'A chicken bus ride that changed my life'
Shivya Nath, author of the bestselling travel memoir The Shooting Star, which charts her journey from a small town in India to remote corners of the world, recounts how she made an interesting connection on a bus-ride and how it changed her life.
I had no idea that an ordinary “chicken bus” ride in Nicaragua would transform the way I travel – live. But that’s how it is with the road; it changes you when you least expect it.
I no longer remember what our destination was on that trip, only that the chicken bus – so called because people are crammed in it like chickens – was far more crowded than usual. It was close to New Year and the locals were heading home to the rural countryside.
An old Nicaraguan lady, her arms filled with groceries for the holidays, kept her sack next to my feet. A few second later, I felt the sack move! When staring didn’t work, I asked her in polite Spanish to move it. Minutes later, I felt something poke me. Much to my horror, I realized the sack contained three little squeaking chicks. Wrapped tightly in the sack with no ventilation, they were desperately trying to breathe.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the lady got off at her stop. It seemed she had taken the “chicken bus” too literally. But the breathlessness and helplessness of those squeaking chicks stayed with me. The incident prompted me to research on eggs and what they really were. I was stumped by what I read – about the horrors of egg and dairy production. A vegetarian for over 12 years, I took a decision that day – to turn vegan.
I anticipated that this major change in my diet and lifestyle would compel me to give up my nomadic travel lifestyle and challenge me nutritionally. Instead, over the past 3.5 years of being vegan, I have been to more than 30 countries and acquired the art of travelling as a vegan even in seafood-obsessed Japan, kebab-loving Iran and the tribal regions of Myanmar where every kind of animal makes it to the dinner table. Physically, I am able to hike longer distances than before and less susceptible to common illnesses. Mentally, I feel that the hereditary stress that always plagued me has nearly disappeared, despite my unsteady life on the road.
I can’t help but wonder if I was on that chicken bus just to encounter the old lady with the chicks. Because that’s how it is with the road; it changes you when you least expect it.
Read more about Shivya on her travel blog, or connect with her on Instagram @shivya