Gary Barg: Brittany, what is Beeyonder and why did you start it?
I have some joint issues that prevent me from traveling long distances without being in a lot of pain, so I thought this would be a great way to see places that I might not ever get to see in person. There are more than 50 million people in the US alone who have mobility limitations or other conditions tha
Gary Barg: So, let’s start at the beginning. What is a virtual tour?
Brittany Palmer: A virtual tour is typically done in two different ways. One is a walking tour where you are on Zoom and are with a guide in real time who has a smartphone and a gimbal, used for stabilization. And they give you a tour down the streets of cities such as Lisbon or Venice as if you were there, and due to the stabilization, it is a very smooth picture.
You can ask the guide questions, and sometimes they have different interactions with you like quizzes to keep it entertaining and fun. The presentation style is typically more for those faraway places that are difficult to access with limited ability for internet connectivity like Antarctica or to get to a number of places in a short period of time like Ireland castles.
Gary Barg: I love this, and immediately can see the application for senior loved one living in senior homes or care facilities. Has that been part of your mission as well, especially during the pandemic?
Brittany Palmer: Of course. We do a lot of tours for seniors and have a Passport Club that is specifically for senior organizations. It offers a discounted price, and you take tours with other senior groups all over the world. Our tours are very tech light so there is no need to go through the website. We have a calendar so you can select what tour you want to take, then you get a link from us. You just need to know how to use Zoom, and it is a great activity for caregivers to do with seniors to just enjoy something together.
Gary Barg: Isolation is such a terrible thing, especially with the pandemic, and this is a way for isolation not to hurt our loved ones and gives them something that is cognitively stimulating.
Brittany Palmer: Absolutely. We have a number of seniors that request different places based on current events or places where they have family heritage or someplace they’ve either never been and really want to go or someplace that they love that they visited before and want to relive that experience.
In terms of caregivers, I think a lot of people focus on the person that they’re caring for, and don’t realize that they can feel isolated have a limited ability to travel because they’re caregiving, so it is just as important to provide them the ability to travel as well as the person that they’re caring for.
Gary Barg: The other killer for caregivers and our loved ones is stress. I can’t imagine this does anything but help alleviate the stress that we feel through what we go through as family caregivers.
Brittany Palmer: Right. It is certainly a mental health and wellness activity. We even have a couple of tours centered around wellness where you can do meditation classes with someone in Japan in a garden, and the benefits of travel are significant. We’re trying to bring that to people even though they can’t be somewhere in person. There is also stress in traveling, because just getting there can be stressful. This takes the stress out of that as well.
Gary Barg: Especially for a family caregiver, the idea of getting away to see a movie or going to lunch with a loved one that is not the person you’re caring for is a big episode. So, to get on a plane and go to this wonderful place and enjoy yourself is just impossible to do in person.
Brittany Palmer: Right. And that includes some of the tours you have to take when you get somewhere. They’re very long and can involve a lot of stairs and walking or just a long period of time and not really suited for people that have various types of limitations. Even though countries are trying to improve accessibility, they still have a long way to go. And this is really a great way to see places that you can’t really travel to for one reason or another.
Gary Barg: It’s a great way to deal with those bucket-list trips. And you’re right, between the family caregiver who is possibly aging or has issues themselves that they can’t make the trip and for senior or disabled loved one, I don’t see any way that they can actually get there.
Brittany Palmer: Yeah. It’s really important to have an inclusive and accessible option for travel to so many people. I agree.
Gary Barg: How do you choose locations?
Brittany Palmer: We have someone on our team, Camille who is our VP of Experience that actually goes out and finds guides from other locations and makes sure they understand how to conduct virtual tours, that they have all the proper equipment, that they’re licensed and qualified guides, and tells them about the benefits of doing these virtual tours.
Gary Barg: So, I am interested and want to go on a tour. Do I go to the Beeyonder website? Walk me through how it works.
Brittany Palmer: You can visit our site beeyonder.com where we have a page specifically for seniors. If you click the organizations drop-down and select seniors, it has the information about our passport club or you can email us at email@example.com and someone can assist you with signing up. Once you tell us what type of subscription you want for the passport club, we send an invoice, and then we send the calendars three months ahead of time all with tours what are scheduled on particular days and times. Typically, it is Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday because that tends to work best for a lot of the senior organizations, and they’re at different times throughout the day to account for every time zone. You select your tour via a survey link. You can choose more than one tour a month if you want to. Then, we send you a link one week ahead of time for the tour. They are typically about an hour long.
Gary Barg: This is one of the smartest things I have ever run into in 27 years of supporting family caregivers that helps both the caregiver and the care recipient and even other family members.
Brittany Palmer: Absolutely. We have people that travel together and private tours as well. We’ve had families do tours for 80th birthdays, getting the whole family together separated throughout the country. You can gift a subscription to a caregiver, if you want to give them something special.
Gary Barg: This conversation is part of our Holiday Caregiver Board of Directors Meetings Series where we bring information, support and advice to family caregivers during the time when their loved ones are in town. As the Caregiver is the CEO of Caring for My Loved One, Inc., then their loved ones and family members who come in town just for the holidays can be our Board of Directors, and now I can see them wanting to be part of this group tour as well. It is something that really brings all families together.
Brittany Palmer: Yes, absolutely.
Gary Barg: So, what kind of equipment do I need?
Brittany Palmer: People have used iPads or monitors and a computer screen if you have a laptop. We have also had some people that are a bit more tech savvy hook their computer up to a TV and watch it on a big screen and have the computer close by for asking the guide questions. You just need access to a screen, preferably a bigger one so you can see more.
The Passport Club will typically go over a few instructions before the tour starts so anyone not familiar knows where to find things, especially closed captions for a lot of our travelers.
Gary Barg: I can’t tell you how much I love this. Can family members be part of this family tour from remote locations or does everybody have to be in front of the one screen?
Brittany Palmer: We’ve had families join from all over the country. So, you can have as many screens as you want. It’s based on the number of guests that attend. We don’t limit the number of screens, and you certainly don’t have to be in the same room.
Gary Barg: I cannot think of a more appropriate holiday gift for caregivers or senior loved ones and our friends and family members. It is really wonderful that you put this together.
Brittany Palmer: Thank you. I appreciate it