The Hippie Trail is an analysis of the most famous and probably most unique traveler’s trail that has a personality of its own. Living in Goa, where the Hippie trail terminated for some of the travelers, I have been very curious about it. Here and there I have read articles about the Hippie Trail but never really a detailed account till I read Love Everyone. In this book, many western seekers came to Neem Karoli Baba in search of themselves. Apart from this I had not read any book or watched any film on the trail. So, I was very happy to see a book that documents the history of The Hippie Trail.
I assume ample time has passed by for the trail be called history. The Hippie trail typically happened between mid-fifties and mid-seventies or as the authors very aptly put it – between the Age of Imperialism and the Age of Islamophobia.
Authors Sharif Gemie and Brian Ireland take an academic approach to document the history of The Hippie trail. They go out looking for actual travelers and they interview about 80 of them over a period of few years. I can only imagine it must have been one heck of an experience as people would have revisited their crazy experimental travels. They read every book ever written on the trail, even the self-published ones by the travelers themselves. They watched every film that hinted to talk about the trail. And they explore the myths and stereotypes associated with the trail while exploring the real purpose of these mass travels eastwards.
The study targets four main angles of the Hippie Trail – Drugs, Sex, Tourism, and Pilgrimage. The final answer to all these angles is always Yes and No. So for some people, it was following the Marijuana Trail that traveled from Afghanistan to Chitral to Kashmir to Nepal. Afghanistan comes across as the charming country that fascinated everyone with its eastern liberal values after Turkey. This was also the place where weed was available easily for those who were chasing it. The final destination for those following the drug trial was Kathmandu and Goa. It seems an American lady called Cleo Odzer financed her house in Goa with drug smuggling.
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People believe that Hippies were believers in free sex and was a part of their journeys. However, the stories of most travelers, especially women travelers tell that love and sex life of Hippies were just like the rest of the world. While some indulged with multiple partners, most stuck to their relationships. The usual up and down while traveling did happen, but people were not really traveling for sex, exceptions apart. Did they see India as an exotic, erotic & romantic destination with places like Taj Mahal & Khajuraho to visit? Interestingly a traveler notes how natural celibacy came to him while wandering in India, and puts is succinctly as – Ego stripped by that great thief India.
Anjuna in Goa – This had to be the best place on the planet…What a life in Anjuna Beach! Warm, salty, sandy, swimming, sunning, dancing, lazy and stoned. Weeks went by like one long day. No one possessed a clock. The only schedule was that of the moon…No day had a name, though once I accidentally discovered it was a Sunday.
Anjuna beach briefly became the world’s largest international nudist colony.
Goa takes us to the heart of Hippie trail. It is the only place that travelers made their own. It was the only place where romance was possible.
There is an interesting discussion on if Hippies were tourists or travelers? I often wonder if there is a real divide here. The book does bring out the popular and accepted divisions between the two but is there a clear demarcation – probably no. It is interesting to read what the travelers thought of themselves. I wonder if the answers are what they thought of their travels in retrospect or what they thought of it while traveling. Interestingly, all the women on the trail traveled in groups. One of the lines of thoughts explored is how much did the trailers engage with the local community. At one place, one of the travelers says – the only people we met in India were drug dealers and money lenders. These people were neither tourists nor travelers.
Looks like a lot of travelers to India fell in love with Indian Trains or had their so-called rendezvous with real India in the trains.
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Were some of these travelers seekers who were seeking solace in eastern religions as pilgrims? Or, were they following a cult created by the Beatles that made meditation fashionable. We do know a lot of them landed in places like Rishikesh and in the ashrams in the Himalayas. Did they get what they were looking for – that is not really touched in this book. It does mention that for some of the travelers – the journey to the east was a journey to self. A few of them mention their landing in India as Coming Home.
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Herman Hesse – whose Siddhartha was the first book that I ever reviewed has been called the patron saint of Hippie trailers. The book gives you a lot of literature to read on the Hippie trail including the movies that you can watch. It refers to some of them, time and again in their analysis. They also talk about representation of The Hippie Trail in different kinds of media.
The book has an academic bent with a structured study of all kind of material available – both direct and indirect. It brings out different dimensions of the trail and lets you think about it in more than one ways.
As a traveler and as a resident of one of the prominent places on the Hippie trail, I really enjoyed reading the book. In fact, it has given me so much more material to read on the trail.
If the world of Hippies intrigues you, you would enjoy reading the book.