TA Writer of the Week: Shivya Nath, the Shooting Star

Aside from our mutual love for responsible travel, Shiyva Nath is hugely admired for quitting her corporate job at 23 to travel the world.

If it isn’t the most popular and written about travel blogger in India. We’ve been in the long queue to finally catch up with Shivya Nath a.k.a The Shooting Star, who recently won the Best Travel Blogger in India 2013 title at Indian Blogger Awards 2013.

Shivya working from her outdoor office in Northern Thailand

Aside from our long standing and mutual love for responsible travel, Shiyva is hugely admired (and rightly so) for quitting her corporate job at 23 to travel the world. She has been a key contributor and co-host of the #untravel Twitter chats and the youngest travel writer today to inspire folks to go local, rural and offbeat in India.

Jetlagged between time zones, she spares some of her social media time to answer our nagging questions on her life, travel and sustainability.

A little about yourself. Also, something that very few know about you.

In mid 2011, at age 23, I decided to quit my corporate job and travel the world. I’ve been travelling for over 2.5 years now, in India and other parts of the world, and seek places that few have been to and fewer have written about. I co-founded India Untravelled with an aim to set people off the beaten path in rural India and do it responsibly, and my blog, The Shooting Star, recently won India’s best travel blog at the Indian blogging awards 2013. Travel is a way of life for me, and at the core of everything I do.

Everyone knows that I’m really social online. But very few know how anti-social I am offline. I’m the introvert and loner of any crowd, and meeting people when I travel solo takes me far out of my comfort zone each time. It’s a challenge I love on most days.

Tell us about how your fascination with travel began and your earliest memory of travelling offbeat?

In an Opium ceremony by the Rabari community in a village near Pali.

I guess at some point in life, everyone thinks they love nothing more than travel. I’m sure I thought that way. But my real fascination with travel indeed began with my first “offbeat” trip. While I was still working in a 9 to 5 job in Singapore, I had a week off and was planning to travel somewhere in Southeast Asia with a friend. Last minute planning meant flights to the regular places were really expensive. So I opened a map of Indonesia and spotted (among other islands) an island called Bunaken off the coast of an obscure town called Manado.

One thing led to another, and soon we were on our way to Sulawesi in Indonesia, without a plan, a map, or even connectivity on our phones. Everyone in Manado we met asked whether we were British or German, because these parts have never had visitors from India, and Bunaken turned out to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in the world.

As a go-to name in the industry of travel blogging today, do you find that the rise of travel blogging has led to more offbeat choices and responsible ways in travel, both among travellers and providers?

I would like to think yes! But truth is, the travel blogosphere in India is still at a very nascent stage, as are the providers who are trying to leverage bloggers. There needs to be more conscious efforts to use travel blogging as a means to encourage people to travel responsibly and go beyond the regular tourist trail, but you can say it’s a chicken and egg game. Bloggers take what’s given to them by providers and providers think this is what has always worked.

Personally, I try to negotiate trips with providers to not go on fixed itineraries or along regular tourist circuits, but those negotiations usually end in the compromise that I can extend my trip and make my choice of destination and accommodation on my own expense. So yes, there’s a lot we need to learn from international travel bloggers and forward thinking tourism boards.

How do you define sustainability in your own travels, and what are your ongoing efforts to travel more responsibly? What has the feedback been like?

Shivya having çay (Turkish tea, pronounced chai) with a blacksmith from Safranbolu, in Turkey.

I’ve been travelling without a break for the last 6 months, and sometimes I shudder to think of my own carbon footprint. Wherever I go, I try to choose eco-friendly accommodations run by locals (home stays, farm stays, family-run BnBs), because they not only care more for the local community and environment, but also offer a deeper perspective of the region. I try to take public transport as much as possible, choose filtered water over mineral water bottles, and learn and share as much about a region as I can on my blog, twitter and facebook.

The feedback has been a mix. Some of my readers tell me that thanks to my blog, they are choosing to go off the beaten path and experimenting with more experiential accommodations too. Others still ask me for recommendations on typical tourist trail even if I haven’t done those myself.

The best thing you ever read in The Alternative?

There are so many. The Alternative is my go to place when I face a writer’s block or start losing hope in the world! A recent article on ‘green periods‘ is making me miserable to tell you the truth. Before reading it, I never considered the amount of non-biodegradable content I was adding to the earth every month. But the thought of using menstrual cups is rather icky. I need to find a way out of this dilemma.

How do you think can The Alternative spread the message on sustainable living?

I think The Alternative already has a steady stream of great content that talks to people, but could drastically increase its reach, especially on Google search. For instance, the series on green homes needs to reach people who are still in the conceptualization / design stage of their own homes – and the one place they turn to ideas besides their social networks is Google!

Tell us your favourite travel review by Shivya! 

Pics courtesy: Shivya Nath


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