It was in the middle of the afternoon when I got to Madrem, a city in northern Goa. To get to my destination, the last leg of my India adventure, I crossed a quaint walking bridge that led me to the Ashiyana Yoga Center. The first of 14 to arrive, I was assigned a room with three beds. Each bed had its own pretty mosquito net detailed with colorful beads making me feel like I had just walked into a dream.
With a couple of hours to kill, I decided to take a nap to rid myself of the bad hangover that I had acquired from a big night with new friends and fellow travelers from all over the world that checked themselves into the Jungle Hostel. This included a failed attempt to catch the sunrise with a local Navy guy who regulars the super fancy, open-air nightclub that sits on top of a hill with an open bar and a “couples only” policy to keep the locals out.
After living conservatively and being on edge during two weeks of backpacking through Northern India, I needed one night of carefree, shameless partying. I was thousands of miles away from home in one of the world's famous beach towns. Why not?
Earlier that same day, I jumped onto the back of a motorcycle where an 18-year-old Goan spent 7 hours showing me why I should forfeit my one way ticket home.
I know, you probably think I'm nuts. Shanti shanti, as the locals would say. But let's be honest, this isn't the first time I jumped onto the back of a stranger's bike (South Beach 2010). At least this time, I had a good idea of his driving skills. The kid was my taxi driver to the hostel from the airport. He asked if I wanted a tour. I accepted. It wasn't until he didn’t accept my money and told the restaurant servers that I was his girlfriend that I realized we were on a proper first date. Poor kid spent five hours taking me around in the blazing heat in a leather jacket, while I got to experience beautiful Goa on the back of a bike with the wind in my hair. Though we will never meet again, I may have fulfilled a lifelong fantasy for a kid that dreamt of being a professional racecar driver. For all I know, I might still be his American girlfriend on the other side of the world.
About 15 kilometers and 500 rupees north, at an eco-retreat yoga center, I wake up in a king size bed in my own modern hut after being asked to leave my pretty bed. Though I had to get over giving up my romantically adorned abode, I got that being settled into a single room is exactly what I needed, and the very reason why I came to India in the first place: to retreat—to get away from all of my commitments, the relationships and pressures of life. For the next seven days, I would simply be and be with and by myself.
In the morning, I would do yoga with my group. After yoga, we would have freshly-made breakfast together, and then while they’d go off to explore, I would nap and read my book in a hammock until we would meet again at the shala for the evening practice. Having already seen Goa, I didn’t want to leave the safe confines of our mini-oasis. Don’t get me wrong: Goa is pretty safe, especially in comparison to Northern India. In truth, I didn’t want there to be a chance that I would meet some hot guy with an accent on the beach and potentially get distracted from my…self.
Two days in, I stop by the fountain to grab a glass of water, and he asks me, “How’s your stay so far?” He was the general manager of Ashiyana. I tell him, “It’s perfect.”
After telling him that I love the food, he asks, “Have you had good Indian food, yet?” I knew where it was headed.
“Would you like me to take you out for some good Indian food?” he bravely asks.
“Sure,” I hesitated. “What about Friday (the day before I have to leave)?”
“What about tonight?”
I could always say no. I know this. But I don’t. That evening I wore the one dress that I brought with me in my backpacking backpack, I let my hair down and I did my make-up. I met him at the reception desk after dusk where we walked together to the front. We stood in front of a motorcycle, and I ask him, “Is this our ride?”
He tells me, “Yeah.”
With a dress on, I ask him, “How should I sit on it.”
“Anyway you’d like.”
I looked at him, smiled and hiked up my skirt.