Support Local Businesses, but Who Gets to be the Local?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, local as an adjective means “from, existing in, serving, or responsible for a small area, especially of a country

If you travel to another country and you have this passion to be an impactful traveler, the simplest thing you can do is track where your tourist money goes to avoid what is called the ‘Tourism Leakage’. It simply means that a huge chunk of your tourist dollar leaves the country to where you travel instead of doing its magic to the locals. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 70% of tourist money in Thailand ended up leaving the country. That is also 80% of the Caribbean’s and 40% of India’s tourist money that left their countries instead of contributing to the local economy.

Why does this happen? World Travel & Tourism Council stated that the multinational company is mostly responsible for the Tourism Leakage. With their longstanding reputation, there is no doubt that travelers tend to choose them for the sake of convenience and quality assurance. Some of the multinational companies are slowly shifting towards contributing more to the local communities and projects, but you don’t need to wait for a miracle for change to happen. You can take the change into your own hands by leaving your tourist money to where it should be, the locals. Stay at local accommodations, explore with responsible local guides, eat at locally-sourced restaurants or buy locally made souvenirs. In fact, according to the data from the United Nations of World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the ABTA, experiential travel and local experiences have gained popularity, especially among young travelers. The trend has shifted for better tourism.

Local tourism brings another question for those who want to travel more responsibly.

“To what extent can I consider someone or a business a local?”

There is no exact definition or dividing line of who gets to be the local in terms of tourism but we need to think about how our impact and money contribute to the local economy. It could be on the scale of a town, region or country. Some of the great examples of local enterprises and businesses in Indonesia that maximize the impact of every tourist dollar spent are Sudut Lombok, Rumah Inspirasi Jogja, Five Pillar Experiences Bali and many more.

Furthermore, due to its great tourism potential, Indonesia has attracted investors from all over the world to start and expand their businesses here, which leads us to another question,

“How can we know if it is a local business? It’s owned by foreigners. “

In order for a business to be considered a local business, it has to create an impact on the community, even if it is owned or founded by foreigners. Foreigners in this context are just a matter of nationality and physical appearance while their intention is to contribute to the local economy and working towards improvements in the community. With countless of emerging issues across the globe, collaborations become the essential attribute to create a better world. Nationalities are no longer become the boundaries to create changes. Collaborations are what we need to create a better world.

One of the examples that have become the pioneer in this matter is Marit and Andrew Miners, the couple behind the Misool Eco Resort and Misool Foundation. They came to an island of Batbitim of what used to be a center for shark finning camp. It was responsible for 100 million sharks to be killed each year. Fast forward now the UK-Sweden couple has not only has grown the business to contribute to the local economy and community but also made Misool as “one of only a handful of places in the universe where biodiversity is improving rather than declining.” Erdmann also raved that “There is greater biodiversity — that is to say, a larger number and greater diversity of fish, coral, and mollusks — on these reefs than anywhere on earth.” Read their full story here.

In conclusion, it brings back to a part of the Local definition by Cambridge Dictionary “..existing, serving or responsible..” When it comes to determining which one is considered a local business or enterprise, it takes a little bit of research particularly about the business values and mission, what changes have they done and continue doing to the local communities. The owners might be people from the community or country but it can also be foreigners that are passionate about making an impact on the communities.

Now is the time to be an impactful traveler. Leave your tourist money to where it belongs!

This post is also published on SloMo Travel Indonesia website

His Sin

astounded by her exquisite smile,

i began too look into her eyes, moisturized.

or should i say watered.

as she held her tears so they won’t fall she said to me,

“we’re going to have a some fun tonight!”

and there she goes,

quaffed in the alcohol together with his sin

-GN

Thoughts of Sustainable Shopping

As a kid I used to buy a lot of stuffs. 97% might be something that I don’t really need but I am privilege to have parents that can afford the silly consumerism side of me when I was little. Then, I went to study in Australia and had to move every 6 months for 2 years. It was a pain in the arse, especially when you have a lot of stuffs. Ever since I never overbought. I just use what I can use at home and shop basic for fashion.

Living in Australia doesn’t only teach me how to buy less, but also to live sustainably. Most of people in Australia, in my opinion, have higher awareness for sustainability and climate change compare to the people in Indonesia. Hence, eco-friendly becomes a lifestyle that almost everyone tries to implement in every aspect of their daily lives, including me. I became so excited with the amount of businesses that incorporate sustainability and eco practices in their company in Australia. I can now support sustainability and be a responsible shopper. However, as I dig deeper into sustainability and eco-friendly businesses, I realize there is another problem than just shop sustainably. Once an substance, a tangible product or an item is produced, they have nowhere to go but planet earth, the planet that we are living in at the moment (unless they finally find another planet for us to migrate to). Unless they are recycled or repurposed, they are just going to be junk, filling our space on the earth.

Ok, buying natural product I agree is a better option compare to plastic that takes forever to decompose. But unless we eventually re-purpose it when it’s no longer usable it’s gonna be a junk. In fact, it also creates emission to produce this items that often larger than disposable plastic. Take a look on how many metal straws are bought and by the end of x month, we forget to bring it all the time and accept the plastic straw instead (I’m talking about ya Jakartans). Cloth shopping bag too or goodies bag. It releases more emission to produce compared to a single used plastic bag. Another example is paper bag. Unless it’s made from recycled paper, we’re killing our oxygen provider (re: trees). Although paper company have their ‘conservation’ policy, the reality often doesn’t seem as they promised. Read: Indonesian Paper Industry Destroys More Trees Than Planting Trees (Bahasa).

