True adventure is not for the faint at heart. Crossing thousands of miles of ocean to immerse in the culture of a mysterious land is only the first step in the lengthy and emotional journey of international exploration. Travel takes tenacity, courage, and grit. But most of all faith.
Sri Lanka is one of the most incredible places I've ever been. Incredible meaning chaotic, vibrant, bustling, and dramatic. The tropical weather was uncharacteristically rogue, the food spicy as hell, and the people abrupt and unforeseeable. Buildings splashed with color stand in dilapidated elegance and trains from decades past zip through rugged, tropical terrain. I can still smell the mix of spices of curry and samosos, taste the sweetness of fresh pineapple, hear the sounds of the hustle of the streets. The unpredictable nature of this place had me hooked.
Although challenging at times, I reveled in the learning lessons from exploring this magical unknown territory, and so I'll share my tips and favorite to-dos from my travels to Sri Lanka.
The waves in Sri Lanka are playful and abundant. Bring a log or a fish, I had incredible fun on both. If you're around the south coast, Mirissa Beach and the surrounding areas have everything you could ever need from surfboard hire to lessons to diversity in waves, its a great landing spot if surf is a priority.
I couldn't decide which was better, the surf or the food so let's call it a tie. Imagine Indian curry but with a twist -- sweet caramelized onion relish, bitter melon, spicy scraped coconut with a crisp citrus punch. Samosas, roti, and exotic curries are plentiful and delicious. My favorite spots -- No.1 Roti in Mirissa and Aroma Restaurant in Hikkaduwa. Just be prepared for a spicy kick and ask for no spice or "just a little spice" if you want to feel the burn.
Santosha Yoga Retreat was where I spent my first week in Sri Lanka. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to such a beautiful country. A pristine resort with the best wave around right out the back, I started and ended every day with meditation and yoga led by a team of sensational teachers. Retreat Director Kori Hahn will share with you all her best kept secrets, and you'll be living like a local in no time.
Take the train
For those prepared for a real adventure, take the second or third class train ride into the mountains. To prepare for the trip, open a can of sardines and appreciate the luxurious amount of space gaping between each tiny fish. Then you might be ready for the full contact sport that is riding the train in Sri Lanka. But if you're lucky, you can wriggle your way towards hanging out a window or door, and when the wind blows on your humid, sweat dripped skin, there's no other feeling like it in the world.
There are so many options for where to stay and what to do when traveling, why not choose somewhere that gives you the opportunity to leave the place you're visiting better than you found it, leaving you with education on the surrounding areas and having contributed to the livelihood of the local community? I HIGHLY recommend Polwaththa Eco-lodge in Kandy. Equipped with an excellent restaurant and array of beautiful tree-house style lodges, the helpful staff can also organize exactly the type of outdoor adventure you crave. Care to hike to a waterfall, visit a local school, learn to make curry from a village elder or visit an ancient ruin? They can arrange it all. While minimizing carbon footprint nonetheless.