Context Travel Walks, International
Context is a network of scholars and specialists—in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, history, environmental science, and classics—who, in addition to their normal work as professors and researchers, design and lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups of intellectually curious travelers. The company was founded by Paul Bennett and Lani Bevacqua who spent one and a half years voyaging around the world on a 38-foot sailing ketch. Paul is an award-winning writer for National Geographic and National Geographic Adventure. He was named a top travel specialist in Condé Nast Traveler. Lani co-manages Context Travel and the Context Foundation
Their stated mission statement is :
“At Context we are committed to the character of the city—its built environment, cultural heritage, and living fabric. Drawing on our network of scholars we organize didactic walking seminars designed to help the erudite traveler appreciate and defend the city without overrunning it. From our vantage point as architects, archaeologists, and historians, we aim to bring together the traveler and the city in a manner beneficial to both.”
The seminar approach means that their walks are narrative participatory experiences. With:
- Small groups. With no more than five other people, you’ll participate in an intimate, hands-on, conversational experience.
- No tour guides. Their “docents” are first and foremost scholars or specialists, with MAs, Ph.D.s or other terminal degrees in their fields of study.
- A sense of Social responsibility. Context claims that they adhere to the precepts of sustainable travel, investing in programs that mitigate the effect of tourism.
MHM particularly loves the concept of MHM’s Family Program, with walking tours in several cities designed for children age 12 and under. These programs designed by a museum educator recognise that children learn differently from adults. They ask different questions, notice different details, and connect with culture and art in altogether different ways than their parents. The walks generally feature some kind of activity such as a treasure hunt, game, or drawing activity which are designed to get them engaged and involved in the material. Importantly Context does not forget about the parents and focus on making their program a group experience. The family programs are all private.
We recommend you read this interview by Steven Brenner from Cross-Pollinate with founder Paul Bennett as he can best explain their concept of the “walking seminar” and the philosophy behind their “untour” tour company. The link is https://www.cross-pollinate.com/blog/477/interview-with-paul-bennett-founder-of-context-travel/