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OneStory: The Women's Bakery

The OneSeed OneStory series highlights the work of innovators and changemakers around the world. Interested in sharing your story? Contact us at

We're all about hustle at OneSeed. We know firsthand what it takes to transform an idea into a business and we could not have more respect for the incredible women at the heart of this social enterprise. 

The Women's Bakery is "an education-centric social enterprise committed to empowering women and developing women-owned businesses." Building sustainable small businesses one bakery at a time in Rwanda and Tanzania, TWB grew out of a simple passion and clear vision for growing communities and livelihood through fresh-baked bread. 

This week, we sat down with Heather Newell, TWB's US Programs Officer, to talk baking and building businesses. 

Tell me about how TWB's earliest days. How did this project first get off the ground?

While a teacher with the U.S. Peace Corps in Rwanda, I first heard about The Women's Bakery before it was what it is today. 

Two colleagues of mine, Markey Culver and Julie Greene, in response to social and economic disparity, had started to bake bread with women in their respective sites of service. This was compelling to me as the project began with a sustainable aspect: income generation. 

Women asked how to make bread and so both Markey and Julie began to share and teach this skill - also fortifying breads with protein and micro nutrients. 

Soon, they were selling the bread and The Women's Bakery was born. 


Tell me a bit about your impact model. 

Our work as a service-provider is two-fold:

1. We educate women and equip them with the business, technical, and life skills necessary for income generation. 

2. We train women to source local, nutritious ingredients and to produce and sell fortified, affordable breads in their communities. Our program includes on-going oversight and operations management to ensure sustainability and business growth. 

TWB empowers women with business, baking, nutrition, and life skills education. This provides economic mobility, improves community nutrition and sparks local economies. The average woman in TWB training is 39 years old and has 4.6 children. 40% rely on farming for primary income, and 50% live in female led homes. Only 14% have finished high school level education. 

One bakery creates 3-6 jobs in its first year and women can earn over 2x their average local income after one year of bakery operation. The average GNI (Gross National Income) in Rwanda currently is $650. Within one year, TWB women can earn $981 – this income projection is conservative and expected to increase substantially in two to five years. 

Why bread?

Something as simple as a loaf of bread has the power to create jobs, improve nutrition and spark economic growth. Bread is a medium for The Women’s Bakery to accomplish all three - employ women, provide access to improved nutrition on a village level, and support community-driven economic growth. 

In Rwanda alone, 44% of children younger than five-years-old are chronically malnourished. Because protein and vitamin deficiencies are a leading cause of malnutrition in East Africa and are missing from consumer products, affordable nutritious additives are essential. When women work, economies grow faster. Through The Women’s Bakery, women’s work has the potential to transform local economies while enhancing the health of their communities.

What has been the biggest challenge you've faced so far?

The biggest challenge we have faced as an organization is pivoting for necessary model changes. Our program is extensive – with a lot of moving parts – and so as a social enterprise start-up, we are constantly looking for ways to build sustainable, smart, and impactful programming! Working on the ground in East Africa is not always easy, but it’s an important part of how we do our work: with a locally driven context, and locally driven employees! 

What's the long term vision for TWB? How do you plan to grow in the future?

The Women’s Bakery exists to empower women through education and business. We believe our model can be relevant throughout Rwanda, East Africa, and beyond! 

The Women’s Bakery is at a critical point of strategy and scale. By refining our model, we are poised to launch a relevant, measurably impactful, profitable bakery franchise model in East Africa. We plan to train at least two more groups this year, expanding our internal staff, and growing our network of TWB women.

This scale is multiplicative. Moreover, this model and its scale can be duplicated and replicated across East Africa. We are refining the model in Rwanda in real time with plans to scale into neighboring East African countries.

Learn more about The Women's Bakery. 

See their pitch video here. 

Want to share your OneStory? Contact us. 

OneSeed Recognized at World Responsible Tourism Awards

OneSeed Expeditions celebrates Silver at World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015

Media release:  5th November 2015

OneSeed Expeditions has been named the joint-Silver winner in the Best in Poverty Reduction category at the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015 at World Travel Market in London.

The US tour operator was announced a Silver winner at a special ceremony yesterday at World Travel Market in London, part of World Responsible Tourism Day. 

The Best in Poverty Reduction, sponsored by the Tobago House of Assembly, awards holiday providers that offer memorable experiences that support their activities in seeking to reduce and prevent poverty in a local community. The judges were looking for tourism organisation that can significantly reduce poverty in a local area and provide a working example for other providers.

In his journal ‘Progress in Responsible Tourism’ Professor Harold Goodwin, Chair of the judging panel comments on why OneSeed Expeditions has been recognised; “OneSeed Expeditions have what they describe as a ‘simple’ model , simple maybe, but certainly not common. They hire local guides, protect local environments and respect local customs - but what makes them stand out is their commitment to invest 10% of total revenue in loans to entrepreneurs in need of capital, this is done by partnering with microfinances institutions in each of the countries in which they operate. The judges were impressed by the model, the transparent reporting and the scale or what has already been achieved”.

Goodwin adds Judging the Awards is an exacting task; the decisions which the judges take get tougher every year. The volume, quality and diversity of nominations grow each year and each category engenders considerable debate amongst the judges. The quality that we had before us this year is higher than ever - evidenced by the fact that there are joint gold winners in four of the twelve categories”.

