Ready for your first Backstreet Experience? An experience with Backstreet Academy is unlike any other. It’s part sustainable travel, part airbnb experience, part community based tourism. Your host is not a professional tour guide, so don’t expect polished english and history commentary! What you can expect is genuine warmth from a local who is extremely grateful for you visiting his country and especially for taking time in your vacation to enjoy an experience with him or her, as well as passion and craftsmanship in their work, which you will have the opportunity to observe and work with in your experience.
Before the experience
Most of our hosts are people at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), generally defined as people under the poverty line of US$2per person per day. Many of them don’t have smartphones, or even if they do, they conserve data for more days when they need it. Therefore, Backstreet Academy assists them in communication with our guests. Which is why you see most messages being signed off by ‘The Backstreet Academy Team’. This enables people who can’t speak English or access smartphones to also participate in the sharing economy and become micro-entrepreneurs to move themselves out of poverty. Any messages communicated with us will be promptly shared with the host so there’s no need to worry 🙂
Pickup is usually done by a facilitator who works at Backstreet Academy. To bridge the communication gap between the host and travelers, we work with a pool of freelance students at language schools, tourism schools or orphanages, offering them a flexible income, and an opportunity to be exposed to the tourism industry with real work. These facilitators also offer a slice of authenticity and what local life is like as compared to the standard stereotype of a tour guide. Treat them as your friends and ask them all about their lives and why they love their job. They will be more than happy to share and learn from you. In each country they will also have a slightly different uniform. Generally they will wear white T-shirts with an armband that is made of the traditional material of the country. In Cambodia they wear Krowma armbands, in Nepal Dhaka cloth armbands, in Vietnam red armbands, and in Laos silk armbands. In experiences where you have a balance of cash to pay, you can pass this cash payment to the facilitator and they will distribute it to the community.
Most experiences are off the beaten track, and you will hardly see any other tourists besides the ones who are in the same group as you as we want to ensure the most authentic experience possible. You’ll be whisked from the crowded tourist districts to the hosts’ village where you can see for yourself how each craftsman work and their environment. It may be a little more dusty, and less well-equipped than you’re used to, but it’s the authentic environment they work in everyday – something no one else usually has the privilege to visit.
During your experience, always know that you can participate in as much or as little as you want. If you are afraid of certain processes, don’t be worried about asking the host to take over. And if you’re way more advanced and know a lot about your craft, feel free to ask the host to teach or show you some advanced techniques! It’s all about the personalization.
At the end of the experience, you always get to bring what you made home. And if you need any customizations, such as a name on the handle, something extra on your hand-made bag, feel free to ask for help as well.
At the end of the experience you are welcome to give gratuities to the host or the facilitator, and you can be sure that 100% of what you give goes to them.
If you had a great time at the experience, please help your host to advertise it on social media or through a review on Tripadvisor. It will help people to be more comfortable this new type of travel experiences as well as get more customers for your host. Revenue is split equitably among the host (50-60%), the facilitator (10-15%), the transport operator (10-15%) and Backstreet Academy who takes the remainder (5-20%) which depends on a variety of factors such as group size, raw materials and such. If everyone starts traveling this way, we can ensure a more equitable distribution of tourism dollars to the people who need it and through that also help in the conservation of all these wonderful tradition, culture and heritage that are on the way to becoming extinct. Feel free to refer a friend with our $10 discounts for new users, and get a $10 voucher for yourself the next time you visit any Backstreet Academy. And if you have any feedback or a poor experience (>.<) please do let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ensure you get the best customer service possible!
And of course as you continue on your travels, do lookout for more meaningful travel experiences, whether by Backstreet Academy or not. Together we can make meaningful travel experiences the norm in travel and make destinations better.