You know how when someone loses weight or changes but you see them every day, you don’t really notice it? I feel like I woke up in Goa every day for 5 years and I don’t think anything of it – yet, when I think about the fact I lived in India for over 5 years, I am a little shocked! It’s hard to believe I first came here in 2012, and now in 2018, I’m looking back at these 5 years of traveling around India to share with you some of my favorite memories from my time here.
I’m not usually sentimental but with so many changes coming up in my life moving to Mexico, I’ve been reflecting on my time here quite a lot. I’d love to share my memories with you! I know on social media, I’ve been posting about my new house in Mexico and how excited we are to live here BUT we DO miss Goa and India! I decided to sum up some of my favorite memories from the past 6 years of traveling there. I’m also looking forward to being back there in November.
My Favorite Memories of Traveling and Living in India So Far
When I think about the first time that I felt incredibly happy in India, I go back to the first time I cried happy tears here (yeah, that’s something I do). It was after a few days in Udaipur. I’d only been in India for about a week and I was walking outside of a temple at night when I came across some people doing a traditional performance. There were tons of people and it was all synchronized: so many colors, so much noise, and so many happy faces. I was like “wow, I don’t know what this is but it’s amazing!”.
I’ve seen so many performances since then that have brought tears to my eyes, some insanely epic like the Soliga tribe in Karnataka or the Apatani tribe in Ziro Valley. Sometimes it is even just a kid singing and his dad playing the flute, begging, outside of Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. I mean, even a puppet show once got me all choked up!
I love seeing traditional performances, even though sometimes they are maybe inauthentic and put on for tourists. I’ve seen all different kinds and for sure, it’s some of my happiest thoughts of India!
If I really press myself to see when is the happiest I’ve ever felt in India, it takes me back to the first two weeks I spent in Goa when I met Ben in 2012. I picture floating in the sea in Palolem, having a candle-lit dinner at Thalassa (back when it was a small non-partying restaurant), and driving around with the windows down in Ben’s nano (which yes, we crashed). I picture our road trip to Hampi, where Babu drove us – unbeknownst to me, Babu was going to become a good friend and I’d get to know his whole family over the years. He asked to bring his friend, Ryance. Ryance is a good friend (and was our neighbor) as well now, and watched our dogs when we went out of town. Every time there is a dog in our village who needs help we team up with Ryance to figure out what to do. At those times, back in 2012, I didn’t know I’d be moving to Goa and it was all just “vacation”.
The night before Diwali at Babu’s
yes the kids are playing Grand Theft Auto at our house, no they aren’t drinking beer lol
One time, we were in Kovalam and Ben and I had been out in the big wave there body surfing for hours. I got fried bright red like a tomato. Babu started walking out to us and was going to give it a go. The lifeguards went up to him and told him something – and he started waving us in. He said, “there are sharks!”. There were not but the lifeguards just saw Babu and assumed he would drown so told him there were sharks, lol.
When we visited Hampi, we bought a boat. This is one of my favorite stories from India and one that I wrote about for the newspaper in Goa when I first started writing! Those were the days, ha! I had just been backpacking around India and was feeling tired, tired of traveling and of being ripped off. Ben was what I called a “breath of fresh air”. He saw India in such a positive light as an expat in Goa and thank God I got to see it that way, too, to round out my trip here. We went to Hampi and went out in the traditional coracle boats and Ben jokingly told our 7-year-old driver that he’d like to buy the boat.
The kid was immediately on it and said he wanted to take us to the boat makers. They said they’d make us a brand new boat for 7,000 rupees. Ben gave the child the money under the promise they would deliver the boat to Goa. Keep in mind, we are 8 hours from there and there was no proof we gave a kid any money.
Look at Ben stroking his chin in thought, lol
The boat showed up three days later. They forgot the paddle, but they sent that along later, too. The kid came on a local bus! It’s still so wild that the boat showed up – and it was such a magical India moment!
My parents visiting is another huge chunk of amazing memories. I loved showing them Goa and think it would have really sucked if they never came to visit and be able to see the places and people I’m always talking about on Skype. We also went to Mumbai and showed them the city vibes in India as well as Hampi so they could see the temples and rural towns along the way. They were here for Christmas and we had a ton of fun. It was also nice for them to get to know Ben better since they’ve actually only met three times.