Chris Baker, Founder of OneSeed Expeditions, commented on their win, “We’re honored to have shared the stage with so many great organizations with the same goal of making travel work for local communities and local economies. OneSeed is proud to have been recognized today and we congratulate all of those here today.”

Welcoming over 500 people to the event in London, Justin Francis, Managing director of Awards organisers Responsible Travel explained how the Awards were founded to change the face of the tourist industry. “The aim of the Awards is to inspire the tourists and the tourism industry by what is possible to achieve through responsible tourism” says Francis. “In our 12th year we have added one more inspiring winner and more remarkable stories which will shape how the industry and tourists think about the future of tourism”.

Category sponsor, the Tobago House of Assembly commented “We operate in hope that companies such as this year’s winners along with previous holders of the Responsible Tourism 'Best for poverty reduction' Award are continuously recognised for their endeavours. These contributors forge the benefits of tourism among the communities who need it most and we congratulate them on making the difference in the lives of those who are often made invisible to the outside world. All lives matter.”

A photo library of winner’s images is accessible here:   

Back to the Basics: Packing 101

Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a complete novice, packing wisely for your expedition will help you make sure that you are prepared for anything.  We’ve put together a short list of items to help you eliminate the stress of packing and answer some of your questions.

  1. Try it on! Test out your gear in the comfort of your own home. Hiking boots aren't the only item that you should try on before your trip. Having loose-fitting trekking pants, a backpack that sits evenly on your hips, and sleeping bag that fits you snugly are important too!
  2. ZZZZs. Don't forget your sleeping bag! If you're staying in refugios or teahouses, you'll be using your sleeping bag on top of the mattress. If you'll be camping during your expedition, OneSeed will provide you with a sleeping pad and a tent.
  3. Trekking poles? Yay or nay? Many people loves trekking poles because they provide extra stability on rocky terrain but it's up to personal preference. If you have never used them and don't think you want give them a shot, no need! If you have balance issues or weak ankles, they're a great idea to keep you injury-free on the trail.
  4. Know your H2O! Water is provided for you throughout your trek. You'll be filling up your water bottles in the morning for your day's trek. In many places, you'll have the chance to refill throughout the day. A camelback style bladder is a great option for easy access to water while hiking.
  5. Store the excess. Anything that's not absolutely essential for your trek can be stored at one of our partner lodges until you return. A luggage lock can be placed on your suitcase for added security. Heavy books and electronics are great for the airplane, but add a lot of weight to your backpack!
  6. Mules, porter, or am I carrying everything myself? Depending on the location of your expedition, you may be required to carry a backpack with all your gear or just a small daypack. You can find this information at the top of your packing list.
    • Mules or Porters: Bring a duffle bag to store your gear (instead of a second backpack) for the porters/mules. You'll carry your water, lunch, sunscreen, raincoat, snacks, camera etc. in your daypack. It should be around 25-liter with a comfortable hip belt to distribute weight away from your shoulders.
    • If your expedition does not include porters or mules, you're required to carry all your gear in a large backpack. Typically, this means a 50-liter pack but it depends on your specific packing list. Lay out all your items for the trip and pack them into your backpack. If everything fits, you’re all set!

4 Tips to Survive Trail Food

When trekking in a remote area, there are certain expectations that will help you make the most of the meals on the trail. Here’s a quick list of things to know about trail food to help you prepare for your expedition.

  1. Carbs, Carbs, Carbs. In most of the areas where we travel, the diet is rich in carbs. When you spend 3-10 hours a day hiking, you need carbs for energy, so embrace it! Nepal is known for its dal bhat, Peru for its 3,800 types of potatoes, and Chile is the second largest bread consumer per capita in the world. But guess what? They all make really delicious carbs, so dig in!
  2. Eat like a local. They best way to order off the menu in a foreign country is to mimic what the locals are doing. If you’re staying at a teahouse in the Langtang region, ordering a pizza might not be the best option. Pizza with yak cheese isn’t going to taste like is does from your local pizza shop in NYC. Look around you to learn about the delicious local dishes and try sticking to them. It’s a great way to fully immerse yourself in the country in which you’re traveling. What if you’re craving some comforting American food? It will be there for you to eat the day you get back!
  3. Bring reserves. While trekking on OneSeed trips, you’ll be fed three large meals a day but some trekkers like to have power bars or granola bars to munch on while hiking. You can always bring a few just in case you need some extra fuel. (*Note: Customs rarely lets you bring nuts, seeds, or fruit into a foreign country)
  4. Be adventurous. Some of the countries where we travel have exotic local dishes that you don’t find everywhere. Push your tastebuds to the limit with new flavors. Try the tongue in Chile or the spicy pickle in Nepal because you never know what you might like.

Food is an essential part of any culture. Be prepared to try new things and expand your tastebuds’ comfort zone. Bon Appétit!

6 Tips on What to Eat, What to Avoid, and How to Eat Safely Abroad

The most common way to get sick when traveling is through food and water. Trying new foods is part of the experience, but no one likes to be sick on the road. Don’t fear! We are here to give you a few pointers to keep your adventurous palate and your sensitive stomach happy. Keep reading to learn 5 tips about what to eat, what to avoid, and how to eat safely in any country.

