An insightful, heart-warming, inspiring and supremely honest interview with the super successful travel blogger Shivya Nath. Here’s talking about her love for sustainable travel, blogging solely for the love of it and everything in between. By Charu Chowdhary

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Many of you have asked me, so the latest on my blog is a list of “Unusual Solo Travel Destinations to Feed Your Adventurous Spirit” – link in my profile @shivya or read it at the-shooting-star.com 👣 These picks are based on my solo trips over the past 7 years and include everywhere from Odisha to Ecuador! . . An excerpt: “As solo travellers, we often tend to take shelter in the same tried and tested places. The ones that rank high on online lists of “safe countries for solo travel”, which have several hostels to choose from, where tourism has made it imperative for locals to speak English and where the presence of other travellers puts us in our comfort zone. Over my solo explorations in the past seven years though, I’ve found that such places often tend to stifle our adventurous spirit. The same spirit that originally made us want to go it alone.” . . Whether you’re travelling solo for the first time or have been at it for a while; whether you love nature or seek to experience the local culture, there are places on this list for you. Go read, then tell me, where did you make your most unique and cherished solo travel memories? . . Photo —> Throwback to fall colours in New York City 🍁 . . #theshootingstar #solotravel #indiatravel #writersofig #fallcolors

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1) You’ve been travelling and blogging for about seven years now. And you’ve been living without a permanent address. Does that mean you’re never NOT travelling?

Yes, you can say that. It’s been over five years now that I’ve not had a home to go back to, or own possessions than I cannot carry in my two bags. Some people see it as travelling, but for me, it’s just a different way of living.

I try to split my time between ‘exploring’ and slow travel. During the former, I typically spend up to a month in a region, travelling at a relaxed pace through different places, spending a few days to a week in one spot, working on the go as and when necessary. During the latter, I stay in one single spot for up to a month – experiencing a single place deeply, working longer hours, catching up on Netflix and recharging my batteries. During these slow travel periods, I’m living, like everyone else; only my country – and sometimes my continent – keeps changing!

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Weekly feature: #theshootingstar . 👉 Kedartal, Uttarakhand . 👉 Photo by @girlonthemountains . . “Water is so intriguing. Even when it is still and calm on the surface, you don't know how turbulent it is deep within. . Sometimes, when you see someone, it might be difficult to know what they are truly feeling. Much like still water, they might be covering up their troubles with a veneer.” . . Saini took this photo at Kedartal, on the way to Auden's Col. She says the skies unexpectedly cleared up and she sat here in complete peace and silence for a couple of hours… . . “What I enjoy most about trekking is that it lets me unwind in such a beautiful way. The entire experience, right from planning the route to actually reaching the destination, is refreshing.” . . Follow her adventures! Hashtag your travel photos for a chance to be featured on my gallery every week 🌏 . . #uttarkhandphotography #indiapictures #hippieinhills #himalayas #indiatravel

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2) Take us through how your online community of travellers grew with you in all these years. How do you engage with them? How do you wish to inspire them?

When I started travel blogging in 2011, I had no idea about the simple act of penning my thoughts about my travels and how that would evolve into a lifestyle someday.

I started travel blogging because I wanted to share the heartwarming encounters and local experiences that came my way as I travelled – especially in India, and especially as a solo female traveller. And the more I travelled, the more I began to question our collective choices and my personal ones. Things like patriarchy, being bound to a physical home, owning more than we need, and the social and environmental impact of our travels.

Over the years, many of my readers have started challenging themselves to go alone too, to travel differently – slowly and sustainably, and to question their own life choices.

Through my blog and Instagram (@shivya), I continue to raise questions – for myself and for those who follow me. The idea is simple: we have one life, and we can’t spend it on a path someone else has laid out for us. We must experiment, try many different things, fail and figure out the equation for our own happiness and fulfillment.

Blogging is incredibly empowering that way. Your voice can find its way to the right people, sometimes almost magically (though SEO is the bane of every blogger). Your writing and ideas can literally change someone’s life – and definitely your own.

