Our second destination in India was Goa, known as the original hippie town, attracting backpackers since the end of the 1960s. A perfect place to relax and “take it easy”. Although the atmosphere of spirituality, smoking pot around the campfire and full moon parties was still there, it also felt like a place overwhelmed by decades of mass tourism. The small streets were packed with western travellers, mostly British. The little shops and markets were designed to sell things to these day-trippers and felt less authentic than we might have hoped for. The pubs were offering dishes that didn’t come close to the regional, traditional recipes we had tried in Mumbai. Luckily, our cabin was located on the beach away from the main party street, offering a breath-taking view over blue water waves and white sand.
We arrived in Mumbai during India’s so called ‘bank note crisis’, during which people were queuing all day to get cash out and some even reportedly paid others to wait in line for them. As we were warned about this beforehand, we got rupees out straight upon arrival at the airport. With nobody waiting in line for the cash machine there, nor for immigration, everything ran perfectly smoothly. I even remember asking the immigration officer if ‘that was all’ and him saying yes – but nodding no… This Indian head wobble thing was something I would soon get used to.
My friend Aneree was waiting outside for us, in her car with chauffeur. It was lovely seeing her again; her enthusiasm about showing us the city in which she was born and raised made us feel really welcomed. She had a day full of activities in store for us, but first brought us to our hotel for some refreshments and a meal, which was great after all those long hours of travelling. During the car ride, I started to have the feeling of being part of a movie scene. Everything was so different, so full of colours – from the exotic fruit stands next to the road, to the beautiful traditional dresses the women were wearing. I was hit by a fragrance of local spices from the street shops and vendors who were all around. The roads were filled with cars, busses, motorcycles, cows and people trying to manoeuvre around each other. My ears were beeping from the noise of the many, many honking vehicles trying to find a space in the madness. There are about 22 million people living in Mumbai alone, which is more than all people of the Netherlands put together!
Sometimes you spontaneously think of something fun to do, like ‘hey, let’s go shopping’, or even ‘let’s go online shopping’. Which is exactly how one morning, out of the blue, my mum and I booked us an exotic trip abroad. It was raining outside, we had to cancel our plans for the day, and then… we went online. We stumbled upon a website advertising sunny deals to escape the miserable weather and it was just – so – appealing. Soon I would finish my second masters’ degree and officially say goodbye to the student life and start life as a working lady. In fact there would be only ten days in between my last day at university and the start of my first real job as a therapist, which for me was the perfect excuse for a last minute getaway. Knowing that to really get good sun exposure in January we would have to travel as far as the Canary Islands, not the cheapest destination, we initially laughed the whole idea off. Then another thought popped up. India… exotic land, place of spirituality and relaxation, ideal to recharge before taking on the working lifestyle! India is not exactly around the corner either, bút we reasoned that once we got there, it’d actually be quite affordable to get around. Good thinking right, well hmm… getting there turned out to be easier said than done.