Just as jumbo jets transformed a pastime of the privileged few on cruiseliners into an age of mass tourism, it was the back-packing hippies who transformed tourism from a pastime of visiting places merely to see and relax into an interactive experience with people and cultures.
The hippie, counter-culture youth movement, developed in the United States in the early 1960s and spread around the world along with its fundamental ethos — harmony with nature, communal living, artistic experimentation and the use of recreational drugs. San Francisco was at the heart of the earliest hippie movements. The intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets was its epicenter, still an off-beat location favored by tourists and locals alike. College students intrigued by the psychedelic music scene left school and followed their favorite bands, living communally in inexpensive Victorian apartments around Haight and Ashbury that soon boasted a hippie commune of 15,000 young Americans. 1967 marked the “Summer of Love”. The song “if you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” inspired thousands of youth from all over the world to travel to San Francisco, with flowers in their hair, earning the name “Flower Children”.
The Time magazine of July 7, 1967 described the hippie code : “Do your own thing, wherever you have to do it and whenever you want. Drop out. Leave society as you have known it. Leave it utterly. Blow the minds of every straight person you can reach. Turn them on, if not to drugs, then to beauty, love, honesty, fun.”
An estimated 100,000 people traveled to San Francisco in the summer of 1967. The media followed and public attention on hippie culture fueled a moral panic among the staid citizenry.
Some hippies left San Francisco to discover new places and new communes. One of them, “Eight Finger” Eddie went to Goa in India, wearing next to nothing, carrying earthen pipes on waistbands for smoking hashish. The locals in Anjuna Beach in Goa were shocked to see Eddie. But he loved them, and they fell in love with him and his half naked buddies who came with him.
In the 1960s when Eddie and his buddies arrived, Anjuna Beach had a few huts with nobody around. Some people let him stay in their huts for free. He cooked for everyone. Eddie sometimes ran a soup kitchen for hippies. He started the Anjuna flea market where hippies could hang out and barter goods. People gave things away. It was like a party. Today that market is a hub of commerce. Goa is a top destination for new age tourists — nearly two and half million each year. Five-star hotels line the beaches. Throbbing night life and lush restaurants add to the scene, which has made Goa one of the wealthiest States in India.
Goa owes much of its success to Eddie and other hippies like him who created the buzz that brought Western tourists. But with success and riches, the new Goanese society shunned the hippies of old. Goa has moved on.
On October 18, Eddie, wearing a floral shirt and cheap slippers, died of a heart attack at age 85 in Anjuna’s hospital. The local newspaper paid tribute calling him “a guiding light for travelers who made Anjuna the last station of the hippie trail”.
— Lakshman Ratnapala
BATW International Consultant