The Journey of a Thousand Miles Began With Curiosity.

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I was 17 when I first left home to study abroad. I had randomly filled out college applications, with no clue of what I really wanted to do. All I hoped was to go somewhere far away. When I got accepted into Singapore Management University, I was over the moon. I would live on my own for the first time ever, and I couldn’t wait. But as time came to pack up my life in Dehradun and move far out of my comfort zone, I was terrified. In the days leading up to my departure, the butterflies of nervousness fluttered so hard in my tummy that I fell ill and had to delay my flight.

Over the last few days, I’ve been feeling a similar kind of nervousness.

Of course, I’m in a very different phase of life now. I’m 36, with a whole range of life experiences under my belt, and plenty of grey strands to bear witness! But I type this while in transit to the US, on an educational pursuit I never imagined I’d undertake.

It all began with curiosity. During the void of the pandemic, I tip-toed back into the academic world, hungry to learn more about the climate and biodiversity crisis we’re facing. The next thing I knew, I was neck deep into an invigorating learning journey.

Over the last 2.5 years, I’ve been pursuing a Master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management at Harvard’s DCE from the comfort (zone) of my PJs. Like, literally. I’ve been waking up for classes at 3-am-kind-of hours. I’ve been learning about Regenerative Economics, Life Cycle Assessment, global food systems, the design of renewable energy projects, Scope 1 Scope 2 and value chain emissions – with a focus on regenerative tourism. I’ve outlined research papers on a winter afternoon in a sunny meadow in Himachal Pradesh, listened to lectures on a train in Switzerland, and worked on virtual team assignments from the countryside of Taiwan!

So much has happened along the way. The Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps Fellowship. A Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award. The opportunity to speak at a UNWTO conference in Indonesia. A stronger professional network. Deep dives across various industries. It’s been rewarding, eye-opening and sobering.

Now that I look back at the last couple of years, this educational journey quietly blended into my professional and personal commitments. It’s been intense, yes. Full of stressful deadlines and long reads, yes. But it’s felt like an extension of my life.

However, now that I’m heading to Boston to work on my capstone and finish my degree over the summer, the butterflies have started to flutter. I can feel all kinds of emotions flying around in my gut. I’m thrilled, but also nervous to spend time on the 17th century Harvard campus that has inspired some great minds over the ages. I feel anxious as I delve deeper into my capstone – not just from the academic pressure, but also the climate anxiety stemming from my research around climate adaptation solutions in tourism. I’m filled with so much gratitude, but also the goddamn Imposter Syndrome that seems to have permanently seated itself in my head. I know I’m going to be with my tribe, but I also remain an introvert.

I can’t see the finish line yet but I know it’s there. It was never about the destination anyway; it was entirely about the journey. A journey that began with mere curiosity, and turned into a thousand miles.

What direction has your professional life taken in recent times, and how are you feeling about it?

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  1. Congratulations Shivya, for so many milestones in your career and best wishes for your next academic success. In my case, I have quit from corporate life and taken up full time blogging. I hope I will be able to survive the storms. (We follow each other on IG @pedalandtringtring) Regards Vijay Malhotra.

  2. Congrats and best wishes, Shivya. Life is an interesting journey, I hope you can make a positive contribution towards climate change with your pursuits.

  3. Amazing Shivya! What a wonderful and inspiring life you are living. I never cease to be amazed by your endeavors. Well done and good luck. Life is both journeys and destinations.

  4. What an inspiring read! Your journey beautifully captures the essence of travel driven by curiosity. It’s amazing how each step taken out of wonder leads to unforgettable experiences and personal growth. Thank you for sharing such an uplifting story!

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