Ever since I emerged from my “writing cave” after working on my first book, I’ve felt a deep void within. The publishing journey was challenging, fulfilling and joyful in equal measures – and consumed so much of me. After the initial excitement of the book launch, my soul started to feel inexplicably restless.
I suppose I did try to satiate it with some epic adventures in Myanmar, Iran, Bhutan and South Africa last year. Then the pandemic hit, and left me no choice but to hang up my travel boots.
A new era of travel blogging
I thought this could be just the pause I needed. I would re-focus my attention on this travel blog that I’ve nurtured over so many years but recently neglected. Unfortunately, travel blogging has changed much over time. It has become much less about experiences, and much more about Google rankings.
Every time I sat down to write about a misadventure in Nicaragua that could’ve been my last, or how solo travel can make or break a relationship, I wondered, would anyone search for this? Does this story have the potential to appear on Google’s first page?
An ethical dilemma
Even if the story did stand a chance of making it to Google’s first page, I felt conflicted about whether to write about “hidden” places in such a public space. I mean, we’ve all seen the downfall of once-pristine places, especially in the Instagram era.
I shudder to think how a remote high altitude desert like Spiti or the sleepy interiors of Goa have changed in the past few years – with trash, traffic and overtourism adversely impacting local people and biodiversity.
Yet I sorely miss the joy of writing about low-key discoveries on my travels, for a smaller group of readers with a stronger bent towards responsible travel.
Drying up income
When India began to open up a few months ago, I took an ethical stance not to travel or promote travelling during the pandemic. I’m taking a cue from rural communities who’ve chosen to keep their borders closed despite the loss of livelihoods, and the growing discontentment among locals in places where the wearing of masks and social distancing rules are largely ignored by tourists.
With borders closed, all my international collaborations are on hold indefinitely. I’m choosing to say no to domestic airline and hotel collaborations that require me to travel. As a passionate advocate of veganism and sustainability, I continue to say no to lifestyle brands that test on animals or represent fast fashion. And I’ve long taken a stance against filling my blog with annoying ads.
That means in the past few months, except for the odd partnership, all my income has dried up.
So what now?
Now that I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, I’ve gradually realized that somewhere along the way, I forgot the very reasons why I first pursued travel writing.
I dreamt of bringing stories from the road that had rarely been told before. Stories that inspired unconventional ways of thinking. Stories that offered a glimpse of unfamiliar worlds.
Instead, I’ve been keeping many epic finds, unexpected encounters and life-defining moments on the road, to myself – because they don’t belong on Google, Instagram or any public space.
But I think I’ve finally found a new direction…
Introducing “Journeys” by The Shooting Star
I’ve spent the past few months contemplating how I can continue writing about places, people and finds that’ve deeply impacted me – without the risk of subjecting them to irresponsible travel or constantly worrying about search engine and social media algorithms.
Thus was born the idea of “Journeys” – exclusive, paid stories delivered to your inbox once a week.
My goal is to slowly reach a niche set of readers with a similar bent of mind, who yearn for places that don’t come with Instagram hashtags or google searches, seek to pursue the unconventional in life, and are genuinely curious about the world beyond what can be depicted in a pretty photo.
Upcoming stories on Journeys:
I’m excited to share that I’ve already penned down the first four “Journeys” – to be delivered to you weekly. These aren’t stories that you’ll find in my book or on this blog.
What it’s like to travel as an unmarried couple in India and elsewhere – Some shocking and amusing episodes. This story is already live; read it here.
Secret hideouts in India to rejuvenate your pandemic-weary soul – I reached out to some of my favorite accommodations naturally set up for social distancing, and included only those who are taking enough safety precautions.
When I dream of the wild, I dream of… – If there’s only one national park you visit in your lifetime, let it be this one.
The little big things that have shaped my writing journey – Practical writing tips and some confessions from a bestselling author (yours truly ;-)).
How much does a subscription cost?
To be completely honest, I’ve gone back and forth several times over the idea of introducing paid stories, but focus group interviews with some long-time readers of The Shooting Star convinced me to take the plunge.
I’ve tried to keep subscription rates low, with early bird rates and annual discounts. Monthly subscriptions are equivalent to the cost of a nice coffee or meal. Annual subscriptions give you two months free!
First 100 subscribers: ₹250 / ~3$ per month
101 – 1000 subscribers: ₹350 / ~5$ per month
1000+ subscribers: ₹500 / ~7$ per month
Annual subscription: Save 2 months cost!
I know that the internet is full of free travel content. Yet I hope that through “Journeys”, I can continue to add unique value to your life and travel choices.
What about this blog and my social media channels?
I’ve been meaning to invite guest writers with inspiring stories to this blog for a long time, and am finally getting around to doing so.
Earlier this year, Parita Bhansali wrote an insightful guide to sustainable fashion in India. Coming soon, are recommendations on Auroville’s coolest cafes by Vinita Contractor, and insights on what it’s like to be a vegan Muslim by Nina Ahmedow. I’m excited to move into a largely editorial role on this blog with occasional posts written by me.
I’ll continue to engage with you on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but perhaps at a reduced frequency than I currently do. I hope Journeys will take away the need to channel an income through constant engagement on social media – and allow me to build deeper connections with long term readers.
A word of gratitude
At this time of isolation, the world has felt out of reach and nudged me to examine many of my life choices. My attempts at travel writing, as I can see now, took a direction I never anticipated. Yet you’ve stood by me, continued to read my posts here and on Instagram, and sent many heartfelt messages and emails over the years. For that, I’m forever grateful.
As I embark on what feels like a new chapter of my virtual life, I hope to continue taking you to faraway places, both geographically and within. I hope you’ll join me on these “Journeys”. There’ll be no flowing dresses, I promise
What do you think of the new direction I’m moving towards? What would you most like to read about on “Journeys”?
How I Lost My Way as a Travel Writer… published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
via Tumblr How I Lost My Way as a Travel Writer…
What’s it like to chain myself to one place after 7 years of long term travel?
It feels like yesterday when I was hiking up the moonscapes of Qeshm Island in Iran at sunset. Or falling off the map on a motorcycle adventure in the remote tribal Chin state of Myanmar. Or feeling awe-inspired at the electric ‘ghetto sessions’ in Khayelitsha, one of South Africa‘s largest townships.
When I look back at my life of long term travel, there is one thing in common. It all feels surreal.
And in a very different way, that’s my dominant feeling during this pandemic too!
Also read: Four Years of Travelling Without a Home
Since this strange period of our lives began, many of you have reached out to me, curious about what it’s been like to hang up my travel boots indefinitely. After nearly seven years of long term travel and living out of two bags, what’s it like to chain myself to one place for the foreseeable future?
In this post, I try to lay bare my heart, reflecting on this time of shock, struggle, acceptance, disappointment, anger, gratitude and hope.
With a home nowhere, I suddenly had nowhere to go!
Back in 2013, I gave up my rented apartment and sold most of my belongings. In the years since, I’ve felt at home in many places around the world but not put down roots anywhere.
Having no possessions and no commitment to a single place felt liberating on many levels… until I found myself in lockdown!
As luck would have it, an unexpected turn of events made me abandon a multi-day trek from tribal Chhattisgarh to Madhya Pradesh. I ended up taking a flight to Dehradun to see my folks for a few days, and figure out where I could slow travel next to hide out the brewing coronavirus fears.
In those few days, my universe, like that of many others, overturned. WHO declared it a pandemic, India went into a stringent lockdown, state and international borders shut down indefinitely. Suddenly, I had nowhere to go.
That few days visit turned into 3 months. And in retrospect, I’m so glad I got to spend that quality time with my folks – something I haven’t done since I moved out for college at seventeen! Unfortunately though, my partner was stranded in a different part of the world during the lockdown. Perhaps because the geographical separation wasn’t out of choice this time, it stung pretty bad.
When domestic movement gradually resumed, we went through a ton of passes and paperwork, Covid tests and institutional quarantine. And took a leap of faith to move to a small Goan village for the foreseeable future.
We now call an old trading shop turned studio “home”, own a kayak and a small oven, and wake up to hornbill and peacock cries!
Roots or wings – aka is long term travel still for me?
To tell you the truth, I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like to stay in one place again. To have a small backyard when I can grow my greens, to own more than what fits in two bags. Have constant access to a kitchen and experiment with vegan recipes. Build a consistent supply chain of organic, seasonal, zero waste produce. And not have to decide every couple of months, where next?
After the initial shock of the lockdown, I realized that I had no choice now but to experience “the other side” of life.