  1. Cook it, wash it, peel it, or forget it! Boiling a food is the best way to get rid of any bacteria that may have been lingering. Once the water has reached a boil, you are safe to dig in! Peeling a food is another great solution. Fruits like bananas, oranges, and avocados are much safer to eat than berries or apples. As a last resort, wash any fruits or vegetables that you cannot peel or boil. Be sure to use purified water and give them a good scrub. Tip: leave your appetite for leafy salads at home!
  2. Be seal-happy. Things in a sealed package are generally much safer than items with unknown origins. Unpackaged condiments and sauces may not have been refrigerated and may have been prepared with unpurified water. While homemade relish might sound delicious, your stomach will be thanking me later.
  3. Go with the flow. A good rule of thumb is to follow the crowds. Locals know which restaurants serve good, quality food and which don’t. Busy restaurants serve food as soon as it is made while empty restaurants may leave food sitting out for longer periods of time.
  4. H20 Know. Unpurified water is sneaky and ruthless when it comes to getting sick. Being extra cautious to make sure your water has been boiled, filtered, bottled, or otherwise purified is a must. Avoid ice cubes in restaurants and be sure to ask if you have any doubts about tap water being used during preparation. On all of our expeditions, we provide you with plenty of purified water to keep you hydrated during the trek.
  5. A healthy body is a happy body. The best defense against illness is a healthy immune system. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet to keep your body performing at its best. Even if you are a meat-eater in a primarily vegetarian country, eat eggs, nuts, beans, lentils and other protein-rich foods in its absence.
  6. Know the risks. Some foods are generally more risky than others. Unpasteurized dairy products, seafood, and undercooked meat are foods to be wary of when ordering off a menu. Another good precaution is to avoid eating street foods. If you cannot live without these foods, take some time to get a sense of what your body can tolerate and slowly ease into trying one.

Every traveler wants to stay healthy and happy while overseas. Kick Montezuma to the curb and use these 6 tips to avoid having your stomach spoil your trip. Bon voyage!

7 Tips to Prepare for Your Trek

Always be prepared! The scout’s motto is simple, but true. Being well prepared for your trek will make your time much more enjoyable, and you can focus on the wonders around you rather than your blistered feet! Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your trek.

1.  Buy appropriate footwear and break your boots in.

  • Visit an outdoor retailer and do research to buy the appropriate pair of hiking boots for your feet.
  • Break them in! Showing up with brand new boots for a multi-day trek is an invitation for blisters and pain. Walk the dog in your boots, do yard work in your boots, take them hiking! You want your boots to feel nice and comfy when you arrive.
  • Buy good quality socks (non-cotton, moisture wicking socks such as Smartwool, Thorlos, Darn Tough, Woolrich etc…)
  • Remember: Your feet are your best friend. Happy feet, happy camper!

2.  Get out hiking. Regularly!

  • Start slowly and build your intensity, difficulty, and length of hikes. It is much better to start slowly and increase the difficulty gradually over several months than to wait to the last few weeks.
  • Wear what you will be wearing on the trail, especially if they are new items, so you know how they feel and can adjust anything that is irritating or doesn’t work. This includes your boots and the pack you will be carrying on the trail.
  • Go with a partner or a group. You won’t be able to cheat and going with someone else provides motivation and fun!
  • Cross train too (Bike, swim, run, yoga, stairs, etc). Different types of exercise work different muscle groups and will help condition your body. Strengthening your body can help prevent injuries on the trail.

3.  Learn about the OneSeed Fund

  • 10% of the revenue from your expedition will be loaned to local entrepreneurs via the OneSeed Fund.
  • The loans are extended by our partner microfinance institutions across many different industries such as agriculture, retail, food services and more.
  • Want to learn more about microfinance? Click here.

4.  Don’t bank on your bank.

  • Call your bank ahead of time to let them know about your travel plans.
  • Sometimes, when banks see a charge in a foreign country, they assume it was theft and freeze your account.
  • While you’re on the phone with your bank, ask them about international ATM fees.
  • Be sure to have back-up alternatives such as cash, traveler’s check, and credit cards.
  • Having copies of credit cards and passport information is a great safety net.

5.  Health, safety, and more.

  • Visit the CDC website or contact a local travel medicine office with any questions about immunizations or vaccines.
  • If you have any concerns about your health, contact your physician before you start a training program.
  • Learn more about tips to keep your belongings safe while traveling here.

6.  Insure Your Trip.

  • All OneSeed trips include medical and evacuation insurance for all travelers. This covers you from the moment your expedition begins.
  • We also strongly urge you to purchase the optional cancellation and interruption insurance. This third party insurance covers any injuries, illnesses, or other unforeseeable events between now and your expedition.
  • You never know what life has in store so it is better to prepare ahead of time!

7.  Pack light and early.

  •  Take a look at our packing list now and start to get an idea of what gear you have and what you will need to purchase. Waiting until the last minute is a recipe for disaster!
  • Outdoor gear can be quite expensive. Don’t forget that you can borrow from a friend, rent from various outdoor stores, or look online for items on sale.
  • That being said, don’t skimp! Making sure your clothes are built to last is important as you will be hiking outside in the elements for many days on end.
  • To lighten your load, bring travel-sized toiletries.
  • Ziplock bags make for inexpensive, weightless, water-resistant organizers for loose items.
  • Don’t forget to bring an extra outfit for the city. You can leave any extra gear at our partner lodge before the trek.

Happy trekking!

Be a Know-It-All: 7 Fun Facts About Colombia

OneSeed is happy to announce our newest location, Colombia! With mountains, jungles, beaches, coffee farms, modern cities, and more, Colombia has it all. We wanted to give you a little background about this incredibly diverse and beautiful country. Here are 7 facts you may not know about this South American gem!


