Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

If you’re following us on Facebook, you must have noticed that we’re in Goa. No, we are not here for a week or two but are here for a few months. We’re not “holiday”ing here but are volunteering in Goa. This is our way of slow travel because we want to make our way to Sri Lanka by January 2017.

So what exactly are we doing in Goa?

A little work in the hostel..

I’m volunteering in Goa ‘s Red Door Hostel in Anjuna. The same hostel also has a restaurant where San is working in the bar and kitchen. We get two meals a day here and get to sleep for free. I don’t get paid because I’m a volunteer but San get a little money because he’s a professionally trained chef. Both of us work for half a day and get a day off per week. Our work is very relaxed and a lot of fun.

A little travel blogging..

2016 was a very crazy year. I traveled to 10 countries and didn’t even get a chance to write about them all. I had to take a forced break from blogging while I was attending back-to-back music festivals and later preparing for my German examination. Sitting behind the hostel help desk for half a day has given me a little stability that I needed. I’m finally getting some writing done.

And a little party..

Goa is the birthplace of Psychedelic Trance genre and a typical old school Goa party has no match. This is where I got my first taste of Psychedelic trance music back in 2004 and I was hooked. So yes, we are partying a LOT here. Again.

Why did we choose Goa?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you know by now how much I love Goa. A lot of people hate it because it’s getting touristy, but which place isn’t? Honestly, Goa is massive and there are many empty areas. It’s mostly the beach belt that gets crowded and we have our own secret spots. We’re in North Goa, which is busier than South Goa.

The cost of living in Goa is definitely lower than most of the places we know of, so it is easy to survive here with little money. The fact that we’re sleeping and eating for free has made it possible for us to live off the earnings of our travel blog. Goa is a good place for digital nomads.

I visited Goa for the first time in 2004 and have always wanted to live here. After finally finding courage to quit my full time job, I can finally make my dream come true. Better late than never, don’t you think?

Want to meet us?

A lot of my friends and blog readers are in Goa at the moment because it is a popular spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’re planning on visiting, do check out my post about Goa travel tips and my detailed guide about North Goa Beaches. It has some amazing hotel and hostel reccomendations too. Oh, and send us a message on Facebook or Instagram if you want to meet us in Goa.

 

 

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia change me as a traveler?

Did Yogyakarta in Indonesia change me as a traveler?

This is one of my rare “travel diary” kind of posts which is a result of my introspection and where I express my deepest thoughts.

Can visiting a place for just a few days change me for life?

I thought to myself as I reflected back on the time I spent in Yogyakarta.

I arrived here as a backpacker with a typical “herd mentality”. Over the last few years, without realizing I was usually following the typical backpacker trail. Yes, from time to time, I did make an effort to interact with the locals and to learn about their culture. However, the majority of my time was spent with the other backpackers who I had met while traveling and spending many hours partying. But hey, I thought I was different.

Now here I am, thinking of my fondest memories of my travel in Indonesia, and what’s the first thing that comes to my mind? Spending many hours with the locals, learning more about their culture, learning their language and creating new things every day with my own hands in Yogyakarta after watching how the locals did it.

Now don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with being a backpacker. It is a lot of fun being one and I will be a backpacker for a long time. Not everyone has the same travel style and it is absolutely okay as long you’re happy without harming anyone or anything else in the process. This post is not about that – it is just an expression of my thoughts after hours of introspection.

I can’t forget the time I said “no” for a party in Indonesia because, by that time, I was absolutely in love with Indonesian culture and wanted to wake up early to see more. I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t got my taste of experiencing local culture in Yogyakarta. My mind has found a new snack and it is always hungry for more. I am hopelessly in love, and this time it is with Indonesian culture.

If you ask me to describe Yogyakarta in short, I would just utter three words – Art, culture, & heritage. Mind you, it is not one of those pretentious places where you spend a bomb to experience the local way of life by being a part of a carefully orchestrated charade. It is a place where things get real, whether it is making pottery with the villagers or carving faces on clay puppets.

