What are the fears and challenges when you travel solo? Popular travel blogger Shivya Nath, who has been traveling solo from the age of 23, shares her journey and experiences in her book The Shooting Star.
Piyusha Vir reviews The Shooting Star by Shivya Nath for IWI.
When I first heard of Shivya Nath as a solo traveler I was impressed. Here was a girl living the exact dream I had always aspired for.
I followed her blog to not just read about her travel experiences but also to learn how to do it. After all, I had quit my job to pursue travel writing! As I read more and more of her pieces, I wondered If simply did not have the courage to do what she did. Or, maybe, I did. But my mother’s concerns always held me back.
When I came across her book The Shooting Star I had hoped to travel vicariously through it. I was looking forward to reading her story and maybe take a lesson or two from it. But the book is far more than just a travel experience or lessons on how to travel alone.
It is an honest account of her journey – the feats, the failures, admissions of fear and regrets, and even unabashed celebrations of her immense faith in the goodness of the world.
There are times when after reading a travelogue, one may wish that it was them who had lived through that experience. Every account of Nath’s made me feel that.
Wish I had been able to convince my family the way she did. Wish I had traveled to a foreign country for studies like she did. Wish I had explored the world like she did.
The resentment and jealousy set in soon enough.
She’s been incredibly lucky. She’s been incredibly privileged. She should thank her stars that she is safe and well. Just when I harboured all these judgmental thoughts, that Nath shared something that directly contradicted those same thoughts of mine and made me come to another realization.
For the truth is she was just incredible; the rest of it (the luck, the privilege, the safety) is what the universe handed over to her on account of being who she is – fearless; and doing what she did – believe in herself. And this revelation comes through after the below lines –
‘… this fear of strangers that I had grown up knowing had compelled my twenty-something female self to go it alone and discover otherwise. Unbeknownst to me, it had become my mission to prove that the world isn’t the horrible place we often make it out to be. That just because there are some dirty fish, it doesn’t mean the entire ocean is dirty and we need to confine ourselves to the shores we know.’
While this was something I was convinced about, the elders in my family weren’t. How do I convince my mother, was the big question weighing my mind even as I read the book and harboured secret dreams of a solo trip for myself?
Nath had simply steam-rolled their worries and set off on her own despite their apprehensions. Maybe that really was the answer. To reach a compromise and come up with an arrangement where the family is assured of your safety and you have enough freedom to travel as you wish. The part where Nath talks of her mother’s fears and how she felt the same but was wise enough to not confess is an emotional and touching narration. How do you convince a parent that letting a child into the big bad world is okay? How do you explain to someone the longing to explore and experience for yourself what the world has to offer?
And, it does have a lot to offer! The experiences that Nath narrates are rich and replete with stories that astound and surprise. It makes one value what we have. The travelogue about the Rann of Kutch made me appreciate the food we have on our table. Like Shivya, I too, will not ever take the food on my plate for granted again.
While there are parts that made me feel I wish I had been able to experience what she did, there were also parts that made me smile and wonder whether she was talking about me. That’s how strongly some of her thoughts and experiences resonated with me.
‘On the other hand, I was excelling at creating an illusion of my life for those closest to me, for I neither wanted financial help not to be judged for my choices, even if they had been impractical after all. I reveled in the freedom to wake up on a Monday morning and choose not to work. Yet my days were so unpredictable, and I felt so driven to make this new life work that I was working most weekends.’
For every closeted vagabond struck by wanderlust, this book won’t just be relatable but, in fact, immensely personal.
Shivya’s entrepreneurial story of setting up a travel company by the name of India Untravelled and later having to wind it up, made for an interesting and amusing read. It reminded me of the time I had craved to do something, pursued it with all my heart, only to drop it for the same reasons that I first ventured into it for. I do believe one should pursue something one loves but if it no longer gives you the same satisfaction then not hesitate to drop it and move on to something less. There are far too many experiences and learnings we are missing out on by being stuck in a rut.
These experiences are what make the book richer. She doesn’t shy away from addressing the difficult questions, including the most intrusive – ‘Why do you travel alone?’
There were a few things that could have been done better. The writing is repetitive in some places and while, in some instances, it looks deliberate to drive home a point, the same technique used excessively makes it monotonous.
What I also disliked was the strong advocacy towards Veganism. Her detailed accounts of the cruelty towards livestock sour one’s frame of mind. The deplorable conditions in most breeding farms are well known but for Nath to present it as if turning vegan was the only solution is a bit off-putting. The case for better practices in animal husbandry and livestock management (and not just for poultry farming as Nath focusses on but also fishing and pet industry) could have been better made.
However, it does make one wonder whether you can really be an animal lover and love your KFC meals too?
The more critical question that Nath leaves you with is ‘What would you do differently if you had a second chance at life?’ The reader is forced to ponder on the question and the lost opportunities. Would a second chance be welcome even now? If yes, what would you do, and why not take that chance now? Hopefully, that would inspire others to take their second chances too.
For me, I have already been fortunate enough to get my second chance once. I, now, thanks to Shivya Nath’s The Shooting Star, intend to take another one, this time to travel solo.
Have you ever traveled solo? What was your experience like? Which is your favourite travelogue? Share your experiences and recommendations using the comment box below.
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