I was wandering through the busy main street in the small village of Riomaggiore in Italy when I heard my name and felt a tug at my shirt, “Bianca, Bianca!” Slightly alarmed as I had just arrived the day before, I whipped around. It was the local baker that I had met when I arrived. I smiled – delighted to be greeted in the busy street by my new friend, “Bianca, you must come try what we’ve made today.” How could I say no?
I ventured with her back to the bakery and she gave me samples of each baked good her family had made early that morning – her husbands specialty, her mother-in-law’s, and hers (the only one I remember because it was so good), a lemon tart made with the lemons local to the area. Amazing!
I love sharing this story for several reasons. As many of us have seen in our travels, the world is becoming more and more homogeneous as globalization brings McDonald’s, Starbucks and Wal-marts to main streets in cities around the world. When we travel, we want to explore and learn about the local culture of the places we visit – and if possible, leave a positive impact on the community. One incredible way to do this is by exploring the local industries, arts and businesses – just like the bakery I visited in Riomaggiore.
By seeking these local people and organizations out, not only do you get to learn or do something cool, but you will make a really positive impact by supporting the heart and soul of that community. Pretty awesome, huh? Next time you’re on the road or walking around your own neighborhood, look around for the businesses, individuals and organizations that make the local area you’re in so special!
While exploring and asking your local hosts may be the best way to learn about and directly connect with folks, another fun way is to be on the look out for local fairs and festivals in the cities that you visit. For example, one coming up in Los Angeles this weekend is the LA May Day Festival – a free festival that aims to promote a greater sense of togetherness by celebrating local artists, musicians and organizations that are making an impact on their community. Festivals like this bring people together to celebrate their local culture and community. If you’re in LA this weekend, definitely check it out – it’ll be a great way to learn more about the local culture and people of Los Angeles as well as support the local community there! And please be sure to let us know about festivals and fairs coming up in your backyard – we’d love to share them with the community!