* Editor's update May 2019 – I am so sad to announce that Rachel Jones has passed away. Her amazing blog, ‘Hippie in Heels' was an inspiration for me and I hope that it continues to inspire others to travel to India and beyond. She was a beautiful soul and I feel so blessed to have crossed paths with her. Lisa x
This month I speak to Rachel Jones from the successful blog, Hippie in Heels, who focuses on glamorous travel in India (and everywhere else). Rachel set off for India for a 3-month solo trip and has now been living in India in the last two years.
Why did you choose India to be your home?
I had been traveling on and off for years on month long trips at a time, until finally I went to India for 3 months. I afforded it by my job as a nurse. On my trip to India I met my boyfriend at the very end. Long story short, within three months I was living with him in India. It was a crazy thing to do but didn’t feel like it at all.
You also cover fashion and everything glam on your website
I have always loved fashion. Not in a high end, designer kind of way but in a fun way. I have a boho chic style for the most part. My blog title Hippie in Heels is a lot about how I dress which is cute hippie style. I don’t shop in malls as much anymore, but instead from designers who make things themselves abroad. I get things custom made in India a lot with fine silk, raw silk, and hand drawn illustrations. I also get dresses tailored to match my favorites.
I feature the artists and designers I meet abroad in my International Boho-chic Designers series and usually offer a giveaway with it, stuff that costs around $300 bucks and is really quality. I think of the jewelry I buy abroad as the ultimate souvenir and I’d rather have handmade leather shoes from an old man in Greece than a generic pair from American Eagle.
India receives a lot of bad press for women travelling alone. Is India safe for women?
It does, and the press isn’t just made up stories so I wouldn’t say that it shouldn’t be said. I think that the news in India shows a hell of a worse scene about what happens over here to women than what the foreign media shows. I see it in India papers on a regular basis, violent crimes to young girls or girls hung by trees for some crime. There are men here AND women who have old mindsets. They think girls who wear shorts are asking for it, and like a famous lawyer said even if it was his own daughter, he’d burn her in the town square for coming home after dark. We can’t pretend there aren’t men like this in India and other countries.
I love India, but I do warn on my site of people, who are the minority, who think in this way. This is why girls need to respect customs. Just because someone has a mindset doesn’t mean that it’s not safe for women. The truth is, it’s safer for a foreigner to Visit India than it is for an Indian woman.
Overall, I feel safe here. I have no issues except some random comments and maybe an ass grab. People say that can happen anywhere – although I have never had ass grabs and boob grazes outside India. I guess I sound negative right now and I don’t mean to, but there needs to be a medium. The problem is some media says it’s too dangerous, and others that love India say that’s a lie and it’s not dangerous “how dare the media say it is…” and “fear-mongering”. But the truth is, India isn’t easy for women and even so, as a woman in India I love it here. I try to discuss India fairly in my Friday “This is India” posts where I tell a story that could be positive, or negative- funny or scary… because India is everything.
Do you feel comfortable in the country when you’re alone?
I have kind of answered this in my long answer above, but yes I travel India alone very often, sometimes months at a time. I cover up more when alone but also dress appropriately in cities and villages. I always feel more comfortable when I’m covered because people do stare, but I will never dress “Indian” unless it’s to a wedding or a gathering that I should.
Have you met many other women travelling solo?
Actually yes! I was surprised how many I met in India doing the same thing. Most of the women I meet traveling solo in India are on a tour though rather than just winging it. They started out winging it but were too stressed so hired overpriced guides. India can be stressful alone. When girls email me and seemed worried (before even coming) I usually suggest they get a friend to join or start out with a small tour like GoMowgli.
Has India surprised you?
It’s funny because it’s talked about so much in the media and travel blogs, it really is what you think it’ll be but MORE. It’s louder, brighter, dirtier, people are friendly, there’s more pollution, more traffic, more people, better food, and more interesting places and nature. There are places in India that look just like Europe, while there are places that will break your heart.
What do you think is India’s attraction?
I think people who come here want a culture shock. They come looking for their lives to be shaken up. Many come after a loss in their lives or because their lives have become dull. India can make anyone feel alive and refreshed – whether it’s through frustration or yoga retreats.
If you only had a month in India, which places should you see?
That’s a tough question and it really can’t be answered unless you know what that person wants. India is vast and has deserts, mountains, tropical jungles, cities, and beaches. There are spiritual areas and psy party areas. I guess if someone wanted a little of everything I would say fly into Bombay, then go north for two weeks to Manila and Rishikesh (where the Beatles chilled), then fly South to Goa or Kerala. Goa is more party and Kerala is more chilled. It’s best to just stay put for the two weeks rather than try to see too much; that’s what stresses people out. Unlike Europe, you cannot bounce around every 2-3 days.
Are there any hidden gems in the country that people should definitely visit?
Karnataka! The whole state blew my mind. It makes me wonder what other areas would. In the state, Coorg was incredible and Chikamagalur. This is a jungle, rural area. You can trek and go 4wd or go on a safari. I spent a month here last monsoon and it was great.
What would you say to someone who is looking to go to India alone for the first time?
I’d say read my blog! I have so much information. Most emails I get are questions that I’ve answered… and they’ve read the answer but I think deep down just want someone to talk to. People are scared of India, but there’s no reason to worry. It’s important to just jump in.
Your blog is growing from strength to strength. What are your plans for the future?
I am so thankful of my blogs growth. I have a new website idea I’m keeping hush hush for now, and am just focusing on creating quality content. I am no SEO pro or webmaster… I just write what I think will be helpful and that’s working for me. I’m a girly girl and never packed light or stayed in the shittiest places except those first college trips to Europe, so my blog is a little bit flashpacker. I like to show India has nice places not just shacks. When I travel with girlfriends to somewhere like Thailand, I’m happy to stay in beach huts and love it for a month, but it’s not my long term travel style.
We will be in India a little longer, but are seriously considered HAWAII! Maui to be exact. We went for three weeks and I loved it as did my boyfriend. We’ll always come visit Goa and think of it as a second home but I couldn’t live here forever. It’s not really where I see myself.
Rachel Jones (aka Hippie in Heels) is an American who left a career in nursing to live on the beaches on Goa, India two years ago where she is now a Thai masseuse, candle-maker, and travel writer.
Her award winning website gives advice on the other 24 countries she's been to but has become the go-to site on India travel, focusing on off beat places & “glamorous travel”.
Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine & was voted by Flipkey on of the top 25 female bloggers to follow this year. You can follow her adventures for all the India information you need on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google Plus.