I’ll skip the long winded introduction about the age we live in and the way in which huge multinational chains dominate and permeate every part of our modern lives. We all know this already. We know that supporting local companies is a dying effort. We know that a lot of big brands are unethical.
But this isn’t what I’ve been thinking about lately. Rather I’ve noticed that always walking past and interacting with the same brands is starting to make very different life experiences feel generic. Example: recently I went on a day trip to Cardiff, to explore it a bit more and get a change of scenery. As much as I enjoyed the day, I spent most of it wandering around the centre surrounded by the same shops I would have been surrounded by if I had been in any other city centre. This isn’t to say that I don’t like Cardiff or that this is all there is to it. This experience is part of a larger pattern. Travelling to new places becomes less refreshing and less inspiring if you can’t avoid seeing the same logos, reading the same brand names and walking into the same shops and cafes. When I go somewhere new I want to discover the character and spirit of that place, and this gets a lot harder when you are struggling to differentiate one place from any other because the garish McDonald’s lights are detracting from the old architecture.
And filling up your house with all these branded items that everyone else has makes your personal space less interesting too. And this isn’t me trying to be unique and hipster, it’s about marvelling in the world and the variety of it. I don’t want this to be taken away from me by succumbing to brands.
However, I went to Exeter for a couple of days later in the month for a house viewing (I’m moving yay!), and there are quite a few vintage/antique shops in Exeter. Looking round these shops was a really refreshing experience. They’re full of items with meaning. Not only are some of them unique, but they also have history, they have a story. And I know that the whole ‘vintage’ thing is a commodity just as much as big brands, in a way. But particularly browsing through old postcards of places that have since been dominated by huge chains was inspiring and wonderful. It felt like getting to know places properly, particularly the history behind their brand flooded high streets.
This is partly why I really love going into Bristol. Because I know it pretty well (I went to college there for two years) I know the places to go beyond the city centre and shopping malls, it is always a distinctive experience visiting Bristol and exploring the independent shops, the various parks and the amazing docks.
Perhaps in future, when I next visit somewhere new, I should try to do some prior research to uncover any hidden gems. This way hopefully I can avoid getting stuck in city centres, support independent shops and cafes, and make the most of my day trips.