Author Archive

Travel Tuesday: Island Hopping

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

For more amazing photos check out theSteward.

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Young women entrepreneurs in Ghana

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Mei guest blogs about her experiences in Ghana.

For those of you who hold the (grossly uninformed) misperception that I am just bumming around Ghana for a few months, this post is supposed to prove otherwise.

In all seriousness though, I thought it might be helpful to tell you all a bit more about what I am doing.

I am working with the Ghana Young Women Social Entrepreneurs (GYWSE) organization, based in the East Legon neighborhood of Accra. Apparently, this is also the neighborhood where all the famous Ghanaian football (soccer) players live, but unfortunately I haven’t met any of them yet, although I hope it will only be a matter of time.

The goal of GYWSE is to empower young women and provide them with the tools necessary to start a social enterprise. A social enterprise is a business that operates with both profit goals and social objectives. Two examples:

The Peepoo: Launched in Bangladesh, the Peepoo is basically a plastic bag that people, who might otherwise relieve themselves on the ground and contaminate the environment, can use instead. Post-use, people can sell their used Peepoo, which will be converted to fertilizer and re-sold. This simple concept cleans the environment while providing locals with a source of income.

The PlayPump: Started in South Africa, the PlayPump is a merry-go-round that uses the energy of children playing on it to operate a water pump. Ideal for shared use by villages, it serves as a source of entertainment and water.

Both of the above are examples of businesses that generate income while improving the communities they are involved in. I am particularly interested in social entrepreneurship because of its potential to be self-sustaining, as compared to non-profits which tend to rely on donations in order to operate.

At GYWSE, I work with Ama Pomaa Andoh, the founder of GYWSE and one of the most inspirational, passionate and dedicated people I’ve ever met. Ama’s grand vision for GYWSE is to build a resource center where, at any time, women entrepreneurs can access a wide range of resources to support them in their endeavors. Current programs run by GYWSE include the Business Incubation Program, Leadership Series, and Social Investment Fund (

What I’ve liked most is meeting people. Last week, I met a man who started his own microfinance organization which lends to petty traders. I met another person who invented an incinerator that burns waste, sawmill dust, and cocoa husks to create a potash-rich ash that can be used as fertilizer. Many people are doing incredible things—I’ve learned so much already just from talking to them, listening to their frustrations, and hearing them describe their dreams.

Wanted to share one final piece of exciting news: Today I bought a new wireless internet modem, which means I finally have faster internet. To fully illustrate just how life-changing this is, here’s what I can now do (that I couldn’t do before):

- gchat
- shop online (or rather, “window shop” online, since it’s virtually impossible to ship things here)
- Skype (skype me: msmei06)

I’ll also be able to post much more frequently now that it does not take 20 minutes to upload each picture (which is how long each of the pictures below took to upload—no joke).

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Tro Tro in Ghana

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Travel Guest Blogger: Mei

Though the term “tro tro” may sound like something you might coo to a small baby (or a big baby, for that matter), it’s actually the name for the main form of public transportation here in Accra. A tro tro is a bus, but not the kind of bus you might imagine. Glorified minivan is probably a more accurate description.

In addition to the driver and the mate, each tro tro seats at least 17 people and is almost always filled to capacity. The lack of a map or signs that detail tro tro routes and stops was alarming at first, but somehow this information is known by most Ghanaians. Although you can wander aimlessly until you stumble upon a tro tro stop, or chase a tro tro until it stops (not recommended), it’s usually easier just to ask around for directions.

Here’s what it might be like to catch the tro tro:

You stand along the street, next to 5 or 6 other Ghanaians, gazing longingly into the distance for a tro tro. Cries of happiness erupt when the tro tro finally appears (okay, so I’m embellishing a little here).

As the tro tro approaches, the mate waves his hand out the window, opens the door, and repeatedly yells the name of the final destination. My first ride on the tro tro was to central Accra, so the mate yelled “Accra, Accra, Accra!” (which sounded more like “cracracra!”) Be sure to pay careful attention when he yells, because there is no other way of knowing where the tro tro is going.

View from the back of a tro tro:

It looks deceptively roomy, but don’t be fooled—I assure you that this was a highly awkward picture to take in a crowded minivan.

Although not recommended for the claustrophobic, the tro tro is a cheap and relatively safe way to get around Accra, and I personally like it a lot. Just make sure to get a window seat—it’s not only breezier, but you can even buy a delicious snack of plantain chips as vendors pass by your window. Not a bad deal for around 35 cents a ride.

Keep checking back for updates about Mei’s experiences in Ghana!

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Find the cheapest way to travel

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

We all know the scenario, you’re thinking about taking a trip to a certain destination that is not super close but it’s not out of driving distance. How do you decide which choice of transportation to take? How much will it cost? Before you had to use multiple sites to find this information. Well now, a new website helps do all of the work for you.

Introducing Get Set App,, a website that helps you find the cheapest way to get to your desired destination. Just choose the departure and arrival cities (right now the website only supports the major US cities) and click ‘Go’. You’ll see the cost of your different travel options whether bus, plane or driving.

For example, we chose to see how much it would cost to go from New York City to Boston.

Our results for travel cost from New York, NY - LGA to Boston, MA (all prices round trip)
by plane:
LGA to BOS $128 Oct 27 - 27 on US Airways found 2 days ago
Find more flights on
by car:
$30.36 in gas cost
Search for rental cars on
by bus:
Sorry, nothing available at this time.
09/24/2010 to 09/30/2010
Via Greyhound

Although the bus information is incomplete, we do get a good sense of what the flight cost is and the cost of gas. Now if only this website could account for the value of your time…

So where are you going next? Share your travel plans on gtrot!
Do you plan on using this tool? Let us know!  Share your thoughts on twitter and on our facebook page.

Want To Go Wednesday: Gippsland Lakes, Oz

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Check out the Bioluminescence in the Gippsland Lakes, Australia photograph by Phil Hart. If only all biology was this beautiful!

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