Vamos a la playa

1. Colombia is the only South American country with Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. With over 300 beaches in the country, you can have your pick.

Birds, birds, and more birds

2. Home to 1,879 species of bird, Colombia has most diversity of birds in the world.

60 Score and 14 years ago...

3. OneSeed’s Hidden Colombia Expedition travels to the Lost City in the Sierra Nevada region. Experts conclude that the ruins in this area are 650 years older than Machu Picchu. If wisdom comes with age, those are some wise rocks!

Talk about biodiversity!

4. With 340 different types of ecosystems, Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. We have already mentioned the pristine beaches but did you know that Colombia also houses the Andes? The highest peak, Pico Cristóbal Colón, reaches 18,700 feet! From top to bottom, there is a bit of everything in this country.

Take a deep breath

5. At 8,360ft above sea level Bogotá is the highest city in the world with a population greater than 3 million. It has also been named one of the smartest cities with many modern advances like its TransMilenio public transportation and ciclovia, where 75 miles of Bogota roads are shut down for bikers, runners, and roller-bladers every Sunday.

The Liquid Rainbow

6. Caño Cristales, also referred to as "The Liquid Rainbow," is considered the most colorful river in the world due to ins rock formations and diversity of flora and fauna. Is there a pot of gold at the bottom? Only one way to find out!

Ready for an adventure?

7. Colombia has 58 National Parks, which is the same number as the US. These parks cover over 11% of the country. That is over 55,000 square miles for you to explore!

Expect the Unexpected: 4 things you may not know about Nepal

Heading to Nepal? Here are 4 fun facts about the culture and people of Nepal.

  1. Cows are sacred. Within Hinduism, cows are considered a sacred and inviolable animal. In Nepal, cows are not eaten and it is considered illegal to kill the animal. Due to this fact, it is not uncommon to see a cow wandering around the streets of Kathmandu. Because they are holy, all traffic yields to these animals and they can often cause quite a traffic jam when they have decided to slowly stroll down this center of a highway.
  2. Nepal is the only country with a non-rectangular flag. Nepal’s flag is red with two triangular shapes stacked on one another. The color represents therhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. The current flag has been in place since 1962 although the basic design has been used for over 2,000 years in Nepal. link
  3. Everest is actually called Sagarmatha. The Nepali translation for this word is “Forehead of the Sky.” In the local Sherpa language, Everest is calledChomolungma, which means “Goddess Mother of the World.” The word Everest comes from George Everest, a British surveyor general of the Himalayas.
  4. Shaking your head does not mean ‘NO’. Actually, in Nepal, nodding your head means ‘NO’ and bobbing your head side-to-side (as if bringing each ear closer to your shoulder) means ‘YES’. A very practical thing to know!

Seeking Refuge: Lodging in Torres del Paine, Chile

Sometimes backpacking means carrying a tent, digging a pit toilet, and struggling through days of dehydrated food-like substances. In Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, the refugio system bringds a bit of class to the camping routine. While you’ll welcome the local wines, warm stoves, and beds, sharing a mountain shelter with others can have its own challenges.

A few tips to make your stay hassle-free:

1) That old golden rule.
Sharing a roof and a restroom with your fellow travllers means a bit of compromise. Accommodations are bunk-style shared rooms and communal bathrooms. A 20-minute hot shower sounds nice, but resources are finite and nobody wants to go without. Conserve energy, respect others’ space and belongings, and prepare yourself for the occasional cultural differences that make traveling fun.

2) Plan ahead.
Everyone has different needs when it comes to sleep; know what you can–and can’t–snooze through. Light sleepers should consider earplugs a packing list necessity when sharing a room with other hikers. Snoring happens and chucking a hiking boot at the offender is generally considered inappropriate in most countries.

Bringing a small arsenal of cameras and personal electronics? Don’t forget your adapter!

3) Wine tastes better at the end of a hike.
One of the best parts of trekking in Chile is the availability of excellent wine or a cold beer with each night’s dinner. While many refugios accept payment by credit card, these systems rely on power and connectivity that often fail. Be sure to bring a bit of extra cash ($20-30 per day) for extra drinks, snacks, etc. available at nearly all refugios. Salud!

4) Enjoy the view.
Refugios, while usually well-managed and surprisingly comfortable, are still mountain shelters where everything must be carried in and space is a shared resource. This means that dinner-time substitutions and special requests can be hard to accommodate last minute. It also means that you’ll encounter the occasional hiker doing laundry in the bathroom sink or airing out their less-than-fresh socks in the community dining area. Frustrating? Yes, but you’re in beautiful Patagonia! Take a deep breath and focus on the reason you’ve come to Chile: beautiful mountains and our lovely guiding team.

Peruvian Food for the Adventurous Eater

Peruvian food has strong influences from the Incas, but also includes flavors from Europe, Africa, China and Japan.  In many dishes, you can find potatoes, a staple in the Andes, a wide variety of veggies, breads and sauces influenced by Europe, the vibrant stir fries influenced by the Chinese, and much, much more.  If you’re joining us in Peru or just heading to a local restaurant, here are some delicious recommendations to try:

1) Lomo Saltado

This dish represents the Chinese influence on Peruvian cuisine.  Lomo Saltado is best explained as a Peruvian stir fry, normally cooked with savory beef and sautéed veggies, such as bell peppers and onions. Add a little soy sauce for taste and then place everything on top of a bed of… wait for it… french fries!  How can you argue with french fries?  Especially when Peru has been perfecting all things potato since 1400 CE?