Before visiting Yogyakarta, a lot of people mentioned that it is a very touristy destination in Indonesia. But upon visiting, I wondered where the tourists were. I didn’t see any while I was exploring some very interesting areas in Yogyakarta. I got my answer when I visited the famous Borobudur temple. Yes, many people visit Yogyakarta to see this largest Buddhist temple that has a fascinating history. But only a few stay on for a longer time to explore the villages and the old town areas.

What is it about Yogyakarta that had this effect on me? Perhaps the fact I was making things with my hands made a difference. Or maybe it was because I was away from my smartphone while making those things that I finally allowed my brain to think and introspect.

Today I promise myself to take out time away from my gadgets as often as I can. I will use this time to create something with my own hands. I will give more time to Art.

Art is magic and it makes us forget a lot of things while making us realize who we are.

Did Yogyakarta transform me into a cultural traveler?

I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I hope to find out soon. What do you think? Have you ever felt this way about a destination? How has travel changed you?

PS: watch out, an epic Yogyakarta post is coming up next where I will shed more light on the things I did.

PPS: to get a glimpse, you can stalk me a little on Instagram 😉

Photo Credit: Bressiona Chastity (Indonesia) and Najii (Japan)

 

Yogyakarta changed me
Being Stranded in Istanbul During the Military Coup

Being Stranded in Istanbul During the Military Coup

They said it is unsafe and they said I should not visit it. “It” in this case is Istanbul and there was no way I was going to cancel my ticket.

Did I just prove them wrong?

I smiled to myself as I walked around Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square. I was glad I was here! I felt safer here than I did in my hometown. At least, no one was staring at me and there was excessive security everywhere. I even saw a military chopper a few hours back while I was cruising the Bosphorus Sea. That’s how serious they are about security.

My feet were tired but curiosity got better of me because everything around was too pretty. The spikey minarets, the domed mosques, the sweet sound of Turkish language, and the smell of Turkish coffee – it was breathtaking!

While common sense told me I should stay at the area around my hostel, my curiosity kept pulling me away to just “one more block” to see what it was like. It was my last night in Turkey and tomorrow I was going to fly to Germany. I wanted to make the most of it. I looked at the time – it was 9:30 pm.

Should I go back to my room now?

They all said I shouldn’t walk around in Istanbul at night but I was hungry! I had not had any food all day and it felt completely safe. I was not going to let people’s paranoia get to me. With that thought, I found a corner table and decided to eat kebab.

Something was not right.

This is what I told myself as I hurriedly finished my food. I had a funny feeling in my stomach. Was it because I had heard too many people’s opinion about what I should not do in Istanbul? Anyway, it was time to pay the bill and go.

I unlocked my phone and saw there was a massage from my mentor blogger – Sab from Just One Way Ticket. “Where are you? Don’t go to Istanbul”. Hmm? I was already in Istanbul! Her reply – “Shit”.

Shit. Bad? Scary? Am I in danger?

She said go back to your hotel right now. The military has taken control and the bridges are shut. The tanks are on the road.

Why was she saying that? Everything was normal in Sultanahmet Square – the heart of Istanbul. Maybe because she has a Turkish boyfriend and she’s worried about his safety?

“The military has taken over”.

What the hell does that even mean? How and why would that happen?

It took me a moment to realize that I was walking so fast that it did not appear normal. People were looking at me curiously.

Wait – why am I the only one running back to my room? Why is everything normal here?

With that thought, I crossed the blue mosque. Just next to the mosque, I saw a jeep full of men in uniform and guns. These were not the usual black clothed Turkish policemen that I saw during the day. These men were wearing army green and had big guns. Oh and these were many in number – not the twos or threes that I saw earlier this evening. And then it stuck me that I had seen a chopper during the day, which I had assumed, was for security.

Maybe that was a military chopper.

Maybe Sab was right.

SHIT.

Without realizing, I broke into a jog, as I got closer to my hotel.

I should get to my room and check the Internet.

I met a few people on the road near my hostel that had helped me earlier that day with the directions. I panted and narrated what I heard. They shrugged and said – “don’t worry lady, the media overhypes everything. Nothing is happening!”

