One of the most hands-on climate activists around, Aakash Ranison uses the power of social media to drive change everyday. He has managed to seamlessly intertwine his love for travel along with his passion to fight climate change. He shares with us everything he’s learnt on this journey called ‘life’. By Charu Chowdhary
1. You are a traveller and a climate activist. Can you give a low-down on how you bring these two together?
When I started travelling in 2014, I immediately noticed how our natural resources were degrading. People were misusing natural resources, and dumping plastic, paper and cloth without giving it a second thought. That’s when I started watching documentaries, reading articles and educating myself about climate change. That’s also when my journey as a climate activist and being a responsible traveller began. I prefer walking, cycling or hitchhiking, and I try to choose trains and buses over flights. I’ve adopted a vegan lifestyle and only take up projects that combine all of my passions. In fact, recently in Kerala, I did a beach clean up, collected over 800 kg of solid waste, and created an art installation called the World’s First Marine Cemetery with it.
2. At 24, what makes you walk this path you’ve chosen for yourself?
When I had to pay my own school fees at the age of 15, I realised that if I fall, I will have to get up on my own, learn and move on. After failing countless times in life, I can safely say that I have finally found what I truly feel passionate about. Travelling and climate change are extremely close to my heart. So, why waste time doing anything else? Ever since I started walking this path in 2014, I have been feeling a whole other level of energy. Each day, I give it my best and focus on learning new skills. The two reasons I think I have created a niche for myself with the work I do on the blogosphere, and otherwise, is because I’m constantly honing my craft and networking.
3. Ranison is a unique surname. What’s the story behind your last name?
Earlier, my name was Aakash Mishra. One day, in August 2015, while cycling from Chennai to Bangalore, I asked myself why I was given this name. I argued with myself reasoning that Aakash represents confidence, limitless, and endless, whereas my last name — Mishra — represents patriarchy, caste and religion. My parents got separated when I was 12, and I have literally been brought up by my mother. Now, to keep my surname was not only a disservice to my mother, but it was also feeding the age-old practice of patriarchy. Because of this, I changed my last name to Ranison — my mom’s name is Rani, and I’m her son.By the time I reached Bengaluru, I knew what my new name would be. After all, she has sacrificed a lot for me to smile.
4. You have walked 8,000+kms, cycled 20,000+kms and hitchhiked 50,000+kms until now. Is that right?
Yes, that is correct. My mantra is simple — I do what I love, and I love what I do. Which means I travel, trek, kayak, ski, go on adventures, laugh, fail and get back up without keeping a tab on the numbers. I am 24 right now, and I’m clear that I have just started. There’s a long way to go. I aspire to do and be a lot more in life. Walking, cycling and hitchhiking are the driving forces in life. They push me to keep going, and fill my heart with immense joy and happiness.
5. How do you integrate veganism and minimalism in your lifestyle while travelling?
Adopting a vegan lifestyle might look tough on the outside, but once you take the first step, things magically start to fall in place. I can safely say that being on a vegan diet has not only given me proper nutrition, but has also boosted my health enough to allow me to keep cycling, walking, trekking, without ever facing a deterioration of health.
As far as minimalism is concerned, I believe it truly is a blessing. When you don’t own a lot of things, you travel light and fast. You don’t need a lot of money to maintain this lifestyle, and consequently, your carbon footprints are low as well. So, while I save money by not buying unnecessary things, I end up saving the planet as well. Plus, I get to travel more with the money I save.
6. What’s the secret behind the gorgeous photographs on Instagram?
More than the gadgets and gear, the credits for the composition of my images on Instagram page goes to my mother. It’s her upbringing that taught me to keep everything aligned, and in its place. I apply the same rule while taking pictures as well, and use the concept of Leading Lines — a technical term for this rule. Also, for the last 10 or more years, I have been using iPhones. It’s been more than four years since I started using GoPros, and occasionally, I use a Canon camera as well.
7. Your favourite places in India where eco-tourism is picking up?
Spiti Valley. I love the place! First, because it is so beautiful, and second, because many tourists don’t visit the area since it is so difficult to reach. That’s why I visit it every year to get my share of peace. I feel comfortable in Spiti because of an NGO named Spiti Ecosphere. They share my passion and interest in climate change, and work tirelessly towards making travelling in Spiti sustainable. The credit goes to the kind founder Ishita Khanna, who is driving eco-tourism in this gorgeous Himachali place one step at a time.
8. What’s your most preferred social medium for engaging with your followers?
My most preferred social medium for engaging with followers is Instagram. The youth on this medium are active like never before, which allows me to not only share my travel stories, but also address important issues such as climate change. It is also a beautiful community of many people from different walks of life. So, the chances of my content reaching a large number of people from all across the globe are also high.
9. A few tips on responsible travelling?
- Opt for public transport like trains and buses, and say no to flights whenever possible. You’ll not only end up saving money, you’ll also keep your carbon footprint in check.
- Say no to single-use plastic. Carry your own reusable water bottle.
- Do not litter. Remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Go vegan. By doing this, you will practise compassion towards animals and the planet, both. Going vegan brings down your methane footprint considerably.
- Always volunteer with an NGO that works for the restoration of the environment and the planet.
10. Lastly, how do you find a balance between the impactful work you do and earning revenue?
I’m a believer in the idea that if a person follows his passion, and can better himself and his skill-sets everyday, earning a good revenue is not difficult. In my case, to continue living my dream, I constantly strive to acquire new skills and polish the existing ones. I currently do everything from writing, photography, communications, public speaking, graphic designing and even web designing. That’s how I sustain myself as a traveller and climate activist while earning a decent living for myself.