2) Aji de Gallina

If I had to compare this dish to another, I would say it resembles a curry because of its thick consistency and spice.  Its primary and European influenced ingredient is the aji.  This sauce was introduced to Peruvian cuisine by the Spaniards and has become a huge part of most Peruvian dishes.  The basic aji sauce is made by mixing together tomatoes, aji peppers, cilantro, onions, but many dishes, like Aji de Gallina, add a little flare to the sauce to make it even more amazing.  In this case, the sauce is cooked with aji, condensed milk, and bread to create thickness before adding in some chicken.  Cook all of those ingredients together and ‘ta-da!’ you have the ultimate Peruvian stew.

3) Ceviche

Peru, like many coastal regions of the world, is a heaven for all seafood lovers.  The most popular dish, which can be found in most Central and South American countries, is ceviche.  Ceviche, at its core, is raw seafood with the juice of a lime and lemon squeezed on top.  The acid from these two citrus fruits cooks the raw seafood.  What sets the Peruvian ceviche apart from other recipes are the ingredients that accompany the seafood and citrus juice.  In Peru, you will find the citrus marinated seafood accompanied with sweet potatoes (can’t forget about those potatoes) and kernels of maize, or corn.  If you’re a seafood lover, this dish is most definitely for you.  It is undeniably a Peruvian favorite and is sometimes regarded as the national dish.

4) Alfajores

I couldn’t end my list without a dessert!  I happen to be a huge sweets person and the alfajor is definitely one of my favorite, yet rarely eaten, desserts.  It’s pretty hard to find alfajores in the States, but in Peru the options are endless when it comes to these little cookie sandwiches of joy.  The alfajor is made with two very light, buttery cookies and filled with manjarblanco, or dulce de leche.  You’re probably wondering, “Why don’t you just say dulce de leche?”  Well, the answer to that is simple.  Dulce de leche is easy to find outside of South America, but manjarblanco isn’t and believe me, thats the stuff you want.  I believe that no meal is complete without a dessert so, with that logic in mind, don’t forget to treat yourself to an alfajor in Peru!

HOW TO TRAVEL LIKE A PRO: 5 Tips for a Hassle-Free Trip

Common sense takes you a long way while traveling but here are 5 tips to avoid problems and keep your belongings safe.

  1. Separate and Stash. When travelling with cash, leave the majority of it in a hidden and safe place like a money belt or zipped pocket. Bring a second wallet for everyday use. This wallet should be secure but easily accessible and kept separately. That way, when buying a small snack from a street vendor, you won’t need to pull out all of your cash. 
  2. Be a Copycat. Copies are a great way to backup your personal documents. Having copies of your passport and credit card information help to ensure your safety and are easy to use on an everyday basis. Leaving a copy with a friend or family member at home is also a good backup option.
  3. 2 Straps are Better than 1. When carrying a backpack around the city, put both straps over your shoulders. This will prevent anyone from easily grabbing it from you.
  4. Don’t Bank on Your Bank. Call your bank ahead of time to let them know your travel plans. Sometimes, when banks see a charge in a foreign country, they assume it was theft and freeze your account. While you’re on the phone, ask them about international ATM fees.
  5. Stay on Top of Things. Keeping belongings on your person at all times help you keep better track of things. Before you go anywhere make sure you have your wallet, camera, and other valuables. Savvy travelers keep valuables on the front of their person to keep an eye on them at all times.

Don’t panic about safety! Being smart and following these tips will help to eliminate any of the problems that make travel a hassle. Good preparation and common sense will take you a long way.

What Should I Do If I Arrive Early to Cusco?

Cusco is such a unique and beautiful city so we understand why you may want to arrive early to check it out before joining OneSeed. Here’s a guide to some of the things that are close by and easy to visit on your own.

About the City

  • Cusco still contains much of the ancient Incan architecture on the base of many buildings.
  • When the Spanish arrived, they built on top of existing architecture so you can see the history and timeframe by looking at the side of a building.
  • The main layout of the city was created by the Inca in the shape of a puma.

Plaza de Armas

  • The Plaza de Armas is the central plaza of Cusco.
  • It’s always bustling with people and is a bright and vibrant city center.
  • Surrounding the plaza are La Catedral and the smaller Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus. Both merit further exploration to view their intricate details and impressive stature.


  • Qorikancha is accessible on foot from the Plaza de Armas by walking several blocks southeast from the city center.
  • These ruins used to be an Incan Temple. You’ll be blown away by the impressive architecture.
  • Walk around this piece of 15th Century history and imagine what it looked like 600 years ago. We dare you to try and explain how they seamlessly pieced these massive rocks together!

Mercado Central de San Pedro

  • This market is a few block’s walk from the Plaza de Armas.
  • It is a great example of a traditional peruvian market and you can find everything from fresh fruit to traditional handicrafts.
  • Buy some souvenirs or a delicious breakfast!

Barrio San Blas

  • This neighborhood is one of the best places to buy handicrafts.
  • It is a steep walk from the Plaza de Armas but is full of nice shops and great restaurants.
  • The great views add an extra bonus!


  • These ruins are the former capital of the Incan empire
  • Located just over a mile from Cusco, Saksaywaman boasts stunning views of the Cusco valley
  • Saksaywaman means “satisfied falcon” in Quechua but the ruins are actually built in the shape of a puma!

Cusco offers endless sights to see and places to visit. On day 1 of your OneSeed trip, make sure to meet us at the designated hotel. In the meantime, enjoy!