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It’s hard to describe the chaos of emotions on my last day in Guatemala. I had expected to feel low about leaving, but as we walked down to the lake for one last swim, I felt nothing. Then as I took a short run, lifted my feet off the board and took my last plunge into the clear, cool water, I felt ecstatic. Floating on my back, with the warm sun on my face and the volcanoes in my eyes, I thought this is what contentment must feel like. Later I meditated on the deck for a while, and opened my eyes feeling excited about the adventures in the days to come… . . But as the day progressed and I said my goodbyes – to some friends, to some spots, to some feelings, that morning high slowly went away, leaving a mellowness behind. . . By the time it was evening and I was packing, I felt mad at myself for making me leave. Life and travelling and everything felt pointless, you know? . . And then the lake did its magic again, a brilliant sunrise as we waited for the boat out in the morning. Everything washed in a dreamy magical light. A nearly tearful goodbye yes… but a promise that I’ll be back one of these days 💚 . . PS: I’m off to Cuba today! Unlikely to have connectivity for the next 2 weeks, so if you happen to miss me, head over to my blog (the-shooting-star.com/ link in my profile) for lots of stories from the around the world and practical tips for a life of long term travel. Adios amigos 👋🏼 . . #theshootingstar #shotoniphone #perhapsyouneedalittleguatemala #passionpassport #lifeisajourney

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3) Tell us about your major happy moments or milestones along the way.

Many! I’d say the bigger, broader milestones so far are:

2011: Quit my full-time corporate job in Singapore to build this alternative lifestyle.

2013: The last time I had a ‘home’ or a real address. I sold or gave away most of my belongings, and embraced an unpredictable life on the road.

2015: I turned vegan, cutting out all animal products from my diet and lifestyle – including dairy (milk, cheese, butter, cottage cheese, and etc.), eggs, honey, meat, seafood, leather and silk – as far as I can help it. I just couldn’t bear the animal cruelty these foods entail. It’s actually helped me connect more deeply with people around the world, and turned me into a foodie!

2018: My first book, The Shooting Star, was published by Penguin. It charts my (mis)adventures from the cubicle to the road, and from small-town India to remote corners of the globe.

4) As a well-known travel blogger today, when you look back, is it hard to believe how far you’ve come? Would you like to share what you did right (or not) on the way that has got you to where you are today?

It feels rather surreal. I often wake up in a far off corner of the world and wonder how I managed to pull off this location-independent way of life.

Getting paid to travel sounds like a dream, but there’s a lot of hard work and discipline behind the scenes. I’d like to think that the one thing I did right was to never give up. When the going got tough – when freelance work fell through, when I missed out on travel opportunities, when my bank account was in free fall – I hung on, kept at blogging and freelancing, and drew inspiration from the road until things turned around.

I think what sustained by travel blog in the long run was authenticity. Brands came and went, paid opportunities came and went, but the one thing that remained – the most important one – are my readers. I could never endorse or recommend anything to them that I don’t personally believe in.

I also feel that this kind of life can’t be driven by the motivation to earn money, to get your story noticed or to score some free travel. It definitely can’t be driven by likes on social media! It’s a life of many battles, and they’re worth fighting only if you’re really, truly passionate about travelling, getting to know people and places different from the ones you’re familiar with, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

What I wish I had done differently? Gosh, there are so many things. I refused to see my work as a business for a long time (the bane of every writer and creative thinker I guess). That means for a long time, I never strategised about the content I was creating – lagging behind on SEO and other technical aspects of blogging. Unfortunately, those things are as important as the passion to travel and share meaningful stories.

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“If you looked down to the bottom of my soul, you would understand fully the source of my longing and – pity me. Even the open, transparent lake has its unknown depths, which no divers know.” ~ Hans Christian Andersen . . The famous Danish author, HC Andersen, gave us childhood classics like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina. And it is here, at Assistens Cemetery in the heart of Copenhagen, that he was laid to rest. . . We strolled through the cemetery, under the warm spring sun, amid gorgeous cherry blossoms, past barren trees slowly turning green, as locals cycled through… and it struck me that the cemeteries of Copenhagen are not just for those who’ve passed away but also for those who live. There is death here, but there is also life, and the two coexist harmoniously. . . At one of the graves, I noticed a small group of friends – there were tears in their eyes but also laughter on their faces, like they had come to see an old friend, to celebrate a life, not to mourn it. . . I guess it’s quite apt that one of Andersen’s fairytales said: “Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” 🌸 . . #theshootingstar #visitcopenhagen #cherryblossom2018 #lifeisajourney #writersofig

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5) You recently authored a book called The Shooting Star – named after your blog. You’ve been writing all along; but was writing a book different/difficult in any way?

