At 23, an age when most girls, are inundated with the pressure of ‘settling down’, Shivya Nath chose to take the road less travelled. After a life-changing two-month trip, she quit her 9-to-5 corporate job, gave up her apartment, sold a lot of her belongings, and embarked on a nomadic journey. Today, she is a widely followed travel blogger and champion for sustainable travel and tourism – teaching the world how to be a globetrotter while living a minimalist life, and how to create more memories than photographs!
From isolated Himalayan villages to Ecuador’s Amazon rainforests – Shivya Nath has travelled to over 40 countries. During the course of these travels, she has not just unlearned and relearned a lot about life, but also had enriching experiences with people across cultures, countries, and time zones.
“No matter our differences – different upbringing, background, language, skin colour, and traditions – we’re all the same at heart. We all want to be loved, treated with respect, and have equal access to opportunities. We also genuinely care about the planet, but are often unsure what to do to protect it,” Shivya Nath tells Health Shots in an exclusive interview.
Living out of a suitcase may seem thrilling and adventurous to many, but it can be a tough life. Through her blog The Shooting Star, Shivya shares the ups and downs of her journey. Having grown up in the lush green environs of Dehradun, she developed a soft corner for travel and nature.
Her tryst with a career in tourism began over a decade ago with the Singapore Tourism Board. But the turning point came with a sabbatical. She had volunteered with a responsible tourism enterprise in the Trans-Himalayas and became deeply passionate about the potential of travel as a force for good. “In those two months, I saw, experienced, and lived more than I ever had before, and chose to resign from my first and only corporate job with a desire of traveling the world on my own terms,” recounts one of the most popular travel influencers of India.
The next seven years were about living out of only two bags and pursuing storytelling at the intersection of travel, the environment, and local communities. While experimenting with her passions, one of which was travel, she also decided to rejig her dormant blog, The Shooting Star, with a focus on sustainable travel practices.
Her written works have appeared in leading global travel publications, and Shivya has also authored an eponymous bestselling travel memoir.
“Well, I’ve traveled to over forty countries since I turned vegan in 2015, including seafood-obsessed Japan, kebab-loving Iran, and tribal regions of Myanmar, where every kind of animal is relished. Sticking with my commitment to not consume any animal products, I’ve learnt along the way that thriving as a vegan on the road is an acquired art. The more well-researched, adventurous, and creative I am, the more likely I am to find incredible vegan food, sample the local cuisine and build lasting friendships through the common love of good food.”
As a vegan traveler, she also notes how traditional diets in many countries around the world were largely vegan. In fact, ‘food without killing’ is looked upon with respect in some cultures, she adds.
Shivya was deeply introspective throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. She felt an innate push to play a bigger role in increasing the tourism sector’s commitment to sustainability, social impact, and climate change. So, she chose to pursue a Master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University’s Division of Continuing Education. She also recently founded impact consultancy firm Climate Conscious Travel.
Talking about it, she explains, “We collaborate with destinations and businesses to integrate community-centric climate action into tourism offers. This involves creating carbon-neutral tours, community-based carbon removal, communicating about climate change through tourism, and telling stories about sustainability.”
1. Rethink how we pick a travel destination: Ask yourself why are you choosing a certain place – “Is it just because it’s trending on Instagram, or are we drawn by something there – the culture, ecology, architecture, history, cuisine, or something else?”
2. Explore places closer home. The footprint of flying somewhere, or flying a long distance, is far greater than that of taking the train or bus. “With so much in our own backyards, must we really fly somewhere far away?” she asks.
3. Slow down: Whether you’re able to travel for a week or a month, drop the idea of packing everything into one trip. “Instead, pick a few experiences that speak to you, spend time with locals, take time to let the local food grow on you, and return home with more memories than photos.”
When Shivya Nath first started traveling solo over a decade ago, it was still a largely alien idea. “Everywhere I went, people would approach me with curiosity or sympathy for going it alone. Over the past few years though, our tribe has grown tremendously, both in India and across the world. Solo female travelers are no longer an anomaly. We’re seeing so many bold, courageous women experiencing the world on their own terms – which is really encouraging,” she says.
When it comes to the issues of women’s safety, she asserts how unfortunate incidents are not restricted to the road alone.
“Women face harassment everywhere from their home to their workplace, so the real hardship lies in changing the discourse on safety, by changing attitudes towards women through policy intervention, social campaigns, and more.”
Shivya chose an unconventional path in life, not choosing to ‘settle down’ every which way – not in a marriage, not in a place. But that doesn’t mean she’s not told to!
“Despite being financially independent, in a mature relationship, and passionate about what I do, I’m continually constantly told that I need to ‘settle down’. That by choosing to never get married or have kids, I’m somehow shirking my responsibilities and being selfish. This stems from deep societal conditioning that, sometimes even unknown to myself, I’ve been unlearning on my travels,” she says.
According to Shivya, choosing to get married and having children or pursuing a conventional job, are all about choices at the end of the day. “They are not mandatory norms.”
Having said that, walking the unconventional path is never easy. But Shivya points out the brighter side: “There is liberation and joy in seeking values that feel like your own, and holding on to them no matter the societal pressure to do otherwise.”
Women have long been told what to do. But, for personal growth and development, every woman must step outside of her comfort zone.
Here’s Shivya Nath’s message to all women: “While in the urban world, we’re now reclaiming some spaces we’ve traditionally been excluded from, many of our rural counterparts still struggle with fulfilling conventional gender roles. Breaking out of our comfort zone is the first step towards realizing that we can chart our own paths. There is freedom in that realization, and power in that freedom, that allows us to challenge the norms arbitrarily assigned to our gender.”
Shivya traveled to over forty countries since she turned vegan in 2015, including seafood-obsessed Japan, kebab-loving Iran, and tribal regions of Myanmar, where every kind of animal is relished.
She says, “Sticking with my commitment to not consume any animal products, I’ve learnt along the way that thriving as a vegan on the road is an acquired art. The more well-researched, adventurous, and creative I am, the more likely I am to find incredible vegan food, sample the local cuisine and build lasting friendships through the common love of good food.”
Shivya also explains that as a vegan traveler, she has also learnt that traditional diets in many countries around the world were largely vegan, some communities practice veganism for substantial parts of the year, and ‘food without killing’ is looked upon with respect in some cultures.
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