A long line at the entrance of the Vatican Museum, tourists pushing for the most beautiful view from the Eiffel Tower and tourist hordes at the Taj Mahal in India. In our rush to see every attraction, the human connection has been lost and so has our curiosity in the traditions, skills and culture that are typical for a particular country or people. The cultural heritage could be in danger because of our current form of travelling. Backstreet Academy wants to show that you can travel in a different and more intimate way, by creating a unique travel experience.
Backstreet Academy is a warm initiative that was founded in 2014. Currently, they are active in forty cities across eight Asian countries. By bringing tourists in contact with local craftsmen and communities, the founders are trying to bring back the lost lustre of travel in an age where mass tourism has almost become the norm. They try to offer a different form of travelling which allows you to experience the wonders of the world through the backstreets of a village or city.
Meeting a local craftsman who will show you the traditional fishing techniques or teach you how to cook a local dish while you are travelling through Asia? It almost seems impossible due to the language barrier, among other things. Yet Backstreet Academy makes this possible by cooperating with what they call 'hosts' and 'facilitators’. The 'host' is a hardworking, local entrepreneur who makes an amazing work of art in the underbelly of a village or city. His products contrast sharply with the mass-produced souvenirs which are sold on every corner of the street. Backstreet Academy provides a broad interpretation of the term 'host', so it can be almost anyone; from a housewife in Java who prepares a delicious meal, to a craftsman who furthers the dying art of ancient calligraphy in Vietnam or a local hunter in Laos who loves to share his wisdom surrounding hunting and crafting one’s own bow and arrow. They offer tourists different experiences in exchange for a fair fee, which can be a boost for them to start their own business and thus improve their current standard of living. In addition, teaching their skills to others can help them experience a boost in self-confidence. The 'facilitator', on the other hand, has to overcome the language barrier. ‘Hosts’ usually do not have a thorough command of the English language, so it is the task of the facilitator to translate the experience and thus guarantee its authenticity. ‘Facilitators’ are mainly English students from a nearby university or school. These students often find it difficult to finance their studies. Backstreet Academy offers them a certain flexibility, so this is an ideal way for them to earn some money.
In short, Backstreet Academy wants both the visitor and the entrepreneur flourish. Both the 'host' and the 'facilitator' are assured of a fair financial compensation. The tourists experience in return an unforgettable and mainly personal experience.
Source: Backstreet Academy (photos)