Blogging consistently for over seven years made it both easier and harder to work on a book. Easier, because it was kind of like studying, a lot, before the final exam! It helped me find my voice, resolve writing conflicts and deal with writers’ block.

Harder, because blogging is instant gratification. You think up a story, work on it for a few days, publish it, get instant feedback from readers and move on to the next one. Spending years working on a book on the other hand, I had no idea if it would ever be published or read – so, I had to find a lot more internal motivation to pen it.

My primary motivation to pen The Shooting Star was to challenge more people across India to question their travel and life choices – as well as introspect on my journey from a small-town girl to an average corporate dweller to a nomadic traveller seeking to live on her own terms

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Just posted on the blog: “Highs and Lows of 2018 – And Aspirations for 2019” 👣 From turning thirty, to a social media burnout, to a really difficult resolution… Go read at the link in my profile @shivya or at the-shooting-star.com ✍🏼 . . An excerpt: “In my mind, 2018 was akin to a shinkansen (bullet train) journey in Japan. I immensely enjoyed the ride, but felt like it ended way too soon.” . . And thanks to so many of you for telling me about your year and your dreams for 2019 in my previous post; really cool to get to know you guys better! . . Photo —> Basking amid the sea of clouds and under the winter sun after a long hike in Doi Inthanon National Park 😍 . . 📷: Shot on #iphonexsmax . . #theshootingstar #amazingthailand #seaofclouds #digitalnomad #sunrisers

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6) You mostly travel solo. What are the pros and cons?

I think the biggest pro of solo travel is the fact that you’re responsible, entirely, for yourself and your decisions. Something we, especially as Indian women, seldom experience otherwise. It can be incredibly empowering and liberating. I mean, if you can tackle an unknown place – with a different language, culture and way of life – you can tackle pretty much anything that life throws your way.

The biggest con? Finding someone to look after your bags when you need to use a public washroom.

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“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” ~ Pascal Mercier . . Today I’m thinking of my many homes. My nests around the world. As I continue to wander, to seek new horizons, I wonder if I’ll ever find again the things in me I’ve left behind. I wonder if I’ll ever be the same person I was in Guatemala, Cuba, Uttarakhand, Odisha and Georgia. For when I think of these places, these nests, I feel a little empty. As though I’m a little less of me since I left. As though the parts of me I left behind will never be found again. . . And yet the journey must continue, because what are we without the traces of the places in our hearts, the longing for our nests, the restlessness in our souls? . . And you, feel like you’ve left something of yourself behind somewhere – and you’ll find it again? . . Photo —> Throwback to my “nest” in Guatemala 💚 . . #theshootingstar #digitalnomad #guatemala #writersofindia #lifeisajourney

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7) Blogging today is has become a saturated space. How do you stay afloat? Any tips for aspiring bloggers or those on the verge of giving up because they don’t see results?

I think to stay afloat as a blogger, passion for blogging is the most important thing. The question you need to ask yourself is: would you still blog if there was no money to be made from it, no free travel or products to come your way, no potential for it to evolve into your full-time job?

That’s where I began. I still continue to blog for the love of blogging – writing and sharing stories that (hopefully) challenge my readers to embrace new perspectives and a new way of travelling and living.

To aspiring bloggers (or those seeking results, whatever they may be), my best advice is not to try to fit in this saturated space. Not to go where everyone else is going, not to write the way everyone else is writing, not even to fight for the same keywords. The key is to stand out. Think about what makes you, your voice, your photography, your writing style and your story different. Once you nail that and feel passionate about what makes you different, success is sure to come your way.

