SRI LANKA. Where to begin?
Well! 2020 is a new decade full of promise and empty diary pages. Our blog pages are resurrected after a few quiet months while we hosted guests, looked at our own calendar of events and made a few exciting decisions – more of that in coming blogs.
To kick off the decade I want to talk about a different Sri Lanka to the one you may have heard about. One that is sexy, sporty and quirky too. So my first post in 2020 is an ode to a few of the things you may not know about Sri Lanka that might make you raise a single eyebrow to an impressive height (just one of my skills). I want to share with anybody who will listen that Sri Lanka is more than elephants, monkeys, tropical birds, jungle, temples, tea, beaches, smiling hospitality and history. All of that is at the very heart of this little teardrop island and is part and parcel of the amazing sensory experiences you will have – of course! – we wouldn’t want to disappoint.
The way things used to be
Remember travel the way it used to be? It is now called “experiential travel”…but what does that mean to you? It was something that was just a given when I was at Uni, and an expectation of a brilliant inter-rail trip through Europe. My good friend and I set off with equally weighted backpacks, which I surreptitiously re-assigned as the trip wore on.
Of course as a student in the 80’s there was no such thing as a company that actually organised gap years for us, no mobile phones, visa cards aren’t what they are today…it was a different time…we lived every moment, instagram didn’t exist.
We talked to soldiers on the train in former Yugoslavia just before the war broke out, we got caught in Greece during the general strike and almost missed the start of term, we overslept on a ferry from Thessaloniki to…somehere…and ended up in Santorini (before it was discovered and became achingly cool). We walked and talked to locals and ate in little out of the way places, slept on platforms, campsites and trains and the entire trip was an eye opener from start to finish.
In those days in much of Europe, not many people had seen a Sri Lankan person. I got stared at – ALOT. At first it bugged me, but then I realised it was just friendly curiosity …so I started inanely grinning at people and waving and saying hello – I met alot more people that way, because they did it right back!
But all my friend and I actually did was rub shoulders with the natives of each land and talk to them; it seems like that was easier to do that back then. Now we seem to hide behind our camera phones or just snap a moment for posterity on the gram without truly engaging.
“Not all those who wander are lost” ~ J.R.R. TOLKIEN
2020 – we are all adventurers
Don’t get me wrong, these days I am all about deeply comfortable beds, hot powerful showers, gorgeous scented toiletries, fluffy white towels and delicious food and scenery – just a few basics that are standard at Kalukanda House. HOWEVER, in amongst all of that, I think the magic of a holiday is those surprising moments of interaction with other cultures. The challenge of communicating in different languages, the heartfelt way of touching another person’s life and our own, merely by making eye contact and smiling. Building relationships and not only taking away memories, but leaving some behind. It is our social footprint and our legacy…
So what about Sri Lanka in 2020? Here are a few examples of the other side of life… this year, Red Bull are hosting (again) another Tuk Tuk Raleigh where teams of 3 drive off-road on challenging terrain finishing in the beautiful city of Dambulla which is part of the Cultural Triangle.
A Kundalini Yoga festival is taking place in Unawatune and an Ultramarathon, covering 250km in 5 days, takes place in March (oh yes they can). Let’s not forget that England return to Sri Lanka for more test cricket. This is all just in the first quarter of the year!
What about famous British Sri Lankans? Apart from Romesh Ranganathan and DJ Nihal who are celebrities and funny people on screen and radio, Parosha Chandran is a leading anti-slavery and human rights lawyer, who has shaped modern laws on these subjects in the UK. Indhu Rubasingham MBE is the artistic director of Kiln Theatre and has not only taken shows to the West End but also is a key player at the National in London. I grew up with the latter two. “Yes” is the answer to the inevitable question you are asking, I am indeed feeling a wee bit inadequate, the eyebrow trick doesn’t really cut it – but I am immensely proud of my Sri Lankan sisterhood too.
My point on all of this is that as far as I am concerned, all “proper travel” is experiential and that word should be redundant. When did it become an extra? Anything else isn’t travel, it’s just flying somewhere different which makes it a box ticking exercise and not as fulfilling and enriching as it should be. Sri Lanka is a beautiful, ancient island steeped in tradition and varied culture, but she is also so much more.
Our ethos at Kalukanda House is to encourage curious, adventurous, interested (and interesting) guests who want to travel the way we used to. Expect the un-expected, peel back the layers, connect at every level with yourself and the people around you. Sometimes, plans don’t pan out the way they should but having an open and curious mindset means that adventures happen.
For example, in April 2019 we had some guests staying for 17 days. I thought perhaps they might run out of things to do, but in fact they ran out of time. One of them got on with our chef so well that he went out deep sea fishing with him and came home and cooked their catch for dinner. Meanwhile, his wife who is a seasoned marathon runner, got in a car and was driven to Ella with her friend to climb Adam’s Peak and watch the sunrise. They came back that day.
Other guests have found their own running routes, swum in the nearby cove with local children and slept under the stars with fires to keep them warm while out on safari. These are stories from guests with children, imagine what else you can do if your time is 100% your own.
I built Kalukanda House in 2017. I broke ground and personally laid the foundation stone (it is beneath the sofa in the vaulted lounge incase you are wondering). I know every single person who built the house, made our furniture, landscaped our gardens – all those layers of relationships. What I do now is connect with our guests when they are booking and ensure they have at least one of the many experiences we offer, as well as contribute to our charitable and sustainability efforts. It’s truly beautiful. We have had the most incredible feedback because of it.
I encourage anybody who visits Sri Lanka, whether you stay with us or not, to remember that you can leave something behind as well as build memories to take away. Having a positive impact on the island through connection and experience will keep you buzzing forever more.
Who knew that a place so small could have such a wide, global impact?
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal” ~ PAUL COELHO
Watch this monthly blogspot and drop me a line if you would like to find out more about staying with us and upcoming special weeks and offers.
Tuk Tuk and Ultramarathon images taken from official booking sites – links below