It's that time of the year again.
You dust off your shiniest dresses, pick out your hardiest chappals, and carefully pack your brand new gold aviators.
You stuff everything into your duffel bag, assure your mum that you won’t stay out too late, that Breezers are the new whiskey, and that yes, yes, you’ll definitely be using plenty of that nice white powder (the prickly heat one she packed for you, of course).
As for me? Well, it’s that time of the year when I stock up on earplugs and patiently organise rides for every friend who finds themselves in Morjim at 5am, unable to remember their own name.
For you, it’s Goa Calling. For me, a resident of a tiny Goan village, it’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Part 5,738.
But either way, it’s December, and it’s Goa Time.
Times in Goa, however, are not fab.
Illegal mining has torn up large swaths of prime farmland and diverse ecosystems. The rising wealthy classes of large Indian cities are buying their second and third homes here: huge villas at the cost of forests; large apartment buildings at the cost of village homes.
Goa’s economy has historically relied on a thriving tourism industry — especially during the busy "season" between October and April.
But now, with newer types of wealth distribution and development tearing apart the fabric of Goan life, we are witnessing a new type of tourism – one that takes more away from Goa than it puts back.
Why should you, as a tourist, care?
Because, well, you know all those things you love about Goa? The laid-back attitude, the delicious local cuisine, the cheaply available intoxicants, the coconut trees that dot the skyline, making for the perfect selfie?
These things are rooted in lifestyles and livelihoods that are being eroded by opportunistic greed, and the new tourism industry is only making it worse.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
All we’re asking from you is: Please help, don’t hinder. In other words, please don’t be a dick.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Speak to a Goan who relies on the tourist economy, and they’ll tell you that package deals are the devil’s work.
You arrive at the airport, and your hotel’s Innova whisks you straight off to the hotel’s buffet lunch. You hang out by the pool with the hotel’s expensive drinks. A lazy nap later, you take a selfie on the hotel’s illegally cordoned-off beach, and tuck into the hotel’s buffet dinner. At night, you are whisked off to a party destination, which may or may not be a casino owned by the same hotel.
And the next day, you do it all over again.
By choosing local transport, restaurants, and hotels over package holidays, you put your money where your heart is: right into Goa, rather than into the grime of Delhi, Bombay, or a multinational hotel chain. Who wants a cookie-cutter holiday anyway?
Goa is home to fresh, cheap seafood, pork, and countless delicious vegetarian options. Yet the past few years have seen international chains like Domino's, KFC and Baskin Robbins sprout up near beachside tourist hotspots.
But why eat the same pizza available across the country instead of freshly caught crab at Amigo’s or hand-crafted gelato at Anjuna that you’d never be able to afford anywhere else?
You know where a Tuborg tastes just as good as it does at big names like Marbella and Calamari? The unnamed shacks just down the beach from Marbella and Calamari. These smaller venues sell the same Tuborg at half the price and have diverse music collections, and the shack owners — who have recently been struggling to keep their outfits open — will be genuinely grateful for your patronage.
Goa's open-air markets sell a wide variety of jewellery, clothes, artworks, fruit, and even furniture.
There are also several small, independent designers making lovely, one-of-a-kind pieces, like durable dancing shoes for all-night raves. But today, tons of tourists frequent Nike and Reebok shops set up just inland from all the major beaches.
Why on earth? Aside from their ethereal softness, buying special dancing shoes involves meandering through the Saturday Night Market, listening to live music, and eating some delicious home-cooked food. So much better than the tar road leading up to Nike.
The number of road accidents in Goa is increasing at an alarming rate, and the areas where residents feel most uneasy driving are the ones populated by tourists.
Riding your scooties three-abreast is a guaranteed trip to the hospital, and so is that Harley-Davidson that looks like a classy chick-magnet before you realise you have no idea how to ride it.
I literally cannot count the number of skinny city boys I have seen flying off motorbikes, with their lovely, helmetless girlfriends flying right off behind them. Guys, Goa is not the set of Dhoom 3. And if it was, you’d be the ones going under the bus.
Do you assume Goans are a bunch of lazy drunks? Do you imagine girls in bikinis are just waiting for you to get your camera out? Do you think Goa is being spoiled by lower-middle-class tourists who are too uncultured for your designer wear?
Not making gross assumptions and judgments about everyone who doesn’t look or act like you is an ace travel strategy, and also an ace life strategy. Give it a try.
As a tourist, you can also make an effort to understand what’s going on in Goa.
Why not pick up a copy of The Herald newspaper, which has a great editorial section with insightful columns?
Or you could take a quiet, un-intrusive drive inland to a smaller village, like Bastora, a river, like the peaceful banks of the Chapora, or the farming communities dotted across the state, to see what Goa looks like for its residents rather than its visitors.
There’s so much more to Goa than meets the tourist eye; all you need to do is look.
So go forth, party hard, but remember: Don’t be a dick.
If you succeed, then maybe next year you’ll still have a Goa that you love to come back to.