I hope they are right.

On my way to my hostel, I messaged San (my husband) to tell him what’s happening. To my horror, he checked the news and confirmed its true.

Still unsure of what it meant and the possible implications, I entered my hostel and see a little “party”. Apparently, my room mate from France – Gabrielle (name changed) didn’t have a key and she was waiting for me at the reception. Our receptionist had a few friends over and they were all devouring baklavas and drinking tea.

Did they not know about it yet?

To my surprise, their reaction was also the same – “don’t believe it, it’s the media that’s overhyping things.”

They were all laughing.

All of them except Gabrielle.

She was the only one apart from me who had heard about this military coup. I made them change to a news channel. The news was in Turkish but we could see images of many military people everywhere. Tanks on the street, choppers and uniformed men everywhere – apparently there was total chaos in Istanbul and Ankara.

We didn’t even need to understand the language to sense what was going on. The smiles gradually disappeared from everyone’s faces as the consequences hit in.

Thank God I’m flying out at 8 am!

Oh, am I going to be able to fly out tomorrow?

Just at that moment my suspicion was confirmed and the receptionist said – lady, no flight for you tomorrow.

This was not good.

I look at my phone again and see close to 30 unread messages. It seemed the whole world knew what was happening and they were messaging me to check if I was safe. Every single one of those messages had a sense of urgency. The last thing I wanted was to get people worried about me!

I replied to every single one of them and then there were more messages. These were coming in faster than I could reply. Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter – every damn notification on my phone was on. People were writing on my timeline!

Soon there was a WhatsApp group that was made by my ex colleagues (RateGain) and included the entire Turkish team. I was surprised to see this kind of support because I was not working with them anymore. They did not have to do this. But they did. They saw the news and thought of me.

I was too much in shock to fathom what was going on and they were doing thinking for me.

Go to the ATM and withdraw enough local currency to last you for a few days – one of them said. The ATMs may be out of cash by tomorrow and you may get stranded.

It sounded reasonable to me. Gabrielle and I went to the ATM that was 20 steps away from our hostel and withdrew the cash. It seemed people now knew what was happening.

A man came to us and said we should go back to our room. He offered to walk us to the ATM and back to the hostel to make sure we were ok. The street had fewer people but it felt everyone was watching out for each other.

Do my parents know what’s happening? I thought to myself as I walked back from the ATM. I looked at the time; it was around 1 am in India. No, they would be fast asleep in India and I did not want to wake them up and worry them.

Maybe my sister is still awake? No, she has a busy job and her son to take care of.

By now, we’re back in the hostel and the three of us sat silently. We spent several minutes sitting silently and replying to several messages on our phone before one of us talks.

You girls should sleep, he said to both of us – no flight for you so just go and sleep. And you don’t secretly go to the airport.

How was he able to read my mind? Yes, I was actually stupid enough to be considering it.

Too lost for words, Gabrielle and I walked to our dorm room. Shin (name changed), our roommate of China was sleeping soundly on her bunk bed. Maybe she did not know what was happening.

For a few minutes, Gabrielle and I discussed the consequences of what was happening. She had lived in Istanbul for a few years and said it’s the first time she was seeing something like this.

By now, my phone battery was very low because of the number of messages. College friends, ex colleagues, bloggers – everyone was messaging to check if I was ok.

How am I going to reply to everyone?

I did not want to do this but I realized the easiest way was to update my Facebook status to let everyone know I was ok. Within a few minutes I realized that move was like opening a can of worms! The frequency of messages increased where as I wanted the opposite.

BANG!

What was that? A bomb?

Gabrielle and I looked at each other. Then we looked at Shin with a little envy because she was sleeping peacefully through everything.

Another bang!

This time it was followed by extremely loud airplane sound. Except, it must not be an airplane because it was a little too loud and was moving very fast.

Was that a fighter jet? Shit, what the fuck was happening? Were we going to be safe?

Gabrielle said her Facebook had stopped working. Thank God mine was working! What would I do if mine stopped too? I wanted to be connected to my husband through this app.