Be a Know-It-All: 4 Fun Facts About Peru

Heading to Peru? Here are 4 things you may not know about the country and its culture.

  1. Peru is home to the potato. There are over 5,000 varieties preserved in Peru today. One way for Peruvians to express how proud they are is to say, “I am more Peruvian than a potato” (Soy mas Peruano que la papa).
  2. Peru is full of rain forest. About 60% of the country is covered by the Amazon Rain Forest. This ranks Peru as the 4th most rainforest-covered country in the world.
  3. Peru has great biodiversity. Peru contains 28 out of the possible 32 different climates making it extremely diverse.
  4. Machu Picchu means Old Mountain. The Incan Empire built their city atop two massive mountains, Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu.

Llama or Alpaca – What’s the Difference?

Llamas and alpacas are both native South American animals and are often confused with one another. Here is a quick reference so you never make the mistake that so many travelers do.

They both come from the high plains of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia called the Altiplano. The first llama was brought to the United States in the 1920s as part of William Randolph Hearst’s personal zoo. Here is a break-down of the differences:


  • Llamas are the bigger of the two, weighing up to 400 pounds!
  • They have a course outer coat and a soft inner coat, not too great for knitting into a sweater
  • They have been bred for pack-carrying for the past 6000 years
  • Llamas have tall, banana-shaped ears
  • They live to be 20-25 years old


  • Alpacas only weigh between 100-175 pounds
  • They have 1 soft coat throughout that makes cozy and warm sweaters!
  • They were bred for their soft fibers for the past 6000 years
  • Alpacas have short, triangular ears
  • They live to be 15-20 years old

Now you know how to spot these furry friends but we suggest that you don’t try to bring one home for your own personal zoo. Although Mr.Hearst had no problems, we think border control might have something to say.

Just Touched Down: How to Navigate the Kathmandu Airport

The Tribhuvan International Airport is small but can be surprisingly confusing. Reading this before you arrive will eliminate the confusion and hassle while traveling.


This process is fairly straightforward. You’ll obtain your visa upon arrival by filling out the paperwork given to you on your flight. Here are several essential items:

  1. A pen. Pens are few and far between in the airport. Come prepared and avoid having to track one down.
  2. 4 passport photos. These will be used to issue a tourist visa (2) and a trekking permit (2).
  3. Cash. At the airport you’ll need cash to pay for your tourist visa. A 15-day visa costs $25 and a 1-month visa costs $40 (*prices subject to change)
  4. Contact/address information. On your immigration paperwork, you may be asked to add your contact information.
    • OneSeed Expeditions – Nepal:
      PO Box 25051 Bagdole-4
      Lalitpur, Nepal


  1. Head downstairs to grab your baggage from the luggage belt
  2. Make sure you don’t have any fruit with you, as that will not be allowed through customs
  3. Customs are usually a breeze!

Exiting the Airport

  1. Take a right and walk down the glass hallway where you can see crowds of people waiting

  2. Walk through the doorway on the left
  3. If you’re arriving on the designated day for the trek, a OneSeed staff member will be waiting in this area with a sign
  4. TIPS
    • Don’t wander too far!
    • Look for your name and someone wearing a OneSeed shirt.

Arriving Early?

  1. You’ll need to find your own transportation to your hotel
  2. TIPS
    • If you allow someone to help you with your bag, a $1 tip is appropriate
    • Negotiate a taxi price before getting into the taxi
    • A good price to Thamel is 300-400 NPR or about $5

There is more information regarding travel information on the US State Department page.

Don’t worry! This process will be smooth and easy. Call the Kathmandu office at +977 1-500-1241 with any problems or questions in the airport.

7 Questions You May Have About Microfinance Answered

OneSeed plays a small role in the big world of microfinance. In this post, we’ll give you a run-down of some of the most important questions and issues within microfinance.

1. So what exactly is microfinance?

Microfinance is the term used for the provision of financial services to the working poor. Currently, microfinance loans are aiding 160 million people around the globe. For all the visual learners: Check this video out!

2. What is the difference between microfinance and microcredit?

Getting a loan from a bank can be extremely difficult for someone with little cash income. Microcredit is a loan to the microentrepreneur by an MFI (microfinance institution). Microcredit is one component of microfinance.  Other growing services include microsavings, microinsurance, and financial training programs offered by a number of MFIs.

3. Why are the interest rates so high?

Microfinance interest rates vary greatly by region and market and average 35% globally. This might seem crazy; however, there are a lot of unseen risks and costs of sustaining an MFI.

  • Because the loans are typically for small amounts, MFIs need to charge interest to cover administrative costs. If you think about it, giving a $1000 loan requires the same amount of employee attention as a $25 loan. Giving a large number of small loans is time intensive with smaller returns and administrative costs are around 10-25% of total loans given.
  • MFIs take on risk by giving collateral-free loans. Well-established MFIs still lose about 1-2% of their loans. Without physical assets to secure the loan, there is no guarantee and the interest rates help to compensate for that risk.
  • Inflation and currency exchange fluctuation rates also play into this problem. For example, in Nepal, the rupee has slowly been losing value against the dollarwhile annual inflation rates can reach double-digits. Each subsequent month the borrowers pay a portion of their loans, its value decreases against the currency in which may MFIs receive funding. In order for an MFI to grow, the need additional operational margins (around 5-15%) to compensate for the losses incurred by inflation and currency exchange fluctuation.

