There are some places that feel like home instantly. I’ve only experienced this feeling three times: Canggu, New York, and now Goa. Yeah, I know… they’re all very different. But I think what links them for me is their undeniable sense of community – of belonging.
If someone told me that I’d want to live in India, I’d laugh in their face. I’m an Aussie – I love my space, I’d think to myself. But that’s the unique thing about travel – it proves your assumptions wrong.
When I told friends and family about my plans to visit India, I got one of two responses:
- Oh, that’s amazing. I’d love to go there.
- Why would you want to go to India? It’s way too full on.
Most people, unfortunately, said number two. I guess I was a 50/50. Half of me was excited for the culture shift, while the other part was legitimately scared.
I arrived in Goa, my first stop in India – my guards up, on alert. But within minutes, a wave of peace calmed my body (and mind). This euphoric sense never left during the week I was there.
Palm trees, golden sand, fish curries, rustic wooden beach bars and organic cafes… it doesn’t quite conjure up images of India, does it?
Well, this is exactly what life is like in Goa. Sure, there are a few cows meandering around and colourful tribal ladies encouraging you to see their shop – but everyone seems to enjoy life there. People get along.
Maybe it’s got something to do with the people Goa attracts. The hippie vibe, although subtle, is still alive and kicking. Back in the 70’s, many dreadlocked guys and gals flocked to Goa to celebrate life. The sun, sand and beach shacks had wandering souls doze off under the sun-drenched trees.
And while the happy hippies have moved on as the backpackers start to flock, it’s a place where people come to find community.
Every morning, my friend and I would walk 500m down the street towards Anjuna Beach to Dee’s Café. Nestled between rice fields and the main stretch of beach, this café was decked out with beanbags and coloured with an earthy, maroon wall.
One morning stood out to me more than the others. Two yanks were playing cards on the first table as we walked in. Four older ladies, probably best friends, sat on the beanbags sipping at their espressos. They all wore bandanas and I remember thinking to myself, I hope I’m travelling still when I’m older like that.
Our table, creatively positioned under the fan, was free – like always. A few seconds after I plonked my laptop down on the rustic wooden table, the owner came over. He handed us two coffees said: “Thank you for being our regular customers. It’s on the house.” It was only our third day there, at this stage.
I finished my southern Indian coffee in a minute, which surprised me because it was so hot. My attention soon skipped to another sense, my smell. My nostrils were filled with weed and I look over to see the guys had lit up. My friend and I exchange a giggle.
One week in Goa and we had already made friends. People started to recognise us and I felt like we belonged there. Locals and travellers live in peace together.
The influx of longhaired western youth hasn’t stopped. And coming from Canggu which has quickly turned ‘too cool’ for it’s own good, Goa was refreshing. No one was trying to be anything but themselves. You could see it, feel it.
Moral of the story: Don’t judge a book by its cover. And if you do, expect to be proven wrong. Oh, and don’t listen to someone when they tell you “you shouldn’t’ go to India.”