Indore based travelpreneur and social media influencer Aakash Ranison has added the 'sustainability' layer to the fancy concept of wanderlust.
The 26-year-old is a vegan, lives a minimalist lifestyle, is a climate activist, and strives for sustainability for a better future. He travels around the world, documents and advocates stories of change to make the younger generation aware of the irreversible damage being caused due to human activity.
Rewinding to his childhood that was the stepping stone to his resolute towards sustainable travelling.
"My mother had remarried when I was young. One wrong decision paved way for innumerable sufferings in my life. Financial constraints, domestic abuse, unhealthy relationships and living with people who don't attach value to education was a recipe for disaster. My mom tried hard to protect me from every external factor that would impact my mental well-being but somewhere with fighting the internal conflicts and learning to survive in the bare minimum, I was learning exceptional life skills," shares Akash.
Aakash tells The Logical Indian about the days he faced a social boycott in his school because of his not-so-conforming standards. He says that he had to fight difficult times when children at his school would look down upon him because of his family, his financial situation, and his out-of-the-box learning concept.
"I was not good at studies. It was difficult for me to cram notes and sit for an examination that I could not understand the relevance of, in my life. If I knew the significance of a lesson, I can put my heart and soul into the learning but if I cannot, it's a downward spiral journey. What's interesting was, at this point, I had taken the steering wheel in my own hands and if there was an accident I was aware of it," says Aakash.
When Aakash was 15, he was attracted to computers. He wanted to get into one of the computer courses but unfortunately could not afford which led him to think about the socio-economic gap.
Experiencing the lack of equal learning opportunities and drawing inspiration from the teachings of Swami Vivekananda helped him come up with his own NGO, The Golden Bird Foundation that works towards providing education to the underprivileged and help them live their dreams.
"I was in Class 12 when I started this NGO. Practically, I was just a kid out of school but managing that organization taught me crucial life skills. I knew I was working to build a community and that helped me connect with people. Marathons, flash mobs and cyclathon were organised. Suddenly, with just a backpack, I was out in the real world, setting up meetings with big corporates to talk them on sponsoring the activities," recalls Aakash.
With this on the go learning, Aakash smoothly donned the role of an entrepreneur. He was pitching ideas, honing his communication skills, making presentations and marketing his strategies.
"In 2014, during one of those cyclathon events, I got my first cycle and life was never the same. It became one of the most prized possessions which intrigued me into travelling and opened the doors of crossing boundaries. I have cycled through Kashmir to Kanyakumari," exclaims the young changemaker.
With almost nil formal schooling, Aakash always resorted to finding his teachers from history books. He tells The Logical Indian that he learnt grit and determination from Swami Vivekanda, took lessons of fearlessness and fighting for what one believed in from Bhagat Singh, drove his fascination for design from Steve Jobs and countless others.
"Mahatma Gandhi was an important influence too," he says while conversing about his real-life mentors. He observed that Gandhi took to walking as a sign of protest which was powerful.
"Walking was not for the faint-hearted and that's when I started walking. I walked and covered the distance from New Delhi to Nepal in 101 days. I was experimenting with different modes of travelling which included hitchhiking.
On being asked about the lessons during his travel, an elated Aakash tells that each day of being on his own taught him to believe in himself. He would request rides from strangers whenever he was tired, or ask locals to help him out with food and stay. For the money, he would juggle between menial jobs like working in a Dhaba to getting compensated for using his social media expertise in helping organisations up their digital game.
"I was travelling to places and looking at the transforming urban ecosystem. The locals would tell me stories about the before and after. I witnessed a massive amount of plastic pollution, the green cover being replaced by cemented infrastructure and people's indifference towards it and it was worrisome! During my journey, I started researching about it. I read a lot, watched documentaries, had a dialogue with people about environment degradation and came across the term 'climate change'. Delved deeper only to find out that plastic was just the tip of the iceberg," he tells The Logical Indian.
The answers led to bigger realisations in Aakashs's life which prompted him to switch to zero flights, zero plastic and zero waste lifestyle. He also turned vegan to cut down on his methane footprint and started looking for sustainable alternatives to his existing choices.
"After I made significant changes in my life, I started communicating about it. TED talks, Google Talk happened. I started working on my social media platforms to educate people about climate change, sustainability and responsible travelling. I was putting up photographs and video content from the travelling days and writing about the experiences and people found it different from other travel influencers, they were interested in my storytelling. I think this distinction helped me collaborate with brands," he adds.
Saying no to single-use plastic which includes ditching plastic cutlery to sustainable alternatives, being a part of the climate change dialogue to become self-aware and to be mindful of the use of resources are some of the changes that the young travelpreneur advises people to adopt.
"Climate change is not a complicated concept. It is not the deterioration of the ecosystem or deforestation. It is a change in the atmospheric conditions where humans cannot survive. It is impossible to survive in the Moon or the Sun, the only planet that supports human existence is the Earth and our activities are jeopardising our existence on this planet," he says.
Pointing to the root cause of climate change, Aakash mentions American author Simon Senek's leading with an infinite mindset. He says the people in the current scenario are delaying their responsibility to start working towards saving the planet which is a sign of a finite mindset.
"The infinite mindset always thinks about the perpetual consequences of the actions. Something that is definitely going to stay beyond his existence. If I simply toss a cold drink can on the road without thinking about all the possible damages it is going to cause to the ecosystem, this finite mindset is going to make us lose all the important battles and this needs to change," he adds.
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