In this week’s Girls That Go!, we chatted with Rachel Jones, from Hippie in Heels. We love Rachel’s take on expat life in India, especially all her wonderful safety tips for women traveling there. Check out what she wished she knew before living there, where else she might love being an expat and more in this week’s Girls That Go!
GGG: Hello, hello and welcome to Girls That Go! Let’s start with introductions–who are you, where are you from, and how did you get started traveling?
Hi, I’m Rachel. I was a cardiac nurse in Ohio but then after I met the love of my love while backpacking in India, I now am a Thai masseuse in Goa. I have always been a traveler and had already been to twenty-some countries before quitting nursing. Now, I’m just getting used to my new lifestyle and am happy to be living on a beach!
After about a year working out of college, I quit my job to travel to India. I didn’t have any reason other than I hadn’t been to Asia yet, and I wanted to go somewhere less “gap year.” I wanted that spiritual trip, and I really wanted to see a tiger. I’ve been here (in India) almost 2 years and STILL haven’t seen a tiger! I stayed in India because I met this British boy in a bar that was working out here and, well, he changed my whole life plan…or what little of one there was.
GGG: What are three things you wish you had known before moving there that you know now?
1. There is NO ranch dressing in India. There is one brand called “American Garden.” It’s horrible. I went through 3 months of withdrawal before some was sent to me.
2. There is decent shopping but lack of shoe shopping. I would have packed more high heels! Surprisingly, once you enter the expat community, you’ll see how lively the nightlife in India is. Girls really dress to the nines!
3. It seems as though after Indians started making amazing incense, they just stopped. They thought, “there is NO point in making candles smell good, they are just for looks.” Now that I know, I bring back tons of yummy Yankee candles to make me feel at home!
GGG: You write on your blog about how you support yourself as a Thai yoga massage therapist. If you could do it over again, would you choose the same professional route? What do you like (or dislike) most about your job abroad?
I think after nursing, I was ready for something more laid-back. I was a travel nurse and was pretty worn out. Yes, after one year. That’s a pretty big sign that nursing wasn’t my favorite. Massage was something I picked up just for fun because a friend took the class. I wouldn’t change it. I actually love giving massages because they are with clothing on and more of a yoga-stetch. It is a lot like physical therapy. It also makes me a pretty decent amount of money, although it is unreliable.
GGG: Although you live in India now and provide tons of great tips for solo female travelers there (especially about staying safe!), you’ve also traveled in a lot of other places! If you had to pick another country to live where you’ve been before, where would it be and why?
What a hard question! I suppose I would live in Mexico. I spent some time in Sayulita and actually in a couple years, there is a chance I could move there. I absolutely love the west coast. It’s laid-back, yet far enough from Puerto Vallarta to not be swarmed with too many tourists.
GGG: You manage to stay super stylish while also not spending too much. What’s your secret?
I always wear exactly what I want. I think less about how it will look or if I’ll fit in and more about “do I love this outfit?” In India, it’s all about covering the legs, but not much else needs covered. Indian girls wear backless tops often and tank tops aren’t actually anything more scandalous than a t-shirt. I put on a long maxi skirt and cute crop tops with loads of jewelry. It is fashionable enough for Italy, but conservative enough for India.
GGG: What do you find most challenging about your life as an expat? Most rewarding?
The worst part is missing family and friend get-togethers. I was gone for a year before I came home for 1 month and it’ll probably be that way again this year. Until I start making a steady paycheck, it’s hard to pay for such an expensive flight more than once a year and keep traveling in Asia throughout the year. The most rewarding part is where I live! It’s paradise. I can go to the beach every day with my dog and boyfriend and spend the night sipping cocktails at beautiful bars over the sea. I also don’t have to work on a particular schedule. My stress levels are basically gone.
GGG: That sounds pretty awesome. Are you planning any trips right now?
I am planning to take a huge trip through India during this monsoon! I haven’t taken enough time in Central and SE India so what to go to Mysore, Chennai, Pondicherry, and a few other places. We also may head up to visit family in Austria. I haven’t been to Europe in a year so looking forward to it!
Wonderful, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us! To check out her tips about India and elsewhere, follow Rachel’s blog, check her out on Twitter or Facebook her!
All photos in this post courtesy of Rachel Jones.