The Cost Of Being A Digital Nomad In Goa
Paradise Lost

Post pandemic, the rise of work-from-home modules pushed a bunch of city slickers to making Goa their new home. But with exorbitant rents and a deceptively high cost of living is the summer state an apt abode for digital nomads?

Beaches, booze, and broken mental health are a few of the many reasons that makes Indians swarm the beaches of Goa. But with the pandemic pushing offices into living rooms, meetings into Zoom chatrooms, and employers realising that they probably don’t need to babysit adults, Goa became more than a vacay spot. Remote work made it possible for millennials and Gen Zs from the workforce to tinker with the idea of a permanent ‘workcation’. And that, amounted to a volley of working professionals shifting base to the coveted summer state.



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Like them, I too, decided to extend my Dil Chahta Hai week into a La Dolce Vita summer. However, almost a year after I packed my bags to live the susegad life, I realised that there’s more to Goa than floral shirts and Alia Bhatt cycling on Parra Road. In effect, it involves deep financial pockets and can harbour significant social insecurities that no one really talks about.


But first things first: why move to Goa? For marketing professional Shivani Murthy, the reasons are self-explanatory. “I was born and raised in Mumbai,” she shares, adding, “While it is amazing, I never really had the chance to be independent or live alone. So, when the chance to move to Goa came via a job opportunity, I pounced on it. Being 25 and living alone in the state seemed like I would be living the dream.”



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Dreams, though, come at a cost. For me, it was Rs 40,000 per month, to be precise. While hunting for an apartment in the initial days (which was a struggle in itself), I remember finding a fully furnished 1BHK in the neighbourhood that I wanted to live in. The only catch? It would have costed Rs 80,000 in deposit, Rs 40,000 in broker fees and of course, another Rs 40,000 in rent. And this didn’t the utilities’ cost. For a moment, it felt like I was in Lokhandwala and not in Siolim.


My broker, Gajanan, confirms that these ostentatious rents were simply the result of demand and supply curves. “After Covid, many IT and media professionals moved to Goa from Mumbai, Delhi and Pune,” he observes. “This influx was more than what Goa’s ageing real estate could handle, which has caused more demand than supply. Many landlords think that these rich folks from bigger cities don’t bat an eye while spending more than Rs 5,000 on a night out. It is only fair for them to charge the rent they charge” he explains.



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There’s some data backing this. Back in 2019, the real estate market in India was somewhere around $1.72 billion, but is expected to go as high as $1 trillion by 2030. Not just Indians, but Indians settling abroad are looking into parking their savings back home. For instance, net NRI investment in Indian real estate increased by more than $13.4 billion (6.4 per cent) in FY21 compared to FY20, with states like Goa being one of the major beneficiaries.


This hunger for high ROI has pushed the costs on 20-something working professionals like Ashreya Bhatotia, who has worked with major Ed-tech companies in Bengaluru. “I expected the rents to be on the steeper side, but I was shocked by how much more expensive it actually was,” she laments. “Not just the rent but everything else, too. I am usually broke by the end of the month but are somehow managing it.”



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One of the other expenses Bhatotia finds herself struggling with can be tied to the poor public transport system in Goa. Even on a vacation, it isn’t hard to understand how difficult getting around in the coastal state is unless you rent a scooter. From a monthly perspective, that can cost Rs 4,000. In case you don’t have access to one, or don’t know how to ride a scooter, be prepared to pay up north of Rs 500 for a short ride such as from Mapusa to Siolim, which is a total distance of around 7 km. For context, that’s twice what you would pay in Mumbai, even during peak hours.


In all fairness, the Goan economy does appear to be on the bounce as reflected by the state’s job market. 25-year-old Ishani Indalkar, freelance writer and social media executive notes, “Before moving to Goa, I made sure I had at least one client. This wasn’t too difficult considering I deal with a lot of hospitality clients. My vertical here is similar to what I would get in a big city, if not more considering the growing hospitality industry here.”



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With roti, kapda aur makaan out of the way, there still remains the social life bit of it all. The biggest question, many of my presumptuous friends and colleagues had when I moved there was if life in Goa is a beach day every day. But did I spend all my weekends tying it up at Hill Top’s famous psy-parties? Certainly not.


As Indalkar notes, “Most people walk into Goa thinking it’s a la la land and you’re going to go out all the time. That’s how you perceive life in Goa, but it’s not the truth for anybody who has lived here. It’s a very tiny part of being in Goa and when that starts fading off it starts affecting people mentally. You can easily get sulky, depressed and anxious. You need to be level-headed walking into this. As welcoming as this place is, it is also beautifully lonely.”



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Indalkar is certainly not the only digital nomad who feels this way. Gulal Salil, an independent artist based in the state shares, “The people I meet in Goa mostly feel temporary, or in transit. It becomes difficult to make lasting connections here.” An IT professional I spoke to (they wished to remain anonymous) echoes this when they say, “While the locals are extremely friendly and forthcoming, there have been select social cliques in Goa, mostly formed by the Mumbai and Delhi crowd. If you don’t get along with them it gets difficult to make friends here.”


But despite the financial and rare social interruptions, in my experience, Goa has been a life-changing experience. Having lived in metros such as Pune and Mumbai, I would say that Goa has been more welcoming to people, regardless of their gender, sexuality, caste and whatnot. But is it something everyone can afford? I am not sure.

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