So I threw myself right into it. Started growing my own herbs and microgreens. Experimented with vegan baking. Got connected with a group of local organic farmers. Tried to throw myself into writing, books and music. Binge-watched movies and shows.
At first, it felt nice to have a schedule and all this time on my hand. But the days quickly started merging into one another. They felt familiar, comfortable and predictable.
Waking up to the same horizon every day eventually became monotonous. I began to miss the rush of long land journeys, the magic of fleeting encounters on the road and the anonymity of being a new “me” in a new place.
Turns out, the reason I never found a place ‘perfect’ enough to lay down roots was because I was never actually looking for one.
Ironically, long term travelling prepared me for a time of no travel
It seems like those challenging times on the road – the border interrogation in Nicaragua, getting mugged in Costa Rica, getting stalked in Ethiopia, breaking my phone on the first day of my solo adventures in Ecuador – unexpectedly prepared me to adapt, no matter what life throws along the way.
The pandemic is definitely one such curve ball.
At first, I was naive enough to think it’ll be behind us soon. But now, I don’t see myself travelling far before a vaccine is available, which could be several months or even a year from now.
Even though I’m young, healthy and outside the vulnerable age group, studies have found long term health implications for those who contract the virus. I also feel an acute responsibility towards rural communities in India with little access to healthcare, and can’t bear the thought of carrying the virus to them.
The initial months were tough, both professionally and personally. I had a few delayed payments trickling in which helped cover my expenses. But all travel assignments were put on hold, leaving the future uncertain.
Surprisingly however, I quickly moved through phases of denial, shock, anger and disappointment, into acceptance.
As an introvert, minimalist and someone who’s been working from home for nearly a decade, the obvious challenges of lockdown living were easy for me.
But I’ve been working towards making this lockdown life more palatable. Moving closer to nature, cycling, kayaking, photographing feathered creatures, researching more about wildlife conservation challenges and learning to cook!
The privilege of travel, and life itself
Hailing from India, privilege is often a tricky subject.
On the one hand, I often compare my lack of privilege to western bloggers / freelancers with powerful passports, social security and financial support during the pandemic.
On the other hand, I feel very aware of my access to good education in India (among other things we take for granted), that ultimately helped carve this digital nomad life for me.
This pandemic though, has given me much more perspective.
It has led me to the harsh acceptance that I’m not an essential worker, my soft skills weren’t of much use in a crisis, and travel – even the responsible kind – isn’t as resilient as once thought. We (me and most people reading this) are lucky enough to work online and shelter ourselves from the pandemic.
But despite the increasing penetration of smartphones, rural communities associated with travel have been hit really hard during this time.
This gaping urban-rural divide led to a new passion project, Voices of Rural India – perhaps India’s first curated platform for rural storytellers!
The goal is to build digital storytelling skills in rural India while creating an alternate source of income. And in this time of no travel, it’s a chance to explore remote corners of India virtually, through the stories of the very people we travel to meet.
We’re looking for passionate volunteers to join us to support Voices of Rural India. If that’s you, please get in touch!
The art of traveling long term vs the growing frustration of a weak passport
Travelling with an Indian passport has always been painful. I hate the heaps of documentation, the long wait to get a visa, stringent application processes, a defined duration of stay etc.
But in the current times, as someone who thinks of herself as a global citizen, I feel even more caged with closed borders and no tourist visas.
Countries like Georgia and Estonia have recently launched a “digital nomad visa” that would be ideal for someone like me who wants to stay longer and work on the go. But unfortunately, India is not one of the 95 countries eligible to apply. SIGH.
“What about the future?”
There was a time when anxiety about the future used to gnaw at me from the inside.
But over many years on the road, with neither a constant income nor a constant home, I’ve gradually learnt to let go.
The future is just that – distant, unpredictable. We need to nurture it, yes. But not at the cost of living fully today.
This life of long term travel has taught me to think of the future as just another adventure. And perhaps that’s what we need most right now. Cherish the little joys that today brings, and not dwell too much on the future. Whatever it brings, it’ll be an adventure for sure.
A life of no regret
Some people say I was too young to quit my corporate job at 23. If I stayed on a few more years, I could’ve amassed more wealth and experience.
Some say this digital nomad lifestyle is unsustainable. I need to own a house, I need to own things.
In a way, this unprecedented crisis has challenged everything about my life philosophy in the past seven years.
I don’t own a house or a car, and until a few months ago, I didn’t even own any cooking equipment. I’ve long believed in the shared economy to find homes and rides around the world. Covid came as a total shock to my existence.
But in the middle of a damn pandemic that has shattered many travel and life plans, I feel so grateful about the choices I’ve made.
I’m glad I didn’t put off my dream of slow travelling the world on my own terms. I’m grateful I didn’t build a bucket list to tick off only once I retired.
In the coming years, in a world wrought by climate change, intensive animal agriculture, single use plastic and irresponsible travel, we will face a whole new set of challenges. I’ll continue to contribute to this planet in whatever ways I can, but…
I can say with confidence, having tried it over the past six months, that living in one place is just not for me. I belong on the road, always moving, wild and free.
What’s this lockdown period been like for you? Where did you spend it, and what’s your most important realization from it? Do you think a life of long-term travel is for you?
The post Nearly 7 Years of Travelling Without a Home – and Then a Pandemic. appeared first on The Shooting Star.
Nearly 7 Years of Travelling Without a Home – and Then a Pandemic. published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
via Tumblr Nearly 7 Years of Travelling Without a Home – and Then a Pandemic.
Paintball has upped its game in recent years – long gone are the days of lying in muddy fields and using only trees for cover. Today’s paintball locations go above and beyond to provide the most immersive and spectacular experiences. We’ve chosen the UK’s 5 best paintballing locations.
Address: GO Paintball London, Salmons Lane, Whyteleafe, CR3 0HB.
There’s no expense spared in the production. This venue features barrels, trenches and trees for cover, as well as camouflage-donned bunkers and battlements.
Tommy has crafted the GO Paintball London experience from top to bottom. You even have an arsenal of paintball weapons to choose from, including an assault rifle, sniper rifle and smoke grenades.
Located just a 25-minute train journey from central London, GO Paintball London is the closest paintball location to the capital – and the best. It has been featured on the BBC, Channel 4 and Comedy Central. It was even awarded the prestigious Traveller’s Choice Award 2020 from TripAdvisor. This indicates that the venues have being consistently reviewed highly and rank in the top 10% of all TripAdvisor experiences.
The experience is reasonably priced, too. It costs £14.99 per person for equipment hire, then you buy your paintballs on top. These packages range from £20 to £75, for anywhere between 500 and 1500 paintballs. If this isn’t enough, GO Paintball even throws in a free Pizza Hut pizza with every paintball package.
Address: Bawtry Paintball & Laser Fields, Bawtry Forest, Great North Road, Bawtry, Doncaster, DN10 6DG.
Another Traveller’s Choice Award 2020 winner, Bawtry Paintball Fields in Doncaster brings the production quality of a movie set to its 16 paintball maps – literally.
Bawtry Paintball Fields bought practically all of the vehicular props from the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow. These include 5 helicopters, 2 tanks (plus 1 APC), 2 armoured rocket launchers and dozens of armoured vehicles. These can be found strewn around the battlefields along with 13 armoured Jeeps from Apocalypse Now. There’s even a Predator game-mode if you fancy being hunted by the famous dreadlocked alien.
Hollywood history aside, Bawtry Paintball Fields’ award-winning maps are all carefully crafted to present unique challenges that reward clever combat strategy and teamwork. At over 365 acres, it’s the largest paintball hub in Europe. It also contains the most expensive paintball map in Europe – the Ewok-themed map, which cost £42,000 to construct.
While Bawtry’s maps spare no expense, the price of entry remains reasonable. There are several ways to pay and play – pay as you go, half-day and full-day. The most popular option is the Steady Eddy full-day option, which costs £40 and comes with full equipment, 12 paintball games, a hot lunch and 600 paintballs. You can even add on some of Bawtry’s other activities for just £10 extra, including axe throwing, archery and rifle shooting.
If you’re after an unrivalled paintball experience, Bawtry Paintball Fields is it.
Address: Manchester Paintball Arena, Lower Ground Floor, Nile Mill B, Fields New Road, Chadderton, Oldham, Manchester, OL9 8NH.
Manchester Paintball Arena is an entirely indoor paintballing location. The company has harnessed the close-quarter combat scenario to present a faster-paced game. Half of the game modes are respawn games, meaning nobody is eliminated from the match after being shot – they simply return to the starting point and get back out there.
