The families start arriving around 4:30 p.m.
School is out for the day, the sun’s strong rays have let go a bit and soon the show will start.
We’re here, having just picked up LJ from her friend’s house. She’s high on the sunshine, fresh air and friendship that have blanketed her since early this morning.
It was a great day.
She finally managed to climb a coconut tree and learned she’d play the lead in the upcoming school play.
When we get to the beach, she finds another friend and they run off to play football and gather hermit crabs while and L and I settle down on the sand to chat with his parents. We met them the other day, but the fun was interrupted by a nasty jellyfish sting.
A few hours later the spectacular show is over. The sun has set, tonight having given us an especially strong performance. The beach is dark, except for flecks of light from the restaurants that line the sand. L and I enjoy dinner and share stories with some other couples while the kids huddle under the lifeguard chair building a fire with the candles and napkins they’ve swiped from the table.
Someone sets off a firework on the beach and the kids scream with surprise…then squeal with delight and start dancing.
When the night ends, we drag a reluctant LJ the short walk home. We rinse some of the sand from our bodies but are never able to get it all because now it’s almost a part of us – like the freckles, mosquito bites and scrapes – the markings of an outdoor life. We collapse into bed happy, full and comforted by the thought that we get to do it all again tomorrow.
Nights like these are why we’re doing this. Why we stopped sending our kid to normal school, why we left our normal life, why we’re traveling.
Family life in South Goa
Goa is a strange and somewhat magical place.
For more than 450 years, until 1961, this small state on the west coast of India was a Portuguese province, an influence still felt today. For decades it attracted hippy travellers from all over the world for its beaches and all-night parties.
Today, it still brings the hippies and partiers but also the yoga-lovers and enlightenment-seekers, retirees and honeymooners, Indians and foreigners, vacationers and school-breakers…and lots of travelling families like ours.
From November to March – when the monsoon ends and before it rains again – many families come for weeks or months at a time and many come to the quieter and less-developed South Goa, especially to the community of Patnem Beach.
It’s a place where you spend much of your day saying hello to people you know and where kids live outside all tanned and barefoot. Many come for the village’s somewhat isolated existence – free of some of the media and big brand influences of western life. Kids here play, and I mean really play. Their toys are often nothing more than what nature has provided. They also come for the schools. There are two international school’s nearby. Not the kind with uniforms and tennis court, but rather tiny, modest, mostly outdoor schools that allow kids a special kind of freedom.
That’s what brought us to Goa.
L went to India for several months when he was five years old and always wanted to return. But travelling in India can be a challenge and after a world wind tour of Europe and an intense three weeks in Tanzania we needed to take a break and give LJ something a bit more normal.
So, we came to Patnem, enrolled LJ at Vidya Aranya School, got her involved with a local football club and lived a “normal” yet awesome beach life.
For seven week she climbed Goa’s Banyan and cashew trees, marveled at its monkeys and dolphins and swam in its oceans and rivers. She consumed her weight in Dal and Samosas, rode around by scooter and tuk tuk, learned to count in Hindi and sing in Sanskrit, and chatted up locals and the workers that come each season from Nepal. She made sandcastles, friends from all over the world and memories.
For L and I Goa was peace. We had time for ourselves and for each other and for friendship. I took runs and walks along the sometimes almost empty beach by the school, cooling off afterwards in the sea. I wrote, I read and sometimes I just sat by myself – filled with gratitude for this almost dream-like existence.
When LJ wasn’t in school, we explored and socialized…We visited nearby beaches, spice plantations, waterfalls, and towns. We went to football games, birthday parties, beach playdates and dinner meetups.
Honestly, I could have stayed in Goa long-term. That beach was our home. It was our dining room, our living room and even our classroom. Life was simple and easy and good and LJ was in her element.
But alas, our visa was up and both L and I could feel a rising urge to get moving again.
As the end of our time in India approached, I was worried about taking LJ away from Goa. How would it feel to be once again be stolen away from the world you’ve come to know and love?
But her answer was somewhat unexpected.
It was as if being rooted under the sunshine for a while in this little green paradise by the sea had nourished her soul, allowing her to grow again.
Like a true traveller, she said she was sad to leave…but more so excited for the next adventure.
P.S. Our brief trip to Qatar
We actually spent a day and night in Doha, Qatar after leaving Tanzania and before arriving in India.
Qatar Airways offers a free hotel if you have a long layover or book a one-night stopover. We took advantage of this deal and stayed in the lovely Holiday Inn Doha – The Business Park. We even received a free airport transfer and 30% of food in the hotel restaurant (and kids ate free), so this little trip actually cost us next to nothing!
It was nice to relax before the next leg of our long journey to India and fascinating to wander around this little slice of the Middle East.
South Goa with Kids
How to get to South Goa