My friends Vince, Ann, Britani, and Amanda all visited as well and we had so much fun. Ben had friends visit as well as family. It is always fun to host people and show them where we’ve been calling home for so long.
My first Thanksgiving in India, Ben (being English and not knowing how big of a deal this was) said: “I’ll make Thanksgiving dinner!” Now, keep in mind we had a toaster oven. That is all – a tiny little toaster oven. Now, it’s hard to cook a chicken (no turkeys here last minute) and be able to make anything else. It’s always hard to make green bean casserole when you don’t have canned green beans, French’s fried onions, and Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. He made it all from scratch and it was damn good! Even a copy-cot Stouffer’s stuffing recipe. He actually did it again a few years late when my friend Ann visited.
The Omni van is such a fun memory. Oh, the nostalgia of that – as it now sits dead in my driveway with the trunk rusted off and mold growing up the sides. When I was first in Goa, I had been in the Omni. It was Babu’s taxi. When Babu bought a new car, Ben offered to buy the Omni for around $900. He told me when I was out of town and said: “let’s drive it to the mountains!”. I was like erm, no.
The Omni grew on me…. to the point where I loved this car. When I came to Goa, I had to learn to drive and the Omni was my way around town. It didn’t have A/C, a radio, the windows didn’t work, the doors in the back were held on by rope. It doesn’t have power-steering so learning to do stick-shift in a car without power-steering and avoiding crazy drivers and cows, was tiring!
The Omni was a hoot because in India, they are taxis and you just VERY rarely see a foreigner driving an Omni so when Indians saw me and my friends driving around, they would honk and laugh at us – and my friends and I loved it when we would go out at night. Ben would do donuts in parking lots and we could just throw the dogs in the back to go to the beach. One time, the Omni broke down on Panjim bridge and we had to push it halfway across while traffic stopped on our side of the road and everyone, everyone was honking.
So, weirdly seeing my first python in the wild is such a fun memory! Ben, our best friend Rishab, and I were in our Omni van when we slowed down for a speed breaker. We thought hmm, this is a new one! But, as we got closer saw it was an (at least) 8-foot python. Of course, videos had to be made. This was just the first sighting, though. I have seen at least a dozen over the years – most either in my backyard or the alley right outside my house – even where I park my car, taking my parking spot! I love the wildlife here: Cobras in the trashcans, a baby python under our couch on Christmas, and monkeys literally on our balcony every other day.
On my first birthday in Goa, in June, when I’d been here just one month I walked downstairs and Ben and Babu said, “let’s get a dog”. We got two. Huckleberry Finn and Piso (which means crazy in Konkani, the local language). Those first few days of having a labrador and a golden retriever crawl all over me were the best – until Piso got sick. Piso had parvo-virus and it was a tragic loss that was maybe the worst week of my life at that point. We had to put him down Then, Huck got sick. It was also parvo… they were long days and nights of feeding him through a syringe.
He somehow recovered and I had a year with him as my best buddy. Ben was often working in Kerala and I didn’t have a lot of friends yet – Huck was literally the bomb. I would walk with him around the Wednesday market or up to a restaurant and feed him prawns under the table. But, at a year old, fully vaccination, he died from rabies. That became the worst week of my life and actually still is, looking back. I don’t think there could be a worse way to lose a dog. A friend who visited wrote a blog post about him – he was the coolest dog that ever lived.
Right before Huck died, we got a kitten. Ben was the one who wanted him – he was all alone and would have surely died at just a few weeks old. The cat was obsessed with me. I really didn’t like him. Huck loved him, though! He would carry him around in his mouth and take him around the house. Eventually, I loved the cat and I was glad he was there when Huck died.
Huck and the cat… he was so tiny
A few months later, Ben found Shanti on the beach in Goa. I went down there on the train and saw the dog. I said “cute but we aren’t keeping him – I can’t stand to have another dog die”. I went back to Goa. Another favorite memory is when my doorbell rang at 4 in the morning and there was a random Keralan guy there with a cage and Shanti was inside. He had been sent by Ben on the train 17 hours to bring me the dog. I thought I’m going to kill Ben but then I thought Ben is basically the best… Shanti was the most spoiled dog in Goa and everyone loves her.