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MUMBAI folks, I’m excited to invite you to my official book launch this Saturday (13th October) at 11:30 am at Crossword Bookstore, Kemps Corner – in collaboration with @penguinindia @crosswordbookstores 🤗 I’ll be in conversation with @kareenagianani – Senior Associate Editor @natgeotravellerindia – discussing how to travel more meaningfully. RSVP at the link in my profile or on the event page at facebook.com/theshootingstarblog . . Let’s fuel our wanderlust together, talk about travelling beyond just sightseeing, rethink why we choose what we choose in life, meet amazing fellow travellers and have fun! See you there 💚 . . If you are based in Mumbai and can help me with photography / making a short video at the launch, please get in touch at shivyanath@gmail.com with samples of your work! . . I’ll be sharing details of my launch events in other cities across India soon 👣 . . Are you coming? Help me tag your Mumbai-based friends who love to travel / read and spread the word 🌎🙏 . . #theshootingstar #booklaunch #indianbooks #indiatravel #mumbaievents

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8) Are all your travel plans for 2019 already in place? How far ahead do you plan in advance? Any tips or tricks on how to crack planning for a trip in advance?

I’m pretty terrible at advance planning because I’m too busy doing whatever is happening in the present (travelling, writing, blogging, Instagramming, everyday living, and etc). Also, I’m pretty lazy and I suffer from a bit of a commitment phobia to commit to something more than a month in the future.

Back in my corporate days though, since I didn’t have the freedom to take off when and where I wanted to, I carefully chalked out all long weekends, kept a tab on airline sales and made sure I made the most of my annual leaves.

9) Places you’d recommend travellers to explore in India that you think are underrated?

I only spent a couple weeks in Odisha, quite nervous about exploring the state for the first time and by myself. But, I quickly fell in love with everything – the local food (easy to veganise), the warm people, the stunning and diverse natural beauty and the intriguing tribal way of life. I slept under thousands of stars, rode pillion on a local’s motorbike to unknown waterfalls, shared handiya (fermented rice brew) with indigenous tribes, cycled in the eastern ghats and spent time in a village that quite impressively, underwent transformation from poaching birds to conserving them. It’s definitely one of India’s most underrated destinations.

Besides Odisha, I’ve loved exploring Gujarat and its many natural and culinary wonders. And I can never get enough of my home state, Uttarakhand.

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“The Shooting Star by Shivya Nath is a travel book of rare insight and depth… Her travels and her writings are filled with a deeply felt humanism, driven by her own “hero’s quest,” and her thirst for adventure, knowledge, and self-awareness.” ~ Travel blogger Mariellen Ward @breathedreamgo (you’re following all her India adventures, aren’t you?) . . I haven’t had a breakthrough with the international publishing of my book yet, but excited to share that this month, it has been featured on @lonelyplanetmagazineindia (thanks @ra_ra_raasta for the heads up); in the inflight magazine of @spicejetairlines (a 5 page spread!) ; and in an exclusive interview on @livemintlounge ☺️ Swipe right to see the features 👉🏼 . . But truth be told, what got me really excited was to come back after my little end of the year digital detox to an inbox full of stories and DMs from you guys about reading my book, travelling with it around the world, identifying with it and gifting it to your friends/siblings! . . These photos really made my day: 👆🏼by @sumathi_s while hiking in Coorg; 👉🏼 by @atoolfoo at -13 degrees in Arunachal Pradesh; by @shrutibookfairysharma in Lakshadweep; and by @lets.capture.the.world in Rajasthan 👣 . . I know I’ve said it before, but I’m really so grateful to the universe for helping my book find its way to the right readers, to fellow bloggers and friends for their support, and to all you guys for your love and encouragement ☺️ . . If you’re yet to get a copy, Amazon has a special offer today! Link in my profile @shivya . . #theshootingstar

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10) Please share a favourite excerpt from your book that talks about you and your journey so far.

“Much like the rain-fed oases in the Thar Desert, the person I was now would disappear one day, never to be found again. The relationships I felt attached to, the things I dearly owned, even that strange melancholic feeling would be gone, never to be found again. I rummaged through my memories, looking for the person I had been on other rooftops. The one in Spitilying under the Milky Way, with the inexplicable feeling that my life was changing. The one in Singapore, gazing at the dazzling city skyline, the fire of corporate ambition burning inside me. The one in Mauritius, counting the many shades of blue in the Indian Ocean, hesitant but proud of a new friendship. The one in Dehradun, timid and unsure, afraid to break rules or challenge conventions. I rummaged desperately but I couldn’t find her. And what did it matter? I might be the same flesh, but I wasn’t her.”

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