This encourages combatants to fight more aggressively and means the game becomes more tactical. Victory is measured in points per kill rather than by the last man standing. This mechanic means you’ll spend more time playing and less time watching.
This style of play has resonated with paintballers, as Manchester Paintball Arena is yet another Traveller’s Choice Award 2020 winner.
An added benefit of indoor paintball is that there’s no chance of your session turning into a mud bath as you battle the elements. Manchester Paintball Arena’s maps take place in an old mill, complete with tyre stacks, support struts and burnt out cars to create an industrial aesthetic.
Many of the game modes offered are modelled after the Call of Duty video game modes, including Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Domination. There’s also Jail Break, which is objective focused, and Medal of Honour, which is stealth focused.
For 3 hours of indoor paintball, you get all the protective equipment you need, your paintball gun and 500 paintballs for £35, or 800 paintballs for £50.
Address: 39 locations nationwide (search for your nearest one here).
Unlike the other entries, this venue isn’t consigned to one specific location. Delta Force Paintball boasts 39 locations around the UK, each as impressive as the next.
Delta Force brings quality standardisation to paintball and has developed a trusted brand within the paintball community. It’s even a 5-star accredited member of the UK Paintball Association and has an impeccable safety record.
There’s a total of 32 scenarios across all of the Delta Force sites, with many of the more popular ones duplicated across several. These maps boast impressive props and structures, including a double-decker bus, an actual helicopter and replicas of the pyramids and Big Ben. There’s even a replica Imperial Shuttle, for any Star Wars fans.
Some of the map names might sound familiar as well – Tomb Raider, Raptor Park, Black Hawk Down, Counter Strike and Stargate. Besides movie-themed arenas, there are historical-themed maps harking back to Vietnam, D-Day and the Battle of Stalingrad as well.
Wherever you live in the UK, you’re no more than a 45-minute drive from one of Delta Force’s paintballing sites. Each of these sites succeeds in holding a high-calibre offering, making Delta Force one of the best – and most accessible – paintball experiences in the UK.
Prices begin at £9.99 for equipment rental and increase by £9.99 for every 100 paintballs thereafter.
Address: Outpost Paintball, Moor Lane, Lower Kinnerton, Chester, Cheshire, CH4 9AQ.
Outpost Paintball is an independent paintball location based in a Cold War-era anti-aircraft artillery base. In fact, this base was built to protect Chester, Wrexham and Merseyside from nuclear attack. Knowing that going in is enough to amp you up for some high-octane paintball.
Outpost Paintball is run by paintball fanatics who have devised sophisticated game scenarios. These cater to everyone from under-11s to professional paintball players.
There are 19 unique game zones on the Outpost site, with more to come. These include futuristic, historical or dystopian infiltration missions, objective-focused scenarios, assault modes and capture games. Each demands different skills and strategies to win.
There’s even an event spanning 3 days based on the Borderlands video game franchise, plus regular tournaments.
As with multiple entries on this list, Outpost Paintball is a Traveller’s Choice 2020 award-winning paintball location.
Packages start from £20 per player for an entire day’s paintball, your equipment and 200 paintballs. The packages then range from £32 to £90 per player, for 400 to 1600 paintballs.
Specialist paintball insurance from Gunplan
Paintballing is generally safe, but it’s a combat sport, so accidents do happen. That’s why it’s you need to stay protected – and that goes beyond pads and a mask.
Our specialist paintball insurance protects you from costs arising from accidentally injuring yourself or somebody else. We also cover your paintballing equipment in the UK, Europe, or worldwide.
Get an instant online quote and see what we can do for you.
The 5 Best UK Paintballing Locations published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
via Tumblr The 5 Best UK Paintballing Locations
Hello? Anyone there? I know we’ve been away for a little while, but we’re back with some minor housekeeping moves (check the new name of the blog), and I figured what better way to reemerge than find a way for you all to possibly mock me? So here is my AP football ballot after the […]
via Tumblr Derek Redd reveals his AP Top 25 ballot, Part 1
Sustainable fashion in India is on the rise with homegrown, upcycled, fair-trade, organic, ethical and eco-friendly brands. Now thatâs a real fashion statement.
Guest post by Parita Bhansali
âNever buy anything thatâs less than fabulous. Then youâll wear it over and over again!â
I often remember the words of Carrie Bradshawâs character in Confessions of a Shopaholic before I buy something. She might not have meant it that way, but for me, it represents everything sustainable fashion is about.
The on-going Covid-19 crisis has made many of us pause and introspect about our impact on the planet. With the minimization of human consumption across the globe, nature seems to be healing and the air seems to be cleaner. We know we need to act now to save this planet we call home.
What does fashion, the clothes we buy and the brands we support with our money have to do with any of this?
Turns out, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the worldâs annual carbon emissions â 5 times that of flying! Itâs also one of the most polluting, water-intensive and waste-generating industries.
Thatâs exactly why I decided to write this massive guide to sustainable fashion in India. Hereâs how we can reduce our individual impact on the planet, one piece of clothing at a time:
In this post:
What is slow, sustainable fashion anyway
As the names suggest, fast and slow fashion refer to the pace at which you change / update your wardrobe.
Do you impulsively buy new clothes that are environmentally harmful, water intensive, exploit humans, abuse animals and have a small shelf life?
Or do you consciously invest in clothing brands that are mindful of the resources they use, refrain from using animal products, pay fair wages and last a lifetime?
Broadly speaking, sustainable fashion refers to clothes and products that:
Whatâs wrong with fast fashion
Fast fashion uses up excessive natural resources
With the rise of online shopping, more fast fashion brands setting up shop in India and the constant pressure to keep up with fashion trends, India is already on its way to embracing fast fashion â at great cost to the environment.
Slow fashion can reduce our individual carbon footprint
Only 15% of our clothes are recycled or donated. Even those gradually land up in landfills where they slowly release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to climate change.
Humans and animals are exploited to cater to our fashion demands
How to embrace sustainable fashion in India
Given the obvious urgency to switch to more eco-friendly, ethical and conscious fashion, here are some ways Iâve learnt to make sustainable fashion choices:
Ask before buying
Do I REALLY need that dress? Am I adding to my non-biodegradable cosmetic collection? Am I using hair products tested on animals?
Before I buy anything, I do some quick research. Brands do reply to queries. I hit them up on their Instagram pages, drop them an email or call them.
Recently, I was curious about Sugar Cosmetics, so I both googled and called them â and was surprised to learn that their products are cruelty free (not tested on animals). I recently dropped a message on Chumbakâs Instagram page asking about their accessories, and learnt that their belts and watches are made from animal leather.
Invest in eco-friendly, organic, cruelty free brands in India
For me, buying less means being able to invest more in better alternatives:
Identify ethical fashion brands
Iâve been using the âGood on Youâ app â which rates brands based on their impact on humans, animals and the environment. It doesnât feature Indian brands, but can be useful for international ones or while shopping abroad. It also has brilliant content about sustainability, ethical sourcing, vegan fashion etc.
Embrace slow fashion in India
Affordable sustainable clothing brands in India
Even as fast fashion is taking over the country, several sustainable fashion brands in India offer clothing that is not only creative but also homegrown, upcycled, fair-trade, organic, ethical and eco-friendly. Now thatâs a real fashion statement!
Maati, founded by Neha Kabra, works with a community in Rajasthan to create unique clothing with traditional Indian printing techniques. A part of the fabric is upcycled, the dyes and print colours are borrowed from nature (not animals) and the packaging is plastic-free.
Hoomanwear is Indiaâs first â and perhaps only â causewear brand, which donates 15% of all profits to organisations involved in meaningful work. Founder Harshil Vohra is a passionate vegan, and all their t-shirts, crop tops and hoodies are plant-based (less than 5% synthetic fibers) and customizable with different vibes. They are made only on demand (zero waste), use certified sustainable inks, are free of animal ingredients and delivered in recycled pizza boxes or cloth bags!
I was surprised to learn that most swimsuits leach microfibers into the ocean. And amazed to discover PANI Swimwear, founded by Leila, an international development professional from Mauritius who now calls Mumbai home. PANI makes body-positive swimsuits catered to a wide range of body types, designed from recycled fishing nets!
No Nasties is Goaâs first organic clothing brand, founded by Apurva Kothari. They use organic cotton seeds on fair trade farms. Synthetic pesticides and GMOs are a strict no. The entire seeds to clothes process is eco-friendly and ethical, right down to the inks being used (made without any animal ingredients).
Founded by 24-year-old Anya Gupta, Increscent offers affordable vintage clothing (dresses, tops, skirts etc), crafted in small batches by a community in Rajasthan. 60% of the fabrics they use are recycled from the dead stock of various export houses!
