(What did you think!)
“Have you ever been out of India?”
“Yes! I have been to Goa.”
This is a common joke we shared.
10 months ago, I had taken a decision to do something outrageous. Ummm… Solo-travelling. It was outrageous because no one had ever done anything like this in my family, and ‘women solo traveling’ or ‘women backpacking’ is still a rare known concept in India. It also meant quitting a high paying corporate job, giving up the comfort of my usual life, travelling in local trains and staying in budget hotels. And, I was planning to do all of that and much more.
My stars must have been at a perfect cosmic balance because the rest of the process became simple, and I took off for my first solo travel to Goa. Why Goa? Because I had been there four times ALREADY! Why Goa again? BECAUSE I had been there four times already! And, BECAUSE everybody likes to take precautions during their first time (at least), don’t we?
Once in Goa, I decided to volunteer at a BnB that was a 7 minute walk and 3.5 minutes run from the beach. I know this because we always waited for the sun to go half way down before we ran to catch a glimpse of the sunset.
Anyway, this is what I learned there:
Lesson 1: If you have to chase after something, then chase after the sun rising or setting. Money, success, and fame are overrated anyway.
Lesson 2: Sleeping through a yoga class on the beach is also considered yoga since yoga is about relaxation and if you are relaxed enough to be sleeping during a class without a problem then you are relaxing. Duh!! I am sure you didn't know this.
Lesson 3: If you want to be a chef, forget Masterchef Challenges. Just cook a huge meal for your friends and family and see them all smiling and appreciating your masterpiece even when it’s impossible for them to pronounce what it’s called. Ummm… Like baigan ka bharta (mashed eggplants cooked in Indian spices).
Lesson 4: Goa isn't only about beaches, booze, and Baga. It’s also about smiling faces, English speaking cab drivers and vegetable sellers, Prawn Xacuti, and scooter rides. Yeah, there is no part of Goa you can’t reach if you have a scooty (or rent one), and 2 bottles of petrol for INR 70 each (maybe INR 80 now).
Lesson 5: Goa isn't the party capital of India because of its extravagant Christmas and New Year celebrations neither because of the Sunburn festival held each year. Truth be told, it is the party capital of India because, in Goa, a group of 3 Djembe players casually doing what they do best can attract the entire beach crowd to give in to the music.
Well! These are some of the many things that I never experienced or observed when I travelled to Goa before. I don't blame anybody because back then I was just a tourist on a tour. Travelling like a traveler wasn't so familiar to me.
Since Goa, I have travelled to many other parts of India – places that I haven't been to before and the ones that were a bit out of my comfort zone. But, I realized unless I was willing to kick my comfort zone on its “you know where," I would never see what the world has to offer me. Wow! It almost rhymes.
I read a quote that said or meant that one shouldn't go backwards unless that’s where they plan on travelling. So, I guess I have had too much of Goa already. I have done the beaches, the booze, the Baga, and I have done the smiling faces, the English speaking cabbies and vegetable sellers, the Prawn Xacuti, and also the scooty ride. Oh! I must not forget the serene sunrises and equally beautiful sunsets. Oh! I also must not forget the 3 Djembe players. I almost fell in love with the Italian one by the way. Never mind me; I have a thing for Italians (everybody in their right sense do).
Having said all of that, I want to mention that I may not go back soon but my love for the smallest state of India has grown to the biggest possible form. From ancient forts to magnificent churches, from bars to fish museums, from cruises to ferry boats, Goa has it all.
Warning: Don’t spend more than a few days though because Goa transforms you as a person (saying out of personal experience and experience that I witnessed). It will get you addicted to the lifestyle you may not find anywhere else.