I went up to NE India once, a year later, and got a call from Ben. There was a dog hiding under the Omni because there were some fireworks. I told him I was not kidding – he wasn’t keeping that dog. He kept him outside and when I came back I felt bad and let him in the house. We kept him. His name is Omni.
Our house was always revolving with pets, some we just took care of temporarily. All of our pets have brought me such happiness in India!
Shanti was actually taken care of a lot by our friend Azad. Ben has known Az for at least 8 years. He is a rickshaw driver in Kovalam but he’s also our good friend and comes to stay with us for the weekend each season with his friends. The first time I met Az, he was dropping me off at the mall in his rickshaw in Kochi, Kerala and I said “okay, I’ll meet you in an hour” and he said, “I’ll just be bowling…”. So, I found him at the bowling alley and we bowled. He was hilarious and I thought, wow I can see why Ben likes him so much. One time we all went ice skating…
Azad got a job working for Ben on the reefs. He spoke English well but picked up so many phrases from Ben’s workers on the job who were Kiwis, so he talked like that. He calls me and says, “Rachel, broooo, how are you?” One of the funniest memories of Azad is a silly story when he was going to pick up food for the crew. He was going to get Subways subs. Ben said to get turkey subs and Az called “Bro.. no turkey bro.” Ben said okay, get ham then. Az then asks the guy behind the counter for ham and says to Ben, “Bro, no ham, bro!”. Ben’s like “what, okay, what do they have?”. Az asked then told Ben, “Bro chicken only bro… mcchicken”. Ben’s like “BRO you are at McDonald’s”. Az has made me laugh til I cry so many times until we said goodbye in Mumbai when we left for Mexico, then we all really cried.
When I look back at my travels as a backpacker, I remember how little I knew about India. I was hitchhiking, Couchsurfing, and not really thinking about the “dangers of India” but those are some of my best memories because I didn’t know the dark side of India and didn’t have a care in the world. I literally did no research before I came here, on my own, and wandered around without much of a plan and little money. I am so glad I did that before I moved here, because not only was it a unique way to travel here, but I had so experiences I would probably be afraid to take again. These days, I read the news in India and know the dark side so I really feel grateful that I came here naive at first. I definitely got ripped off but I also saw the kindness of strangers over and over again when I needed it.
six years ago, my friend Chloe I met in Delhi
Some of the best travels I have had while living here have been the month I spent in Karnataka with a tour company called GoMowgli. One month in a state that wasn’t that well-traveled by foreigners – it was so unique and not only did I see cool things, they were things that weren’t really being written about online and it helped my blog grow a lot. I spent half of that month in such rural towns and saw a very new side to India. I remember a boy handing me a baby goat he was carrying home. It had just been born in the field hours before. It was then I decided I loved baby goats and picked them up every chance I had after that!
This post is so much longer than I intended and I feel like I haven’t even gotten into the travel memories: listening to the Dalai Lama speak, trying opium with a man from the Bishnoi tribe at his home, drinking tea in -5 degree temperatures with female monks at their nunnery in Tawang, playing duck duck goose and taking selfies with monks in Bomdila, NE India, trying my first bhang lassi RIGHT BEFORE going on a freaking camel safari…
…Sunrise from the Ganges while people cremated their loved ones along the Ghats, lounging on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala, going to babu’s village for festivals, riding the INSANE slow local train in Mumbai at rush hour (video), celebrating Holi (video), learning Thai massage (and doing it as a career for a year), going on safaris…
Staying in an ashram, that one time I was in a music video about Malana cream, which I am not linking to, having a meal with tens of thousands of people at the Golden Temple, babysitting a baby monkey with Ben (he changed the diaper), bathing an elephant at a sanctuary..
I had made life-long friends living in India and really I just feel really lucky to got to call another country and culture a second home. I think that I’ll always consider India a second home even as I leave and head to Mexico. I still see myself traveling it more in-depth even when I’m old and retired. I hope you enjoyed reading some of my random memories about living in India.