I’m going to sleep and so should you, she declared as she climbed on the top bunk bed. We both knew that no one was going to sleep.

Am I not flying to Germany? I looked at the watch. Soon it would be time for my shuttle. On the Internet it showed the flight was still going to depart. Maybe they had not updated the status but I really wanted to go! I called my hotel manager to check if it was all right to go and he pleaded me not to do so. I wanted to see my husband really bad. I had not seen him for two months and this had to happen just a day before my flight. Just my luck!

It was 4 am when my cousin from New York messaged on our family WhatsApp group to make sure I was safe. He even tried calling but I did not want to wake up Gabrielle even though I wasn’t sure if she was sleeping.

I could still hear loud bangs and jets from time to time. At 4 am, I heard the morning prayer from the nearby mosque. It sounded comforting in the backdrop of ominous sounds of that fateful dawn.

My ex colleagues from RateGain were still awake and that WhatsApp group was active. A few of them even offered me a place to sleep if I didn’t have one. People from all over the world were messaging me their friends’ or relatives’ contact details in Istanbul.

Someone instructed me to call the embassy. I called the general number and heard a recorded voice that said the business hours were 9 am to 6 pm. In my daze, it took me a few hours to realize that the embassy website also mentioned the emergency number. This realization came when a friend shared a screenshot of embassy’s phone number on my Facebook wall.

I finally called the emergency number of the Indian Embassy in Istanbul and was surprised when an actual person answered it. He sounded tired on the phone, he must have answered 100s of calls like mine. He listened to me patiently and told me to stay in. He said I should call him every few hours to check the situation. I should go to the airport only when he confirms it was ok to go. He also told me that I should expect the Internet to be down sporadically.

It was now early morning in India and my family had woken up. My WhatsApp received a new message every single minute telling me what to do. It was just what I needed because my mind was not working. They urged me to call Turkish Airlines, the embassy and what not. They discussed various options of what all I should do.

By now, everyone was asking me the same questions on WhatsApp and I was literally copying and pasting the same messages to everyone. Surprisingly, the owner of Turkiey Balloons was also concerned and checking to see if I was ok. Without me asking, he took my flight number and airline PNR and called the customer service.

He somehow managed to speak with Turkish Airlines. He told me that I needed to rebook through Yatra.com since my ticket was booked through them. Hmm, I needed time to figure that out.

Hours went by as I continuously answered the messages. I somehow managed to sleep for one hour and woke up again to more messages. Some of them said that the situation was better and the military coup had failed.

Did that mean I could finally fly to Germany?

No it’s still now safe and I cannot let you go, my hostel manager said to me. He said he needed to go out for some work for one hour and I should not attempt to secretly take a taxi to the airport.

What do I do with my flight? What if there are too many people like me at the airport and they do not let me board? I had still not been able to rebook my flight through Yatra.com and my sister offered to call the customer service from India. Minutes felt like hours because I felt like I was wasting time if I was not at the airport if the situation had improved.

I decided to call Yatra.com myself and hold for a long time as they figureed out what they should do. Obviously it took them a while because they were not able to contact Turkish Airlines. I asked them if I really needed to book considering I had a ticket and the flight did not go? The rep suggests that I should just go to the airport and request the ground staff and in this case they should be able to put me on their 7 pm flight. Yes, I wanted to be on that flight.

Fully convinced, I knew I had to get to the airport. I called the hostel manager again and he finally confirmed the situation was better. He offers to book a shuttle for me so that I could arrive 5 hours before the 7 pm flight.

I hope I’m doing the right thing.

I hope the streets to the airport are actually safe now. Apparently there was an army tank on it last night.

I tell my husband and family and they sound relieved. This gives me a little more confidence that I was doing the right thing.

The streets looked normal because all the cafes and shops were open. The people on the street were a mix of locals and tourists. I saw one man with a massive flag of Turkey and several small ones. He was distributing the smaller flags. Were they celebrating the failed attempt of military coup attempt had failed? I speak to a few of them and realized that many of them thought the military rule was what Turkey needed..

