For millennia, humans have been creatures of locomotion. We explore areas unseen and colonise habitats considered impossible. While a lot of us decided that we are happy to settle down, a brave few continue to embrace the adventure of travel. They navigate seas and scale mountains to tame that itch, finding intricate ways to enjoy both the journey and destination.
Meet Prakriti Varshney, someone who is also afflicted by a bit of the travel bug. And by “a bit”, we obviously jest. Prakriti is a 26-year-old vegan and sustainable traveller who also goes by @itisinthename on Instagram and self-identifies as a freelancer. Her website will tell you that she has a passion for mountain travelling, while a glimpse through her Instagram will convince you she might actually belong there.
At 26, she became one of India’s first vegans to scale Everest. Starting her humble journey as a fully qualified fashion designer, she crowdfunded her way to the foothills of Everest. And 45 days later, she was at the peak — staring down at the Earth with an Indian flag from the highest point on our planet.
Amid such a busy travel schedule, she remembers to follow one thing: being environment-friendly in her travel, clothing and accommodation. And that’s why she is our sustainability travel champion this week. As the world comes out of the shadows of pandemic-induced travel restrictions, it becomes imperative that we learn how to travel sustainably ourselves.
Here, Prakriti shares valuable tips so that first-timers as well as experienced voyagers can still pursue their love of travel in a way that results in minimal damage to our planet. Keep reading to learn how!
What advice would you give to young and experienced travellers who wish to travel sustainably?
Don’t opt for luxury travel! Don’t go where everybody is going, and it automatically becomes sustainable. It’s just the little choices you make while you travel.
For example, a lot of young travellers these days see travel bucket lists on Instagram — ”10 Things You Have To Do in Vietnam”. You shouldn’t be doing them, because there are already a lot of people doing those things. Instead, go talk to locals and find other interesting places.
Don’t go to a place just because of the photographs. Go to new places to explore and see and learn something new. The whole purpose of travel should be to explore, and not to click pictures and make it look dreamy.
Being an ardent believer of veganism, you don’t even indulge in eggs and dairy! Has this ever become a setback during your travels?
I have been climbing mountains since last year. Since you have to be very physically fit for this activity, people told me I would be weak and lethargic due to my diet. They said that I won’t be strong enough to climb a mountain. I recently climbed Everest.
And despite my food restrictions, I was actually living every moment — singing songs, taking videos. And I did not feel the struggle at all! I was absolutely fine. I think it’s just how you see things. I don’t feel like I need dairy at all. I find substitutes.
Even when I was travelling in Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan, and even Thailand, I never had a problem because there were vegetables and rice everywhere.
Sometimes, it can be a struggle to make the restaurant understand because of the language barrier. However, they can easily make whatever you want most of the time, as most places have vegetables and rice available.
Even when I was in Vietnam, it was a little hard to find what I needed. But since I could be conversational with people, I could ask them to make something out of just vegetables, and they did!
In Myanmar, I had a really good time because they have a lot of vegetables and they generally hardly use dairy, which was a bonus! Even the local markets had different vegetables boiled with a little hint of peanut and salt, which was very interesting.
What was your experience like with the Galo and other tribes you met during the Basar Confluence?
These people have naturally always been very sustainable. When I was in Arunachal, I noticed that they had rainwater harvesting systems; they saved and respected water, and understood its importance.
While I don’t live in cities anymore, my family still does. We don’t end up thinking about any of these things in the way these tribal people do. We don’t have enough water, and yet we continuously keep extracting it from underground sources. Sadly, we don’t think about natural resources altogether.
The tribes I met were very in-sync with nature. Like them, I think we should be thoughtful and conscious. That is my main takeaway from all my travels.
How was your experience scaling Mt. Everest? What would you like to tell future aspirants who want to follow in your footsteps?
There are a few things we can do to be a bit more sustainable when we are there. For example, we can avoid taking choppers. A lot of people use helicopters to get around in the area.
When we are preparing for the climb, we do rotation hikes between camp one and camp two. Once we’re acclimatised to 7,000 metres, we go down to treeline-level to breathe better, as oxygen levels are low at base camp, which makes it hard to recover quickly.
A lot of people just end up taking the chopper for this trip —no matter how expensive it may be. This has a large carbon footprint, and it falls in the category of privileged climbing rather than actually being in the mountains. I think there were 20-22 climbers in my team, and about 18 people actually flew back in at least 10 helicopters.
Otherwise, everything was really nice. I don’t think we contributed to climate change, because we were just trekking in the mountains. But we got used to seeing helicopters like we see autos in cities. There was helicopter traffic.
The Khumbu glacier is receding. The temperatures have been rising, and it was very hot at times. Somedays, we were in just t-shirts at the base camp!
However, I had a really nice experience! If you’re going there, you should enjoy every bit of it. And if you’re on your way back, and aren’t that tired, definitely trek back! Just because we have helicopters and money now doesn’t mean we should be using them, and should instead consider their impact on the environment.
Is there anything else you would want people to know?
When people see me following random habits like not buying a plastic bottle, using a plastic straw, or even carrying my own bag and not indulging in packets of Lays, they ask me if what I’m doing is actually helping the environment.
And I just want to say, even if it isn’t helping, do it for your own conscience, do it till you are alive. It might not seem like a huge thing to do, especially considering we’re a population of a billion people. But I think if we all do these small things together, it will help for sure. I urge people, whenever you can, whatever you can do, please try to do your own bit.
Check out Prakriti’s blog to learn about a world of tips on sustainability, solo-travelling, veganism, and more!
The opinions of the expert do not necessarily represent the official views of The Weather Channel.
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