Return to India

Last month I had the luxury of visiting Goa for some much needed ‘me time’. This was to be the first solo trip I had done in a while, and I set about it with a mix of fear and excitement. Having experienced a life changing trip to North India in 2014, it was with mixed emotions I took in my first few breaths of Goa’s tourist vibe.

In our always on, always busy, always connected times I think the biggest luxury we can give ourselves is space and time. So this trip was to be all about that.

Staying in Agonda, one of the quieter beach towns in South Goa, I quickly established a routine. Electing not to do a formal yoga retreat on this trip due to a combination of the cost, the often restrictive food and schedule and my longing to be alone, I cobbled together something of a DIY retreat. The Sampoona yoga centre offered twice daily 90 minute ashtanga, rocket or vinyasa classes. Each morning the birds would wake me and I would go to the 8.30am vigorous (and sweaty - it was already 30’) class. You can’t beat starting your day with a semi outdoors yoga class, enjoying a long shavasana to the sounds of nature.

Breakfast at the Mandala cafe next door was a daily highlight, sweet chai, fresh fruits and pancakes, cool staff and a great yogi vibe. Then off to Agonda beach for podcasts, reading and writing. These mornings were so peaceful, nourishing and calming I felt my stresses and worries melt away. A long lunch at Zest, a nap, then a curry for dinner and reading my novel in bed by 9.30pm most evenings. Bliss.

I went out on a few excursions - Cola beach (amazing) and Patnem (ok), but otherwise the above was all I did for 9 whole glorious, relaxed days. The sun shone down on me and I felt myself uncurling, unfurling and the long winter and the ‘beast from the east’ in the UK become a distant memory.  

The trip was life affirming rather than life changing. What I saw of Goa was that it is very, very touristy. This can be good; it’s safe, clean, easy to get around and avocado on toast is widely available if that’s your thing. There are hot showers, AC, constant electricity and people wander around the streets in swimwear and nobody bats an eyelid. Goa was nothing like the India I had experienced before. That was crazy, noisy, dirty, smelly, dangerous and incredible.

All the yoga teachers I found in Agonda were Westerners, and whilst the standard of asana teaching was high, in 8 yoga classes I heard one OM. This made me feel sad. If you are seeking a spiritual journey, are interested in more traditional yoga or learning about Indian culture, I cannot recommend Goa.

But for me, this time, the trip was exactly what I needed. Space, reflection, time to myself. When I went to India the first time, my friend told me “India will give you what you need”, and again, she was right.

And as I made my way back to the airport to go home, in a brand new car with air con, I ended up with cow dung splattered over my face and clean clothes. I sat in the taxi laughing. Goa may have been India-lite, but it was still India.