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Why I Go to Trade Fairs

Trade shows can provide travelers with a goldmine of information about the country they’re in and the road ahead.

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I’ve developed a passion for trade fairs. Initially, I had no idea why, I just found myself gravitating to them with regular frequency. I went to a trade show for medical equipment, a beauty supply fair, a petroleum extractor’s convention, a machine parts symposium, the pesticide and sprayer facilities fair, and I even found myself enthralled at a show that was for nothing other than giant rectangular granite slabs — which was, as it turned out, the largest exhibition for giant rectangular granite slabs in the world.

Why do I have so much fun at these things? I don’t really sell anything — especially nothing like granite slabs, pesticides, or petroleum extracting contraptions. Then as I was walking through the CIFIT show in Xiamen it occurred to me why I like these events: they attract people from all over the world who gather together just to talk about what’s going on right now.

Trade shows are the museums of the present. Where history museums are full of stuff that’s already happened, that’s all over, done, trade shows are about what is, what’s becoming, and what will be.

Likewise, I go to these places to look over the exhibits of what’s in the works in any given industry. I look for what certain companies are doing, where they are doing it, and what countries are involved in what types of trade. I’m hunting ideas for stories, I’m digging for information, I’m collecting quotes that may serve as references for future articles, I’m making contacts, I’m looking for places to travel to.

Though what I really like about trade fairs is that most of the people exhibiting always seem dead bored. Trade fairs are events that people all over the world go to to hang out with their colleges, make connections, and meet investors, but all too often end up standing around by themselves, bored. So bored, in fact, that they may actually enjoy talking to me. The easiest conversations in the world are perhaps had when asking people questions about what they do for a living. As a curious traveler, catching people plying their trades is gold. At trade fairs I can walk around among people who are obviously very knowledgeable in a certain topic who generally have nothing better to do than teach me about it.

These trade shows are another way to learn a little more about this world. For what it’s worth, I now know far more about petroleum extraction, machine parts, and granite slabs than I ever thought I would. The wholesale acquisition of random knowledge is one of the prime directives of travel.


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Filed under: Blogging, Travel Writing

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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