22-year-old Prateek Kayan quit his banking job in New York to start one of the few sustainable fashion brands in India exclusively for men. Brown Boy is all about organic, fair trade cotton, animal-friendly printing and smart casual t-shirts, yoga pants etc.
Founded by animal lover Sheena Uppal, Renge sources surplus fabric from warehouses to produce unique, limited edition designs for women. Proceeds from Renge are also used to support animal sanctuaries in India.
The latest addition to Indiaâs growing hemp movement is the homegrown brand Hemp Kari. They offer natural hemp-based fabrics with traditional hand embroidery done by local artisans in Lucknow and nearby villages. The tops are delivered in plastic-free packaging, and use tags / labels made of hemp paper.
High-end eco-friendly clothing brands in India
Karishma Shahani Khan created a clothing line from plastic gunny sacks, old chandeliers and second-hand sneakers while studying in London. Now based out of Pune, her Ka Sha label explores natural fabrics and works closely with artisans across the country. Her zero waste âHeart to Haatâ collection focuses on upcycling discarded clothing.
Nicobar is the slow fashion brainchild of Simran Lal and Raul Rai, inspired by tropical living. Theyâre bigger than most sustainable fashion brands in India, with physical stores across the country. That only means more responsibility.
Their core line uses only organic cotton, along with natural fabrics like bamboo. Their woolen collection uses recycled wool, and the kidswear is made entirely from leftover fabric. Most of their products come in plastic free packaging.
Eco-friendly winter clothing
Bangalore resident Pratibha Krishnaiah quit her corporate job to work as a Teach for India fellow in rural Uttarakhand. After the fellowship, she decided to stay on in the remote village of Kheti Khan, and began Himalayan Blooms â a social enterprise that seeks to create financial independence for local women. Using acrylic yarn and cotton (no wool), they hand-knit the most gorgeous ponchos, sweaters, scarfs and neck warmers â available for India wide delivery right from the heart of the Himalayas!
Save the Duck
Save the Duck is an American brand that specializes in animal-free, high tech winter wear. Their jackets are made from recycled plastic bottles and hoodies from recycled fishing nets. And yet their winter collection is warm enough to successfully put a vegan mountaineer on Mount Everest!
Unfortunately India doesnât yet to seem to have its own ethical and eco-friendly winter sports brand. Wool and down feather-free jackets are available at Decathlon, made with polyester or other synthetic materials (not very eco-friendly though).
Ethical, vegan and cruelty free cosmetics in India
It is shocking that several animal ingredients are hidden away in our daily toiletries and cosmetics. Some of these include: Honey, the food of bees. Beeswax, derived by destroying their painstakingly created combs used to house their young and store honey. Gelatin, extracted from the skins, bones and tissues of animals.
In 2020, despite being well-versed with what works on the human skin and scalp, some (big) brands like Maybelline, Estee Lauder and Clinique still test on animals!
Here are some homegrown brands that support local entrepreneurs, source ethical ingredients and do not test on animals:
Disguise Cosmetics is an Indian brand which believes in setting an honest, ethical and pocket-friendly beauty standard for our skin. All their cosmetics are free from animal oils, fats, pigments, secretions and proteins. Their matte lipsticks and all-day gel kajals are all the rage!
The Switch Fix
I cannot stress how much I love this brand, setting the benchmark for sustainable fashion brands in India. The Switch Fix is everything I could wish for: No plastic, no palm oil, cruelty-free, vegan, plant-based, water-saving and non-polluting!
From shampoo bars (no spill, no issues while checking in, last up to 50 washes) to bamboo toothbrushes, they have all our personal care needs covered.
Homegrown brand Plum offers a wide range of vegan and paraben-free hair, face, body and skincare products. They also recycle your empty plum plastic bottles with a gift voucher of Rs 50 for future use!
A young brand nurtured with love and compassion, Veganology uses essential oils to create moisturizing soap bars, body butters, lip balms and even a vegan, chemical-free talcum powder.
FAE, which stands for Free And Equal, is an Indian start-up trying to challenge conventional, biased notions of beauty. Their wide range of lipsticks is vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free.
Kay by Katrina
Indiaâs first celebrity cosmetic brand Kay was launched last year by Katrina Kaif â and itâs reported to be vegan and cruelty-free! She said she wanted to create products that would spark a vegan cosmetics revolution in India â and I think sheâs on her way.
Colorbar is Indiaâs third largest cosmetic brand. It is cruelty free, with a wide range of vegan products, well-labelled on the website.
The homegrown Khadi Essentials brand is based on the principles of Ayurveda. Most of their personal care products are vegan, cruelty-free and paraben free.
Lotus Herbals is hardly a stranger to Indian consumers. This local brand commits to natureâs wealth in tandem with being compassionate to all. No chemicals, nothing synthetic, no animal ingredients and no animal testing.
Back in the early 1900s, Mr Manal was travelling in Myanmar (then Burma), when he stumbled upon locals feeding the roots of a local herb to calm a herd of agitated elephants. His curiosity led him to start a revolution out of Dehradun in 1934, to develop all-natural personal care resources based on Ayurveda, science and nature. Himalaya continues to be a game changer among sustainable fashion brands in India and around the world! The Himalaya toothpaste and wide range of products make it much easier to be vegan in India and elsewhere.
I guess we all remember the Vicco Vajradanti commercial from our childhood in India! Sounds old school, but Vicco is actually a pioneer of vegan and natural products in the country.
The Body Shop
British brand, The Body Shop, pioneered the cruelty free movement but some of their products still contain animal ingredients like milk, honey, beeswax, etc. The vegan products are well-labelled though. They mostly come in plastic but The Body Shop has recently started an initiative to engage women in local communities to make recycled bottles.
Mindful fashion influencers in India
A couple of Instagrammers you can take inspiration from, as you learn about ethical, fair-trade, cruelty free and sustainable fashion brands in India:
Anya Gupta is a fashion and lifestyle influencer who makes DIY products like detergent, toothpaste etc look uber cool! And damn, her clothing and cosmetics recommendations are super inspiring.
Aditi Mayer is all about sustainable fashion and social justice â two topics that rarely meet each other. Her profile focuses on South Asian fashion, and is one of the rare ones that deeply explore ethics and eco-friendly living.
Thanks for sharing your questions around sustainable fashion. Those not directly answered in the post above are included below.
If you have more questions, please ask them in the comments to this post.
What are some unique sustainable fashion brands in Mumbai?
What does ethical clothing mean?
âEthicalâ encapsulates anything that is kind to people, animals and the environment. Typically, ethical clothing is made with natural materials like organic cotton, hemp or bamboo. The artisans involved in crafting it work in respectable working conditions and are paid fairly. No animals are harmed in the making of the products, neither by making use of animal-derived ingredients nor by testing on animals.
Where to find eco-friendly clothing in Pune?
Puneâs homegrown sustainable labels include the Ka Sha boutique and Outliers Clothing Co.
What are recommended sustainable fashion brands in Bangalore
Bangaloreâs SwapStitched clothes swap events are one of a kind!
Do you think about slow, eco-friendly fashion? What steps have you taken (or will take) towards it? What are your favorite sustainable fashion brands in India?
*Note: This article does not endorse or represent any of the brands mentioned. Views and opinions are entirely the authorâs own.
If youâd like to contribute a guest post to The Shooting Star, please see guidelines here.
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Ideas I gathered on sexual freedom, relationships, food and sustainability, while spending time with the tribes of Chhattisgarh.
“Woh log peeche chhooth gaye (they got left behind).”
“They have a special status because [economic] development didn’t reach them.“
These were words I heard again and again in Chhattisgarh, referring to the many indigenous tribes in the state.
Many of them traditionally lived in mud and bamboo houses in the forest. Often cultivating a small patch of land, burning it and moving every few years. Many wore nothing but a rag around their waste, multiple tattoos, combs in their hair and handmade ornaments. They lived off the land, worshipped nature, practiced animist rituals and survived on minimal possessions. The forest and local healers catered to their medical needs.
And yet, they are considered backward because money and modern comforts hold little importance in their off-the-grid lives.
I was lucky to spend a couple of weeks with the amazing folks from Bastar Tribal Homestay and Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat – who work closely with the tribes of Chhattisgarh. That gave me a chance to meet and engage with tribal elders, craftsmen, healers, cattle herders, anganwadi teachers and social workers.
