Bonnieux, France

Context Travel: Small guided tours for the intellectually curious traveler

At the end of May, I attended my third TBEX conference (Travel Blog Exchange) and was introduced to Paul Bennett and his wife Lani, the founders of Context Travel. Context Travel is a network of Ph-D level scholars and experts living in cultural capitals around the world who take tourists on small or private guided tours of their cities. Paul and Lani founded the company in 2003 after two years of sailing across the Atlantic with their young children. They were so inspired by the experiences while traveling that they wanted to create something authentic and unique. A kind of travel company that would enable travelers to get a rare behind the scenes view of what a place is like while also promoting sustainable travel. There are no tour buses or tour guides; instead you are swept away on a walking “seminar” with a local expert.

The Context vision is to create an atmosphere—a context, if you will—for curious travelers to engage with local experts; to give them access to places and cultures that might otherwise remain out of sight to the casual visitor; to invite them off the tourist track and into the real life of the people, history, and culture that makes these cultural capitals amazing.

Paul and Italo on a drive through Venice's canals.

Paul and Italo on a drive through Venice’s canals.

Fast forward 13 years, and Context Travel now operates in over 35 cities around the world, inspiring travelers to see a city through local, knowledgeable eyes. Context Travel is recommended by such acclaimed sources as the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, and National Geographic (to name a few) as well as a growing number of highly satisfied customers. I was so inspired by Paul and Lani’s story that I asked to do an interview to learn more. Here is what Paul had to say.