Here is a video created by OneSeed’s Chris Baker about a field visit in Nepal to follow up on the impact of microfinance loans.

4. What is an MFI?

A MFI is a microfinance institution that provides the microcredit and financial services to microentrepreneurs.

Learn more about our partner MFIs: WEANFINAM, and BPW

5. Are all MFIs non-profit?

Many MFIs began as a non-profit providers; however, a for-profit sector has developedmore recently. For-profit MFIs have draw on large investments which allow them to distribute more funds by sometimes more efficient means. The challenge for many for-profit MFIs is achieving a balance between financial sustainability and the poverty-alleviation mission of the microfinance sector. At OneSeed, all our partners have been carefully selected because they meet our criteria and they all also happen to be non-profit MFIs.

Here are some of the most prominent global MFIs and organizations furthering the mission of microfinance:

  • Grameen Foundation was an expansion of the Grameen Bank, which began in 1976 in Bangledesh. The foundation remains non-profit but the bank has converted to for-profit.
  • BRAC is the largest MFI in the world aiding 126 million people with its non-profit services.
  • Compartamos Banco is based in Mexico and is most known for is success after converting from a non-profit to a for profit. Its share price increased 22% in the first day of trading. However, the bank has received criticism surrounding the extreme profitability of the company and its interest rates of up to 90%.
  • Truelift is designed to rate how well an MFI serves those living in poverty. They give their ‘Pro-Poor Seal of Excellence’ to MFIs who meet their standards.
  • Cerise is a network for MFIs to share and learn from one another.

6. What are some of the risks or controversies?

The provision of financial services is neither without risk nor controversy.  As the field of microfinance has grown and evolved, predatory lending practices and a lack of risk management by a small number of MFIs have raised important and fundamental critiques of lending practices.

  • Although similar movements have occurred in other Latin American countries, the “No Payment Movement” in Nicaragua is a prime example of one of the risks with microfinance. In 2008, several thousand people occupied a MFI in the city of Jalapa. The protesting turned violent and the leaders of the movement demanded that Congress accept a 10 year amortization period with 8% APR or less for all loans. This movement has put many MFIs at risk and therefore reduced the available microcredit in Nicaragua.
  • In India, there have been cases of suicide due to unpaid microcredit loans. When interest rates skyrocket and borrowers are unable to repay their loans, a cycle of debt can result in personal financial ruin.

OneSeed works with carefully selected MFIs that meet our criteria of low interest rates and high social performance. While microfinance is an important tool that aids millions of people, we recognize the importance of supporting best practices that support the poverty alleviation goals of OneSeed and our partners.

7. What happens to the 10% after my trek?

In the subsequent month after your trip, OneSeed sends the money to their partner MFIs in Nepal and Chile. The MFIs disburse the loans in local currency and begin to pay back OneSeed the following month in that currency. While our partners charge an extremely low compared to the national average (BPW: 10%, WEAN: 15%, FINAM: 30%), OneSeed does not charge any interest. We receive exactly what we gave (minus the inflation rate).

Interested in learning more?  Check out the resources below:





¿Cachai?: A Guide to Spanish and Chilean Slang

Has it been years since your last Spanish class? Have you never taken a Spanish class? Not to fear! We are here to give you a quick refresher as well as introduce you to some Chilean slang so you have all the right things to say on your next trek.

Useful Spanish Phrases

With about 400 million native speakers, Spanish is the second most common native language in the world. Although Spanish is the national language of Chile, there are a handful of other indigenous languages spoken including Quechua, Rapa Nui, Mapudungun, and Huilliche.

  • Hello – “Hola”
  • How are you? – “Cómo estás?”
  • Very well – “Muy bien”
  • What is your name? – “¿Cómo te llamas?”
  • My name is – “Me llamo (insert name)”
  • I am from – “Soy de (insert city)”
  • Nice to meet you – “Mucho gusto”
  • Good Morning – “Buenos días”

Chilenismos (Chilean Slang)

Chilean slang is notoriously famous for being difficult to understand and spoken incredibly fast. But we are giving you a few words and phrases to look out for so you will be talking like a local in no time!

  • Bacan – “very cool”
  • Hueón – “idiot,” but also used to call a friend
  • Buena onda – “good vibes, cool”: literally “good wave”
  • ¿Cachai? – “do you understand?”: literally means “catch?”
  • Al tiro – “Right away” literally “at the shot”
  • Echate al pollo – “Get out of here”: literally mean “throw it to the chicken”
  • ¡Que choro! – “How entertaining”

Review this list before you leave and keep your ears alert to the people around you. Remember: don’t get discouraged and your language skills will improve quickly!

¡Buen Viaje! – Have a great trip!


नेपाली: A Guide to Nepali Language

Worried about the language barrier? Don’t sweat it! All our guides speak English and Nepali and can help you find anything you need. But if you’re ready to take on a challenge, here is a crash course on the languages of Nepal as well as a few phrases that you can put to use.

Nepal is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. There are 126 languages spoken across Nepal, which is about the size of Arkansas. The official language is Nepali, which is spoken by about 2/3 of the population.


The written language is called Devanagari. It is one of the most common scripts because it is also the written language for Hindi and is used across India. Like English, Devanagari is written left to right but rather than individual letters, it utilizes consonant-vowel units (e.x. प = pa).

A List of Useful Phrases in Nepali

  • Hello/Goodbye – “Namaste”: This literally means “God is in you” and is typically said with the hands in prayer position and the head bowed forward

  • Thank You – “Dhanyabaad”

  • My name is – “Mero naam   (insert name)   ho”

  • How are you/How are things? (informal) – “thik chha?”

