The Balyolu Kickstarter video is now in Turkish! Check it out here:
Be sure to check back in every week as we will be regularly uploading our very cool posters, earrings, and unique media features in the UPDATES tab. We know that 30 days goes by fast, so we want to make the most of every minute on Kickstarter.
What Balyolu Does:
We are organizing the first honey tasting walking journey of its kind. This journey is a seven-day trip in Northeastern Turkey that is led and inspired by local women who are training to become world class beekeepers and rural entrepreneurs.
The Twitter version? We're making adventure sweet.
We appreciate every contribution because it helps us cover the basic costs of: 1) the trips, 2) providing our community with the supplies to properly host guests (we are actually purchasing new yurts for the villages), 3) purchasing clean organic beekeeping equipment, 4) buying marketing materials, 5) conducting business, hospitality, and honey trainings. Our projected budget is actually more than double our kickstarter campaign, but it would be covered entirely if we could book all 4 trips with 12 people each. We are not a charity, but a new startup business looking to use the revenue from our tourism program to fully fund our social business. After the completion of our four trips (with 10-12 travelers on each), we have calculated that we will have directly affected 100 people in our local community, paying each one over $350 USD in supplies, training, and income. Thank you for all of your support!
More About Our Budget:
Our operating budget is 94,000 USD for our four pilots and initial
program for 2012. In order to cover our budget, we plan to book 40-48 travelers, for
$2,000/person over four tours, and supplement extra charges through
small sponsorships and selling honey inspired products through the
program. Our hope is to be entirely self-sustaining through our honey
tours, and we want to use Kickstarter as a way to prove that our idea
and model works.
Yes, we may not sell all of our tours in the beginning. But we can still get by on 2 tours of 10-12 people each. We will end up having to scale back our program and budget, but we are eager to do everything we can to make our trips possible for this summer.
We're sure you have many more specific questions about our trips, so we've listed some of our FAQs here. If your question isn't answered down below, visit balyolu.com or send us an email!
1. Sure, I like honey, but what is the big deal? Why would I want to go on a tour dedicated just to honey tasting?
We're glad you asked. Did you know that bees work in the most beautiful places on earth? Honey is so much more than a food. It is experiencing life as a nature nomad, moving with the tastes and smells of blooming flowers and nectar. It's true, not everyone is as excited about honey as we are. Our trips also include nature guiding, exposure to village life, scenic walks, traditional cuisine, tours through ancient cities, and a new perspective on life in one of Turkey's most beautiful frontiers.
2. Who are the people coming on these trips? Can you tell me more about the guides?
Absolutely. These first trips are our pilots. That means they are our very first adventures. For this reason, in terms of our trip guests, we are looking for experienced, open-minded, explorer-preneurs who are excited about being on the ground floor of the first journey of this kind. We are also inviting leading honey experts on the trips, such as Marina Marchese and Grace Pundyk who will be providing honey tasting workshops training our local villagers and you. We are in the process of interviewing local guides and choosing our favorites. Once we make our final decision, we will upload bios here and let you know. In the meantime, you can learn more about our full Balyolu team here: http://balyolu.com/page/team/. We also want to plug Grace and Mariana, because we deeply admire their work and what they have done for the sector.
3. What are the dates?
- Anatolia Steppes June 9 – June 16
- Summer Tundra June 30 – July 7
- Mountain Meadows July 26 – August 2
- (NOTE, ORIGINAL 4th TRIP IN MAY CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER FORECASTS).
4. Which is the best trip to go on?
All of our trips will be unique because of different seasons, weather, and flower conditions. We will travel nearly the same route featuring the same villages and sites. Expect more flowers but cooler weather in late spring (beautiful conditions for the photographer), more activity with bees during the middle trips, and dryer but more dramatic conditions during our final tour.
5. Can you tell me what the trip includes?
The trip is all inclusive from Kars: guides, transportation, accommodations, honey, food, lectures, organization, translation, walking route navigation, music, and more. We do not include in the cost of transportation from your respective city, country, or island. We are a small start-up organization and there are many overhead costs and complications associated with booking each person's individual travel. We focus our resources and efforts on our local villages, honey, and your experience in the Northeast region. We will consult and assist each of you in booking of your trips so that the dates line-up well with our tours, and you get the experience that best suits your itinerary and interests!
6. So how do I get to Kars?
Believe it or not, the journey to Kars alone is one of the best adventures Turkey has to offer. You can easily take a quick 1.5 hour flight from Istanbul direct to Kars, or from Ankara direct to Kars and arrive in the local airport, only a half hour from the start of our trips. However there is also the Eastern Anatolian Express, a train ride that truly is one of the most historic and authentic travel experiences in Turkey. The train travels from Istanbul across Turkey over beautifully crafted bridges and through long mountain tunnels with its last stop in Kars. The train is approximately 40 hours including a dining car, bedroom suits, and comfortable pillows. We highly recommend it for the traveler with a flexible travel schedule, and we will happily work with you to make your arrangements in advance.
