how to shop ethically when traveling abroad, especially to developing countries.

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Hello everyone! My name is Olivia and I am just so honored that sweet Brandi invited me to guest blog here! Today I’m just going to touch on how to shop ethically while you are traveling abroad. Amidst all of the colorful and exciting things you see around the world, it is easy to get caught up in the bargain game and thinking how you can get the best price. While this is all well and good, it is also vital to remember that the artisans who are selling their items are running a business trying to make fair wages, and in some cases, simply survive. 

 

Here’s part of my Guatemalan family ~ we had so much fun together each day working in the market!

 

 

For the month of June and part of July, I worked in Antigua, Guatemala in the Mercado de Artesanías with some dear, dear Guatemalan friends of mine. Edwin, Nely, Eleazar, Isack and Kenneth became my second family and living with them in their indigenous village changed my life forever. Having this new point of view, I now realize that there are some vital things to share about shopping ethically while abroad that I would have never known had I not had this experience. So, what can you do? I can’t wait to share with you a couple of things that I learned that can really impact the lives of everyone involved in your transaction while shopping abroad!  

 

 

1. Walk a fine line in bargaining. Bargain! Yes! The market is made for bargaining! But, what I didn’t realize before working in the market is that the shop owners are usually so set on making a sale that oftentimes they will sell the product for such a low price that they don’t make anything from the sale. In my experiences, this even effected our meal plan for the evening ~ the amount of merchandise sold in the store on any given day changed the amount of food that we were able to eat that evening. That was a hard concept to take in, but, there is a solution. I found that if you can lower the price of an item around 20%, that will usually result in a fair price for both store owner and shopper. Even though there is definitely a fine line between too cheap and overpriced, I really found that the 20% rule was quite on track. 

 

 

 

2. Buy directly from the artisan if possible. While I was walking through an art gallery one day, I met the most adorable, hilarious young man named Albino. Albino was a local artist, so he took time to demonstrate his painting techniques to me. In the process of this, he urged me to buy directly from him, and other artists like him. When I questioned why he was so adamant about this, he told me how lots of people will buy paintings from him, and then he realizes that their intentions are to bring it to their store in the market and sell it for double (and in some cases I saw even triple) the price he was selling them for. Especially when it comes to art, I really believe that the best way to buy is directly from the artist himself or herself ensuring that they get their fair share of the wages (and you don’t end up spending way more than necessary). 

 

 

3. Build relationships with the artists/vendors/etc. The thing that I believe makes the biggest difference in the world for both the buyer and the vendor while abroad is building relationships. My first trip to Guatemala, I was very guarded when buying from local vendors and never really let myself have the opportunity to have a genuine conversation with them. But, this summer, I realized what a difference this makes in the vendors lives. Be interested in what they have to say. Ask questions. Tell them about yourself. Invest in them and learn their names. Shoppers who really interacted with the customers in the marketplace were the ones my Guatemalan family would bring up at the dinner table that night and be so excited that a customer had taken such an interest in their work, family, etc. Whether you’re doing some hardcore shopping or simply browsing, simply starting a friendship and taking interest in the vendor’s life can make all the difference in the world!

 

 

Whatever you do, have the time of your life soaking up the new culture of wherever you are traveling. Try new things and embrace the way the people around you live. Let The Lord teach you so many things while you are there and be open to the things that He has to say to you! 

Much love, 

Olivia

P.S. If you’re interested in reading more about my travels to Guatemala, you can check out my blog HERE! Have a great weekend!

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Isn’t she awesome!? So glad my winning streak for new friends continues on.

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2 thoughts on “Ethical shopping when traveling abroad : a guest post

  1. This is a wonderful post!! When my husband and I lived in Mexico in 2010-11 the re-sellers were something we noticed right away (unfortunately we even saw it in the very same artisan markets) and we always questioned whether the artisan had gotten a fair price. but, as you said, talking to everyone and asking about the work was always a quick way to find out, and has led us to so many wonderful conversations w/ the artisans over time. I really enjoyed hearing it from your perspective working in the market and living w/ the family though, such a great post Olivia!

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