Arriving in a new country is always exhilarating for me. The first hour after stepping foot in it is very important – you will never experience that moment again – the excitement of the unknown, before you understand the rhythm of the place; the first impressions of unfamiliar smells, sounds and sights…it all changes after some time is spent in the place. I cherish that first hour and pay attention to it as it’s one of the most important travel moments for me.
My first impression of Sri Lanka was as good as they get. I felt like I’m coming home even though I’ve never been there before. This is what I wrote on my first day on the train from Colombo to Ahangama:
The coast line unveiled its beauty right outside the train window. I’m supposed to be a writer so will try to describe this feeling that has gripped me from the moment of landing in Sri Lanka…It’s like you know that everything will be ok. The people are lovely, they like a laugh and are a bit cheeky, kind-spirited and friendly. Seeing the ocean made me tear up a bit – I haven’t seen waves in 2 weeks and it’s always very emotional to be reunited. If in Bali I found my spiritual home, something in Sri Lanka reminds me of that feeling – it hits right in the heart and makes me feel alive.
Sri Lanka, the island in the Indian Ocean just south of India, has been on my radar for a few years as the dreamland of waves, palm trees and good food and to be able to finally make it there felt very exciting. My intuition, which I’m learning to listen to more, was telling me that 4 weeks on the island will do me a world of good and that Sri Lanka is where I need to be at this stage of my journey.
Having been here for some 10 days now, it’s no surprise to me that the Persians and Arabs referred to it as Sarandīb (the origin of the word “serendipity” – good luck in finding valuable things unintentionally). I’ve been experiencing many instances of serendipity in this magical place from about 15 minutes after arriving in Midigama in the south of the country. Arguably, serendipity is easier to come by when we’re open to it and let it happen but lately I seem to be connecting with many people who are directly or indirectly enriching my life. I seem to be expecting very little and receiving a lot. I’d like to think that I give a lot back; I don’t rush away from the locals, I take time to talk to them, want to hear their stories and often they want to tell them. I’m discovering that getting deeper into my yoga practice has opened me up to the eastern values and made me question the western way of living. I learn so much from everyone I meet. Their culture, so different to mine, is somehow a lot more familiar to me than I thought possible.
I think we sometimes underestimate how valuable time is. I don’t mean it in the western way of thinking ‘time is money’. I mean the value in taking a moment to just be, to look around, appreciate the surroundings, acknowledge other human beings, smile at them, feel present in the moment which we will never get back. It’s amazing how much 5 minutes can mean or change if you really make it count.
The unspoiled beauty of Sri Lanka fills me with joy that there are still places which maintain its magic despite the tourism industry taking over. There is a raw charm here, in the landscape as much as in the people. The other day I was sat watching the sun perform its pink and orange colour-dance whilst setting over the bay littered with palm trees. A friend I was with said: ‘This is my church’. Looking at the stunning vision mother nature was painting in front of me I had to agree. That is where I feel at peace, both with myself and the external world. Everyone needs their sanctuary, mine is being surrounded by nature, where the ocean waves break on the shore right in front of me and I can match my breath with their sound.
Sometimes the pursuit of happiness, the next goal, our purpose; can detract us from what’s truly important and from living in the present moment. We can get lost in that chase and ignore the people around us. You never know how your actions might affect the course of someone’s life. Talk to a stranger next time you get the chance, even if it’s just to say hello and smile. It feels good and costs nothing but that one interaction might completely transform their day. And if, like a lot of Sinhalese people, you believe in Karma then you might even get a smile back. 😉
Featured image: Andy Mac