Last year, in the second week of October, I moved to Goa. This post is a story of why and how that happened. Also, my perspective on the good and the bad of living here.
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Paul Graham, Elon Musk – these were the names I idolised a few years ago. Then, I built a startup, sold it off and was burnt out in the process. Building and running a startup was by far the most difficult thing I had done in my life and it exhausted me.
While recovering from my burn out, I discovered the joys of slow travel. I found new idols – Tim Ferriss, Levels, Chris Guillebeau, Derek Sivers, Mark Manson. I envied their lifestyles – regular travel, seeing new things, meeting new people, working on the move. I envied all this and what it represented – freedom of time and money, and flexibility of schedule. They pushed boundaries of human productivity and the breadth of their achievements enamored me.
I discovered the term ‘Digital Nomad’ and was instantly attracted towards it.
By the time I quit my job in December of 2015, I had figured out what I wanted – to be the master of my own schedule and fill my life with things that I consider meaningful – travel, writing and whatever else that might come up later. So, by mid-September, I decided to move out of Gurgaon to experience a new way of living. I do not yet know if it is the perfect lifestyle for me. But without making this move, I would never know.
Making The Switch
The first step before moving was to find a location independent income stream.
Writing seemed like a good option. But the number of people who knew about my work and were willing to pay for it was limited to my network (I had only a single self-published eBook to my name). As with any art form, it would take me time to make writing financially sustainable.
So, I started working on a few other things to make money. Meanwhile, my savings formed a safety net for me to try out this arrangement. It took almost 10 months, and many nights of self-doubt, struggling, and coming back from the brink of quitting, to find a somewhat reliable income stream.
During this time, I learnt some basic life skills like cooking, and developed a habit of doing my chores on my own, becoming more self-reliant in the process. People like The Minimalists and Leo Babauta showed me the path of Minimalism which helped reduce my financial and mental energy expense. I also learnt how to procrastinate less, create more and find more time for the fulfilling things in life.
The next step was to pick a location. The criteria were – clean air, less traffic, nice weather all-year round, small town, culturally active, scenic and good internet. And it had to be cheap to live in. Even though my expenses were low, I didn’t want to take any chances. Moving abroad was ruled out for the same reason.
A milieu of options came up – Coorg, Dharamsala, North East, Goa. Some suggested Mysore or Pune. I disregarded the last two because even though they are good cities in their own right, I did not want to move from one city to another, however small it may be. Coorg sounded pleasant but I doubted if I’d find enough things to keep myself engaged; I wanted to move to live a healthy lifestyle and not a monastic one.
North East had seemed charming during my travels but it felt a little isolated and the move seemed difficult to execute. Dharamsala was a place I had been to and enjoyed. It scored well on all the parameters, except one – the winters, when it gets bitterly cold. And, I heard that the internet connection fluctuates a lot when the snow falls.
The choice narrowed down to Goa. It had pretty much everything I wanted. Beaches, parties, good weather for most part of the year, culturally very active. Moreover, three of my friends had made a move to Goa recently and they had said good things about it.
So, I packed my bags, sold off or gave away a lot of my possessions (books – I read exclusively on kindle now, guitars and amps, didgeridoo, snooker cue, tennis racket, old clothes, and other random junk), couriered the rest to my friend’s place, booked an AirBnB for a week, and flew to Goa.
It took me two weeks and multiple visits to see different houses, but I finally found the perfect place in a quiet village in North Goa. It’s tucked away in the corner so it allows me privacy and peace, yet it is close enough to the beach and to the nearest town. I’ve got ample vegetation in the courtyard and trees of all sorts – coconut, mango, chikoo, pineapple. A family of langurs jumps around the tree tops, and the neighbor’s dogs come in the evening to collect their treats. Parle-G is their favorite.
Now, let’s get into the specifics of Life in Goa.
1. Weather – I arrived in Goa at the right time of the year – mid October. This is when the last of the monsoon bids its goodbye. People get ready for the pleasant days in the sun and on the beach. They clean their gardens, weeding out the overgrowth caused by the rains. The days are breezy and sunny and the evenings get cool enough for a thin jacket. It’s perfect.
Goan monsoons, running from June till September, are a delight too.
2. Beach – I once told a friend that if I knew when the last day of my life would be, and I could choose where to spend it at, I’d go to a beach. So, obviously I love beaches. And Goa has the best of them.
Pro tip: South Goa beaches are cleaner and the water is more pleasant to swim in as compared to their North Goa counterparts.
3. Air – The Air quality is much better as compared to the cities. It seems such a stark contrast from Gurgaon where we encountered untimely haze in the sky caused by pollution. The night sky has more visible stars and decipherable constellations.
4. Traffic – Except in the tourist areas, traffic is not a big problem. The roads are lined with coconut trees and old Goan houses along the way, with sparse traffic, so it is pretty cool. There are a few tourist frequented spots where bottlenecks crop up, but other than that, it is just fine.
5. Cost of living – Goa is inexpensive to live in. The electricity rates are low, water bill is reasonable, petrol is cheaper, there are no extra taxes in the restaurants and a pint of beer is 35 bucks. House rentals are not as low as you might imagine for a place like Goa – but they are still much lower as compared to the metros.
6. Parties and Live Music – Another one of those non debatable things about Goa. You can’t rival partying on the beach, with the moonlight reflecting off the sea, a fire dancer doing her tricks in front, and some good music behind you. Or Monday Nights Jazz, Reggae Wednesdays, Sitar on Thursdays, Friday Nights at any one of the many sexy clubs and so on. If you are the kind who loves a good party, this is the place to be.