Here are some life lessons I gleaned from the various tribes of Chhattisgarh:
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The freedom to experiment with sexuality and choose a life partner in a ‘ghotul’
“The message of the ghotul—that youth must be served, that freedom and happiness are more to be treasured than any material gain, that friendliness and sympathy, hospitality and unity are of the first importance, and above all that human love—and its physical expression—is beautiful, clean and precious, is typically Indian.”
So wrote Verrier Elwin of the controversial ghotul of the Muria and Gond tribes in Central India. His insightful books, written from his perspective as an anthropologist and ethnologist, document tribal life and customs that are slowly being eroded.
One such custom is that of the ghotul – a sort of commune that functions after nightfall, whose members are young (unmarried) teenagers. Legend has it that the first of its kind was built by their celebrated ancestor Lingo.
Within its physical confines, the members are taught both, the social responsibilities of the tribe: music, dance, respecting elders, tribal traditions, bonding over natural brews, cooking. And the individual, consensual exploration of one’s sexuality, with one or multiple partners, with or without emotional attachment. Most importantly, without judgement.
On the other hand, in the regressive contemporary society of India, even public displays of affection – let alone pre-marital sex – are considered taboo.
Many families will disown their daughters for choosing to be in a consensual relationship. But wouldn’t hesitate to forcibly marry them off to a complete stranger, whose demands she must pander to even on their first night together.
Although ghotuls were an essential part of life for the Muriya and Gond tribes of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, many have been shut down on suspicion of naxal activities. Others have fallen prey to the influences of ‘modern’ society, ‘urban’ education and religion.
I was amused to read a Gond social worker report that in one ghotul, the evening now begins with a recitation of the gayatri mantra!
Perhaps it’s time to look past our dogmatic religions, whatever they may be, and learn from the so called ‘backward’ people, the original dwellers of this land.
I’m sure we can learn a thing or three about social interaction, sexual freedom, gender equality and the right to choose who to love.
A farm-to-table diet featuring millets, moringa, mahua and more superfoods
Long before the green revolution transformed indigenous diets in India, the tribes of Chhattisgarh cultivated and consumed foods that are now globally recognized as superfoods.
In a village of the Baiga tribe in the Kawardha region, cut off from the road by a river, I met a woman brewing mahua liquor under a stunning old mahua tree. It was just after breakfast, but she insisted I try it. With a spoon carved from wood, she poured some into a leaf folded into a cup – a hot, bitter, woody taste that I never quite acquired!
Although mahua is blamed for alcoholism among the tribes now, it was once dried and made into mahua rotis or laddoos – packed with abundant energy!
From various elders in Bastar and Kawardha, I gathered that the traditional diet once consisted of kodo millet, moringa and legumes – all high on the nutritional quotient.
In the local haats (tribal markets), I saw root veggies like alookanda, varieties of beans, and snacks made with pumpkin – none of which I could recognize from our regular diets. In the harsh summer, instead of water, many tribes drink paich – a nutritious drink made by soaking rice or millet.
At a Gond village home, we feasted on kandul lentils – grown in the forest. Once cultivated, they are dried, packed up in sihadi leaves, stitched together with sihadi ropes and can last upto two years!
On a hike, we spotted chidchidi, the seeds of which have a hallucinogenic effect that convinces your mind that you’re not hungry for days.
Unfortunately like in most of India, the indigenous diet of Central India too is fast being replaced by rice and wheat. Leading to malnutrition, poor growth among children and health complications among adults.
As we aspire to healthier lifestyles, perhaps the tribes of Chhattisgarh could help us dig out the sustainable superfoods they once embraced.
A rational approach to live-in relationships, ‘dowry’ and divorce
When it comes to marriage, the ideas of compulsion and dowry drive me crazy.
In India, people in their late twenties and early thirties are considered ticking time-bombs who must not miss the marriage window.
It’s bad enough that married women are expected to dissociate from their house / family and join their husband’s. As an earning member of the family, or even as a member who contributes to household chores, that’s a loss to the woman’s family. But in our grand patriarchal scheme of things, it’s the woman’s family that must also pay dowry to the man’s – for taking their “burden” off.
Make no mistake, the practice of dowry, though now illegal, continues in urban and rural India. Modern, forward-thinking families in the cities may refrain from using the term itself, but many still expect the woman to bring with her expensive household “gifts”.
I’ve witnessed that first-hand twice in my extended family.
On the other hand, the tribes of Chhattisgarh who seemingly “got left behind” in the race for modernity, possess far more practical views on relationships.
It’s socially acceptable – and infact the norm in many communities – for a couple to live together without formally being married. If they are driven by love and compatible with each other, what’s the need for a formal ceremony, a legal document or a dedicated celebration to endorse their commitment?
When a couple does decide to marry, the “dowry” works in reverse. Since the woman’s family is losing an earning / contributing member, the man’s must compensate their loss – usually by footing the bill of the celebration or with the much-desired Mahua liquor.
In the Baiga tribe, the rules of divorce are simple too. First, it’s socially understandable for a couple to choose that they no longer want to be together. Second, if the woman initiates the separation, her new companion must compensate the old one for the expenses he bore for the wedding or Mahua.
Practical, honest and not two-faced like our “modern” society, right?
If we take the cow’s milk, what will happen to the calf?
I vividly remember the first conversation I had with my host from Bastar Tribal Homestay when I met him at the bus stop, after a long ride from Raipur.
Over the phone, I had mentioned to him that I don’t consume any animal products. Now even before we made small talk, he told me that the tribes of Chhattisgarh don’t consume milk either!
Why? It’s never been part of their diet. Even though they rear cows to get manure (cow dung) for their fields, they have no idea how to separate them from the calves and take their milk. They worry that if they took the cow’s milk, what would happen to the calf?
Turned out, my host had worked with the veterinary department in the past, on a scheme to distribute cows to poor households in Bastar, hoping they would earn money off the milk. The scheme failed badly, for no one knew how to or was willing to milk the cows!
This is easy to observe in the tribal haats too, where I didn’t spot a single product made of milk.
The tribes that were once nomadic hunter-gatherers still hunt and consume meat. Goats and other animals are still sacrificed at their festivals. Infact, even human sacrifices were common till after India’s independence. Rumor has it that unwelcome visitors in the area were often captured and sacrificed!
In the “modern” world, we’ve moved towards horrific ways of raising, mass producing, enslaving and genetically altering animals for meat, milk and eggs. But I felt reassured that atleast India’s ancient wisdom recognizes that a cow’s milk is for her calf, just like a human mother’s milk is for her baby.
A sustainable life through nomadism, barefoot living and upcycling
Minimalism, zero waste, upcycling and detoxing have become buzzwords globally. But for the tribes of Chhattisgarh, they’ve long been a way of life.
My hosts at Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat shared an intriguing story of a local shaman. While staying at his house with some of their guests, the shaman advised that the guests be dropped off to an airport and my hosts return home immediately, abandoning their plans to stay in Raipur for a couple of days. An earthquake was on its way, the shaman said.
My hosts brushed him off, but somehow ended up abandoning their plans to stay in Raipur anyway.
Surprisingly enough, the earthquake shook the earth just as the shaman had predicted. They rushed back to his house to ask how he knew. The shaman pointed to his bare feet, and said the earth had told him.
We can discredit ancient ways of connecting with nature, but the truth is we are constantly chasing them in fancier ways. We burn big holes in our pockets at detox retreats where we can walk barefoot and feel connected to earth.
My host often joked that for many tribes, “the forest is mother, the tiger is brother!” For centuries, they’ve lived off the forest, cultivating small patches of land, then burning it and moving on, giving it a chance to heal back into a forest. Even as hunters, they hunted for survival, not for the pleasure of taste.
In Bastar, I spent an afternoon observing craftsmen who specialise in bell metal crafts, passed down from one generation to another. Designated “other backward castes”, I was surprised to learn that these craftsmen upcycle used metal (from kitchen ware, appliances etc) in a long painstaking process, to create incredible ornaments.
Natural upcycling is common in everyday life too. The sargi shrub is used to brush teeth, its leaves to make plates and its seeds to wash clothes. Beds are made from strong sihadi ropes. And gulal for holi is made by boiling flame of the forest flowers!
Instead of reinventing the entire wheel in practicing urban sustainability, we’d be better off learning from our not-so-backward past.
A village can raise a kid, literally
In India (and perhaps elsewhere), when couples have problems in their marital life, having a kid is often recommended as the solution. In a separation or divorce situation, society looks down upon the parents, especially the mother, for raising their child in a “broken” home.
Unfortunately, the toxicity of many home environments slips notice.
