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BEAN Seattle Blog

The Art of Living Locally while Thinking Globally

"What is the carbon footprint of this organic Cesar Salad? Is it from a CSA farm?"

"I loved the steam dosa in Hyderabad when I did a backpack trip through India."

"Starbucks is great because they source fair-trade shade-grown beans from Brazil. Although my neighborhood cafe does support local artists and roast beans on site."

These utterances typifies the kind of tension many young professionals live with today. Is it possible to have our locally made artisanal cake and have it with us on our globe trotting trips?

On one hand, we fiercely love our home town, our city and our neighborhood. We want to support and foster local businesses, local agriculture, local schools, local art, etc. We know our place cannot be found anywhere else. We appreciate the unique and time-honed culture of "Here".

On the other hand, we long to expand our knowledge and experience of the world. We want to breath a different air, to touch ancient walls, and to enjoy what far away land has to offer. We feel like we are stuck in the same old "Here".

On one hand, we dread the environmental impact of foods and goods that crisscross the globe, the human cost of migrant-filled urban slum to power factories in distant shores, and the threat of hostile foreign worldviews. We worry about the danger and impact of "There".

On the other hand, making friends in some distant small town help us realize that people are motivated by the same things and getting unexpected help by kindly strangers make us appreciate how decent vast majority of people are in the world. We appreciate the different yet familiar beauty of "There".

So, how can we have all the good about living and thinking locally as well as globally but avoid the bad? Here are some of my thoughts.

Get to the Root of Things & People

Many of the problems we face today are complex with long, deep and twisted roots. It is easy to stay on the surface of things, but we need to resist slogan/soundbite approach to things. When we dig deep, we can better understand the tradeoff between local and global.

Nothing is as It "Must" Be

Pizza must not have shrimp on it. Sushi must have seaweed wrap. We encounter a lot of "Must"s on a daily basis, whether they are written or unwritten. We should constantly question any dogmatic and draconian "Must"s that often artificially construct barriers between global and local.

Keep Your Heart & Mind Open

This might be trite, but we must really try walking in other people's shoes. The skin color, religion, income and language of people might all be different, but peace, honor, family, freedom and dignity are all things we strive for. Sometimes we can learn that right at home, but sometimes it takes experiencing the outside world for that lesson to sink it.

See the World at Home

Your home town is more diverse than you think. Just because it looks homogeneous doesn't mean it actually is. Walk into some "dangerous" neighborhoods. Eat at some "weird" eateries. Talk to people you would not otherwise talk to. The entire world could be in your backyard.

Be at Home Everywhere

Treat the global as your home and treat people as you would like to be treated. Learn to speak the language and customs, however little you can pick up. Be gracious to people's offer of help and friendship. Be humble about what you think you know. Say "thank you" and ask questions. Don't be afraid of saying "I don't know" (in their language).

Resist the Call for "Purity"

If you ever hear calls to preserve the purity of anything (food, language, culture, media, idea or blood), fight it. There is no such thing. The big wide world is a wonderfully messy place where everything is constantly being mixed, reshuffled and fused. That's how new things happen.

Do Something Different

Never gone abroad? Save up and go! Never eaten at the food truck down the street, grab some cash and go! Whether it's something local or something global, as long as it expands your experience and makes a positive impact, do it!  In that vain, do you know about BEAN's annual Think Global Act Local (TGAL) campaign. Make a difference around the world right in your own amazing city!!

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