Do you love traveling but sometimes wonder what it must be like to visit your corner of the world for the first time? Do you shake your head at how tourists go from sight to sight without actually seeing “your” city or county at all, the way you know it? That’s exactly what thirty-year-old manager Lada said before she decided to change it by planning short stays for travelers visiting Prague. Thus she began her involvement with Travelove, a project that allows locals to earn extra money for travelling by planning experiential journeys. When describing her ‘part-time job’ she states simply: “It’s a dream job.”
“I have a lot of friends abroad from my studies and whenever one of them comes to Prague to visit me, I always tell them where to go so they’re not doing the same thing as all the other tourists. Normal Prague residents don’t really enjoy walking single file through Old Town Square, across Charles Bridge and up to the castle. And they don’t order Svíčkova at U Fleků either” (Editor’s note: Svíčkova is a traditional Czech dish and U Fleků is a famous tourist restaurant) says Lada, who’s lived and worked in the center of Prague since her studies. “Besides, I know how much more of a powerful experience it is for me to visit a country or a city where I know someone, compared to traveling with a guidebook. That’s why I was happy to put an effort into making the ‘Prague trip’ for Travelove, even though it wasn’t exactly a piece of cake in the end” adds Lada.
The aim of Travelove is to connect people to the places they want to go but who might not have time to spend days and weeks searching and planning the area, enabling them to really get to know a location thanks to well-prepared trip experiences with locals. The start-up offers earnings to so-called “trip designers,” or authors, who plan trips to places they know really well. Their task is to prepare a list with all kinds of experiences, from individual tours to famous landmarks and lesser-known corners, to gastronomic experiences with locals and cultural tips that can’t be found in Lonely Planet. They should also make recommendations for good restaurants close to where the experiences take place, and provide a choice of quality and, at the same time, authentic accommodation. In short, trip designers plan stays for other travelers so that they don’t have to look for anything. Out of this information the trip designer creates the trip along with a complete guidebook, summarizing all the necessary information for travelers that includes maps, photos and an itinerary.
Cooking at Home and Genuine Guides
“In the Canary Islands, for example, it’s common to walk through mountains and into caves that are completely away from civilization. There are beautiful cliffs and unforgettable beaches that most locals don’t even know about. I’ve included them in my trip experiences so they can be discovered by travelers who don’t have time to wander around or might have younger kids with them,” recounts Michaela, author of the trip to the island of Gran Canaria. Included among the selected experiences are activities such as cooking traditional delicacies with local residents right inside their home, or inspecting the lesser-known corners of beautiful cities with history buffs and other enthusiasts who simply love the region they live in – anything that can’t be experienced on a classic tour.
“I myself never really enjoyed either tours to the sea or with traditional travel agencies. I’ve always traveled off the beaten track, wanting my travels to give me a deeper understanding of the local culture and the ability to get to know people. But that takes a lot of time and energy, knowledge of the language, and luck. Couples and families with children, following in the footsteps of our trip designers, are embarking on a planned route with their selected activities prepared. They have the opportunity to experience this knowledge with comfort and speed,” says Katka Mikulková, founder of the Travelove project.
Working for Two Months
A trip designer with an original traveler’s concept can be anyone who knows a beautiful corner of the world and wants to share it with others. However, it does take work to create a trip; a designer should give themselves about two months to collect all the documents, contacts, and information needed for a new trip, and process it into forms that can be compiled into traveler’s guidebooks. Travelers have to choose the destination site and actual experiences in it. “Whether you’re an avid traveler or someone who has crawled through every corner of your region, putting together a trip is a lot of fun, but it is definitely work. You have to imagine that the people setting out on your trip have never been there before and want a holiday that’s stress-free, comfortable, and yet has tons of authentic experiences and information,“ shares Katka.
A New Social Network on the Horizon?
Thanks to this project, there is now a distinctive community of travelers, enthusiasts and local guides who share a desire to see the world differently and travel on their own – not blindly, but comfortably and without complicated preparations. For their work, trip designers can choose between two compensations models: either they earn Trips points for traveling to other destinations on the Travelove menu, or they can choose to receive a financial reward every time someone buys their Trip and when one of their friends heads off on a Travelove trip they recommended.
“When I decided to plan a Travelove family trip to Paris, the prize money certainly wasn’t the main motivation. I just wanted to share tips about beautiful places, interesting walks in less frequented quarters or how to meet locals, with travelers who were interested in more than just the Eiffel Tower and the Mona Lisa. There’s certainly a little patriotism involved, but the chance to earn planned trips to the destinations of other trip designers is simply cool and of course I’ll take full advantage of it! After all, it was also quite a chore to put it together so the clients would enjoy themselves,” says marketing consultant and photographer, aka trip designer, Jitka, who considers traveling to be “just” a great hobby.