Which is why, I was amazed to hear from my hosts in Kawardha how the Baiga tribe of Chhattisgarh sorts out such complex situations without legal recourse.
If a couple with a kid choose to separate, the woman has the first right to decide if she wants to raise the kid. If she decides that single parenthood isn’t for her, the man gets to choose if it’s for him.
If neither parent wants to take on the responsibility, the community assigns a guardian to raise the child until the age of fifteen, with the rest of the village chipping in. More importantly, the woman can choose to leave without any stigma.
Perhaps as parents, you’d think that’s a bit brutal. But who’s to say that a child raised in a toxic household, by a parent who doesn’t feel up to the task, will have a better life than one raised with love by an entire village?
Have you gathered any fascinating ideas of love and life on your travels?
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Who would’ve thought decades ago that you could shoot deer with air rifles? Well, today’s technology allows you to do that. But, when it comes to finding an air rifle for shooting deer, you’ve got to be selective. We’ll get into the best air rifles for deer hunting, but first…
A few important things to consider
There are several factors you need to take into account before you pick the air rifle that suits you best:
So, which air rifles are best for shooting deer?
Here’s a selection of the best deer hunting air rifles available right now…
This versatile and well-built rifle has increased in popularity over the last few years. Considered a more traditional rifle, it comes with a range of modern features that make it reliable and accurate when you’re out in the field.
It’s one of the more expensive rifles available on the market, but this reflects its quality. What’s more, it’s designed to perform at a high level for years.
Rigby Highland Stalker
The Highland model is one of the most iconic ever produced by Rigby. Since they started to go back into production in 2014, this rifle become instantly popular with experienced shooters.
Much like the Sauer 202, the Stalker combines tradition and modernity in a way that makes the rifle aesthetically pleasing.
This is a particularly adept rifle when it comes to long range shooting. The 22-inch long barrel and slow taper are welcome additions when it comes to assisting with accuracy. This makes the Highland Stalker ideal for novice shooters.
Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter
If you’re looking for a rifle which is both affordable and high quality, this is the perfect choice.
Available for less than £1,000, the Steyr Mannlicher Pro Hunter is popular among hunters who spend a lot of time in dense woodland.
This rifle carries a decent amount of weight, making it comfortable to handle for long periods of time.
The trigger can also be adjusted through a screw in the trigger blade, so then you can give the pull the right amount of weight for you.
Given its price and practicality, this is another good rifle for a novice shooter.
Remington 700 SPS Rifle
The Remington 700 can include a wide range of modifications and accessories, meaning you can essentially design the rifle around what you want and the way you hunt.
While some shooters feel the Remington 700 has become outdated since more modern rifles have become available, it still provides a classic experience that makes it one of the leading air rifles.
For both beginners and seasoned hunters, this remains one of the most reliable and best air rifles for deer hunting.
Specialist shooting insurance from Gunplan
Once you have chosen the air rifle that suits you best, it’s essential to have the right insurance before you start your next deer stalking trip.
With our specialist shooting insurance, you can insure your new air rifle against theft, loss and damage.
Get an online quote within minutes today and shoot with peace of mind.
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Can we stay home and stay safe, yet reduce single use plastic during the pandemic? Choices, alternatives and demanding change.
The Covid-19 pandemic has penetrated every aspect of our lives.
As much as I hate to write or even admit it, it doesnât appear to be going away anytime soon. Weâre still far from a vaccine, and even when it does arrive, distribution around the world could take a long time.
In the meantime, we must continue to try keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe. That means we should use a mask and sanitizer, wash our hands frequently, practice social distancing, avoid touching our face and not go out to crowded spaces except when absolutely neccesary.
Unfortunately though, that also means a significant increase in our single use plastic consumption.
Personal protective gear â masks, hand sanitizers, surface disinfectant bottles â are typically non-biodegradable. Staying at home means more deliveries, e-commerce and food takeaways, which often come in non-recyclable plastic. Perhaps weâre discarding a lot of things we wouldâve normally re-used, out of the worry that the virus might be lurking around on all surfaces.
As we gear up to face the pandemic for the long haul and adapt to life in the new normal, we need to be aware that a single use plastic catastrophe might silently be brewing.
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How has the pandemic impacted single use plastic consumption?
I guess we only need to look at our personal consumption to guess the anwer.
Discarded plastic masks are already washing up on Hong Kongâs beaches. In the US, single use plastic usage is estimated to have gone up by a whopping 250-300%. Athens has reported a 150% increase in the amount of plastic in the general waste stream.
And in India, where waste management is already a huge issue, the fight against single use plastic has taken a backseat.
In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, the world has lost the momentum we gained over the past couple of years to reduce single use plastic. Plastic bans and alternatives have been rolled back.
Infact, plastic lobbyists are claiming that single use plastic is a hero in the new normal!
Is it important to reduce single use plastic while weâre in a pandemic?
Iâm sure we havenât forgotten the disturbing visuals of corals covered in single use plastic, turtles choked to death by plastic straws stuck in their nostrils and dead whales found with tonnes of plastic waste in their stomach.
Single use plastic has long been a global crisis. But itâs more important now than ever to reduce single use plastic, for three main reasons:
Also read: 5 Easy Steps Towards Plastic Free Living
So, can we reduce single use plastic while weâre in a pandemic?
Given that health and safety trump all else right now, here are some things worth noting:
In the early days of the pandemic, I decided that personal safety trumped my single use plastic consumption. In just a few weeks, the amount of plastic waste I was disposing became alarming.
So I spent a lot of time researching safe alternatives, and creative hacks to keep my single use plastic consumption as low as possible:
Use reusable multi-layered cloth masks instead of use-and-throw ones
Masks are important for our collective safety, but that doesnât mean we need plastic masks that come out of plastic covers.
According to the WHO, the CDC and Johns Hopkins University, those of us not interacting directly with positive or suspected positive people (i.e doctors, nurses etc), are safe enough using non-medical cloth masks. N95 and surgical masks are use-and-throw masks made of non-biodegradable plastic â taking upto 450 years to degrade! Instead, we can opt for multi-layered cloth masks, which can be washed and reused.
I bought a set of five cloth masks from Pulkar â an organisation in Dehradun that supports womenâs livelihoods. I find cloth masks far more breathable, comfortable (instead of elastic bands around the ears, they have to be tied behind), stylish and affordable.
After each use, I sanitize and quarantine them for upto 48 hours (the virus is expected to survive on cloth fabric about as long as cardboard). And when Iâm doing my laundry, toss them into the washing machine.
Also read: How to Indulge Your Wanderlust at Home
Opt for eco-friendly e-commerce sellers who donât wrap everything in plastic
I think Iâve lost some of my sanity constantly outraging at Amazon and Urban Platter deliveries that arrive smothered in plastic for no good reason. I mean, why do non-breakable things like a pressure cooker whistle, a pan and even a pillow need to be wrapped in plastic?!
I limit using e-commerce for exactly this reason (aside from usually being somewhere too remote to receive deliveries and having no permanent address to receive them either). But now, in the midst of a pandemic with disrupted supply chains, closed shops and safety concerns, e-commerce is very much a part of my life.
Over time though, Iâve learnt to identify sellers that are conscious about not using single-use plastic:
Search for eco-friendly products
We needed a bunch of air tight containers so I searched for eco-friendly storage containers and zeroed in on the Star Work glass jars. Their products had great reviews and emphasized being environmentally friendly. And sure enough, despite being made of glass, the jars were delivered without any single-use plastic!
On the other hand, the couple of things I ordered from Amazon Basics came wrapped in layers of plastic despite being non-breakable. Ugh.
Now whenever we need anything, I use âecoâ or âeco friendlyâ as a suffix while searching for it to identify plastic-free sellers.
Read reviews that mention the packaging
When Iâm unable to find any eco-friendly sellers, I check if the reviews mention packaging â either while generally reading reviews or by doing a quick Ctrl+F search.
Leave public feedback for sellers, both positive and negative
I know it sounds like one more thing to do. But unless brands and sellers hear that we value plastic packaging free products and deliveries, theyâre unlikely to make any changes.
Every time I receive an order, I try to leave public feedback on the e-commerce platform mentioning the packaging. Praising it if it is single-use plastic free. And highlighting the unnecessary use of plastic, which is more often the case.
Amazon has the option of seller feedback as well as product review. The former seems to be private feedback, though it does impact rankings on Amazon. I try to fill in both.
If enough of us do this, my hope is that Amazon will take notice and include a feature to rank packaging. Perhaps even a way to filter products with eco-friendly packaging!
