When travelling in a faraway place, it’s always nice to pick up a little souvenir or keepsake to bring home to help trigger all the wonderful memories of our adventure when time inevitably begins to fade them. Whether it’s textiles from Morocco, a leather purse from Argentina or an Indian carpet, these items always make for wonderful stories and trigger memories of some of the best days of our lives exploring new and exciting places.
One of the nicest things about purchasing travel trinkets is connecting with the local artisans that make the items and learning a little bit about their story. For most artisans, reaching a global audience can be very difficult due to lack of technology, resources and remoteness, meaning the sale of their products is most likely restricted to travellers who visit their location and buy directly from them.
GlobeIn, a company based out of San Francisco, is changing that. Aiming to empower local artisans in remote areas by connecting them to the global economy, GlobeIn sources ethically produced, fair trade products and delivers them directly to your door. Now you don’t have to wait until your next trip to get your hands on a beautiful product to add to your collection! From hand-painted mugs from Tunisia, upcycled laundry bags from Cambodia to all-natural mosquito repellant from a Sudanese women’s cooperative, these products not only make for the loveliest gifts (or treats for yourself too!) but you also know that the local producers are benefitting directly from your purchase. You can also sign up to their monthly artisan box subscription service from only US $30 per month where you will receive ‘the globe in a box’ – a themed collection of artisan-made products from around the world delivered to you via post.
Recently, The Department of Wandering caught up with co-founder, Vladimir Ermakov to chat about how travel shaped him as a person and inspired his vision for GlobeIn.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Moscow, and moved to United States with my parents when I was in school. I studied computer science, robotics and sociology, and was always passionate about combining my knack for technology and desire to make an impact and positive social change on a global scale, particularly making an impact in the former Soviet Union, where I was born.
2. How has travel shaped who you’ve become today?
Growing up in two different cultures, has given me a chance to view the world from different perspectives. It helped me question things at a deeper level, understanding that everything from education, to healthcare, to every day interactions cannot be taken for granted, and can be done very differently in different places.
3. Which region of the world do you feel most personally connected to (aside from your home country)?
Besides the former Soviet Union and the United States, I feel most closely connected to Latin America. I travelled to many countries there, taught myself Spanish, and find the culture very close to heart and inspirational. (Image via)
4. How was the idea of GlobeIn born?
My good friend and partner David and I have read books by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohammud Yunus, about microlending and social business, and saw that while organizations like Kiva can help start small businesses in remote regions, they still needed a platform to take them to the next level. We decided to build this platform.
6. What is the most treasured item you’ve ever picked up on your travels?
I am very proud of my tailored pants that were made by an artisan in Samarkand in Uzbekistan. I went to the market to pick out the fabric. They are very eccentric. I don’t usually pay much attention to clothing, normally stick to jeans and t-shirts, but I wear those pants proudly as I know exactly where they come from.
5. How does GlobeIn benefit local artisans in developing countries? Why is this important to you?
GlobeIn, with its subscription model, allows us to generate predictable income for artisans and farmers in over 40 countries. Because we are able to plan ahead, we can optimize costs of shipping and production making sure more of the money gets to the artisans, while providing the customers with the best possible product value.
8. Making connections and supporting local artisans must be hugely rewarding. Is there an individual or a community that has touched your heart the most?
It’s hard to pick a favourite, but one of the first people we started working with, was Mirfaiz Aliev from Uzbekistan. He makes beautiful traditional instruments such as Tamburs, Doyras, Rubabs. He and his wife are both musicians, and play at weddings. I met him in Bukhara three years ago now, before we even had a website, and now he has sent his instruments to customers from all around the globe from Tokyo, to Paris, to New York…
9. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt on your travels?
Not so much a lesson, but an interesting habit I developed. As I travelled around the world I tried to understand different cultures on a deep level, and I made it a rule to read a fiction book from one of the most respected authors of the region before the trip, to start building an emotional connection and understanding of the people I was about to meet.
7. What is your favourite product that GlobeIn has included in an Artisan Box in the past?
One of my favourites is the journal made out of elephant dung. I love the story behind it: the elephants were walking over rice fields in Sri Lanka and the local farmers would shoot them. The organization we work with figured out that if the farmers would feed the elephants instead, they could use the dung to produce paper and sell it at better value then the rice. Farmers were happy, elephants were happy, and our customers were very excited to get this product.
10. What would be your advice to people who are looking to follow their passion?
Don’t spend too much time planning and theorizing. Start doing it, learn in the process and be open to improvising. The world is very dynamic and there are always new opportunities there for you to find, as long as you are actively looking.
Customers can purchase individual artisan products online from the GlobeIn website or sign up for a monthly subscription service for a carefully curated selection. GlobeIn is kindly offering The Department of Wandering readers a 25% discount on the first month’s box with a purchase of a 3 or 6-month artisan box subscription. Enter the coupon code WOW at checkout!
Over to you: What is your favourite item you’ve picked up on your travels?