Once upon a time Shivya Nath left her corporate job to travel, and ever since then she’s been shooting like a star all around the world living her dream. Fast that we are, we managed to catch up with her, and ask her to share some of her stories with us.  Besides travelling, these days she writes for just about a hundred odd newspapers and publications (sob!), started a company, and makes us jealous by putting up pics of all the places she’s been to.  Without further ado,  we present to you .. {drum rolls} Shivya Naaaath! 


Interviewing Shivya Nath

Q1.  Hello hello! Since we have been brought up well, with manners galore, why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about yourself!

Sure, I’ll start right at the start. I was born and brought up in the small valley of Dehradun, where I subconsciously began my love affair with the Himalayas. When I went to college in Singapore, I was a starry-eyed teen, with big dreams of things I wanted to do and be, but no idea how I would get there. The dreams slowly evolved when I started travelling in Southeast Asia, and I started fantasizing about being paid to travel (Who doesn’t?). I started working with the Singapore Tourism Board, with the hope of travelling for work, but while that did not happen much, I found a second love – social media. I worked as a social media strategist and digital marketer, which acquainted me with the concept of travel blogging and popular international bloggers. Working with them made me wonder ask why they could do it and I couldn’t. I took a two-month sabbatical from work to travel, and loved every moment of it. That’s when I decided to make the switch to the other side, and pursue all things travel. Besides my travel blog, The Shooting Star, I write for several Indian and international publications like The Times of India, The Hindu, Air India Magazine, The Huffington Post and CNNGo. I have also co-founded a travel venture called India Untravelled, to further the cause of responsible travel in India.


Q2. When was the first time you set off on a solo trip? What were your feelings, your thoughts then? How was the experience?

My first solo trip was to the high Himalayas of Spiti. I spent a month there, volunteering with an organization focused on community tourism in the region. It was both thrilling and daunting; thrilling because I had finally taken the plunge to do something I had dreamed of doing, and daunting because my parents filled my head with everything that could possibly go wrong and why this was not a good idea. I did things no cubicle dweller would imagine doing; I hitchhiked from village to village, spent a lot of time getting to know young nuns in high altitude nunneries (as part of my project), rode a mountain ropeway built by the mountain folk across two peaks where you needed to pull the ropes to get from one end to another, and stayed with a local family in the highest inhabited village of the Himalayas. Spiti is a stunningly beautiful valley with the kindest people I’ve met in most of India, and the ideal place for a first solo trip.


Q3. Must go there then. But tell us, of all the places you have been to, which is your favourite?

There are so many. The small villages of India, the quaint European countryside, the Black Sea region of Turkey, and the remote Rodrigues island in the Indian Ocean.

If I were to pick one, I’d say Italy, as much as I love India ;) I loved the small villages on the Alpine countryside of Italy, the larger than life attitude of the Italian people, the Italian traditions of siesta and aperitivo, and I would kill for those handmade pastas, cooked to perfection with such pride!


Q4.  Coming back to India, how safe is it for a girl to travel alone in our country?  What advice would you give to budding solo female travelers?

For the most part, safety has to do with our perception and attitude. The only reason a solo female traveller may feel safer in say, Europe, than in India is because India is perceived as one of the most unsafe places in the world for women. While that might even be true in some specific parts of India, a majority of the country is safe, and in fact very welcoming of female travellers. Of course, you must take the basic precautions and trust your gut, but you would have to do that travelling solo in any other part of the world too.

To women who want to travel solo, I’d say, go for it. Do your research, plan your trip, buy a pepper spray (it is a great confidence booster), and go where your heart takes you. Make friends with co-passengers, talk to the local people, and get to know a place, but trust your gut; if you think someone looks dodgy, they probably are. Keep in touch with your folks back home or a friend you trust, and keep them posted about your whereabouts. And remember that for every unkind person you meet on the road, you’ll meet ten kind people.


Q5. What sort of homework do you do before setting off on a trip?

I for one, hate planning. I hate to go to a new place with pre-conceived notions of what others thought about it. I hate to pre-plan details of how long I’ll stay in a place, or where I’ll stay. I like to be impulsive. I like to have the flexibility to jump off the bus in a town that looks inviting. The kind of homework I do is research on what region I’d like to visit, the costs involved to estimate my budget, and learning some phrases in the local language to get by. As a travelling vegetarian, I also make a note of the names of ingredients (veg and non veg), in the local language.


Q6. Ever had a scary/frightening experience while travelling?

