The view from the other side of Prague.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic- I spent the past two days doing what I like most: going around a city filming people.
The story is about social entrepreneurship and this startup in Prague called Pragulic who employees homeless people with interesting stories to tell to take tourists around the city and tell those stories. The object is to show people another side to the place they are in — the flip side of tourism.
For 99% of travelers, tourism is a horribly one-sided endeavor; the sights that you see and the people that you meet are typically the best a country has to offer. You hop of a plane and experience whatever the country has laid out for you, the people that you engage are the educated middle class who can speak English … you party, take some photos, have a good time, and go home to tell everybody how nice it was there.
You can see the grit, you can see the underbelly out the window of the speeding tour bus or spewing out from the alleys, but you often don’t experience it directly or learn about it in a way that’s not coming from the perspective of the more accessible classes who are your segue into the place.
What this startup does is different. They tell their guides to go out and tell their story. And these stories tend to deal with drugs, prostitution, crime, homelessness, kidnappings, disease, love, and determination. It is kind of an interesting dynamic, as the people telling these stories are using them as something they can leverage to get as far away from them as possible.
So you can take the normal tour of the castles and tourist sites of Prague on one day and on the next day go on a tour with Pragulic where you will be shown the dark side of the same places.
While many organizations try to provide livelihoods to the homeless, it more often than not comes off as charity. Which is generally not sustainable. Generally speaking, most homeless people are not going to out-compete a city of non-homeless people for work. There is a reason why they often struggle breaking back into their societies. What this startup did was find a way to create value out of something the guides have to offer that other people don’t: their stories and a view of the city that relatively few others know about. This is not a charity, it’s a business, and the guides are not clients, they’re employees.
My project is about using this organization as a framework to tell the stories of a couple of the guides. It’s going to take a little longer than I originally planned.
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3657 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York
December 2, 2018, 2:26 pm
I really have to wonder about this “tour the underside” thing …
First off I think the story teller is 95% of the story.
I’m not the story teller you are, I could not do what you do… I don’t have that gift. Some of the “whys” you listed would make a great story if the teller knows how to tell the story.
I have sat in a bar in San Francisco & seen a homeless man take a dump in the alley out the window. To be honest with you that was enough of the “underside” story for me.
If “you” want to tell their stories with a camera I’d be willing to “listen” to your storytelling!
The second thing is I don’t think I’d want to go on a tour with the guy taking a dump outside my window…
Maybe I’m missing the point here… that has happened before.
December 16, 2018, 3:49 pm
This sounds like a great type of tour. Would definitely add a lot to a typical tourist destination.
December 17, 2018, 1:06 pm
Yes, definitely. I especially find them interesting because they often go to the same places the conventional tours go. So during the say you can go on a normal tour and at night you can go to the caves where the homeless people live that you didn’t notice before.
- Wade Shepard December 17, 2018, 1:06 pm
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