Insist that informal home deliveries are single-use plastic free and return the packaging immediately
Iâve switched from frequenting organic farmersâ markets wherever in the world I am, to ordering vegetables and fruits on whatsapp from local farmers or shops that stock their produce. Given that social distancing is hard at supermarkets and grocery stores, itâs prudent to have things delivered at home as much as possible.
That has one negative side effect though â plastic bags.
When I place an order, I always insist that they not be delivered in plastic bags. Thatched baskets, cardboard boxes and cloth bags are all good alternatives. In any case, I try to immediately empty the products into my own containers and return the packaging to (hopefully) be re-used.
This is also a great way of ensuring that I have the least possible interaction with a surface that might have been touched by multiple hands and possibly be carrying the virus. If I accept the packaging, Iâd have to find a way of discarding it â increasing both, my exposure and trash.
Carry a washable cloth bag and reusable containers for takeaway
As India and the world slowly start to open up and emerge into a new ânormalâ, Iâve been thinking of how I can be both safe and environmentally-friendly.
Iâve been carrying reusable cloth bags for several years, and I think theyâre our best bet now during the pandemic. Carrying my own bag means I donât have to expose myself to plastic bags that have passed through multiple hands, on which the virus can survive for 2-3 days! Instead, I get home, empty my cloth bag and wash it with soap and water.
Iâve decided that no matter how much I crave diverse food during the pandemic, Iâll only ever order from places that deliver in eco-friendly packaging. In Hyderabad for instance, Le Terrassen Cafe has been using non-plastic single use cutlery and glass bottles. In Goa, Saraya has initiated a daily meal plan where lunch is delivered in returnable steel tiffins.
When I really want food from elsewhere â a slice of indulgent vegan chocolate cafe for instance â I will continue to carry my own resuable container. Again, relatively safer, washable and better for the planet.
A âsanitize, quarantine and reuseâ routine rather than an open and throw routine
When I heard that the virus can survive upto 72 hours on plastic surfaces, my first instinct was to open every plastic bag of grocery (unfortunately I didnât have access to an organic zero waste store), empty it into a container and toss the plastic bag into the bin.
But each time I did that, I felt horrified. Especially when the bag was a resealable bag that I would normally have re-used.
I then read safety recommendations by North Carolina State University, and was relieved to learn that itâs okay to re-use bags as long as they are cleaned and disinfected.
Now, instead of the âopen and throwâ routine, I wash the outside of any plastic bag that enters the house, dry it and store it in a cupboard. Empty the contents in a container when needed. Sanitize it again if Iâm feeling extra paranoid, quarantine it for a few days further and re-use it.
Experiment, make and grow more at home
Some of us have a lot more time at hand with no social outings and travelling on the cards. Iâve been finding some solace in the kitchen, as well as in growing vegetables, herbs and microgreens.
I never imagined that someone like me, with a marked lack of cooking ability, could bake a good loaf of bread. After a disastrous first time, it turned out surprisingly easy and tasty!
Itâs been fulfilling to make, bake and grow my own. And it also means Iâm consuming more home-grown, organic, chemical-free food, and creating less waste, especially single use plastic.
Segregate waste and consider eco-bricking
I know Iâve been talking about segregating waste far too often on my blog and Instagram. But I just canât wrap my head around the fact that the vast majority of us still doesnât choose to segregate!
All it takes is two separate bins for wet and dry waste. The wet waste can be composted, even if you live in an apartment (consider the Eco Bin). Dry waste should ideally go to a recycling facility. Else it can be given away to a local ragpicker who is likely to salvage as much as possible. Further segregating dry waste into glass bottles, cartons etc can make processing of the waste easier.
Unfortunately though, single-use plastic is such low grade plastic that it canât be recycled. If burnt, it releases toxic chemicals. If sent to landfill, it ultimately leaches into the groundwater or lands up in the ocean. The best solution so far â besides reducing consumption of course â might be to create ecobricks. Then pool them together with a community of people and build any needed structure.
Also read: Quarantine Recycling: Staying green under quarantine
What else can we do?
Advocate for policy change
Even though the fight against single-use plastic looks pretty dismal during this pandemic, I feel hopeful about the possibility of policy action since itâs already happening in Thailand. In Bangkok, an awareness campaign to segregate waste is already underway, along with setting up of public collection points for plastic waste to be recycled.
Can this happen in India? With a combination of aware, conscious, motivated citizens demanding action from local, state and central governments â absolutely.
Ask e-commerce platforms to introduce a packaging rating and filter
We collectively need to ask e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and Urban Platter to introduce a feature to rate the eco-friendliness of sellers and products. A filter to sort products by planet-friendly packaging could make it easier to identify brands that care about reducing plastic waste. A rating system can allow consumers to easily share feedback.
The best way to do this is using social media, and tagging your local e-commerce providers.
According to UN Environment, nearly 13 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans every year. In the Mediterranean Sea alone, the WWF estimates that the equivalent of 33,800 plastic bottles are dumped into the water every MINUTE.
Thatâs in an average year. I shudder to think what 2020 means for the oceans, marine life, groundwater and our own health.
Have you noticed changes in your plastic consumption during the pandemic? What steps are you taking / going to take to reduce single use plastic?
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Meet Tshering Denkar, an intreprid solo female traveller and Bhutanese blogger, documenting her Bhutan solo travel adventures.
I was in awe of Tshering Denkar even before I met her.
I first read her travel blog â Denkarâs Getaway â after receiving an invitation to share the stage with her at the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival in Bhutan. She had spent the past couple of years travelling solo across the length and breath of her own country. Hiking, hitch-hiking and living with indigenous communities in remote mountain hamlets!
Travelling is never about the labels. But being Bhutanâs first solo female traveller and the first Bhutanese blogger in the travel space is a pretty big deal.
I mean, scan through global travel writing archives â or even articles about travelling in Bhutan â and tell me how many voices of intrepid female South Asian travellers can you find?
In Thimphu, I finally met Denkar â full of energy, excitement and humor â and despite being an introvert myself, we immediately connected through our mutual love for the road. Her travel stories eventually led us to Haa Valley and plans to explore the remote eastern provinces someday.
While hiking with Denkar in the mountains of Thimphu, I learnt how the King of Bhutan reads her travel blog and even invited her to meet him! He encouraged her to keep exploring the wonders of Bhutan, and inspire more Bhutanese people to explore their own country.
In this post:
An unexpected journey
Prior to becoming a full time traveller, I was teaching in a prison in Thailand. One day, an inmate asked me, âTeacher, how is the world outside?â ~ Denkar
Denkarâs journey towards becoming a travel blogger and vlogger started in the most unlikely of places â a prison.
She travelled to Thailand to volunteer as an English teacher, and ended up staying longer to pursue further studies. While volunteering, she got the opportunity to teach at a prison in the Phitsanulok province in northern Thailand.
One day, an inmate asked her a question that would compel her to re-evaluate her life choices. How is the world outside? she wanted to know.
Denkar says she was haunted by that question, and slowly began to cherish the things she had always taken for granted. The freedom to be outdoors, explore, travel, meet new people and have interesting experiences.
She ended up backpacking across Southeast Asia, then decided to explore her own home country, Bhutan! For the past two years, sheâs been travelling solo, living with locals across the many dzongkhags (districts) of Bhutan.
Also read: From panic to positive living: The pandemic in Bhutan by Denkar
Bhutan solo travel
Dance to your own music and let the world blend into your tune. ~ Denkar
Denkar vividly recalls her first solo trip in 2018.
She bade goodbye to apprehensive friends as she boarded a local bus to Phobjika valley â alone, with a one way ticket! She was on a tight budget, and had made up her mind to hitchhike and couch surf if she needed to.
As the bus winded along the gorgeous green mountains, she felt herself connecting with the wanderer within. She quickly made new friends, felt determined to chart her own path and ended up staying longer than planned.
And she hasnât looked back since. Phobjika became the first of many, many solo travel adventures across Bhutan. Seeking refuge wherever she found it, connecting with locals and going deeper wherever she went.
Also read: How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears
Funding her adventures and becoming the first Bhutanese blogger in the travel industry
My greatest achievement is that people understand what I do now! ~ Denkar
Like most South Asian parents, Denkarâs were worried about her financial well-being. The idea of spending hours behind a laptop at home or being paid to travel is still pretty alien in this part of the world.
Denkarâs father wanted her to work as a civil servant after she returned to Bhutan with a masters degree from Thailand. But she knew she wanted to do something different. She never saw herself fitting into a traditional work environment.
So she set out to prove that she could make a living from travel blogging / vlogging. Sheâd be the first of her kind in Bhutan!