7. What travel agency are you using and will the trips be properly insured?
We are still finalizing our travel agency selection (it is narrowed down to three groups!). They will help us with insuring the trips and making sure everything we do is fair and legal. We will add the name in the updates section of this campaign as soon as we sign our formal agreement!
8. How much will we walk per day? Do I need to be in great shape?
The walking is optional, but it's a major part of the trip! If you don't like to walk, this may not be the best time to join our excursions. On average, our guests will walk 6-10 miles a day. You will carry your very basic gear, such as a warmer layer and water. We will supply additional snacks and transport your gear from one village to the next.
9. What will accommodations be like?
For the portions of the trip in the cities (the start and the finish), you will stay in four star hotels in the Kars city center. For the other nights of the trip, we will be experimenting with home-stays, yurt stays, and cabin stays. We want to hear which you like the best, and based on your experiences build the trip to include your vision, ideas, and opinions.
10. I am vegetarian and I have food allergies, can I still come?We will try our very best to accommodate everyone's dietary needs, however all of our food is grown and sourced locally, so expect to eat what is seasonal. The local diet consists mainly of bread, many varieties of cheese and honey, tomatoes, some fish, yogurt, beans, cakes, pastries, pasta, potatoes, goose, wild greens, and herbs picked from the land.
11. My family would love this! I have been wanting to take my kids to do something like this for a long time. Can they come?
One of our top priorities is opening this trip for families as an active vacation option and a unique cultural experience. However because these will be our very first trips, we request that you consider purchasing vouchers for future travel when we streamline the experience to be fun and interactive for children (we are hoping to do this in either 2013 or 2014!).
12. What are the toilets like?In some cases, the toilets are western style, in others, they are eastern. But regardless, we are investing some of our funds towards ensuring that they are clean and comfortable.
13. I want to book a tour that covers all of Turkey, why don't you include any of the big cities like Istanbul, or Ankara?
We focus on hyper-local travel experiences that positively impact our rural communities, so it doesn't make sense for us to lead tours in Istanbul or Ankara. We can help you book tours throughout Turkey with several of our favorite companies and operators for no additional charge. We can also recommend the Bee Safari - a bee tour in Turkey that zips across many regions and focuses on bee genetics: http://www.beesfordevelopment.org/how-to-help/safaris.
14. Why are you offering trip vouchers? Will they really be redeemable?
We understand that you may not be able to come on our first trips and we want to reward our fans who believe in us and are helping us get started. Vouchers will be redeemable for five years as long as tours are continuing.
15. What if you can't meet your Kickstarter goal? Then what? Are the trips still on?
As long as we get 40-48 participants (10-12 people per trip) on our four pilot tours, the trips are on! You can book them directly through us or on Kickstarter. Let's reach this goal together. Find a friend to come with you on the trip and book two tickets (and get a discount!). Tell people about your exciting adventure and help us get support.
16. I am allergic to bees! Can I still come?
Be honest with yourself about what you can handle. We do work with bees, and the region is full of them. The Caucasian bee, our local species, is very mellow, and many beekeepers do not wear gear when working with them. However we cannot guarantee that you will remain sting-free and you need to come prepared with your own prescribed epi-pen and medicine.
17. What will be the language of the trip?
We speak Turkish and English and will work with translators and guides so you can communicate with local villagers and the community. We also love charades.
18. Should I be concerned about my security traveling in that part of the world?
Our region is bordered by Georgia and Armenia. The area is safe for travel, however always stay informed on local travel advisories from the US State Department: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1046.html.
Here is also information about acquiring a visa to Turkey: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1046.html#entry_requirements.
19. What if I back out of the trip last minute, can I get a refund?
While we would be sad, we will refund half of the costs in the form of a voucher for a future trip (as long as the trips continue to run).
20. OK! I am sold I want to learn more about honey tasting, you, the program, everything! What do I do next?
Book your travel here on the site and contact us! We are excited for your energy and contributions!
21. Oh! One more thing, how do I pronounce your company name and what does it mean?
Balyolu (pronounced "Ball-yole-ew") means "the road of honey." It is a play on "Ipek Yolu" which means "the Silk Road" in Turkish. 22. Wait, OK, the last thing really. I am intrigued, what is your big vision? Where is this project going?
We're so glad you asked, the big picture is our favorite part. We know that travel experiences are inextricably linked to their surrounding communities and ecosystems. That's why Balyolu has teamed up with the best local experts, artisans, and entrepreneurs in the region to create a truly sweet experience for both the tourists and the locals. In addition to leading honey tasting tours, Balyolu is working across the Northeast region to train local women and their communities in environmental business, and we're using sustainable hyper-local tourism to fund their work. We envision a moving marketplace of experiences - recreating the Silk Road journey of connecting cultures and goods, while providing specialized environmental livelihoods for women and their villages.
- (30 days)