Rokeby Manor springs proper from a fiction e-book
In a mostly patriarchal Indian society, Shivya Nath found it in her to be a brave solo traveler. She leads a nomadic lifestyle and travels the world with her backpack. Shivya is the author of the bestselling book “The Shooting Star”, in which she tells more about her life and travel experiences. The book is an inspiration for women who stay at home, long for a free lifestyle and want to travel the world alone.
In this interview with Modern Diplomacy, Shivya shares more about her life experiences traveling around the world. She tells us what it takes to travel the world as a solo woman and shares her bitter and sweet experiences.
You have traveled so much and seen the world so complicated that you might as well be a nomad. The obvious question – what convinced you to travel the world?
I grew up in a protective Indian family in Dehradun, a valley at the foot of the Himalayas, and spent my childhood wondering what was beyond the mountains that I could see from my roof. After graduating from high school, I went to Singapore to study with big dreams and a big student loan. Fortunately, I graduated in the middle of the 2009 financial crisis when most of the companies I wanted to work with stopped hiring. I got a job at the Singapore Tourism Board where my experiments with social media began and I first started following the journey of travel writers / bloggers around the world. It was impossible to tame my troubled cabin-bound soul, so in 2011 I took a 2-month unpaid sabbatical from work. I flashed through Western Europe with a friend and traveled alone in the high Himalayas of India. In these two months I have seen, experienced and lived more than ever before. Within a week of returning to work, I decided to quit my first and only corporate job with the dream of traveling the world on my own terms.
Her new project, Voices of Rural India, is picking up speed and receiving awards for telling the most unlikely stories. How do you imagine that?
Voices of Rural India is an attempt to turn this unprecedented pandemic into an opportunity to create alternative livelihoods by enhancing digital skills in rural India while maintaining the slowly disappearing basics. Voices of Rural India is a non-profit digital initiative that aims to revolutionize storytelling by hosting curated stories by rural storytellers in written, photo or video format. Unlike most existing online platforms, the stories of rural India are told directly by local storytellers. In the short term, Voices of Rural India creates a source of income for affected communities through digital journalism. In the long term, it aims to develop grassroots digital storytelling skills while becoming a repository for local culture and knowledge that is documented in local voices. We are currently working with rural communities in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat through local tourism organizations such as Global Himalayan Expedition, Himalayan Ecotourism, Himalayan Ark, Spiti Ecosphere and Grassroutes Journeys. The initiative is supported by the Digital Empowerment Foundation. We are very much looking forward to a post-Covid world where we can physically travel to visit the communities we work with virtually, conduct digital storytelling workshops, identify local talent and hopefully bridge the gaping digital divide between town and country .
Your favorite place so far? You can of course give multiple answers.
There is so much to love in so many places! I love my native India because, despite its challenges, the variety of natural beauty, food and culture that it offers is nowhere close. It may be one of the few places in the world where strangers become friends the fastest. That being said, I feel a deep connection to Guatemala, Bhutan, Georgia and Iran.
Your passion for environmental protection and climate change is also remarkable. What do you think should be the biggest change that can make humanity save itself?
The slower I travel around the world, the more I learn conventional methods. And that is exactly what we need massively – politically, economically and individually.
We need to unlearn our trust in fossil fuels, the issues on which we choose our leaders, the way we treat some animals as friends and others as food (speciesism), how we measure development, and so on.
Deep unlearning will (hopefully) enable us to restore a world that is mindfulness and compassion rather than money.
Her book ‘A Shooting Star’ is a bestseller. In addition to the travel report, it is also about a spiritual journey. Do you agree with the phrase that people can better understand themselves and others with more communication and a better experience of diversity?
The Shooting Star records my battles and adventures from the cabin to the street and from the small town of India to remote corners of the world. I write openly about my struggles in transitioning from the average Indian girl to a free soul who wanted to live on her own terms, explore the world meaningfully while breaking stereotypes. I write about my relationships, battles, triumphs, and life changing encounters, and how I tried to overcome my deepest fears.
There is no doubt that travel is as much an internal as it is a physical journey.
Tell us about a time when you were traveling alone and felt challenged?
After traveling safely and adventurously through some of the most notorious countries in Central America (like Honduras, which has been dubbed “the most violent place on earth”), I was as good as disappointed in Costa Rica. On a hastily praised taxi ride to the airport to catch a flight to the Pacific coast, the taxi driver and I talked like long lost friends. Closer to the airport, he told me we would get stuck in traffic, so it’s better to get off a road and walk first. I agreed without thinking twice. When we got there, I paid him and got out of the cab, only to see him grab my little bag – the one with my passport, laptop, and everything – and ask for more money or he’d take it out. I had the equivalent of $ 50 in my pocket and gave it to him. I trembled at the thought of being alone without my valuables. In retrospect, there were many clues that I didn’t understand; He asked me if I had a family in the country or if I had a local SIM card – specific questions that should make me wary. I felt shaken for days, refused to trust others I had met along the way, and found solace in places crowded with other tourists, very different from my usual style of travel. It really wasn’t about the money I had lost, it was about the trust I had lost and it took me months to rebuild it.
What has been your greatest success so far? The most satisfying moment in your career?
There have been many satisfying moments on this journey: to publish my first book and to see it become a national bestseller in just over a month of publication; Recognition, awards, and international attributes for my work promoting responsible, immersive travel; Launch of a clothing line inspired by The Shooting Star that raises funds for the cultivation of forests in my home state of Uttarakhand; and most recently co-founder of Voices of Rural India to challenge the way digital storytelling is typically done in India. But I think I am deeply satisfied when a reader turns to me to share how my work has helped inspire them to make other life or travel choices.
Traveling alone is also considered taboo for women in large parts of India. What do you think this will change?
As more of us travel alone and share our stories online or offline, something is bound to change. While solo female travelers are still considered an anomaly in some parts of India and the world, there is much more chatter, acceptance and encouragement online now.