How Living in Goa for 5 Years Has Changed Me

The last time I went to the US, in February, was to renew my visa after my 5-year visa expired. It’s hard to believe I moved to Goa that long ago, and have been in India overall (as a traveler) since 2012. As you might have seen, I am leaving India and moving to Mexico! But I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time in Goa, what I’ve learned living here, and how I’ve changed for the better.

Going from working as a nurse and living in uptown Charlotte to living in Goa in a small village in basically the jungle with no job was quite a 180 for me as you can imagine. I’ve changed A LOT since I moved here and it was pretty gradually. I didn’t realize it until I really sat down compared how I was back in 2011/2012 living in the US to now.

How Living in Goa Changed Me (and Some Ways It Hasn’t) + What I’ve Learned

Goa is a really chilled out beach town right on the edge of the jungle. It’s stolen my heart completely and although I am moving away, it will always be a home to me. Living here was paradise, but living in India, in general, does come with some challenges. Here are some ways that living in Goa has changed me and things I have learned from living here that I will take with me when I go.

Life can be so much more simple than we make it.

The thing that I think has changed the most for me is how simple my life was in Goa. In the US I was always rushing around for things I thought were important but most of those things I did don’t even exist in the Goa in my lifestyle, and I didn’t miss them. I somehow went from loads of responsibilities to pretty much just making sure my pets were taken care of.

I would go to the market during the day I’m cooking and buy exactly what I need. I used to have to plan out doctor’s check-up’s months in advance in the US, but in Goa, I could just pop into the dentist or eye doctor last minute for a check-out or teeth-cleaning for $10. Life was so easy and chilled that you really didn’t need to plan or worry.

Things are a lot cheaper as well, which of course cuts the worry because even if you mess something up, it probably won’t be an expensive mistake. The chilled out Goa vibes (and Ben’s influence) have really rubbed off on me. I have always been really Type A but now, I’m much more relaxed and that’s something I will hopefully take to Mexico. I take things day by day rather than having so many plans and checklists – even with travel. I have one to-do list now which is always so empty that there are currently two things on it: find a pool cleaner in Merida and renew my nursing license in 2019.

In Goa, there is less responsibility because everyone is chilled. Five months late on your electricity? It’s literally no big deal. Snake under your couch? Just a Monday morning! Life is totally different and Goa sends you curveballs which over time make you learn to be more flexible. I don’t know if Mexico will be as laid back but I hope so.

Basically, life can be simple. You can throw away everything, move to a cheap country on the beach, and live off your savings for a year or so – it’s just if you are up for the adventure!

I’ve become a lot less materialistic.

You might be thinking, “yeah right” but you should have known me in 2012 and see how much junk I would buy on a trip to the mall. Living in India had really kept me out of the loop. I don’t know what is on trend and when I do see something I like on Instagram, I can’t buy it if I wanted to thanks to import customs so slowly, my brain stopped thinking about all the material stuff it wanted. I just go shopping mainly once a year while I’m in the USA. No more online shopping for me. Throughout the year, I don’t really buy anything.

Goa just got a mall. There is a Tommy Hilfiger, Marks and Spencers, Adidas, and a couple of other stores. They are stocked with clothes chosen specifically for an Indian buyer and they are way more expensive than the same items in the UK or USA. I never shop at the mall and there’s really nowhere else to shop but local boutiques, like my friends Tia and Rachel from FARA. I do get a dress here and there from them for Christmas or my Birthday and other than some souvenirs while I’m abroad, it’s refreshing not to be buying so much. I think Mexico might be a bit similar in that way.

By the time I go home next, the things on trend now aren’t anymore anyway so it’s a hell of a lot less waste! I love wearing local designers and could 100% care less about the brand name on my clothes or makeup which I couldn’t have said when I was 22. I’m excited to see if Merida has some cool local designers, but based on my two weeks there – I don’t think so, it seems like more big chain stores.

I’ve become more of a minimalist.

At first, I moved here with just one piece of luggage and a 65L backpack. I spent my first year in India with only that. Over the years, I accumulated things, but not too many and most was gifted to me by brands hoping I would blog about it. Ben helped since he owns basically nothing.

