The Horrors of the Beach Planner

My day job involves managing projects across several countries, and this means fiendishly complicated documents. Booking a trip to Goa for later this year seemed like the perfect way to unwind. But, reading the Lonely Planet guide to Goa, I encountered a document more disturbing than the schedules I’ve been reading:

Goa is famous for its attitude of susegad. This is said to be a national mood of laid-back, easy-going hospitality and tolerance, which apparently comes from the Portuguese word sossegado, meaning silence. The idea of susegad might well be linked to colonialist ideas of Goa, it’s still something used to sell the state to tourists, even as deserted beaches become bustling resorts.

Goa promises miles of relaxing beaches. but the idea of a Beach Planner just makes me nervous. For a start, there’s that introduction talking about how that Goa’s “tropical island” feel means “it’s easy to forget that you’re in India“. I’m not sure why this should be something that improves your holiday.

The section then goes on to categorise the beaches.I booked to stay in Mandrem (Relaxing with a Good Book) last year, when I meant to book a place in Arambol (Backpackers and Budget Travellers). It worked out OK, as Mandrem seemed to suit me better than Arambol would (although I was robbed on the price of the hotel room).

The categories for the beaches sound OK: Water Sports; Family Fun; Partying and Drinking; Yoga and Spirituality (including both Mandrem and Arambol); Five Star Treatment; Nature; and Beach Huts (Mandrem, again).

But there’s something aggressively organised about this planner. I imagine it being reduced to a diagram, a series of intersecting circles, which must be navigated to get your holiday right. Apparently “the decision shouldn’t be made on just the aesthetics of sand and sea: it’s about choosing the beach community that suits your style of travel and sense of place.” This is very much the sort of decision I booked a holiday to get away from.

The book is firm on the importance of the right place: “Locating the perfect beach is the secret to making the most of your stay“. Getting the wrong beach will ruin the everything. The choice of beach feels like destiny, as great a challenge as if I was forced to choose my own star sign.

But two things reassure me – the first is that the LP has not bothered to classify every beach, missing out, for example, quiet Querim. I hiked through here on the way to Fort Tiracol, a tiny fort on the very Northern edge of Goa. It was small and peaceful and empty, although much of the beach was too steep for easy swimming.

And, secondly, the Beach Planner itself ends on a reassuring note: “Goa is small enough that you can jump on a scooter or in a taxi and explore.” You don’t have to stay anywhere you don’t want to. So I’m thinking of getting a taxi to the very south of the island, and working my way up. There are other ways to find beaches than a Beach Planner.

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