Update: April 13, 2019
Since the posting of this article, Visit.org has changed their business model to focus exclusively on corporate social responsibility initiatives. Tour4Charity Prague, however, is still doing great work for leisure travelers!
Hi all! I hope you’ve had a great weekend and that your Monday has gone well so far… at least, as well as a Monday can go!
To hopefully make your Monday a little brighter, today I want to share a revolutionary website that allows you to have authentic, cultural experiences while positively impacting local communities. After exploring the issue of responsible tourism and discussing what it means to be a global citizen a few weeks ago, let’s look at one way to spread some positive energy as you travel the world!
Allow me to introduce you to Visit.org.
Visit.org allows you to travel with a cause. This organization partners with local tour providers, artisans, animal sanctuaries, and other entities to provide a variety of experiences where all or part of the cost of your booking goes directly to charitable organizations and NGO’s in the communities you are visiting. Want to interact with rescued wildlife and bathe an elephant in Thailand while supporting conservation and animal rehabilitation? There’s a tour for that. Want to learn the art of Peruvian weaving and cooking as you empower Andean businesswomen? You can do it! Are you looking for a group fitness class in New York City, but would love to help provide opportunities and job training for formerly incarcerated individuals at the same time? Put on your sneakers and go break a sweat!
I love that Visit.org has such a wide variety of experiences available at different price points in dozens of countries around the world, making it easy to fit doing good into your trip. The number of options has also greatly expanded since I first discovered the site a couple of years ago and I believe that they are continually looking to add partnerships and experiences.
When M and I booked our trip to Prague last fall, I was excited to finally be able to give Visit.org a try. A quick search resulted in a walking tour of the city through an organization appropriately named Tour 4 Charity Prague. The entire €16 per person cost of the tour would be donated to Chance 4 Children, a nonprofit caring for needy kids in the Czech Republic, and our tour guide would be working for tips alone.
As Visit.org gives you $10 off your first experience, we were able to book the tour for about $22 upfront, and it felt wonderful knowing that all of that money was going to a worthy cause. Even when factoring in the tip, it also wasn’t a bad deal for a 3.5-hour walking tour of one of Europe’s most beautiful and historic cities!
When the day of our tour dawned, we discovered that we were in luck: not only did we have one of the co-founders of Tour 4 Charity Prague, John Paul, as our guide, but we also only had one other couple exploring with us. The small group size made it easy for John Paul to customize the route to our pace and interests, which made for an enjoyable, personalized tour. (Even if you don’t luck into a four-person group like we did, my understanding from John Paul is that they cap their tours at sixteen people, which is still very manageable compared to some of the hordes we saw wandering the streets.)
While it would have been nice to have had more money going to charity from a bigger group, I’ll confess that we were pleased with the situation! We got to know our co-tourers pretty well; the five of us (with JP) all ended up having lunch together following the tour, and M and I spent a good bit of the afternoon exploring the castle complex with the other couple afterward.
As you can see from the map below, the walking tour includes many of the most popular and noteworthy sights in the Old Town, with engaging, well-organized commentary (and no small number of groaner jokes and puns) throughout from John Paul. We didn’t visit every single place listed on the map (as I mentioned, JP was able to cater the tour to our interests and omit places we had already visited), but we covered a lot of ground!
Our tour began at the Municipal House, where John Paul took us through the major eras of early Czech history in an entertaining and easily comprehensible way. This information provided an essential background that helped us understand and appreciate all of the sights we would be seeing on the rest of the tour.
We then moved south to Wenceslas Square, and along the way M and I were able to chat with John Paul about his personal background (a fascinating, global history), the genesis of Tour 4 Charity, and his passion for using tourism to benefit charitable causes. He not only wants to grow Tour 4 Charity Prague as a venture in and of itself but is also working to build it into a replicable model for other tours and services across the world that will benefit local communities. It’s an admirable and well-thought-out vision that, to us, made so much sense for all parties involved, whether they be travelers, charities, or tourism businesses. Once again, we were pleased to have played a small part in supporting this effort, and I will also admit that my international development and hospitality background was causing me to geek out just a little.
A few stops and some commentary later, we emerged into the beautiful Old Town Square in the historic center of Prague.
We spent a long time here, learning more Czech history, admiring the varied architectural styles of the colorful buildings, watching the hundreds of people milling about, and taking approximately one million photos.
Nearby was the world-famous Astronomical Clock, one of the most popular tourist hotspots in the city. Massive crowds gather every hour on the hour to take in the show that involves sound and movement from a number of figures and mechanisms surrounding the clock. John Paul wisely kept us out of the crowds, waiting until after the show to bring us over and give us all the details about why this clock, so often hailed as disappointing or overrated because tourists are underwhelmed by the show, is actually a fascinating engineering marvel. He also acted out the entirety of the show so that we wouldn’t feel like we missed out!
We moved on through the charming streets, making a number of stops in the Jewish Quarter before emerging along the banks of the Vltava, where we got a beautiful view of the city and the famous Charles Bridge as our tour concluded.
Overall, we were very pleased with our decision to book a walking tour with Tour 4 Charity Prague through Visit.org. I will confess that my Czech history was spotty at best before arriving in Europe, but both M and I reflected later that night that we felt a much greater appreciation for the history, culture, and people of the country we were visiting as a result of our morning excursion. Throughout the tour, we were consistently impressed by John Paul’s ability to condense complicated and expansive periods of history into palatable pieces, which added such value to our time. Furthermore, we were glad to have done the tour on our first full day in Prague, as the information we learned helped to shape our experiences during the rest of our time in the Czech Republic.
After having such a great experience in Prague, it has now become part of my standard trip planning practice to check the Visit.org website to see if they offer any excursions in my next destination. I encourage you to give it a try. You may find that something you’d already been planning to do, like a city tour, is available with a charitable benefit, or you might discover new activities that you previously didn’t know were an option! Either way, you’ll feel great knowing that the price for your fun is going to a good cause.
Need some help planning your vacation? Full Life, Full Passport offers customized itinerary planning for all kinds of trips and budgets.
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