With the combination of not having much stuff in Goa and not being able to shop + mixing in a little bit of OCD and Type A behavior (I LOVE throwing things away and hate clutter) – I didn’t have anything in Goa that I don’t love and use. The less I have, the better. When we packed up for Mexico, everything we owned fit in four pieces of luggage and two carry-ons.

I also am more about shopping for quality over quantity thanks to this change. I might buy a $150 high-quality suede bag that I know I’m going to carry for years and not buy any other bag that year. Instead of a random raincoat, I’ll get a seriously heavy-duty one I know will last 10 years. When I bought my new tennis shoes last year, it was after my old ones from 2010 wore out. I use things until they are literally unusable.

I also read the book The Magic Art of Tidying Up, which is another reason why these changes happened I imagine!

My thoughts on education have changed.

I go back and forth with my opinions on education where some days I feel like the way I did things is the best way (try to get straight A’s, take school really seriously, work for a scholarship for college, do well in college so you are open to any kind of job you want). Other days, I think the Goa way is amazing: kids learning and playing outside, not getting grades at some schools, and learning more creative skills to become artists and fashion designers.

The way I grew up with school was all I knew so it seemed normal, but now that I see so many other ways of schooling, it seems extreme. I 100% loved school and college but it’s no secret I’m not exactly using my nursing degree. Don’t get me wrong, I loved school growing up, playing soccer, and after school clubs but now I see that it wasn’t the way everyone grew up.

I’m sure there is some middle ground that has creativity and actual school stuff balanced out like a Montessori school. As I look around and see so many people doing jobs that have nothing to do with what they went to school for, it does make me wonder if we spent the first 25 years of our life wasting time. I do think when I have my own kids I’ll travel with them and let them learn that way rather than put them straight into pre-school and all of that. I know a lot of people who didn’t go to school at all until they were 9 or 10 and they are running their own businesses in paradise. I’m sure my parents are really annoyed reading this, ha! Woops.

Not just education, but I’ve definitely become much more liberal in my thinking on just about every subject. I won’t get into it all!

I feel way more in-tune with nature, as lame as that sounds.

Of course, I was always outside as a child. I grew up in the country; we played in the woods and swam in the creek and rode our bicycles all over. I was not a city girl, that’s for sure. I would ride four-wheelers through the mud and loved sports. In the winter, I went snowboarding. But the thing about the USA is that when you go inside your house, it’s literally the same all year round because of central air.

In Goa, the monsoon weather wreaks havoc on houses: mold on the walls and light fixtures, clothes that smell, floors that are literally WET with condensation all morning long, and rain and clouds constantly. This goes on for about 4-5 months. It made me seriously appreciate a nice breezy sunny day. I would wake up and I see monkeys jumping around outside and the beautiful palm trees we can see all across the fields from our house. We would open up all the windows (no screens here, so the bugs come inside) and let the breeze cool the house down during the day.

Although I never got used to the amount of red dirt that comes blowing into the house each day (and tracked in on my dog’s paws), settled as a fine layer on top of everything, I do absolutely love being outside even more than I did as a kid, which is hard to beat.

The state I am moving to in Mexico has like 60% jungle, but Merida the city is definitely not a jungle vibe. I think we will likely live outside the city so we can have a mix.


Other than needing A/C and WiFi, I think I can get used to just about anything.

Did you know I slept on a cotton-stuffed Indian-style mattress for 5 years? They carry them around on their heads and sell them on the road. It was dirty when we bought it. At first, I thought, “no wayyy” – I need a real mattress and mattress topper. But now when I’m in a 5-star hotel, I am dreaming of my Goa bed.

Every day when I go outside, it’s so dirty (I mean actual loose dirt) that my feet are dirty all day every day. I also only drive barefoot due to how the pedals are in my car – dirty feet all day long? Used to it!