Oh yes, those make for the best stories in retrospect, don’t they? This was when I was camping in a forest in the Kumaon belt of Uttarakhand. There was no electricity at the camp, and besides the camp staff, my friend and I were the only ones there. We went for a night trek in the surrounding jungle, and found the forest to be eerily quiet; something unusual even for the camp guys. We lit a bonfire and heard their stories late into the night. Then we locked up our tent and went to sleep. I heard a loud thudding noise right outside my side of the tent around 1 am, and I was convinced it was a big cat. I slid to the side of the bed and muffled my breath, scared that it might hear me breathing. I could only think of the sharp pain when it attacked my neck and killed me; the only comfort was in knowing it would be quick. My friend woke up with the sound and had the good sense to make a loud noise, to which the “thing” reacted by walking away. “It” came back several times later that night; we screamed, played loud music, shone the torch and did everything we could to shoo it away. At some point, we saw the shadow of an animal on our tent, with a sharp tooth and a distinct eyeball. It looked like it was dead. It was the longest night I can remember, and one that I’m glad I didn’t spend alone. We slept at sunrise, thankful than ever for day light. Later that day, one of the camp staff guys confessed that he didn’t sleep at all that night either, but he wouldn’t say why. I guess we’ll never know.


Q7. Who is your favourite travel writer/blogger?

There are two that I really like; one is Amanda who blogs at A Dangerous Business. I like the honesty and candidness of her writing. The other is Suzy who blogs at Suzy Guese. She has a way with words, and I love the way she expresses herself so effortlessly.


Q8. If there were only three things you could have in your travelling bag, what would they be?

My (well travelled) Mac book, my iPhone, and some chocolates; that’s all I need for survival (at least for emotional survival!)


Q9.  When you travelled overseas, did you sometimes find it difficult to communicate with the locals?

Despite the lack of a common language in some countries I’ve travelled to, I’ve never had much trouble communicating with the locals. A few phrases in the local dialect and sign language go a long way. I’ve held conversations aided by Google Translate in a remote Turkish town, and stayed with a tribal family in a remote village in northwestern Vietnam surviving only on sign language, and both turned out to be experiences I wouldn’t taint with a common language!


Q10.  It is a dream for many people, to be a travel writer, to roam the world. Is it a lucrative profession? What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a travel writer? What do you suggest newbies should follow to make it a financially stable career?

It is great to travel and live out of a suitcase, write about your experiences (if you like writing), see your work in print and read by millions of people, not wake up every morning and head to an office, and pick up your bags at whim and head out. But to be honest, it is not easy, especially if you intend to survive on your writing. Travel writing hardly pays well or on time, so you can forget about a steady income or much income at all, unless you can get affiliated with a really good travel publication. However, there are other ways to make money while travelling. I take on a lot of freelance work in the online space for instance, handling social media for tourism boards and travel organizations.

For someone who aspires to be a travel writer, I’d say look long and hard at the financial implications of the move. It is a full time job, and you have to earn a fair but, even if to get to your next destination. Think about other skills you may have that can be propagated in the online space, and try to increase your income sources. As long as you don’t need to be physically present in one place to get your work done, you can take it with you wherever you go. Many places in India and around the world offer easy access to Wifi. And from personal experience, I can promise that a digitally nomadic lifestyle is as exciting as it sounds. You could be having breakfast in France, dinner in Italy, and still be meeting deadlines and saving money for your next flight. Of course, you still need an appetite for unstable income and it is not for everyone. A sabbatical from work is a good way to find out if it’s for you.

Particularly for an aspiring travel writer, I would recommend building a writing portfolio first. Start a travel blog and write for any publications that come your way; it doesn’t matter if they are small, unpopular or don’t pay. Once you have a portfolio of good work to showcase, start pitching to better-known publications and looking for paid assignments. The key is in being persistent and thick-skinned towards rejections.



It’s been so nice talking to Shivya. While we did think that talking to travellers would be a good idea, there are a number of useful things that you just shared with us, that could be quite helpful to other budding travellers.  Clapping shlapping, and thank you so much for your time. 

The rest of you, well we hope you liked reading the entry.  Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section - if you would like to read more travel interviews, if you have suggestions about whom we should interview, anything. Till then, from Camp WeAreHolidays, this is reporter Narayanan with cameraman Bhanu Sharma. Bye Shye.  


Neeraj Narayanan

At WeAreHolidays, Neeraj Narayanan is Head of the Content and Digital Media Team. He has a Masters in Advertising & Media Communication, has had experience as a Communication Consultant to the Government of Gujarat, and as a Brand man in the IT giant firm - Cognizant.

On weekends, he conducts Heritage Walks in Delhi.

Neeraj Narayanan – who has written posts on WAH Blog.