a McDonald's sign in the streets of a tourist area


Posted: two/25/2019 | February 25th, 2019

Although walking down the streets of Medellín, I came across a Dunkin’ Donuts, a donut chain from my hometown of Boston. (It is the ideal. Locals are fairly attached to Dunkin. Do not mess with a Massachusetts resident and Dunkin.)

As I looked at the retailer, a pit formed in my stomach and I got quiet and melancholy.

For days, I had been coming across Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC, Papa John’s, and now, Dunkin’ Donuts!

Medellín had been overrun by the chains.

One more spot ruined by globalization!

One more spot exactly where the neighborhood character was dying.

Or…was it? (Stated in a Morgan Freeman narrator voice.)

Was that Dunkin’ Donuts truly a undesirable point?

Or that Starbucks I saw earlier? Or all these Papa John’s? (I imply that garlic butter sauce is astounding.)

As I continued down the street, a believed struck me: What had that Dunkin’ Donuts truly ruined?

I imply the shops and stalls nearby have been nonetheless complete of life and brimming with clients purchasing snacks and coffee.

What was truly bothering me?

Then it hit me.

I realized that possibly why I got sad was since what Dunkin’ Donuts truly had destroyed was not Medellin but what I believed Medellin was.

As travelers, I feel we have a tendency to hate “globalization” since we consider areas to be a specific way from books, films, and our collective cultural consciousness.

We generally have this image — primarily based on no firsthand expertise — of what a location really should be like and how the men and women really should act. We consider deserted beaches, or quaint cafés, or rustic old towns, or gritty, worn-down cities since we saw that in a film or study a book ten years ago. I imply, most Americans nonetheless feel Colombia is teeming with narcos or that Eastern Europe is nonetheless like it was the day following the Iron Curtain fell.

view of skyscrapers in Medellin from the hills

This is not a new phenomenon. We want the areas we stop by to match into the box we mentally developed for them. We want our image of them validated.

Heck, even Mark Twain felt this way about the Taj Mahal:

” I had study a terrific deal as well a great deal about it. I saw it in the daytime, I saw it in the
moonlight, I saw it close to at hand, I saw it from a distance and I knew all the time, that of its type it was the wonder of the planet, with no competitor now and no feasible future competitor and but, it was not my Taj. My Taj had been constructed by excitable literary men and women it was solidly lodged in my head, and I could not blast it out.”

I imply we in element travel for a sense of adventure and exoticness. To be explorers and come across spots devoid of any outdoors influence. My buddy Seth Kugel stated in his book a town in England became well known with Chinese tour groups in 2016 since it was quintessentially English. Chinese tour groups wanted to see a spot that matched their vision.

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Globalization stops all that from taking place.

Abruptly, we’re walking down the street — and we see a element of property.

Our illusion – the myth we developed about the location we are in – is shattered.

“Well, there’s a Starbucks. The vacationers are right here. This spot is ruined now.”

But is that truly a undesirable point?

When we consider how someplace really should be — like Thai islands with tiny huts and empty beaches, or rural villages filled with only neighborhood meals and pushcart vendors — we seek to freeze the planet (and generally with an air of leftover colonialism).

We overlook that areas are not Disneyland and it is not 100 years ago. Issues modify. Locations create, mature, and move on. The planet about us hasn’t stood frozen in time to act like our theme park. (And this does not even touch the tip of the iceberg about the colonialism / Western stereotypes linked with these tips.)

Would I rather see the planet complete of mom-and-pop retailers and no Dunkin’ Donuts in Medellín?

On the surface, yes.

But if I truly feel about it, that is since I want to escape my property, not be reminded of it. It is since I’d like the planet to match the one particular I see in books and films. It is since no one particular is fully immune to the views I just talked about. I’ve developed a castle in the sky that I do not want to see destroyed.

But element of the art of discovery is obtaining your preconceptions shattered.

For instance, most Americans (and possibly even most men and women in the planet) view Colombia as this remote jungle complete of coffee, crime, fruit, and narcos roaming the street. It is gritty and risky.

But Colombia is practically nothing like men and women feel it is. Medellín has one particular of the ideal transportation systems I’ve ever observed outdoors Scandinavia, and Wi-Fi is everywhere. There’s also some extraordinary Michelin star–worthy gastronomy taking spot right here. Bogotá has planet-class museums. Digital nomads flock there. The roads are stellar. A lot of young men and women speak English, they are educated, and they are incredibly informed of planet events.

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a McDonald's sign in the streets of a tourist area

So, as Colombia sheds its narco previous and embraces the planet as a great deal as the planet embraces it, really should we – I – be shocked that the guy riding in a tiny jeep is playing Taylor Swift, or that burgers and pizzas and gin and tonics are truly well known? Need to we be shocked that Colombians want a taste of the planet as well?

We generally feel of globalization as a one particular-way street, exactly where the Western chains “invade” other nations. Our conversation in the West is often about how we’re ruining other areas.

However these areas do not survive on tourist dollars alone. Locals do consume there. Who are we to inform them no?

And I generally feel about the reverse: when men and women from other non-Western cultures travel, do they have the identical reaction?

Do Colombians travel someplace and go, “Ugh, a mondongo spot right here? This spot is ruined.”

Do Italians hate the sight of pizza on getaway?

Do the Japanese lament seeing sushi abroad?

I do not want to see the golden arches subsequent to the Pyramids, but is it so undesirable that there are some franchises in Egypt? Who are we to say, “Hey, you can not have that. I want to consider your nation as this Arabian Nights fantasy! Get rid of that pizza spot! Exactly where are the guys on camels?”

Whether or not it is a chain or just a form of cuisine, I do not feel the mingling of cultures is such a undesirable.

Globalization is not ideal. And, of course, its added benefits are not balanced. Individuals have written volumes on this topic. Let’s leave that aside. I’m not right here to talk about that. I’m right here to ponder globalization and our perceptions of it as travelers.

That Dunkin’ Donuts reminded me that the globalized planet that enables me to be in Medellín also enables Colombians to access not only my culture but other cultures as properly.

I feel we require to quit viewing globalization by means of the myopic one particular-way lens of becoming a Western traveler.

Do we truly want areas to remain impoverished / secluded / unconnected so we can have an “authentic” expertise primarily based on some fantasy we have about a location? Do we truly not want the locals to expertise pizza, or burgers, or Scotch, jazz music, or Thai pop, or something else not neighborhood?

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I do not feel we really should appear at globalization as causing a spot to be “ruined.” Cultures are often in flux.

The identical course of action that has brought unfamiliar cultures to us has also brought components of our culture (amongst other folks) there.

When you have far more cultures interacting with every single other, you get to have an understanding of that everybody is a human becoming and shares the identical desires and requires.

And I feel that is a thing we really should celebrate.

Matt’s note: Just before everybody freaks out in the comments, let me be clear: I am not saying globalization is all rainbows and unicorns. There are a lot of troubles with multi-national corporations, particularly, when it comes to taxes, labor, and how a great deal funds they retain in a nation. There are also a lot of environmental and social troubles associated to outsourcing. These are essential social and financial concerns that require to be addressed politically so that everybody can share the added benefits of a far more globalized planet. I do not deny there are troubles. But this post is basically about seeking at the concern from a traveler’s viewpoint.

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