I am used to drinking only filtered and bottled water – no filling my ice trays or coffee pot up from the tap. I am used to my well going dry and having to get more water. I’m used to power cuts that can last all day or sometimes a couple of days. I’m okay with finding cockroaches in my bathroom.. or them running across my feet in the kitchen, or in my luggage when I open it up.  I’m used to my broom being made of dried grass. I mean, really.

I got used to the fact I cannot leave bread out on the counter without a million ants coming and it molded in a day due to the humidity. I am okay with the time of year flies infest houses here and you have to put sticky paper around your house to catch them; sometimes a paper has 15 flies on it by the end of the day! I am guessing this will be similar in Merida.

I also sadly got used to seeing things in India that I wish I didn’t get used to like injured animals (an everyday occurrence, although we often take them for help when we can).

I think Merida will be a lot cleaner but I’m sure there will be things I need to get used to there, although I don’t know what they are yet! I’ve heard ants and termites are bad and that you can step on scorpions. So we’ll see!

I think having jungle animals around is the best!

One day, I was driving with Ben and some friends and we thought we saw a new speed bump. Turns out, it was a 9-foot python. That’s how I found out there were pythons on my road. I saw a few more 8-foot ones that year in my backyard and where I park my car. I found a baby one under the couch. King cobra? Behind the trash cans.

I found a 6-inch scorpion dead in the bottom of the swimming pool five years ago which is how I found out we have those, too!

I’m okay with the dozens of dogs and cats in my village and love watching the monkeys put on shows or even come drink from the pool while I’m laying in it saying “no monkey, bad water!”.  I would walk through my garden at night and my dogs are out there all the time and I never thought about snakes or spiders – even though I’ve seen spiders half the size of my head (hanging from a tree at my favorite restaurant, Gunpowder). I used to have such a fear of snakes that in North India when a snake charmer would have a cobra, I would literally start crying in shock.

I think in Merida there won’t be snakes… but outside of the city they definitely have pythons and other snakes.

international women's day

Everything is possible.

In India, everything is possible. In Goa, everything is possible… but tomorrow. They are slow about things but they do get things done here and I’m telling you, everything you want to do is possible! Just go to the market, ask around, find the guy who can make you want you want or go to where the workers hang out and hire someone to help you with a project. Most people speak English.

Beyond getting things done and work, people here can get by on so little and be so happy it cannot help but change how I think about things. I know Mexico going to be less expensive than America but it’s much more expensive than India.

I also created my own job while I was living in Goa and was pushed by the creative people around me to think outside the box on my blog. To go from what my life was in 2012 to how much it’s changed now – and how happy I am in my job, I would say I really do believe anything you set your mind to can happen.

The positive outlook has just changed my lifestyle. I really will take so many things I learned in Goa and keep them with me in life and in Mexico. I don’t really drink anymore (okay I drink lol but not like I did in the USA), I go to bed at 10 pm a lot, I don’t get FOMO for missing a party, and I think that these 5 years in Goa has really made me a better person (I think Ben helped with that, too).

Being around so many different nationalities living here and learning the Goa way of living has opened my eyes to other lifestyles and let me see how I really want to experience life. I love Ohio and it’s great there – I am sad every single time I have to leave, but I also am happy that I have been exposed to so many unique ways of living that I can be more open-minded and understand people more than I used to. I hope living in Merida will teach me even more.

India and living in Goa taught me a lot of patience and how to be a calmer person, which I am grateful for. Goa also gave me Ben, Shanti, Omni, Kitkat, and loads of life-long friends. Thanks for following along on my time in Goa! Let’s see what Mexico will bring…

Read more: 10 things I love about India’s culture & 22 ways I’m becoming Indian


About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Werkenntwen, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Werkenntwen has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. Elizabeth Vasquez May 24, 2018 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Buena Suerta! And thank you for sharing your journey with us. I wish you the absolute best and look forward to reading your new posts on your new home.