Mentally crossing my fingers, I boarded my airport shuttle when it arrived an hour later. Some people looked nervous and unsure if they were going to be able to fly out.

As we reach closer to the airport, we saw an abandoned military tank on the road. Towards the entry of the airport, many civilians and policemen were standing. The civilians were waving Turkish flag and showing a victory sign to all the people that were entering the airport.

I entered the airport and witnessed total chaos. The queues were longer than the ones outside Indian passport application center. I saw some people yelling at overworked Turkish Airlines’ staff members.

At the check in counter, a woman with two daughters started yelling like a mad person and crying loudly. The airline staff tried to calm her down but she hurled some insults at them. I could not understand the language but it was obvious what was happening.

What if they ask me to rebook? Will I also lose my mind like this woman?

I could hear announcements that all Turkish Airline ticket holders needed to call the customer service or visit the city office to get their tickets rebooked. If this was the case, I was going to be in trouble because I had done neither.

Just at that instant, my husband called. He had magically rebooked me for the 7 pm flight while he was in Germany! I LOVE HIM. I’m so lucky to have him.

The check in queue took extremely long but after one hour, an exhausted looking airline staff member finally handed me my boarding pass. He tiredly smiled at me and wished me a safe flight.

I finally had my boarding pass.

I decided to celebrate by eating my first meal of the day.

I finally sighed with relief after three hours when my aircraft flew over Bosphorus. I couldn’t help shedding a tear as I gazed at Istanbul’s beautiful architecture, the distinctive curved mosques with their minarets, the European architecture and Rumelihisarı Castle.

Turkey, you are a beautiful country. I love your culture, language, food, hospitality and the people. Please stay the same. I’m lucky to have visited you. I pray for your peace.

Would I revisit Turkey if I got another chance?

Yes.

9 Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing (And Why)

9 Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing (And Why)

9 Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing – rants of a travel addict!

Being a travel addict, I often find myself in conversations related to travel. Most of them are lovely but once in a while I come across situations where people say the strangest things about my lifestyle. At those times, I try my best to keep a straight face but I don’t always succeed. Why? Because my facial expressions are too honest to lie! If you’re a travel addict too, I know you go through the same too. Below are the things that I and many other travel addicts are sick of hearing and why:

 

01 | “What? You’re traveling AGAIN?”

“Yes, I’m traveling again. Sorry about that! Please don’t look so mad about it. I travel often. Please live with it.”

Often cute when said with a genuine smile, this statement changes to annoying when it’s combined with an accusatory tone. I absolutely love it when a friend says it out of genuine interest but loathe it when someone says it with a critical look in their eyes.

02 | You have way too much money!

 “Oh yes! I have been winning jackpots every month!”

Not only this statement assumes that it is only rich who travel, but it completely overlooks budget travel possibilities. No I don’t have too much money, but I know how to save. Travel does not have to be expensive if you are ready to sacrifice on a few comforts. Did I ever tell you about a friend who is traveling the world on his bicycle to save money on travel costs? We don’t travel on bicycles but we often camp to save money.

San and I camping to save money

San and I camping to save money

03 | I can’t afford to travel as much as you do.

“Oh, that’s too bad! BTW, I love your new car and your black designer dress that matches with it.”

It’s funny when this statement comes from people who carry expensive phones, wear designer clothes and eat out more than once a week. I have no problem if you like collecting things but don’t whine about not being able to afford traveling.

04 | You need to settle down / have a baby / buy a house.

“Of course! It makes total sense if I live according to what you think is right”

9 Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing

Aargh!! – 9 Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing

Out of all the statements, this is perhaps the worst one. It bothers me because it assumes that there is a particular way of life that everyone needs to follow. Yes, it’s amazing when people settle down, have babies and buy houses, but it’s not everyone’s dream.

05 | Will you get a perfume / iPad (or any other expensive product) for me? I’ll pay you when you come back!

“Sure! I carry a lot of extra cash when I travel to buy things for people. In fact, I have also paid for extra baggage allowance for my flight JUST for this.”

