For urban Indians dreaming of a better life, Goa has for decades held a distinct allure because of its laidback culture, its melting-pot crowds, sunkissed summers and rain-lashed monsoons — all of which can become the very things you find most challenging if you move there.
Karan Manral, 44, a marketing and communications consultant who made the shift 18 years ago, now helps others make it too. His area of special focus is organic / urban farming. He and his wife Yogita Mehra left Mumbai for Sukur, a village near Porvorim in north Goa, started an organic farm and, in 2006, an organic farming consultancy. They now have an organic kitchen garden store as well.
It’s not all sun, sea and extra-cheap booze, he always tells those starting to act on the dream. “‘You must adjust your expectations’, I tell them.” So what’s it really like? Here are some of the first pointers he gives city hopefuls.
You will definitely miss…
The incredible buzz of the big cities, which are designed to satisfy your impulses and whims. “Cities offer you the opportunity to create a bubble of the people you choose,” Manral says. “In Goa, communities are smaller. For a while you will be a curiosity, then you’ll need to make the effort to fit into the community you are now a part of.”
Cooperating with the neighbours is the essence of survival. This means making compromises, adjustments, making an effort — much of which is not expected of you in the larger metros. “Neighbours are friendly but you have to set aside time for the community, play your part in the community’s activities too.”
Prepare for it to be wilder, darker
Power supply is not as consistent as the major cities, and steady mobile and broadband access are still hard to find in parts of the state. “Also prepare yourself for inconveniences that you may not have expected, like a python curled up on your balcony! And, depending on where you live, Goa may be quieter or louder than your current neighbourhood,” Manral says.
It’s really not a permanent weekend
The big myth is that your life will be the same as it was in the city, only greener, cleaner and more fun. “Life in Goa is nothing like the breaks you’ve taken here,” Manral says. “Many folks struggle because they don’t have the convenience they’re accustomed to in the mega cities, where plumbers, electricians, carpenters and grocery delivery all turn up at the door like genies. That’s not going to happen here. You’ll have trouble getting even Amazon to deliver.”
Everything requires a relationship — and even then, the plumber tells you when he’s free, not the other way around. This means your time is not always your own, and little tasks can stretch out — testing your patience and your budget.
“You may also go in thinking that life here will be less expensive, but that’s before you’ve factored in the cost of a vehicle, since there is little public transport.”
Why it’s worth it anyway
Goa’s history makes it culturally different from most of the country, while being quite Indian in many respects. It’s really beautiful – more than any number of short trips could help you understand. “I’ve been here 18 years, and there are still days that I go wow!” Manral says. “I have a forest near my village, a river very close by, my kid is growing up amid wildlife.”
Locals and the new waves of residents are doing interesting things, in terms of art, music, organic lifestyles. “The nearest doctor may be kilometres away, but there are great music teachers!”
Time really slows down, which is great for those tired of the frantic city life. But this come at a cost. “I can start work at 7 am, slow down after 12, stop working at 4 and no one would be at all surprised. I can use the rest of my time to cycle by the river, give myself time to breathe, think. Move here if you value time more than money. But you’ll still have to wait for the plumber.”