And she did it. Her primary source of income is content writing. She also partners with like-minded brands on her travels.
She says her parents are now obsessed with her travel stories and offbeat adventures across the country!
Social stereotypes and hitchhiking in Bhutan
Denkar has hitchhiked to the remotest of villages in Bhutan on trucks and boleros! As in the rest of the world, hitch-hiking is considered a big NO for Bhutanese woman.
But when Denkar began fighting the social stereotype and putting her faith in strangers, she learnt that hitchhiking in Bhutan is safe as long as you keep your wits about you. She has hitched rides with mountain porters, truck drivers and students. Some bought her lunch. Some shared their deepest secrets with her. Many probably drew inspiration from her fearless ways.
Offbeat Bhutan solo travel recommendations
Explore Panbang in one of Bhutanâs most remote districtsâ
Until a couple of decades ago, little was known about Panbang in Bhutanâs Zhemgang Dzongkhag, close to Manas National Park in India. Despite some recent development, the locals still live in thatched bamboo and grass roof houses, believe in shamans and drink tongba (fermented millet brew)!
Trek to Nuptsonapata in Haa Valley
Denkar says one of her all-time favorite treks in Bhutan was to Nuptsonapata in Haa Valley. Arduous though it was, it was filled with lush mountains, wildflowers, rare white poppies, an encounter with nomadic shepherds and an emerald lake!
Meeting the King of Bhutan as the first Bhutanese blogger / vlogger!
Besides being recognized as Bhutanâs first travel blogger, Denkar says being invited to meet the King of Bhutan in 2019 was her lifeâs greatest honor.
âWe need to breathe Bhutan,â he told her. He spoke about the beauty of Bhutan and the need for Bhutanese people to explore more of their own country. Denkar says it was then that it really struck her. Her journey as a blogger could make a difference in the way her own people (along with those outside) saw Bhutan.
She pledged to the King that she would travel far and beyond to bring fascinating stories about Bhutan to the world.
Advice for women who want to follow their solo travel dreams
Denkar: âI believe if you travel solo far and long enough, you will meet your true self. My only advice is stop being a couch potato, wishing âif onlyâ your life was like that of someone you follow online.
If you feel you want to go out there and experience the world, do what it takes. Make the emotional commitment, carve your own path, get ready for some sacrifices and prove to yourself and those around you that you can do it.
Go be the author of your own story.â
How did you find the courage to take your first solo trip? Or whatâs stopping you? Do you follow any Bhutanese blogger?
This post is part of my Solo Travellers Series â which aims to shed the spotlight on solo travellers from across Asia. Courageous souls who are challenging conventions in their own fierce ways yet typically underrepresented in the travel space.
If youâve met inspiring solo travellers from Asia who I could consider featuring in this series, please connect us!
Other posts from the solo travel series
Thanks to Tshering Denkar and Remya Padmadas for their inputs.
The post Meet the Bhutanese Blogger and Solo Traveller Unearthing Bhutanâs Best Kept Secrets. appeared first on The Shooting Star.
Meet the Bhutanese Blogger and Solo Traveller Unearthing Bhutanâs Best Kept Secrets. published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
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Travelling to Lesotho from South Africa? We nearly got stranded while crossing the South Africa Lesotho border at Maseruâs Pioneer gate!
We rang in 2020 in a remote village in Lesotho, hanging out with its Basotho people and trying to pick up a few words in their Sesotho language!
So we applied for a single-entry e-visa for Lesotho and got an approval within 2 days. Arranged a Lesotho driving permit, booked an overnight bus from Cape Town to Bloemfontein (the closest South African city to Lesotho), picked up a rental car from Bloemfontein and drove into Lesotho. An insanely beautiful country, nicknamed the âKingdom in the Skyâ because it has the highest lowest point in the world! â£
The plan was to spend the holiday season in Lesotho. Then use our multiple-entry visa to return to South Africa. Weâd drive all the way to Kruger National Park and spend a week there. And just before our South Africa visa expired, return our rental car in Johannesburg and board a flight to India.
We had our documents and visas in order. The plan was foolproof. Or so we thought.
Entering Lesotho: The South Africa Lesotho border
After a 1.5 hour drive from Bloemfontein, we arrived at the Van Rooyen bridge â one of the border checkposts to enter Lesotho.
Crossing was a cake-walk: Park the car on the South African side, get an exit stamp and drive across. Then park the car on the Lesotho side, get an entry stamp, pay 40 Rand for the car and drive through. No questions asked, no documents (other than the Lesotho e-visa) checked.
Exiting Lesotho: The Lesotho South Africa borderâ£
After nearly 10 days of living in traditional rondavels (round houses), hiking with a local female guide, spotting rainbows, gazing at starry night skies and trying the local sorghum beer, we bade goodbye to Lesotho.
This time, we drove via Maseru (the capital of Lesotho) to the Pioneer gate to re-enter South Africa. Followed the cars at the border to a drive-through exit immigration, where we got stamped out of Lesotho. Handed over the exit vehicle stamp and got onto Maseru Bridge leading to South Africa.
Our car crawled along Maseru Bridge in a massive traffic jam. Alongside, droves of people walked across the border. It felt like a mass exodus from Lesotho to South Africa just like Iâd imagine happens at the Mexico-US border.
We finally hit the South African immigration, and things started going downhillâ¦
Asked to go back to Lesotho despite a multiple-entry visa for South Africa
We joined the long immigration queue to re-enter South Africa. Sweating in the heat, crawling forward bit by bit, we had no idea what awaited us at the counter.
My partner and I submitted our passports together to the South African immigration officer.
He quickly scanned and stamped mine. But when it came to my partnerâs passport, he started going over each page. Finally, slowly, he looked up and asked, where is your South Africa visa?
Of course it was right there, covering an entire page in the passport. Exactly the same as mine. A multiple entry visa that granted us multiple entries into South Africa. Valid for 3 months. Valid for entry before a date in October.
Thatâs the date he pointed to, saying the visa had already expired! But you see, we had already entered South Africa (the first time) before the said date. Having done that, the visa allowed us multiple entries over 3 months. We showed him our original entry stamp and tried to explain the situation.
But he told us, quite condescendingly, that we must go back to Lesotho and apply for a new South Africa visa.
To be honest, we didnât have many options:
Our only option was to beg this unreasonable man to stamp us in, or remain in no manâs land!
Acknowledging our lack of options, we asked the visa officer if we could speak to his supervisor. That enraged him, but he left his cubicle with our passports as we followed him.
But instead of going into the adjacent immigration building, he stopped to show our passports to a man who seemed to us like a security guard! His uniform was different, and he was carrying takeaway food. Still we tried to plead our case with him, but the two men rudely told us to shut up. Then with an air of finality, they firmly told us that our visas had indeed expired.
Also read: Four Years of Travelling Without a Home
Finally, a helpful officer
By now, we were seething with anger.
We stood outside in the hot sun, discussing, debating what to do. The weird thing was the officer had already stamped my passport but refused to return it to me. One option wouldâve been for me to enter South Africa alone and plead our case at the nearest Indian embassy. Atleast there were some cans of emergency vegan food lying around in the car â incase one or both of us had to spend the night in this godforsaken no manâs land without our passports!
Seeing us standing around for the next hour, a female officer stepped out of the immigration building to ask if we had been helped. It seemed like she already knew why we were waiting.
Finally she led us to a senior immigration officer, this time a real one, with a formal uniform and name tag. He patiently heard us out, walked us to our original visa officerâs counter, went over our passports, determined that our multiple entry visa holds and stamped my partnerâs passport.
As he returned our beloved passports â stamped and ready to go â he laughed and said, âWhere are the rupees?â
On hindsight, what really happened
Crossing the border back into South Africa was such a relief! We cursed and laughed and thanked our stars.
But as we pieced together the previous few hours, some things stood out:
That was, no doubt, one crazy border crossing experience. But to be honest, after spending 70+ days in lockdown, I would go back in a jiffy even to that crazy day at the South Africa Lesotho border
Have you had any unexpected visa encounters on your travels?
The post How We *Almost* Got Stranded in No Manâs Land at the South Africa â Lesotho Border. appeared first on The Shooting Star.
How We *Almost* Got Stranded in No Manâs Land at the South Africa â Lesotho Border. published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
via Tumblr How We *Almost* Got Stranded in No Manâs Land at the South Africa â Lesotho Border.
Physical Educator and sports coach from 6 years , with degree in sports science and physical education from RLT University in US. Coach of football, skating, hockey and rugby teams. Now working as Sports development officer in Perth city.