Super Low Cost Beach Living
From Far-roving Correspondent Paul Terhorst in India:
“In 1954, Keralan voters here in India were the first ever to elect a communist government. Communists confiscated property and, over the decades, impeded business investment and job creation. Partly as a result, literally millions of Keralans have fled to work overseas, often to the Middle East. Remittances from abroad make up the single largest element in Kerala’s GDP. What a mess.
“Still, Keralans love their communists. Even with the exuberant, live-and-let-live attitude around here, Keralans continue the strong leftist tradition. I asked innkeepers and others about leftist governments. I always got the same story: ‘Keralans are very lazy. Communists promise something for nothing, so they get the votes. Next time around, after the communists have failed, the Congress party gets in. We switch every five years, from communists to Congress and back again.’
“For my part, I think the word ‘lazy’ explains little. Other factors might better explain what’s going on: lack of incentive, for example, or lack of opportunity, training, role models, creativity, intelligence, religious imperative, whatever. But locals used the word ‘lazy’ over and over. I pass it on.
“Jose took a plane back to Paris last week. The day after he left, I hit the road, traveling north on the overnight train to the beaches at Goa. This is my last stop on the way back to Bombay, where I pick Vicki up at the ashram next Tuesday.
“The beaches at Goa are the best yet, broad white sand, gentle waves, seafood shacks, tropical weather, idyllic.
“Goa could be the cheapest place in India, which is very cheap indeed. No wonder it has become expat central. As a guess, I’d say several thousand expats live in a dozen or so towns stretched along some 60 miles of white-sand beach here. Most come from England, Germany, and Sweden. I expect those expat numbers to rise sharply as word gets out about the great beachfront living here.
“Retired expats here now fall roughly into two groups, both from Europe. First, there are the LSD-addled hippies who came to do drugs in the 1960s and 1970s and somehow never left. These people are long on psychic animals, short on what year this is. They smoke.
“Second, there are the nouveau middle class, Europeans who cashed in on the glorious post-war economic boom. They’ve traded their small, drafty flats in southwest England for a guesthouse off the beach or in a nearby village. These expats have matured and settled in well, enjoying this lovely beach playland with an open spirit. Many married Indians, had kids, and have taken on local dress, religion, and so on. I find them enthusiastic, eager, slow to criticize, full of fun. They’ve settled into a pleasant routine and live life to the fullest, within their limitations. They’re quick to share tips and information…to help you find a place to live, for example, telling of a house available in their village.
“I’m over simplifying, of course. You’ll probably never meet an expat who falls neatly into one group or the other. And for sure you’ll find people to play with, who share your interests. I’ve met expats who’ve helped me decide whether to start with a Rushie or a Mistry novel to explore modern English-language Indian literature. I met an Englishman who cooks who told me about visiting the spice plantations. I’ve met others who’ve told me about bird sanctuaries…and about mundane matters like where’s the best fish market, how to take the bus to town, where to get a good steak, how to find the cheapest fares to Bangkok…
“If you’re looking for expat living at very low cost on a tropical beach, start with Goa.”