  2. Jay May 24, 2018 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    This made me smile because I can totally relate to a lot of these especially the materialism. I am in month two of my travel journey and already am starting to ditch some clothing I brought. Before I came I felt so weighted down by all the stuff I had so I sold everything or donated it. Not even for the money I was just sick of having a closet filled with clothing I never wore and didn’t need. I’m so excited to see what Mexico has in store for you guys :)

  3. Betsy May 24, 2018 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    Oh, I hope you have so much fun in Mexico!
    Also, I totally get how India has changed you to be less materialistic. I only lived in Udaipur for a year and I have been back in the States a year now. But I got rid of almost everything I owned when I moved to India and I have barely accumulated anything back up. I don’t want to. I don’t even want to buy furniture. Ha!
    I can’t wait to hear about your experiences in Mexico!

  4. Divya May 24, 2018 at 11:40 pm - Reply

    It’s amazing how a place has the potential to change so much in us. Can’t wait to find out how Mexico is going to be like for you. Wish you luck!

  5. Tammie May 25, 2018 at 4:19 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel!
    I started following your blog because my boyfriend is Goan(I’m American), and I love seeing all the insight you have! I haven’t been to India yet, but I’ve been to Merida and fell in love with it. I’m looking forward to all you have to say about it, and what I’m curious about is your observations on how Indians and Mexicans are alike. Love your blog and I hope Mexico is good to you!

  6. Ann Crawford May 25, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    You will find that in every neighborhood in Merida, you can have custom anything made to order – furniture – upholstered and un-upholstered – curtains, mirrors, bug screens, slipcovers, etc. I would be really surprised with the arts and crafts traditions of Yucatan and Merida being a city that supports the arts, that you won’t find some cool local clothing. Of course, I love the quality traditional Maya clothing available, but I’m talking about something new and local like I think you are. I know I saw some beautiful custom-made sandals somewhere lately. Will have to look for the tab I’m sure I saved. I’m anxious for you to land and find local designers for us all. I feel certain they are there or about to be — lots happening in Merida — and I love supporting the local and neighborhood economies of Merida.

  7. Walter P. May 27, 2018 at 2:43 am - Reply

    I’ve never heard of Goa, but this article really inspires me :D

  8. Bobby May 28, 2018 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Hey Rachel…I loved this article.I can feel the goan life through your words.Seriously we don’t need tons of stuff in our life and keep on running after them.But why r u leaving.I was thinking of coming to goa to see you.Hey I m just kidding..have great time in Mexico..God bless you.

  9. thebritishberliner May 29, 2018 at 2:07 am - Reply

    You have done enormously well Rachel, and deserve every success. You’ve also put Goa on the map as not only a hippy, techno party destination, but as a proper place where people live! ‘Nice one babe!

  10. aviottjohn June 2, 2018 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Hi Rachel. I like your blog, but I found this post particularly touching. Thank you so much. As a conservationist trying to practise deep ecology (a.k.a. treading lightly and leaving no footprints behind), I hope your blog post will influence a large number of people to live with less stuff. You’ve done it, I’ve done it; but it’s hard to explain how much richer life becomes when one does. Warm regards and best wishes to you and Ben for your new life in Merida.

  11. AboutCreativity June 5, 2018 at 12:13 am - Reply

    Ck out Jerry brown Journey in Mexico and other locations. He will put a smile on your face!

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  13. Ajay June 6, 2018 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    Hi Rachel, I came across this article while browsing. It’s good to read about the experiences you had at Goa. Also great to hear that you found your Ross. Have a good time in Mexico.

  14. Chinnaiah Ramamoorthi June 20, 2018 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Going through Goan life through your eyes is mesmerizing

  15. Tim Blight June 26, 2018 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Wonderful thoughts! Can’t wait to hear how life in Mexico is going to influence you!

  16. Amanda August 1, 2018 at 9:43 am - Reply

    I love the photo of the military guys holding hands. India feels like a place where love is shared. Where people aren’t so angry as they are here in the US. I went there for 3 weeks Dec 2014. I want to go back and live there, like you did. I want to feel that way of life, that human way of living. Thank you for your article, I am excited to learn about what you are doing and maybe one day soon do something similar. It’s a big jump.

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    […] opted to use an Indian agent recommended to me by an American expat blogger who was living in Goa at the time, so for peace of mind and ease of travel, we worked with an Indian agent who booked […]

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