7. People & Susegad – In September 2016, I went to Ziro Festival of Music in the North East. As luck would have it, the guys camping next to us were from Goa. And they were two of the most endearing people I have met. They’ve often gone out of their way to help me. The locals I met have appeared friendly and easy to strike up a conversation with too.
There is a popular term in Goa called Susegad – which roughly translates to laid back or chilled out. It is often used to describe the kind of life people live here. And it has rubbed off on me. Long breakfasts sitting in my porch, dipping in the sea, and a chilled beer in the evening have become a regular part of my life; Susegad is awesome.
8. Activities – Art Galleries, Social dancing, Treks, Water Sports, Live Music, Night Markets, Heritage Walks, Casinos, numerous Art & Music Festivals – there’s all this and so much more. The variety of options is tremendous and offered at very reasonable prices.
9. Visits – An added benefit of living in a tourist destination like Goa is that it is frequented by friends and acquaintances. I meet more friends now than I did earlier in the city. It’s a good preventive cure for isolation.
1. Weather – A slight downer is the heat of the summer. The humidity is high and at first, you might have to deal with typical tropical climate issues – bad hair, blocked nose and head, etc. However, as time progresses, your body will adjust and you’ll be fine.
2. Tourism and The Precedents – When given the space and the freedom to enjoy in a place with very few prohibitions, not a lot of people are good at doing it responsibly. And this has created a sense of discomfort in the heart of the locals. The bad tourist precedents have created biases, often unfair, against people like me who want to make Goa their new home.
There is a latent tension between the newcomers (I don’t really like the term ‘outsiders’) and the locals which occasionally ends up in confrontation and makes everyone involved very unhappy.
Let me give you an example:
My landlords stay in the house next to mine. Often, my friends come over to stay at my place while they are visiting Goa. Their visit could range from a few hours to a few days. And this is a problem for my landlord. He thought that we are subletting the house and making money off of it. He said that he has heard cases and seen people do that. It disconcerted me because I was being accused of something that I didn’t do. But I could see where he is coming from. One of the AirBnBs I stayed at earlier had a similar situation. That dude was subletting his apartment on AirBnB without permission from his landlord.
This is an example which explains the core issue – one newcomer does something stupid, a local gets affected by it, another local suspects some other newcomer of doing the same shit, and this newcomer in turn feels ostracized and angry at being treated unfairly. This also exists the other way around where the cycle is triggered by a local instead.
I don’t have a solution to it, but all I can give you is a very generic, non-answer: empathy, understanding and respect of each other’s sensibilities would help.
3. Bad Apples and Aggression – Every place has its cons, every herd has a black sheep and every society has its bad apples. We cannot generalise based on these outliers. But I have to address them nevertheless because they have affected me.
The aggression in some folks is outrageous. I don’t know what fuels it, but it’s there, and I am wary of this a lot of the time. It often manifests in the form of rash, drunk driving (from cabbies and tourists alike), or a readiness for unprovoked confrontation. I want to think that all of this is caused due to the precedents that we talked about earlier. And I hope that these bad apples appear only during the tourist season which runs for a few months.
4. Public Transport – No Uber. No Ola. Not a lot of Auto-Rickshaws either. They do have private cabs over here which charge exorbitant amounts. Then there are bike taxis – which are fine I believe. The bus service is there, but I haven’t used it enough to comment.
5. Connectivity – Depending upon where you live in Goa, Internet and Mobile Network connectivity can be a bit of an issue.
The cell reception is weak inside my house. I have to go outside in the garden to make or receive a call. The Internet has been erratic for the last couple of weeks caused by occasional fiber cuts and inexplicable frequent drops. Reliance Jio, which I bought as a backup, works well only on my roof.
If instead, you choose to stay in a house which is less remote, you won’t face these problems. There are more ISPs to choose from. And my friend who lives in such a place tested my Reliance Jio and told me he’s getting upto 5 Mbps which is great news.
Update: After lodging a complaint with my ISP, the frequent drop issue seems to have been fixed.
Sidenote: The Internet service providers are private companies which claim speeds of up to 100Mbps. That is a bit of a stretch, but the realistic speed ranges from 30-80 Mbps which is ridiculously good in its own right. And for most part, it works like a dream.
Before arriving, my plan was to stay for a year and a half, maybe two. I imagined that thereafter I would want to explore some new place. So, would I move to a new place next year? It depends on the accomplishment of my goals this year. It is also possible that Goa keeps growing on me and I end up staying here for many more years to come.
What would I say to people considering Goa to make a similar move? I’d say that the pros of the move far outweigh the cons. Issues like the newcomer-local tension is not unique to Goa and can be found in other major cities too. And even though there are bad apples, it feels a much safer place than where I was earlier. Goa has all the necessary ingredients for a wholesome life, what you make out of it is part luck and part individual.
Would I recommend this place to people looking for a longer term move, say 5-10 years? Honestly, I don’t know. Three months is a short time to comment on this but my friends who’ve been here for a year and a half plan to stay here for many years to come.
To sum it up, my quality of life has increased considerably since I’ve arrived. And this move has been enabling in a lot of ways. So, if you want to come and stay here for a year or two to experience a new lifestyle, it’s a yes, a definite, resounding Yes!