Dana Bottazzo '03 has done her share of traveling. Raised in London and Kuwait, she attended school in Ithaca, worked for a law firm in Paris and Milan, and then fell in love with South America.
But when she began to explore her new continent, she found it tough to get around. She has spent the past two years traveling across South America collecting reliable and accurate carrier information from every bus terminal and train station, piecing together the best ways to navigate between cities in South America. Now she has launched a new company, RouteAtlas.
Having pursued a conventional career as a corporate lawyer, Bottazzo always yearned for a life of greater freedom and travel.
"In 2011 I was living in Buenos Aires, and there's a huge expat community there," Bottazzo says. "They all wanted to travel, but it wasn't clear how you could get to even the most touristy places. That was my 'eureka' moment."
She took off on a road trip around Uruguay with a friend, stopping at every tiny bus terminal (some no more than shacks) and mapping out routes of travel in the country -- which is slightly smaller than Oklahoma -- in the span of five days.
"Traveling by car, I got a sense of the country, province by province," she says. "So I decided to buy a 1982 Volkswagen Camper and do the same thing for Argentina, Chile and Paraguay." That process took a bit longer -- around five months.
"Even though I lived for years in Argentina, there were parts of the country I had never heard of -- places like Peninsula Valdes, where you can see whales playing in the bay outside your window, or the Quebrada de Humauaca, a multicolored mountain range in the northern part of Argentina or even the Perito Moreno Glacier in the middle of the country," Bottazzo says.
The trips were life-changing, despite the fact that the Volkswagen broke down every 200 kilometers. The time Bottazzo spent on the road gave her perspective and also ample time to think of how she wanted to grow and structure her new company.
In South America, there's lots of information in the physical world, but because of technological and Internet accessibility issues, most of it hasn't migrated online.
The Route Atlas website, which is in a soft launch phase, currently includes 5,600 routes across Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay, including all transportation modes. Plans are to launch the site in Rio just before Brazil hosts the World Cup in June 2014 and to add Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.
Using the website, travelers will be able to pinpoint two destinations and search for all options for routes connecting both. Results will include all of the modes of transport and also photos of the bus terminals, schedules and ticket costs. Future plans are to include a feature for travelers to rate and comment on routes (similar to that of tripadvisor.com).
Bottazzo says her experience at Cornell broadened her ideas about career paths and taught her to love learning.
"I gained such a broad spectrum of knowledge in so many areas -- art history, anthropology, science," says Bottazzo, who majored in economics and government. "Suddenly, I could have a conversation with anyone about almost anything. I really credit Cornell for giving me the foundations I needed to think independently and for giving me greater confidence in myself."
For more information about Route Atlas, see the company on Facebook.
This story first appeared in Ezra Update.