Meet Shivya Nath, At 23 She Gave Up Her Home To Travel
Shivya Nath did not just quit her corporate life at 23, she also gave up her home, and everything she owned at the time, to embrace a wanderer’s life. It was this Dehradun girl’s first solo trip which directed her life to a remarkably path-breaking journey.
This digital nomad, who spent her childhood gazing at the mountains, is out with her first book now – The Shooting Star: A Girl, Her Backpack and the World. Shivya, who has spent the last seven years travelling without a permanent address, has collated all her experiences from her journey within, and across the world.
SheThePeople.TV got talking with Shivya Nath about her life as a traveller, her pursuit to challenge social conventions, her recent book – The Shooting Star and why she gave up the idea of calling one place home.
When you quit the corporate world at 23 to travel the world, was it a decision you thought through or was it impulsive? Did you think this would become a career?
It was a mix. For a long time, I had an inkling I would quit someday and try to do something different. Yet, I had no idea I would quit the week I did. Taking a two-month unpaid sabbatical from work – during which I took my first solo trip in the Himalayas – convinced me that I had to take the plunge.
Back in 2011, when I started travel blogging, no one was really making money from it or thinking of it as a viable career option. I didn’t either. I kept at it purely out of the love for writing, travelling and share the incredible encounters I was having on the road.
You’ve been a travel blogger now for many years, and have many accolades to your credit. Why did you decide it was time for a book?
There are many stories (and stories behind the stories) that can’t be told on social media or on a blog – and that’s how the idea of a book came along.
Personally, it has been an introspective journey, understanding the triggers and encounters that have shaped my choices and compelled me to challenge societal conventions. That made me quit my full-time job, give up the idea of one place to call home, sell most of my belongings and embrace a nomadic way of life.
The book is also my way of challenging more people, especially in India, to question their choices – both while travelling and in life.
The book is divided chapter wise into destinations and the story of your travel there, not told as mere destinations, but your lived experiences. How difficult was it to sort out the ones you wanted to include and the ones you would leave out?
It was quite hard to sort through seven years of travelling and pick out only a handful of stories. Ultimately, I ended up picking the ones that have deeply impacted me as a traveller and shaped my outlook towards life. Because ultimately, The Shooting Star is not just about my adventures on the road, but also about the journey of a small-town girl with a dream to discover the world.
Which are the experiences while travelling which have been life changing for you?
There are many to choose from! I spent time in Cuba earlier this year, and it put my digital life in perspective. Given the lack of internet connectivity, people still talk to each other. Time and again, locals went far out of their way to welcome me to their part of Cuba, ensure I was well fed as a vegan traveller, host me when a flight unexpectedly got cancelled, let me hitch a ride pillion on a bike when I was out of cash – it’s experiences like these which change you as a person.
I feel like I still haven’t fully come back, and have resolved to take more digital detoxes!
A chapter that really resonated was ‘Homeless’, that chronicles your decision to live out of a backpack. In a sense, this is so revolutionary for a girl, given we’ve always been tethered to home and family. What have been the challenges of living out of a backpack?
Because we’ve always been tethered to home and family, it’s been so liberating to live out of a couple of bags – always moving forward, with nowhere to go back to. Some of my biggest challenges are when something new goes in, something old has to go out. That means I can only ever buy essentials, though that does heavily curb my shopping expenditure!
Also, having clothes for all occasions is a big challenge. Of course, I carry summer and winter wear, with plenty of layers. But I’ve found myself attending an Indian wedding in a dress and speaking at a conference in converse shoes.
In a way, I’m trying to challenge the notions of what’s acceptable, especially as a woman!
What would your advice be to any woman who wants to be a digital nomad, is there a particular mindset needed to take this journey on?
Letting go is so important – not just of your materialistic possessions but also the fears, relationships and commitments that keep you rooted to one place when you seek to be a digital nomad. Little steps help – like giving away things in your wardrobe you haven’t used in months, creating the discipline to work outside a formal office setup, long trips with a mix of work and exploration to understand if you’re cut out for this lifestyle.
In the chapter on entrepreneurship, you wrote about your stint in setting up your own travel business. How do you see women taking leading roles in developing the travel industry in India and from India?
It’s amazing to see the kind of things Indian women are doing as travellers and as part of the travel industry. I recently met Parvinder Chawla who has been travelling the world solo, on a wheelchair; I’ve drawn incredible inspiration from Ishita Khanna, who runs a social enterprise in travel in the remote mountain desert of Spiti; I really admire Malika Virdi and the Maati Sangathan in Munsiyari, who not only promote responsible tourism in the area but also work on environmental and social issues in this remote part of Uttarakhand.
And finally, are there any places or experiences still on your bucket list?
I’ve barely scratched the surface! I’m always torn between going back to places I’ve loved or exploring a new destination – but for next year, I have Iran, Central Asia and more of South America on my mind.
Photo credit: Shivya Nath