As ecosystems around the world move closer to the point of no return every day, many people are choosing the sustainable path to give the planet a fighting chance. Sustainability is no longer an abstract concept but a way of life for many, even if it remains elusive for a large part of the population.
One of these sustainability champions, Shivya Nath, motivates many to embrace the concept, giving a more substantial meaning to the word “influencer”. Shivya is a travel writer who has embraced sustainability in the best possible way and included it in her travels.
Shivya quit her corporate job in 2011 to travel the world, and not one to do things by halves, she also became a vegan in 2015. When she started, she had no idea she would one day have a wide audience. people inspired by his lifestyle.
Just as moved by its content as its followers, we decided to interview Shivya as part of our month-long celebration of the Environment Day theme “One Earth”. Below, she explains how she makes responsible travel so easy.
What was the incident or thought that prompted you to explore the road less traveled – that of sustainable travel?
The first seeds of sustainable travel were sown in my mind in 2011 when I took a sabbatical from my digital marketing role at the Singapore Tourism Board to volunteer in the remote Trans-Himalayan Spiti Valley in India. While volunteering with Spiti Ecosphere, I learned how tourism – if done right – could be used as a tool for sustainable development.
It was a social enterprise that used tourism to create local livelihoods through a list-based community stay program while bringing solar power, greenhouses and solar baths to remote villages. of the Himalayas. Participating in local projects while experiencing the breathtaking beauty of the valley has been a deeply transformative experience for travelers.
Durability and practicality do not always go hand in hand. Have there been any instances where you had to forego sustainability for practical reasons?
I’ve been trying to make responsible travel and lifestyle choices for many years – minimalism (living with two bags), slow travel, veganism, choosing community-run and eco-friendly travel experiences, using my ” influence” to advocate for sustainability, etc. With a resolve to fly less, I’ve taken on adventurous overland journeys in recent years – traveling solo from Thailand, across Myanmar back and forth, to speak at a tourism conference responsible in India. After a travel mission in Iran, my partner and I traveled from the Persian Gulf, via southern Iran, to Armenia.
However, my Indian passport makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to avoid flying – and my job as a travel writer involves crossing borders frequently. I try to club travel missions or turn them into digital nomad relays, push for speaking engagements to be done virtually, and since 2021, in line with my climate action plan, I’ve been monitoring my theft to make up for what I can’t avoid.
Not every place you travel has to be vegan friendly. How do you manage your diet in these cases?
When I became a vegan about seven years ago, driven by the imprint of suffering from animal products, I was pretty sure I would have to choose between my travel lifestyle and staying vegan. The road, however, was full of surprises.
With growing awareness, many major cities around the world have become home to local vegan and animal rights movements, and all-vegan or vegan cafes and restaurants have sprung up in droves. HappyCow is my go-to app when I travel, to find vegan places wherever I am in the world.
Becoming vegan deepened my relationship with food and introduced me to surprising culinary traditions around the world. In Japan, I learned that the traditional diet was largely plant-based and meatless during the Edo period. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that people started consuming beef, horse meat, and seafood in large quantities. Buddhism and Shintoism, practiced for centuries in Japan, encourage compassionate eating – and locals still say “ita daki mas” before each meal, an expression of gratitude for the animals and plants whose lives have been sacrificed to fill his plate. In Ethiopia, I learned that guided by Orthodox Christianity, the locals traditionally eat plant-based foods for almost 200 days of the year – so one can walk into any restaurant, cafe or bakery in across the country and ask for “fasting food”.
So far I have been able to travel as a vegan to over 30 countries around the world, often spending time in remote areas. It hasn’t always been easy, but along the way I’ve had some of the best meals of my life and developed some great friendships rooted in shared values.
Tell us a bit about your recent trip to Chile.
In February 2022, I traveled to Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, 700 kilometers off the coast of Chile in South America, as part of the Work for Humankind initiative by Island Conservation and Lenovo . Given its remote location in the Pacific Ocean, the island’s biodiversity has evolved in isolation – and many species are found only there on the entire planet! Even though 97% of the archipelago is a protected national park, biodiversity is threatened by invasive species and climate change, and some species are literally on the verge of extinction. Fewer than 500 of the Juan Fernandez hummingbirds survive today, and only ONE tree of the Dendroseris Neriifolia subspecies remains on the island – and in the entire world.
The Work for Humankind initiative aimed to use smart technology to strengthen Island Conservation’s work on the island. For a month I worked on the move from what is certainly the most remote “office” in the world and started two projects locally – one to inspire community farming and the other to enable the access to clean energy on the island (it is currently powered entirely by diesel). We are still actively seeking technical and financial support for the latter.
After two years of not traveling during the pandemic, spending a month on such a remote island has been transformational in so many ways – not only because of its awe-inspiring beauty, but also because of all the beautiful souls I’ve been blessed with. to cross.
What advice do you have for amateur travelers that would help them travel sustainably?
Next time we travel, let’s remember that the world is not one big selfie ground. We need to change the long accepted narrative that traveling is something we only do for ourselves – our pleasure, our escape, our entertainment, our fulfilment. Our travel choices have far-reaching consequences – on the places we go, the people who live there, and the planet as a whole.
Some practical tips to consider for a more sustainable travel experience:
1) Ask why you are visiting a destination. Is it just because it’s trending on Instagram, or do you have a deep personal interest in its natural beauty, culture, food, architecture, or something else?
2) If you are traveling to a popular location, try to travel off season. This creates less strain on local resources and sets us up for a more immersive experience without the crowds.
3) Slow down, instead of trying to pack too many flights, places and activities into one trip. Take time to chat with the locals, experience “living there” for a while, learn about public transportation, attend local events, and really get to know a place. Looking back, these are some of our most memorable travel memories.
4) Instead of choosing accommodation solely based on our comfort and budget, choose one that also supports the local community and proactively takes steps to protect the environment.
For more sustainable travel tips, check out Shivya’s blog.
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