Traveling on a budget means sometimes not having extra cash to buy an expensive product for a friend and taking money upon returning. It also means occasionally trying to fit everything in carry-on bags to avoid baggage fee for budget airlines. Moreover, even if I’m paid in advance, I do not like the responsibility of carrying around expensive products because I may lose or break them.

06 | Can you change your dates a little? I will come with you!

“Why not. Anything for you. If you want, I will cancel my trip.”

This statement scares me! I often end the conversation here because I do not want to get pushed to travel with people that I don’t want to. It’s important for me to pick the right travel buddy, else I prefer to travel solo. Moreover, changing dates usually means incurring additional costs, applying for new leaves and turning the schedule around.

07 | What about your job? You need to work hard and make money.

“Absolutely! I was born to work hard and be a model employee”

Picture this – when you’re on your deathbed and are thinking about your life, would you be happier remembering how hard you worked OR how much you got to experience by traveling? For me, it’s the latter. Which one did you pick? Bronnie Ware, a nurse who counseled patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, wrote a book called “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” where #1 is not having the courage to live a life true to them and not the life others expected. I live my life the way I want to and I hope you do the same.

08 | Will you organize a trip for me and help me book hotels, flights and connections?

“Oh yes, I have a lot of spare time between my job and my frequent travels specifically for this.”

Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing

Grrrr – Things Travel Addicts Are Sick of Hearing

As much as I love sharing my actual itineraries, I absolutely hate organizing trips for others. Why? Because it’s a lot of work and I know I can screw up. I have done it a few times but it’s stressful because if they hate it, it’s my fault for ruining their vacation. Sorry, but a travel addict is not necessarily a travel agent or a tour guide.

09 | Why are you running away from your life?

“You guessed it. I have the most boring life and running away is the only way to make it exciting.”

There are many different ways to run away from life – drinking, avoiding difficult conversations and more.  Traveling is not running away from life, its facing it head on. It teaches you things about life which you can’t learn in the comfort of your bedroom or your office cubicle. I travel to experience life, not to escape it.

Are you also a travel addict and couldn’t help nodding to these points? Share it on Facebook and let your friends know!

Do you know of a few more things that travel addicts are sick of hearing? Let me know in the comment section.

You might also like:

21 Signs You’ve Been Bitten by The Travel Bug

20 Travel Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Trip

 

9 Things Travel Addicts are sick of hearing

9 Things Travel Addicts are sick of hearing

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

11 Reasons Why I love Goa and Keep Going Back

11 Reasons Why I love Goa and Keep Going Back

Goa is perhaps India’s most popular destination. It is known for its massive beaches and a unique culture that’s a mix of Indian and Portuguese.  It is not a city but is a state (or a province) that’s divided in many zones.

I have lost count of the number of times I have visited this glorious state – but I do know that number is in double digits by now. Many ask me why I love Goa and keep revisiting it instead of exploring new places – well, here’s my answer:

 

01 | Spectacular Beaches

Sunset - Morjim Beach, Goa

Sunset – Morjim Beach, Goa

Goa has some of the most spectacular beaches in the world that are perfectly crescent shaped, fringed with palm trees and are dotted with beach huts. Most of these beaches have reddish sand, some have soft white sand, many have strange rocks formations, some have hills all around and a few of them have lagoons too! With 300 KMs of coastline, Goa offers something for everyone. If you’re visiting Goa, I would suggest you to stay away from the overly crowded Calangute – Baga – Candolim stretch.

02 | Secret Lagoons, Lakes, Waterfalls and Coves – Goa’s Hidden Spots

Secret Lake in Goa

Secret Lake in Goa

You think Goa is full? Well, maybe you’re visiting the wrong area! No matter how touristy Goa gets, there are always some hidden spots that can be found if you try hard enough. There are a few secret lakes, lagoons, waterfalls and secluded beaches that no one will tell you about. There’s ALWAYS something new to discover because Goa is massive. Here’s a travel guide to dudhsagar falls, goa – which you should definitely consider visiting. Wanna know more about the hidden spots? Subscribe!