Although buying less and minimalism lifestyle seems to be the key to reduce production of things, there are a lot at stake if that happens, especially the economy cycle. But I think it’s important to say that consumerism is not going to save the world either. I am not saying that I have stopped shopping at all, and neither do you. I think what matters is how and why we shop. It’s about perceiving values rather than solely about possessions.

The Victims of Systems

I read a brilliant book a couple of months ago because of the hype among the well-read people. It’s Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. As mainstream as it sounds that book is definitely a must read! It is for anyone who is curious about why the world society works and functions as it is today. It’s basically a story about us. It’s a pretty thick book but hey, blinkist is a thing today.

Why do I bring up this book? Well, reading our own narrative and history, I have learnt that Homo Sapiens are blessed with cognitive intelligence and revolution to develop the systems that exist but we are also the product of a system. In fact, the society (which is also a system by itself) is also shaped by a collective of systems. An example I get from this book is Yuval explains why do we, human beings become so dependent on grains in our diet. I mean in common meals there is always a portion of grains: pasta, bread, cereal, rice, etc. (unless you’re on a diet). In his book, he takes us back to the end of Nomadic era where homo sapiens (a.k.a. us) decided to settle down. Hence, the beginning of the Agricultural revolution (9.500 – 8.500 BC).

Grains become one of the earliest commodity to be domesticated and human realized that there is a way to have an abundance supply of food. Good thing right? Yet it wasn’t even easier than foraging. Human needed to opening up lands (that often caused blood and lives to fight for the land), moving away rocks and stones and carrying lots of water in order to keep these ‘grass’ to survive. It required human to settle down and live in houses to take care of their domesticated commodities (animals included). Who is domesticated now? Worse, our diet slowly became primarily dominated by grains and slowly but surely, human body became dependent on it. Our survival is now based on one staple diet compared to when human used to forage and not relying on a specific species to survive. In fact, our decisions to settle down leads us to more stories and has created many systems in the world. Village, tribes, kingdoms, colonialism, the trade system, politics, the UN, independent countries, the news and the list goes on and on and on..

A Job is one of the products of system. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t against going to office and do the WORK that matters. The system victimizes when we go to 9-5 every Monday to Friday following orders because that’s how it has been done for the past… I don’t know.. 34 years? The system where creativity is not flourished but killed to maintain the stability of a system itself. Or repeating this whole process for 30 years or so and retired by 50 something because that’s how to society works. Why can’t we continue the work we care until whenever we want to? This is not only about career, it’s also about marriage, education, law (realize how these two words are often accompanied by the word ‘system’), healthcare, travel privilege, citizenship (hence, different passport strengths worldwide) and many more.

I started to have interest to this topic when I was learning about travel privilege. I wonder I never choose to be born in a country that have weak passport and I never done anything wrong in my life that would degrade my personal value as a citizen of the world yet it takes me a hell of a process to visit certain countries. I once came to an embassy for a visa interview at 5 AM in the morning for a tourist visa application. I even think it might be still easier for a ‘strong’ passport holders who have committed a minor crime or misdemeanor compared to someone with ‘weak’ passport to visit a certain country.

I’m sorry for bringing criminal offender on this frame because one of the aspects that determine the strength of a passport is terrorism, which is a way serious type of crime that affects the safety of millions. But just because a terrorist come from a certain country or even the majority of the people there are terrorist doesn’t mean everyone is terrorists. Those few of people who aren’t involved in any kind of terrorism initiatives never choose to be born there but they have to carry the burden of ‘weak’ passport and losing the opportunities that are accessible to millions of others. Because it is easier for the system to do so. But it also leads to a more serious yet underrated problem such as bias. My friend from Indonesia came and visit his brother in the US. He’s been there multiple times and everything went smooth. The only time it was different is when he began to grow his hair and visited the States with longer hair. That ended up with him being interrogated with officials at the immigration.

On the other hand, we can’t imagine how the world we know today is going to be without a system. There is always a good and the bad side of every stories. I can’t stop thinking what’s going to happen if human decided to keep the nomadic lifestyle? What is the world going to be without the existence of systems?

day 001

I keep asking myself a question, why do I want to do SloMo? No matter how hard it is to move forward, it is also harder to stop. I believe in its vision, I believe for better tourism, I believe that traveling is not merely just taking pictures and visiting beautiful places. Those are fantastic! But we have to keep in mind that every beautiful place and experience we get during our travels, it gets more complicated than just because the our tour guide showed it to us or because we discovered it. It involves the work of locals, hundreds of years of passed customs and cultures, colonialism, history, the wildlife evolution or natural events that happened thousands or millions of years ago. Travelers need to be more engage more when they travel.

I learn more when I am on the go than when I am sitting down. I analyze every aspects that my eyes capture and question its existence. That’s how I learn from the world as it is. Don’t get me wrong, resources like books and writings are incredible but I personally don’t agree with education system. Although it seems like its shifting into a more creative, problem solving and emotional intelligence focused, its main task is still to create a better WORK FORCE.

Another thing is I just want to work hard for my own dream, not anyone else’s. It sounds so easy though but I am too in my own mind prison. I love to hustle when I work. I am willing to take that extra steps and initiatives when I work for someone else but tend to do the opposite for my own dreams. Why so? I learnt (and I am also secretly denying) that I don’t want to be held accountable if something goes wrong with this. I told everyone about what I am doing and if failure happens I’ll be ‘embarrassed’. I think building SloMo and continue working for SloMo will be a great opportunity for me to learn and also break through the prison of my own mind.

It’s crazy how I realized all of this after I started my own thing (still in the starting phase). I guess every step of our live has its own story and impact. I hope I survive this journey. Wish me luck

PS: SloMo is a business that I am working on at the moment. It’s SloMo (Slow Movement) Travel Indonesia. So its focus is for ethical travel, experiential and educational tourism while still incorporating the conventional ‘must do’s.