There is more to travelling than checking tourist destinations off our travel bucket list. Travelling to a new place provides the unique perspective of connecting with others who, for just a brief moment, happen to be in the same place, at the same time as we are. It allows us the opportunity to break from the routine of our typical work, eat, sleep routine that can be life. We temporarily immerse ourselves in another way of living.
This is Alicia of Goa, India
Alicia is a market shopkeeper in Goa, India. Every morning, Alicia travels to Beach Street in Mandrem Beach. She removes the heavy stones from the tarp, which were placed to cover the empty stall that is her storefront. Then she unpacks her entire store’s inventory onto racks, rods and ropes hanging from the walls and ceiling. Every day, Alicia sits outside her shop on the street waiting for tourists and visitors of the daily market to come and offer her the opportunity to make a livelihood. This is where I met Alicia for the first time.
Goa, India was my first time travelling outside of the United States on my own. I was there for the purpose of setting my business intentions at a women’s retreat with Lulu Minns, connecting with other female entrepreneurs, and to heal and restore myself with some very authentic immersive yoga experiences at Ashiyana Yoga Resort. As if clean eating, two-hour yoga classes, lounging on the beach, and creating a sisterhood weren’t already amazing experiences, Alicia taught me more about passion and purpose than I could have ever hoped to imagine.
I met Alicia my first day. I decided to walk Beach Street in hopes of gaining some clarity on what to expect from my one week in the area. I walked the dirt road path by the shop keeper tents, the sparse walled structures, and the houses. There, I saw these brightly colored, linen children’s pants with designs of elephants on them. They were hanging from a rope alongside other clothing on the outside of one shop. Thinking of my one-year-old son at home, I screamed in excitement over these small Indian-style pants.
Alicia popped her head out the entrance of her shop and greeted me with, “Hello ma’am. Would you like to come in my shop? I have many colors and patterns.” Having only just arrived and not knowing how the barter system worked, I declined, but promised I would be back. This is when she gave me her name and asked for mine. I walked past Alicia every day I went to the market. Every day she asked me if I was ready to look at her shop. Every day she waited patiently for me to bring her some business. Every day she greeted me by name and in a friendly way as I replied, “Hello Alicia. Not today, but I will be back. I promise.”
One day, I saw Alicia sitting outside her shop. She looked disheartened and distracted. This day, she did not greet me and she did not look up from her plastic chair poised just outside the entrance of what is her life. This was the day that I walked up to Alicia and said, “Hello Alicia. I am ready to visit your shop. Will you please show me all you have?”
Alicia’s demeanor completely changed. She was excited and animated. She showed me all her favorite pieces and clothing. She shared stories with me of where she got her items and what she was most proud of. She glowed with every compliment I gave her on how cute her items were or how soft the fabric was.
After buying a few things, including the cute children’s pants from my first day, I stayed and talked with Alicia like she was an old friend. I asked her about her family, about her shop, and about why she seemed distracted today. Alicia shared that she, too, had a young son. Her husband helped her to open and close her shop every day. She described how she would take down every piece of merchandise hanging to haul home, only to bring it back to the market to try again the next day. She knew every item intimately and handpicked them as items she believed customers would enjoy. As for her reason for being disheartened and distracted? I was her first customer of the day and there were few people walking the market this day. She was worried she would go home without speaking to anyone. She said my visit meant she was lucky and that she would surely succeed in business.
“I love my shop. It means everything to me.”
At the end of it all, Alicia was no different from you, or me. She is trying to make a living for her family and do what she loves as much as any one of us. The difference being that she literally carries her whole life with her, day in and day out, hoping that someone walking by will love what she loves as much as she does and want to take it home with them. She questions and worries about each day being meaningful and feels empowered when someone recognizes all she has built for herself, just as you might question your purpose one dull day at the office, or feel inspired to work harder when your boss points out all you’ve done for the team at the morning meeting.
Although, in many ways, I believe Alicia is braver than you or I. For every day, she sits outside of her passion and purpose, greets every person that walks by, and then asks them come inside and be a part of what she’s created. Every day, no matter how many no’s she receives, no matter how little money she my make, every day she puts her heart on her sleeve and invites you into her world for even just a moment.
There are many more like Alicia at the markets of Goa, India. Many more stories, many more passions and dreams, all hoping that you’ll take a brief moment to be a part of their world and what they love. You can find Alicia sitting on Beach Street, just outside Ashiyana Yoga Resort next to the supermarket, waiting and greeting everyone that passes her by. You can also meet her at the night markets from time to time should you ever visit Goa; which I highly encourage you to do.
Travelling is more than checking the travel guide online. Travelling is about checking in and becoming connected to the environment we have chosen to experience for fleeting moments. Collecting stories of the people that call your vacation destination their home. Creating human experiences that can never be captured on an online travel guide.