03 | Goan Food… Nom Nom

Goan Food - Crab Curry

Goan Food – Crab Curry

Goa was once a Portuguese colony and the influences can be found in their food. With a mix of tamarind, coconut, curry leaves, mustard and magic, Goans definitely know how to ROCK their curries. Goa’s Xacuti, Balchao, Cafreal, Vindaloo are perhaps some of the best curries in India. You can not only find plenty of fresh seafood but also real beef steaks – which are rare in India. Moreover, Goa has some amazing places for European food. Seriously, I have never had a bad meal in Goa!

04 | The Shacks of Goa

A Shack in Goa - Arambol Beach

A Shack in Goa – Arambol Beach

Most of the beaches in Goa are dotted with sea facing shacks that are typically run by local Goan families. It’s easy to spend almost an entire day sitting on beach beds of these shacks gazing at the sea. Almost all of these shacks have a beach bar where you can order from a range of International drinks to Goa’s local brews. Many of these shacks offer affordable accommodation options. Some of the most famous shacks are Curlies in Anjuna, Pink Orange in Ashwem, Morning Star in Arambol, Om Shanti in Patnem and Blue Corner in Benaulim. In my opinion, Goa has some of the best beach bars and shacks in the world.

Shacks in Goa - Why I love Goa by Drifter Planet

Shacks in Goa – Why I love Goa by Drifter Planet

05 | King’s Beer – Goa’s Local Brew

 

King’s beer is Goa’s local brew – it is amazing and is only available here and in Mumbai.  For INR 35 (close to half a dollar) for a pint, it is also cheaper than the other beers.  Somehow, inflation has had hardly any effect on the price of this beer because the first time I had it in 2004, it was for INR 25. When I’m in Goa, I don’t ever look at any other beer except King’s.  It is packaged in a cute little dark bottle that’s short and fat.

06 | The Best Parties… Ever

Parties in Goa in Why I love Goa by DrifterPlanet.com

A Psytrance Party in Hilltop Goa – Why I love Goa

When it comes to parties, nothing can beat the old school psychedelic trance gatherings of Goa. Back in the 1960s, many hippies visited this place and it became their permanent residence. It led to the birth of “Goa Trance” genre which further ushered in a different style of parties with a strong presence of visual aspect that utilizes UV paint and decoration that now happen all over the world. In Goa, some of the best parties are underground and invitations are only by word of mouth for the “insiders”. If you’re lucky enough to find one, you will remember the experience for the rest of your life!  Alternatively, you can also visit Hilltop in Vagator for a kickass party or Palolem for a silent headphone party.

07 | Happy Locals and Beautiful People of Goa

A Local Goan Family back in 2004

A Local Goan Family back in 2004

Goans are very peaceful, easygoing and laidback. Usually smiling, they are extremely polite and trustworthy. Apart from the local Konkani people, many other people from all over the world call Goa their home. First the hippies and then the backpackers – many visited this glorious destination and did not leave. For many, the hippie trail ended here and it became their permanent residence. They have collectively formed a culture that is a blend of East and West.

09 | Safe and Peaceful

Goan Roads by Drifter Planet

Goa is safe for women!

While India is famous for its many scams, things are completely different in Goa. Apart from a few isolated incidents, communal violence and crimes against women have been nearly non-existent and Goa is regarded as one of the most peaceful states in India. Back in 2009 on my solo visit to Goa, I dropped my wallet on the road and I got it back within one hour without anything missing. Once I left my smart phone in a shop in Arambol and I got it back. Goa is one of those rare places in India where I feel safe walking alone on the street at night wearing shorts.

10 | Stunning Architecture – Old Churches, Abandoned Forts and Portuguese Houses

A Church in Old Goa

A Church in Old Goa

I love admiring architectural wonders and Goa is a treat for my eyes with its many Churches, Forts and old school Portuguese houses. Some of the most famous churches are the Basilica of Bom Jesus (1605), Se Cathedral (1619), Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (1541) or in fact, Old Goa is full of them where a lot of churches were built during Portuguese rule. Some of my favorite forts are Chapora Fort, Fort Aguada and Cabo de Rama – they all are fun to explore and overlook beaches.

