Five years after becoming a digital nomad, travel blogger Shivya Nath just hit another major milestone: last month her book, The Shooting Star (named after her popular blog), was published by Penguin India. We recently caught up with Shivya to chat about her blog-to-book journey, the always-evolving travel-blog scene, and her other recent adventures.
Congratulations on your book! How did The Shooting Star evolve from a blog to its new, physical format?
Thank you; I’m so excited that The Shooting Star is out as a book in the universe now. It was definitely a serendipitous development. Over seven years ago, when I first started travel blogging, I had no idea of the things it was going to lead to — a life of long-term travel, a sustainable source of income, a chance to work with some great people and brands, and now, a book!
In retrospect, my blog absolutely paved the way for a book. As the focal point of my travels, the blog has had — and will continue to have — a life of its own. But along the way, it has also helped me grow as a traveler, work on my writing skills, and develop the discipline that is essential to pen a book. Though titled the same, the book is a deeper, more personal, more introspective version of the blog — with many untold travel stories.
I also have to say — the blog definitely helped me as a portfolio when I approached my dream publisher as a first-time author.
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Leveraging one’s blog into a book from a major publisher is the dream of many a blogger. Are there any practical things one might do to help their chances?
Absolutely. Here are a couple of things that I believe could help any aspiring author.
Use the blog to find your voice. Experiment with themes that interest you, and actively seek feedback from your readers. Many great writers attribute their way with words to writing every day, and a blog is a great platform to do that.
Build a community that cares. Many authors believe that writing a book is only 50 percent of the work. The other 50 is getting enough people to care about what you’ve written and choose to buy it. I’m realizing how true this is — and feel immensely grateful to many of my loyal blog readers who bought the book on pre-order, even before it was released!
You’ve been a full-time nomadic travel writer for years now; what are the items you never travel without?
My MacBook Pro and iPhone keep me functional at all times.
I’ve been vegan for over three years now, and as a nomadic travel writer who chooses not to consume meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, honey, or any other animal products, I now swear by my portable smoothie maker. It charges by USB, and ensures I can have my cacao-banana or fruit smoothies wherever in the world I am! Being a plant-based eater in a meat-loving part of the world can be lonely sometimes, but the smoothie maker is a reminder as to why I refuse to participate in animal cruelty and how far I’m willing to go to make this lifestyle work.
From Barcelona to Machu Picchu, there’s been a lot of concern in recent years about how travelers are gradually destroying the places they visit (and obsessively Instagram). Is that something that’s on your mind when you travel?
It’s really sad the way overtourism is creating a rift between travelers and locals as well as contributing to environmental degradation, especially through excessive disposal of single-use plastic. I prefer to travel to places that are under the radar, and write about how we can make more responsible travel choices that are inclusive of local communities and conscious of the environment. In an attempt to bust some Instagram-created myths around the perfection of travel, I wrote about why long-term travel is more like real life and less like Instagram.
In the last couple of years, I’ve also started working on passion projects: In the Trans-Himalayan desert of Spiti, in India, we started a campaign against plastic bottled water, and built a life-size art installation entirely with discarded plastic bottles to help tourists pledge against using them in this ecologically-sensitive region. We’ve collaborated with LifeStraw to create public refill stations across Spiti, and partnered with local hotels and restaurants to discourage the sale of plastic bottled water. Imagine the irony of drinking “Himalayan water” packaged in plastic bottles in the plains in a glacial region with real Himalayan water!
In another part of the Himalaya, I worked with a local organization to help create India’s first Instagram channel run entirely by a rural Himalayan community of storytellers. @voicesofMunsiari shows tourism, life, and the connection of the locals to their ecology through simple, moving photographs and stories.
That sounds like an extraordinary experience. What are other memorable places you’ve visited recently?
That’s always a tough one to answer! The two places that come to mind are Cuba and Japan.
In Cuba, I spent time on a remote island community, volunteering and learning from a coral-reef restoration project by IOI Adventures. Seeing the incredibly beautiful corals and marine life littered with single-use plastic put so much in perspective. In addition to refusing plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic toothbrushes, I also decided to shift to zero-waste bars for shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner. Every bit counts, and I’ve written about some simple alternatives to single-use plastic.
My time in Japan is hard to summarize in a few words, so let me share this visual post about why traveling in Japan is like nowhere else in the world.
One last question: when we last chatted a couple of years ago, you said that “the more I travel, the more I meet people who are choosing less steady, more satisfying paths in life.” Is that still the case?
Yes! In fact, I’ve been meeting more people — both online and offline — who are choosing less traditional, more fulfilling trajectories. Maybe it’s a matter of consciously surrounding myself with such people, though.
Professionally, there are more opportunities today than ever before, and the internet (blogs, social media) is a powerful medium to leverage them. If you’re passionate about writing, travel, music, art, or anything else, there’s a space for you online to develop those skills further and to monetize them. It involves a certain degree of risk, yes. But no one can predict what amazing things it could lead to.
Every blogger or site owner has a dream — whether it’s to find a community, sell a product, or publish a book. What’s yours? Tell us in the comments.