Remember when I mentioned in my New Year Resolutions that I’m planning to get out of my comfort zone, even if that means an 8-hour flight across the globe? Well, I did it! I went on holiday in Goa and I’ve returned more refreshed than from any other vacation before!
Believe me when I say, no book, travel guide or movie can prepare you for a trip to India, no matter what others tell you. Not even this blog post, the least you can get is a flavour of what it means. But you must experience it yourself, you must live it with all your senses and allow yourself to be amazed. Go with an open heart, an open mind and no expectations. That’s the best way to enjoy it!
Holiday In Goa: Day 1
I landed jet-lagged after a 7-hour flight overnight to Muscat and a rushed connection from Muscat to Goa. Andreea, my friend who had organised the trip (Travel2Grow), was already there and waiting for me at the airport. During the drive to the hotel my first thought was “What the hell am I doing here?”. Dirt, poverty, mess was all I could see through the car’s windows. The heat was difficult to bear, the traffic was a nightmare. I was tired.
The minute we stepped out on the street for a walk after checking in and taking a quick nap, I had the biggest “Shit, I’m in India” kind of moment. A pack of motorcycles was driving towards us and I had no idea what to do, no sidewalk to step on. They didn’t seem to abide by any traffic rules and yet they looked like they knew what they were doing. They were easily avoiding pedestrians and honking not angrily but for safety, to make their presence known in traffic. It was an organized craziness that they were understanding, but for me, an outsider, it looked scarier than the twilight zone. First impression, checked. First rule: there are no rules. Right, I can do this!
I was still feeling tense after walking on unknown territory, my level of awareness was spiking through the roof, and getting acquainted with real Indian food had been a challenge I managed to overcome with the best fish curry I’ve ever had. But I only started to relax when we stepped into one of Andreea’s friend’s house. Getting to know local people with welcoming hearts going out of their ways to make us feel comfortable gave me the first calm feeling. And I remained calm for the rest of the trip. So calm that it was only later on the same first evening that I found myself riding a motorcycle as a passenger being given a ride home and becoming part of the traffic that had frightened me just hours before. And my first actual motorcycle ride!
Holiday In Goa: Panjim Life
From the next morning on, I started to sense the normality of things around me: the hosts from our hotel cooking food for breakfast, the Indians asking to take photos with the tourists just because we look different, the old ladies with beautiful saris walking barefoot with buckets on their heads in perfect balance, the corner fruit sellers, and of course the honking of the cars and motorcycles which sounded more like a language that only drivers speak. It was all part of the daily life, but for me it was holiday in Goa, a new world.
On our walks around the city, we encountered a mass of people cheering for their own political parties. They were peaceful and organised. It was the day that the election results were being announced and everybody was involved. The main topic of conversation was politics and everyone was sharing opinions and forecasts of what might happen. I was caught in the middle of all this and I was fascinated!
Holiday in Goa: Ashwem Beach
The third morning we left to Ashwem Beach, in the Northern part of Goa, with a couple of stops on the way. Since I chose to limit sightseeing during this trip and focus more on relaxation and inner peace, these were short visits to Old Goa Cathedral and Arvalem Waterfall and caves and more appreciated this way.
Once we arrived in the heavenly resort of Leela Cottages, I simply felt in paradise. And I freaking enjoyed paradise for the next four days. Swimming in the sea at sunset, napping in the hammock, doing yoga in the morning, taking a massage at the spa, it was nothing short of perfection! We even got to celebrate Holi, which is a local holiday when people cover themselves with colored powders. I have to admit this location was my favourite part of the trip.
Holiday in Goa: Agonda Beach
The dreamy Ashwem was followed by another beautiful destination, Agonda, this time in South Goa, after a 3-hour drive that I miraculously survived while being hungover. I mean, seriously, I really had to taste the local rum Old Monk. Anyway, as opposed to Ashwem (Leela Cottages, you’re still my fav), Agonda had a different vibe, similar to the Romanian hippie seaside destination Vama Veche.
Everyone was friendly and welcoming, however, as a piece of advice, make sure not to drop down your guard, it’s important to stay safe. You never know who will surprise you in a negative way. I had the misfortune to experience the inappropriate behaviour of a creepy night guard that eventually led us to changing our first accommodation, but luckily nothing really bad happened.
I still believe that in majority Indian people have beautiful hearts and they come across as very self-aware and focused on developing and improving themselves. Must be all the meditation and yoga that runs in their culture that makes them relaxed and alert at the same time.
Just sitting with Andreea in the shade of the palm trees and enjoying lemonade after lemonade, ice-coffee after ice-coffee, I really got to understand the art of enjoying doing nothing. It makes you so anchored in the present moment that you don’t even realise how much your mind benefits from moments like these.
One of our favourite places to hang out and hide from the heat was the German Bakery, where the Nepalese guys were all breathing calmness through all their pores. Just looking at them and talking to them was so soothing that you immediately got intoxicated with the same peacefulness. What a culture, what a beautiful way of living!
I said my goodbyes on my tenth day and I left grateful to my friend and her friends for an unforgettable experience, not as a tourist, but as a guest to a welcoming country with beautiful people.
I went to the airport to embark on a long journey back to London, but my soul was healed and all the tension I had felt on the first flight was gone.
This time, I got to enjoy the Oman Air experience with all they have to offer, from food to pillows, blankets, to movies on my personal screen. My trip diary ends with an entry from Muscat airport lounge, where I had to spend an 8-hour stopover and I noted the “awful internet”. Luckily I then discovered the “nap room” and immediately forgot to need to go online.