I will never forget a rainy Saturday night recently when I was in London. I had just arrived as a tourist in an unfamiliar city one chilly night. I was headed to a restaurant downtown, trusting that my travel via train would go as planned; but that weekend was harsh.
A London Bridge public attack had taken place and a rerouting of public transportation disturbed a lot of commuters. I was already more than an hour late for my appointment. I did not have a reliable mobile connectivity. So, I decided to step out of a train station and was fortunate to find a taxi about to unload a passenger. After I explained to the driver where I was headed and what time I was expected to be there, he told me with a sense of despair that my destination was 30 minutes away. The rain, wind and surroundings were tough that night but my taxi driver was my saving grace. He willingly lent me his mobile phone so I could contact a friend who had then been waiting for me for almost two hours. He got so engrossed in a conversation with me, curious about the country where I came from and what led me to my journey. He also shared some insider tips on how a clueless foreigner like me could cope in a cold city like London, and sounding like a protective father he wanted to make sure I got to my destination safely and wished me well.
After staying for a couple of weeks in the UK, I arrived back home in Manila finding news about the disputes between the Philippine transportation regulatory bodies and the popular international mobile-based ride sharing applications Uber and Grab. The headlines about the potential discontinuation of these global transportation alternatives operating in unique local market conditions caught my attention. On my own social media feed, my co-commuter friends shared positive sentiment about their own experiences enjoying the convenience, happiness and peace in using the mobile applications of Uber and Grab.
While these cheerful posts were circulating just in time for the onset of the inconvenient rainy season in the Philippines, the memory of my lovely London taxi driver came rushing back. He made an impact on me as he transformed my potentially disastrous night to a sensible one. When hundreds of things go wrong, sometimes a business transaction done well can make things right. In my experience, the hefty, unbudgeted taxi fare was worth the price. I felt free and safe inside a cab and that made all the difference.
On certain occasions and for a limited time, freedom can be sold and bought. According to Michael Czinkota, a professor at Georgetown University and the University of Kent, freedom is an effect of international marketing. “Freedom is about options. If there is no alternative, there is no freedom. A true alternative provides the opportunity to make a decision, to exercise virtue. Another key dimension of freedom is not to confine, but to allow people to go outside of the box. As a concept, freedom knows no international boundaries. But national borders usually are the box where business and government find their limits.”
Our travels may not always be smooth and easy, but we always have a choice to be free. International marketing’s influences can manufacture choices for us at times; but on most occasions we have to insist on exercising our freedom. We are free to choose how to respond to a change in plan, to unmet expectations, to a broken heart, or to an unforeseen adversity. If I have to choose an adventure in the absence of a comfortable cab ride in the middle of a storm, I would like to gracefully dance the cha-cha in the rain.
Ireene Leoncio is an aspiring global citizen who was born and raised in Manila. She is a faculty member of the Marketing and Advertising Department of the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. Leoncio earned her master’s degree in Washington DC and is an incoming PhD Marketing research student in the United Kingdom. She worked for multinational companies managing global brands in Manila, New York City and the San Francisco Bay area. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.