When Dia Mirza was a child, she would read Enid Blyton, Rudyard Kipling, or Ruskin Bond and imagine walking through forests or simply, exploring hidden places. “My ambition in life was to travel,” the actor-producer and UN environment goodwill ambassador tells Thrive Global India as we sit down to talk about how she fulfilled her lifelong ambition, and presently draws attention towards the cause of travelling responsibly.
Tell us about your initial years of travelling
After I won Miss India in the year 2000, I was gifted a trip to an overseas destination. But this trip wasn’t so much about the place, it was simply joyous because the first of everything is so incredible. You’re not in a familiar environment, your senses are heightened, your mind opens up, and you see things the way you’ve never been before.
Were you scared?
There was trepidation and nervousness, but I wasn’t scared. I remember I was standing up at the conveyor belt waiting for my bags and feeling relieved when they showed up. I felt capable. Such trips eventually became a realisation in self-discovery.
Was there a trip that changed your life?
Yes. When I represented India at the Miss Asia Pacific competition in Manila, Philippines. I was 18.5 years old. It was just me and my schedule. Just the simple things: waking up on time, getting yourself ready, doing the work that needed to be done, keeping my nerves in check, being away from home, from any kind of safety; it was a life-changing experience.
How are you as a traveller now?
I like to think I am bohemian. But I feel better when I have things planned. When I know where I am staying, where I am going. This is why I love Airbnb, because it gives me an opportunity to know where I am staying, or what kind of world I would be occupying.
When was your last solo trip?
I recently spent 10 days all by myself; travelling to Germany, Munich and then New York before coming back home.
How do you try to be a responsible traveller?
The ideal way to not threaten the environment is to become a hermit, live on the mountain and eat a vegetarian diet, but in our limited capacity, too, there are things we can all do to live and travel responsibly.
For instance, if you less meat, you’re making a huge contribution. If you’re conscious about your fashion choices and use sustainable, recyclable material, you’re making a difference. When you’re travelling, you can still travel responsibly. Make sure to avoid single-use plastic items. Make sure you eat local, buy local, experience local, and contribute positively to where you’re going.
What’s your one tip to be a responsible traveller?
I have three. The best way to be a responsible traveller is to take back what you bring. I carry my own bottle of water. I carry my own shopping bag. And I avoid all kinds of plastic items, which means, I don’t use straws while drinking. It’s better to sip than suck.
What about being able to travel makes you happier?
I think travelling makes you comfortable in your company. It is essential for self-actualisation and discovery to have some time for self that is not shared with anyone. Just ‘being’ is meditative. It infuses light into our spirit. It’s an expansion of your person.