Growing up on the untamed West coast of Ireland, I always wondered what existed beyond the Atlantic horizon. As a teenager, I would sit on the stony Celtic shore staring out to sea. For myriad reasons, it always instilled a great sense of respect in me; a reverence for the majesty of the natural world. In those moments, I would wonder what other glorious horizons existed.
My teens and early twenties saw short spells of European travels which sparked a fire of wanderlust. It’s that enigmatic “travel-bug” we often hear about but too-often ignore. A want, a need, an innate aspiration to explore every corner and crevice, both imaginable and inconceivable. In December 2013, after time spent blissfully trapped on the Emerald Isle, my wanderlust was reawakened as I was sent on a writing assignment to the other side of the world.
Many wanderers would cite India as a contrast, insane, complex, peaceful, chaotic. In reality, there are no single words or phrases that can fully encapsulate the multifaceted experience that this vibrant country has to offer. I knew this four-month trip down the rabbit hole would perfectly capture every sight, scent, and sound I had hoped for, and a few that I hadn’t! India’s south-western coastline etched memories in my mind that, to this day, still stand out in unadulterated joy and bemusement.
Following an onerous flight from Dublin I landed in the country’s smallest state, Goa—a setting renowned for its chilled vibes, vibrant party scene, white-sand beaches, and the Arabian Sea views. I can only describe the commute from Dabolim Airport to Palolem beach as the most terrifying ‘spin’ that I’ve ever experienced. My driver hurtled through the back-roads of tropical Goa in our rickety white taxi, dodging sacred cattle and wide-eyed locals. No doors and the floor did look like it wold collapse over a speed bump. A death-defying introduction to the insane motoring habits of Indian folk is the only way to articulate it. Hints of safety were summoned by the makeshift Shiva alter shaking atop the vehicle’s dusty black dashboard. Despite Samar’s lunacy behind the wheel, I hoped the Gods would get us there in one piece; and of course, they did.
Getting there was quite a mission, a treacherous tunnel to a new world, akin to childbirth—it’s terrifying, new and sometimes messy, but once my feet stood on the golden Palolem sand and the glisten of the Arabian Sea caught my eye, I knew that I was exactly where I was meant to be. My new home.
Palolem offers the most stunning stretch of beach, lined with dozens of very cool bars, restaurants with intoxicating Indian delicacies and flocks of lush green coconut trees. Paradise. As one of Goa’s best market towns, it’s a real Aladdin’s cave of delights. Any nomad, no matter what their taste or sensibility, can pick up delicate fabrics, any sized statuette, gold and silver jewellery, and anything in between. For the night owls, be sure to check out Leopard Valley which is located between Palolem and Agonda Beach. Every weekend the famed music venue plays host to the finest international and local DJs, like DJ Gail Mendez and Ministry of Sound’s Eve Carey—both of whom I was lucky enough to interview during my trip.
Agonda Beach hosted me for almost one month on my travels. Famed for its Yoga and Meditation training schools, and home to some of the best Indian cuisine that I encountered, it’s a true backpacker’s paradise. Here, I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting an American Yoga student, Sarah Sullivan, among others.
Working in the fast-paced, high-pressure American corporate world, Sullivan made a daring move and left her comfortable life to start a new one as a global wanderer. Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray Love, the fiery red-head hopped from Italy to Bali, and finally onto India, in search of peace and true, uninhibited happiness. She found that right there on the Indian coastline. Sarah was just one of many stories I stories I was told in Goa, another was that of Rachit King.
Rachit was—as he put it—a one-armed, cancer surviving beat poet, who was not afraid to set tails wagging with his contemporary and sometimes sexual sonnets. A more than interesting character who joined our travelling crew, after seeing him perform at Art Resort. Then there were Spanish sisters Rosa and Monica Steban, proprietors of the local Candora boutique.
I caught up with the two girls over a coffee to chat about their break into the fashion world, living in India for six months each year and following your dream. Not so much a piece about fashion, but about two feisty entrepreneurs!
Yes, I met many wanderers in Goa, and that was just the first port of call. Next stop, the ancient city of Hampi.