3 ways to shop the world from your keyboard

guatemala-handicrafts-photo-courtesy-rkuhnau-on-flickr-ccI do like to find inexpensive travel souvenirs when I’m roaming the world, but work demands and the economy have put a pretty good crimp in my wanderings lately.

This does not mean that I can’t still find wonderful items from across the globe (and I don’t even have to schlep them onto the plane/into the car.)

Here are three online sites that focus on handmade or unique items from many different countries – it’s a digital whiff of the souk!

  • Novica.com – In association with National Geographic, Novica has tons of home decor, jewelry, crafts and original art. You can explore their products by region or use their gift finder. They even have fair trade corporate gifts for those suited types who may not want, er, some patchouli candle thingy.
  • Ten Thousand Villages – This company supports fair trade and worldwide craftspeople – it’s a nonprofit program of the Mennonites. There are brick-and-mortar stores (I stopped by the one in Austin, Texas yesterday) in addition to online offerings. They do festival sales which often incorporate local speakers and musicians/performers relating to the products on sale.
  • Etsy – This site is huge amongst craft enthusiasts and style watchers like Heather Armstrong, and no wonder; it is an amazon.com-worthy selection of sellers from around the world and has drooly photos of their compelling items.  As discussed in Fast Company and Wired, the company is a fascinating combination of high-tech, Web 2.0 community focus and support for old-school  handmade delights.   One section of the site combines discussions of crafts and community activism – called craftivism, of course.

It’s not the same as picking up fun doo-dads in a Paris flea market or strolling the aisle of a Thai drugstore to find Prickly Heat Powder, but I’ll take it.

Do any of you have favorite sources for world crafts and gifts? Please tell us in the comments below.

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