Heena Shah, also known as ‘Explorer Heena‘. She is a traveler, blogger, and entrepreneur, who is born and raised in Mumbai and grew up in Sikkim, Manipal, Japan, and all over the world wherever she travels, as her love for traveling is insane.
Heena Shah enjoys exploring places, cultures, foods, sights, and languages and meeting new people. The traveler has explored almost 20 countries and has traveled throughout most of India and abroad too. Heena Shah is also a growing entrepreneur who makes postcards and calendars with recycled paper and sells her products on her website.
She is passionate about a sustainable lifestyle and strongly believes in living a sustainable life. Heena Shah thinks nature is our house, and we should protect our house from evils like pollution, deforestation, land degradation, etc., for which humans are ultimately responsible. According to her, the only method to save nature is to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
In conversation with Icy Tales, Heena Shah spoke about her insights into traveling and the importance of a sustainable lifestyle in the modern world.
Q. What has traveling taught you?
Heena Shah: Travelling has taught me to open my mind, meet new people, and accept or understand them better. Last but not least, traveling has taught me how to build connections with people in new places and how to explore new things.
Q. The growth of the travel industry is insane, due to the craze of travel blogging increasing daily. What are your thoughts on that?
Heena Shah: Yes, travel vlogging is increasing daily, but we need to look at how people travel. I don’t believe in hopping from one place to another as others do taking out flights every single day. I believe in sustainable traveling and a sustainable lifestyle.
I prefer to slow down my journey and stay in a place as long as I can. I explore the whole place, and I walk around. I have seen that travel vlogging is becoming more of a show-off than a traveling journey, which I wonder about.
Q. You have mentioned sustainable traveling and sustainable lifestyle. Can you explain what message you are giving from this?
Heena Shah: As I said earlier, we can’t hop our flights every day. As a traveler, we can’t keep resorting to disposing of the just because we want to travel light. We must think of life around us, nature, and, you know, all the generations to come. We should try to keep a balance. We must not leave much behind for everyone else to deal with. This waste is our problem; we must take care of it. Even when we travel, we can choose public transport like the train before taking off the flight or our vehicle.
When using soaps and shampoos from hotels, they usually are in plastic containers; instead of it, why not carry your own? Because you can continue to use it later even if you use a drop of it. I carried my coffee mug and container to take out food, spoons, forks, and cutlery. All of these things are reusable.
We know that disposable things may look more convenient. I try to remind people to carry their bottles and reusable things. Refill water wherever to generate less waste because our resources are declining awfully. That is the real idea.
Q. Why is traveling the best therapy for our soul, and can you tell us some benefits of traveling?
Heena Shah: There are numerous benefits of traveling. It opens up the mind and brings a change in yourself and your general lifestyle, which keeps you on your feet. Because you are thrown into difficult situations every time, you must change according to them. I think it makes you a smarter individual. It helps you to deal with people. Traveling is a very relaxing activity. It forces you to slow down and experience. This soothes our minds and soul.
Q. Tell us about the most interesting part of traveling.
Heena Shah: If I said my experience in India, it would be this, I was in Nagaland, where the people were lovely and interesting to know about. I met so many locals there. Once I had to attend the famous festival of Nagaland – the Hornbill festival; the folk dance and culture were very beautiful.
After the festival, I tried to find a vehicle for my homestay, but I could not do so; randomly, a person who was a part of the festival came up and dropped me at my homestay. That incident changed my mind about the part about North-East India. So I found very lovely people there. I can’t wait to go back there.
Q. We have seen that you made calendars and postcards from recycled paper; when and how did you get this idea, and what motivated you to do so?
Heena Shah: Back in 2013, I met someone in Montenegro, where they told me they exchanged postcards over there from a website name postcrossing.com. I was pretty amazed that they had a friend in Russia and even met them. I was very pumped up when I returned. When I came back to India. In 2014 I started making postcards as it was very hard to find good-quality postcards. I enjoyed photography at one of the few competitions back in my college; I was traveling already. I
had many photos to make a postcard, I just had to get them printed, and that is what I did. I had a stall at a Japanese cultural festival, but I sold out that day. I’m very great full to my teacher who gave me the opportunity.
Then I realized more people around me wanted postcards, whoever was into this hobby, and that’s how this all started. Initially, I was printing on regular texture paper. In 2020, I moved to recycled paper because it was a need of the hour. The other thing with sustainability, you don’t buy new things; you use what you have and make sustainable choices. That’s what I did, and I moved to recycled paper. I think my first calendar may be in 2018. Again I had pictures to put along with months to turn into a calendar.
I didn’t stop there and made a bookmark calendar. These two postcards and calendars have a blank side, so you can write whatever you want at the end of the month. It is multipurpose. In fact, on the bookmarks, you can keep them in the many books you want to read and even use them in a diary. I’m going to try recycled ribbons to tie them and able to hand them on the wall as well.
Q. You believe that having a sustainable lifestyle is good for us; according to you, how important is it to have a sustainable life in today’s world?
Heena Shah: We saw what happened during the pandemic, we created so much waste, especially from the medical industry, like sanitizer bottles and vaccine containers, and everything was coming in plastic wrap. And where is this all going, ultimately? Back to the earth only.
Even if it is recycled, resources are going into it. But there is a limit to how many resources a planet can afford for our use. It is very important to make up for that loss, so it is extremely important to move towards a sustainable lifestyle. Already we are facing climate changes, like forest fires, etc., and so many things which have not happened much before.
Q. There must be a journey full of ups and downs in your life. Would you like to tell us something about your journey and what keep you going in the face of challenges?
Heena Shah: I think it is about helping someone out, just contributing; these things keep me going. If I can make a difference in someone’s life, whatever I do, that works for me.
Q. As we know, pollution is rising daily and becoming a threat to all of us. In cities like Dehli, pollution is reaching new heights and affecting people’s daily routines. What do you have to say about this?
Heena Shah: I think, switch to public transport, educate farmers to tell them to stop burning of remains of the crop which produces an excess of carbon dioxide in nature. But to get rid of this, we should move towards bioplastic. So many people are doing this. Fireworks are a major problem to nature. I think it the high time we should get rid of them. I think those are the major problem in terms of air pollution.
Q. Suggest some easy tips everyone can follow to lead a sustainable lifestyle.
Heena Shah: Carry a reusable bottle with you wherever you go and at any hotel, restaurants refill the bottle, and I’m sure they will happily do it as well. Secondly, carry your container while taking your food; if you have pani-puris or sandwiches, do not take plastic bags, ask the vendor to fill them in your container.
It can be easily cleaned. The same goes for cutlery and coffee mugs. In Starbucks, you get 10 Rupees Off if you bring your coffee mug instead of taking theirs and carrying a cloth bag. I don’t leave without it so I think these are a few tips for getting started.
Heena Shah is a personality who wants to change the mindset about sustainability and unveil the benefits of exploring. She educates many people about sustainable lifestyles and wants a change by making small steps toward saving nature. Heena Shah strongly believes that we have got this environment on lease from our future generations, not as ancestral property. Hence we should not forget to conserve it.