You should be really proud of how much you’ve accomplished so far in your short life. Tell me a little bit about your background and what brought you to where you are today.
Well, thank you! I’m really proud of the journey my 26-years have taken me on. And I don’t have the background most people would expect.
I don’t have a university degree. I dropped out after first year and went to college for Special Event Planning with a focus on nonprofit sponsorship. I worked as a wedding planner, did the 9-5 thing working for a large accounting firming, became one of the youngest Executive Directors in Toronto (maybe even Canada?) and somehow found myself here! Currently, aside from running Hara House, I work as a Content Strategist, help run Causeartist as the Director of Content, and do social media marketing for social good brands across the world.
What is it that sparked a fire in you to create positive impact?
It all started with a documentary actually! When I was in 11th grade, I watched a documentary called “Flow” by Irina Salina. The film opened my eyes to the craziness of the water industry and inspired me to get up and do something. (I’m a HUGE documentary lover and totally think the arts have the power to change the world). My journey with social and environmental impact began when I started my own nonprofit, Raine for Water (which was later renamed to Raine Network which is no longer operating), and used the arts and performance to bring awareness to water sanitation and conservation issues around the world. This led me to Ghana where a friend of mine introduced me to various grassroots projects throughout the country. The trip opened my critical mind to white saviourship, the importance of cultural competency and the burden that large nonprofits and NGOs can actually have on a destination. In 2015, I found myself in India wanting to try my hand at experiential learning, helping manage grassroots development projects in rural Rajasthan, providing tools and resources to locals to become leaders for social good. 6-months quickly turned into 2 years. I returned home in 2016 due to health issues but my journey back to Canada quickly turned into a blessing. Between 2016 and 2017, I was the Executive Director of an incredible organization mobilizing youth for social justice through the arts (which operated in an amazing social enterprise café called Studio.89!). But my heart was still in India. In fall 2017, my business partner, Manoj, and I came up developed the full concept of Hara House and now…well…here I am!
I love the concept of a zero-waste guesthouse. Tell us more about Hara House and the mission behind it.
Hara House is a zero waste guesthouse and social enterprise. We invest 20% of profits into environmental action and education projects in north India. Our social enterprise includes facilitating programming and providing resources to young people to develop their own environmental projects, and equip them with the tools they need to be leaders for social good and business for good.
What’s great about my role with Hara House is, although I’m the co-founder and Business Development Officer, my business partner, Manoj, is the real leader. I wanted to ensure that when we start to grow, the project will remain sustainable. There is nothing worse than a foreigner coming in to start a project and watching it fall apart when they leave. Manoj and I strategize and implement together, but he has final say, and it’s amazing what he’s created already (including a concept for our zero waste desert camp that will open in 2019!). Having this models mean that I can continue to grow the organization without constantly needing to be in Bikaner. I can bring our concept to different cities and states throughout the country, and who knows, maybe even outside of India!
Manoj is a 24-year old entrepreneur himself who has developed a beautiful passion for environmental action and building community. He makes me so excited for what young people of this generation will bring to our world. We first met in 2015 while I was interning for a local NGO. We became great friends, taught each other our languages, started a waste management project together in his village outside of Bikaner, and realized how much we loved working together. When I approached Manoj with the concept in 2017, he jumped at the opportunity (especially with a dream of always wanting to own a restaurant in Bikaner). He has worked at some of the top hotels in Rajasthan, makes the most INCREDIBLE foods, and loves to share his passion for food with others. The fact that our produce comes from his family’s organic farm (and the small rooftop garden we’ve been developing) is a huge bonus!
What does ‘living consciously’ mean to you, and how do you maintain mindfulness while on the road?
To me, living consciously means being mindful of the world around you; people, animals and the planet. Being mindful is all about having a positive mindset and being resourceful with what you have. I maintain my mindfulness by keeping a journal of things I’m grateful for and continually keeping a log of my dreams for the future instead of constantly acting on things in the moment – I have the tendency to overwork myself.
Why do you think it’s important to educate travelers on the impact of tourism?
Currently, only about 10% of the global population travels. But travel is becoming more accessible and we need to carve a path for the other 90% to avoid putting more stress on our environment. I was recently quoted in Causeartist that “travel that positively impacts people and the planet isn’t a trend, it’s how we should have always been approaching travel”. Educating travelers on the simple fact that every action has a reaction is crucial for the sustainability of the industry and of mother earth. Every plastic bottle, every beer you order in a holy city, every communities you force Western influence on, contributes to how tourism impacts our world. These small actions have big consequences. We need to start thinking of ourselves as the change we want to see in the world, and it all starts with our interactions with people and destinations around the world.
Do you have any daily rituals to help you feel grounded?
Physical health is really important to me. If my body doesn’t feel good, my mind won’t either. Every morning I strength and practice breathing exercises (I never call it yoga but everyone around me does), and ensure I get my daily dose of veggies and fruit to keep my body healthy. I travel a lot and get sick really easily when constantly on buses and trains, so keeping healthy keeps me grounded, lowers my anxiety and overall helps me feel good about starting a new day.
What and/or who inspires you to live with passion and purpose?
My mother. She has always encouraged me to chase my dreams and is my biggest cheerleader (but my aunt is a close second). She’s extremely supportive of everything I do and always willing to give me a pep talk when I hit my lows.
Living through my passions is what gives me purpose. I’ve worked (and continue to work) really hard so I can continually do so. I’m really hard on myself though (I’m a Virgo, of course) so having someone to remind me that I’m on the right path means a lot to me.
What’s the favorite place you’ve traveled to and why?
I really enjoyed my trip to Costa Rica this past February. I spent two weeks in the Osa Peninsula (home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity!) with Lokal Travel. I experienced staying in off-the-grid homestays and locally owned hotels in the middle of the jungle, hiking through Corcovado National Park and to hidden waterfalls, eating the most delicious, home cooked foods and developing beautiful connections with locals. It was such a special trip and I got to share my adventure with my cousin who had never left Canada before!
What are some go-to tools you take along with you on your travels to lessen your carbon footprint?
At all times, my backpack is equipped with my:
- Water bottle
- Reusable cutlery set (which includes chopsticks! Love it!)
- Metal straw
- Menstrual cup
- Reusable tote bag (for purchasing bulk items)
- Metro card
Favorite country for food.
I’m sure most people can guess it…India! The street foods of India are OUT OF THIS WORLD and so filled with rich flavors and spices. I love taking food tours whenever I’m in a new city and showing off different dishes to friends and family when they visit.
What places are on the top of your list that you would like to see?
My favorite part of travelling is experiencing culture through food, music and art. Therefore, the top 5 places on my list right now include (and they are totally all over the world!):
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Most likely still in India, continuing to be a resource in helping incredible environmental action projects grow. I’ve been working on a strategy for sustainability and zero waste consulting for the hospitality and tourism industry here in India and would love to see that become my main focus in 5 years from now. And of course, I would love to see another 2 (or 200!) incredible young people implementing Hara House models across the country.
And if you happen to be passing through Northern India, consider booking a stay at Hara House.