I planned to come to Goa straight after Mumbai to acclimatise bit and chiiiiill out on a beach for a while. After the most horrendous 13 hour bus from Mumbai (…seriously that’s another story), getting off at the wrong stop and then having the most wonderful and ridiculous good luck and chance meeting I ended up landing in Arambol… with little knowledge at the time that this would end up being my home for the next three months!
Arambol has definitely got a hippie / festival vibe with daily drum circles on the beach, live music everywhere and impromptu jamming a regular thing. The main drag down to the beach is crammed with market stalls selling all sorts of cheap clothing and beautiful wares from all over India, it’s even nicknamed Glastonbury street because it so resembles all the stalls you see at the festival.
It was famously a stop on the hippie trail in the 70s and has steadily grown from then although is now a hell of a lot busier – there’s lots of new Russian tourists as with the rest of North Goa and the beach is less than clean. It maintains a chilled out vibe though, less the psytrance rave Goa is known for (go a few miles South to Anjuna for that!) and more of a hub for live music from all over the world.
I would hazard a guess that it probably has the highest concentration of wellness workshops on the planet too! So much yoga, tantra, goddess circles, ecstatic dance, endless cacao ceremonies and getting your chakras realigned on every corner. My cynical British nature loves a bit of hippie bashing (a well known sport in Arambol) but though this isn’t entirely my scene it was definitely something I could gel along with nicely.
Reasons why slow travel and getting to know a place enhances your travelling experience… AKA a list of my excuses for getting stuck in Goa for 3 months.
It’s nice to feel at home
I didn’t realise but I was totally ready to stay in one place for a while when I got here – just before I left I had been living between Bristol, London and Devon in various people’s house and before that in a multitude of tents over festival season! I was totally ready to put down some roots even if only for a couple of months. As a child I moved around every couple of years so I’m a nomad at heart and pretty good at making somewhere feel like home quickly.
It’s so easy in this digital age to have home comforts everywhere, with a cheap local sim card with 3G I can be in contact with my friends and family whenever I want… it’s pretty hard to get homesick.
You get that insider knowledge…
You really get to know your way around if you’re in a place for a while… you’re definitely not relying on your Lonely Planet to tell you where to go for dinner! Arambol is so much larger than it initially seemed, I was still discovering new places down little side streets on my last few days which I never would have seen had I only been here a week. If you stay somewhere a while you’ll also get to know things like where you can get the best breakfast or where has the best wifi… in Arambol’s case.. no where!!
The above photos of me are inside a HUMOUNGOUS banyan tree… it isn’t Arambol’s famous banyan tree with its phony baba but a bit of a local secret down the road in neighbouring town Mandrem… it’s little tips like these that you find when you stick around in one place for a while.
Things become cheaper & more convenient
When you get to know a place you find out where the best budget spots are and you get to know what you should be paying for – less chance to get ripped off! You can also get cheaper deals with things like renting a room or a moped if it’s for a longer period of time. AND you’re also saving on travel costs!
Because of the money situation in India when I got here (which I touched on briefly in my post about Mumbai) it was SO much easier to stay in one place because it was gonna be tricky to pay off bills etc. when I could only withdraw 2000 rupees a day after a huge queue! I had tabs all over town, a testament to the kindness of strangers and trust of locals during the money crisis… which leads me neatly on to…
Feeling part of a community
It’s nice when your chai man recognises you in the morning, it’s lush to be able to go out for lunch without plans and just bump into friends. If, like me, you aren’t staying in a hostel or communal living space (there aren’t many in India, mainly guest houses instead) then you’re going to need a more time to meet people.
There’s a close knit expat community in Arambol who have been coming there for years for the season. Whilst I was in Arambol I got to know all the people from certain venues, all the crew at Vaayu a couple of beaches away who are always up to exciting projects and had friends who worked at a local school.
You get to watch a place change…
I was there from near the start of the season in mid November, which was apparently much quieter than usual because of the money situation, until mid February.
The season is November to March – no one’s here in the summer because stiflingly hot and also it’s the monsoon!
I found it fascinating to see how it changed. All of the beach huts are built new every year after the monsoon and I would often walk along the beach to see that an entire new restaurant had sprung up in the space of a day! Arambol was vastly different from those quiet days mid-November to the rammed and expensive period around Christmas and New Years.
I was there during the hoo ha of Goan elections when all the bars weren’t allowed to serve booze and also through the laying of an entire new road which was an interesting insight into how Indian infrastructure works!
You can play host to visiting friends
I had quite a few friends pop in to see me at various points in my stay or people who were going to be there anyway. It was great to be able to show them around, take them to my favourite spots, make sure they were getting good prices for things etc. Arambol is a backpacker hotspot so I literally saw tens of friends pass through during my time here, especially festival crew friends who were spending the off season travelling.
You can still get some sightseeing in!
Staying in one place for the season doesn’t mean that you can’t travel – but it is useful and stress reducing to have one place you use as a base. I had loads of friends who did trips to Hampi and South Goa from Arambol and then returned… I however was pretty lazy and didn’t got that far afield. Up to Keri Beach and down to Anjuna for the night market was pretty much as far as I went in the whole time I was there (a very small perimeter in terms of India’s over all geography!).
Slow travel means it’s easier to find work to fund your travel
I didn’t work much but I did a few jobs which really helped fund my time there and which were positions I wouldn’t have got if I hadn’t been sticking around. I was doing some production and social media stuff for GOAT festival and only got my job because I was based out there. I also did a bit of work on a little film with one of Vaayu’s resident artists and spent a week as a teaching assistant in the YogiArts school, a little local expat school.
For a real slice of Goa check out the promo video we worked on for GOAT… missing an amazing clip where I nearly got head butted by a cow in Mandrem! Filmed by my crazy talented pal Taira.
You might find yourself a new home!
What I found very interesting whilst staying put was meeting expats and people who travel to Goa every year for the season… Although it was a very transient place with lots of backpackers coming and going there was a real sense of community with between both the lovely local Goan’s and the internationals who had decided to make this their home.
Slow travel is a whole movement in itself and after reading about it and doing it I don’t know if I’ll travel any other way. Meeting people who spend the season every year in tropical countries (and being reminded of the winter rain in Bristol) has definitely got me thinking of it as a future idea… in fact, I’ll be back in Arambol next month!
More of my India posts from last year are slowly coming, I’m off again in a week and heading to Magnetic Fields festival! Keep up with my travels on my Instagram, and let if you’ve got any questions about travelling in India 🙂