11 | Goa is awesome for Shopping

Arambol's Shopping Street

Arambol’s Shopping Street

Here’s the thing – I don’t like to spend money. I usually avoid shopping because I travel on a low budget.  I have many things in my room that are more than a decade old and some of them are from Goa. It’s difficult to resist the urge to buy colorful clothes, lamps, tribal jewelry, UV bedsheets, elf dresses from Goa’s street shops. Some of the most famous places for shopping in Goa are Anjuna flea market, Arambol’s street shops and Arpora’s night bazaar.

Due to Portuguese rule which isolated it from the rest of India for 451 years, Goa is different from the rest of India. In my opinion, there is no place like Goa in the entire world. If you have visited Goa, then do leave a comment to let me know what you LOVE about this place.

Where to next?

Hampi in Karnataka can be easily reached from Goa by catching an overnight bus or an early morning train.

 

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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Travel is the ULTIMATE Relationship Test

Travel is the ULTIMATE Relationship Test

Thinking of tying the knot? Wait. Don’t do it before you travel together. A word of caution: it can make or break your relationship. It will give you a much needed reality check to see if it’s going to work at all. Of course you’ve heard the age old proverb “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. In the case of your relationship, it can make it rock solid. Here’s why:

See the worst of each other: While on the road, you’re with your partner 24/7 and there’s no way to hide who you really are. You get a glimpse of what is beyond their best side. Traveling puts people out of their comfort zones and brings out the worst in them. Everyone has their own set of peculiarities which can be endearing or downright annoying.  Ask yourself if you can deal with their idiosyncrasies for the rest of your life.

It’s all about Reactions: In most cases, something DOES go wrong while traveling. It could be a bus delay, losing valuables or getting lost in a new country. Notice how your partner reacts in these situations. Are they problem solvers, are they too proud to ask for your help, do they end up making you miserable by whining about the situation or do they just laugh about it and turn it into a big joke? It’s important to figure out the reaction that you can live with.

A photo posted by DrifterPlanet (@drifterplanet) on


Teamwork is the key: Couple Traveling requires teamwork. So does marriage. The responsibilities get divided based on who can do what better. Figure out if you both operate in unison or not. Any successful long term relationship is a result of good teamwork. Being a good team is not just working together but is also supporting each other through thick and thin. If you suck at it the first few times, then let it teach you how to be a better team.

San and I covered in mud after climbing in the rain. Location - Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay.

San and I covered in mud after climbing in the rain. Location – Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay.

Space and trust issues: Everyone needs a little space in their relationship; however, not everyone lets their partner have that space. This could be because of trust issues or insecurities. Traveling gives you a sense of what is in store for you concerning space and trust. A few years back, traveling with my potential life partner made me realize that he was never going to let me indulge in a little “me” time. It happened when I decided to pamper myself with a back massage after hours of walking around with a heavy backpack. He barged in during that massage and stood towering over my head all through my “me” time. He later mentioned it was because of a “male” masseur.

Conversations or confrontations: Long conversations are inevitable while traveling and certain unresolved issues have a way of resurfacing. Some matters remain unresolved because they are not addressed and may worsen with time. Traveling provides an opportunity to indulge in such discussions because you’re away from work, free of stress and are in a different surrounding. Every couple fights but is every one of your conversations turning into a confrontation?

Compromise: Even if you have similar interests, traveling will force you to give and take in many situations. From simple things such as agreeing on a restaurant to something as big as how to spend your day – many circumstances demand a compromise. This will give you an idea of what kind of compromises you need to make if you decide to spend a lifetime together. If you learn to compromise, only then you should take your relationship to the next level.

I met my husband while backpacking and we ended up traveling together to many places very early in our relationship. After two failed relationships where traveling together was usually a painful event, this finally felt like the real thing and we decided to tie the knot.  Each of the above points is based on my real experience and I hope you find them useful. Click here to read how we met.

The ULTIMATE Relationship Test by Drifter Planet(Travel is the ULTIMATE relationship test. Pin to save for later)

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This post was also published on The Huffington Post. Click here to view.

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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