  • I am well/Things are good – “thik chha”

  • See you again – “pheri bhetaula”

  • I don’t understand – “maile bujhina”

  • I’m full – “pugyo”: It is considered rude for a guest to leave hungry so use this when you have had enough

Afraid you might pronounce something wrong? Try it! People will be excited that you are making an effort and willing to overlook it when your grammar isn’t perfect.

Shuba-yatra! (Have a good trip!)

What's an appropriate guide to tipping?

The OneSeed blog addresses many issues to help you prepare for your expedition. Today, we’ll tackle the (sometimes confusing) topic of how, what and when to tip your OneSeed guide.

When you set off on your adventure, you’ll be joined by one or more of our incredible OneSeed Guides. Your guides will be your cultural liaison, mountaineering expert, gear fitter, environmental impact consultant, ornithologist, comedian, local historian, and and on particularly steep inclines, your resident motivational speaker.

OneSeed guides are highly experienced and committed to making your trip a great experience. Just like other sectors of the service industry, a tip is a great way to let your guide know how you felt about your expedition.

Our policy at OneSeed is that tips are never expected, but always appreciated. You are free to give as much or as little as you feel fit, but we have included a chart below to act as a guide. Remember, the averages below are based on per person recommendations.

 Guide: $6-8/day

 Assistant Guide: $2-5/day

 Cook/Mulero/Camp Assistant: $1-3/day

Withdrawing enough money for tips should be done at the beginning of your expedition. You don't want to have to worry about tracking down an ATM after your trek is over (and in some cases, there is no ATM!)

The number of guides per expedition varies by country. To give you a good sense of what to expect, we've listed averages by country. This can serve as a guideline. 

Country Guides Assistant Guides Cooks Other staff Estimated Total
Argentina 1-2 n/a n/a n/a 1-2
Chile 1 1 n/a n/a 1-2
Colombia 1 n/a 1 n/a 2
Nepal 1-2 1-5 n/a n/a 2-7
Bhutan 1 0-1 2-3 2-4 5-9
Peru 1 1 1-2 2-4 5-8
Tanzania 1-2 2-3 1-2 15-30 20-40

As for when to tip, well, the end of your trip! To keep things easy, tip each guide individually as opposed to one lump sum for all of them. Simply find a moment at the end of the trip to thank your guide personally and give them whatever amount you see fit. They’ll be thankful not just that you tipped them, but that you took a moment to let them know how  you felt about the experience and what role they played in shaping your OneSeed expedition.

Happy Trekking!

What should I do if I arrive early to Santiago?

If you’ve pulled the trigger on joining us for one of our Chilean expeditions, the good news is that you’ve already got a lot to look forward too. The better news is that you’ll be flying into Santiago, Chile’s inspiring capital city.

While you’re sure to have an unforgettable journey with OneSeed, Chile and Santiago have a lot more to offer then we’ll have the chance to show you. Just in case you choose to visit the Santiaguinos a few days early, we’ve put together a brief list of sights and experiences to help you get into that travelling spirit!

Hot Tips, Cool City

Although Chile is famous for the diversity of its landscapes and climates, the capital city of Santiago has plenty of variety of its own.

  • The Plaza de Armas is a great first stop. The bustling city square is home to the Governor’s Palace, the Former National Congress Building, the National Library, the Municipal Theatre, and a laundry list of other cultural attractions. For more info click here!
  • For a better look at the modern side of Santiago, spend some time in the Barrio Bellavista neighborhood. Full of innovative art galleries, trendy boutiques and fresh eats, this is a great place to get to know a side of Chile you’re unlikely to see from the trail. The Lovin’ Life blog has a nice piece on Barrio Bellavista (don’t worry, there are pictures).
  • For a less traditional tourist stop there’s the Chilean National Zoo. Located near the heart of the city and within the Santiago Metropolitan Park, the Zoo and has dozens of rare and endangered species native to Chile. With great views of mountains and city skyline combined with easy access via public transit the zoo is an unexpected travelers treat. You can learn more at Santiago Tourist.

Sunshine, Sea Breezes, and Vino

If you’re lucky enough to show up more than just a day or two ahead of time, you might want to roam past the reach of Santiago’s public transit (excellent as it is!).

  • Within a day’s journey of Santiago, spread across the Maipo region, lie dozens of the countries oldest and most famous wineries. Perfect for single or multi-day trips, Wine-Searcher has information on some of the more famous wines, and has a list of small venues across the large region.
  • At 125 kilometers from Santiago lies the world heritage city of Valparaiso, nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”. With incredible vistas, colorful architecture, and even the world’s most endangered elevators Valparaiso is well worth your time.  For a first hand account take a look at this entry by a Lonely Planet blogger.
  •  If world class wines are on your mind and a 550 Kilometer trek to the north can fit into your schedule, consider the Elqui Valley. With numerous vineyards and more than 300 days of sunshine per year (which makes it Chile’s Colorado  in my eyes)  it’s little wonder the locals at Pisco Elqui warn that visitors often forget to return home.

While there are plenty of options for lodging in and around Santiago, here are a few options that have always worked well for us:

To make sure that everything runs smoothly with your OneSeed adventure, please let us know ahead of time where to pick you up. Until then, enjoy as much of Chile as possible, especially the wine. I did remember to mention the wine, right?