Living the Local Life in Ambalangoda

Our homestay family in Ambalangoda

In the past few years, something of an obsession has developed amongst travelers (both short-term annual vacationers and less conventional long-term ones) in “living like locals” when abroad. It starts before we even embark on our journey, with carefully pruned packing lists so that we aren’t outed on sight alone as the foreigners that we are by something as superficial as our clothing, and we spend hours researching all the best “off the beaten path” attractions that only the locals frequent so that we can escape our fellow tourists once we arrive.

But I always wonder why so many people would want to live like a local when the option exists for you to go one step further and actually live with locals; I firmly believe that if you want to quickly uncover the heart of a place, there is no better way to do so than to meet its people and, better yet, be invited into their homes. When it comes to authentic local travel, surely there can be nothing better than this: not only do you gain insight into the culture and a new way of life, but you also get the chance to form friendships and new connections, which we’ve swiftly come to see as one of the most powerful and wonderful things about traveling. As luck would have it, in Sri Lanka, homestays are abundant and readily available, so experiencing the warmth and hospitality of the country’s residents couldn’t be easier.

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24 Hours to Ambalangoda

Steph, Tony & King Tuk

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

I can only assume that when Anderson penned those words of wisdom, he hadn’t been traveling around the world for 20+ months.

One of the realities of being a long-term traveler means you rarely travel the fastest or easiest way to your destination, because fast & easy usually don’t come cheap. When every dollar saved can potentially mean another day on the road, you learn to trim the financial fat and only drain money from your perpetually dwindling travel fun for absolute necessities. This means choosing 14-hour bus rides over 30-minute plane rides, settling for a third-class train ticket, and letting the breeze from an open window cool you (or not) rather than splurging for A/C. Maybe your seat mate will be a chicken and your footrest will be a crate of tomatoes. When taking a plane is unavoidable, cost is prioritized above all else, meaning you tend to fly a budget airline with awkward layovers at inhumane hours. Were you on a vacation, you’d happily shell out the extra $150 per ticket for something a little more civilized, but… this isn’t a vacation: this is the reality traveling for months on end. It’s for this reason that most long-term travelers swiftly come to lament actual travel days and focus on the destinations instead; the task of actually getting from one place to another is usually too laborious and exhausting to incite many of us to dwell on or relish the process.

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Be Here Now

Steph and Tony 20YH in Canada

When we launched 20 Years Hence, we called it a travel blog because that was what everyone else with a blog similar to our own was doing and the mantle fit well enough. What else would you call a site meant to document the adventure of a lifetime?

Very quickly, however, we realized that as incredible as our Big Trip was, the thing we most wanted to capture and share with others was larger than travel: it was about our journey, one that traveling the world was just a piece of (an integral piece, but a piece nonetheless). To that end, we’ve written not just about the places we visit and the experiences we have had while traveling, but have also made room to document the personal growth and struggles our travels have prompted as well. We try to write about things that are universal to people seeking to live their best lives, no matter where we happen to find ourselves, whether we’re traveling the world or taking a break back home.

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Travel Photo Roulette #81: The Face of a Nation

Travel Photo Roulette 81

**UPDATED** We have our winner! Click through and/or scroll down past our examples to find out who we thought shot the best face of a nation! Thanks to everyone who entered, we’re really happy with the great response!

True to the travel plans we revealed in our last post, we have been madly darting around Europe. Between catching up with old friends, making new ones, and trying to squeeze the very most out of these last few weeks of traveling, we’ve barely had time to catch our breaths (on average, we’re clocking 10 – 12 hours per day outside wandering around). Despite settling into a much slower pace of travel while in Asia, we’ve had to crank the dial up to 11 here in Europe and have been rocketing through countries at something that surely approaches warp speed: in the past 3 weeks, we’ve set foot in 5 different cities in 3 different countries and have 4 more cities and 2 more countries to fit in before we head home. It’s been exhilarating AND exhausting, but we figure we can sleep when we’re dead/back in Toronto in July (same difference?).

As we anticipated, we have been so busy actually traveling and playing tourists here in Europe that we have not had time to write any proper blog posts since arriving back in the western hemisphere. However, just before leaving Sri Lanka, we entered a photo into the latest installment of the long-running series, Travel Photo Roulette. The last round was hosted by Backpack Me and the theme was “Mouthwatering”… how could we pass up the opportunity to share a food photo?!?

Well, we couldn’t, obviously. And in a surprise twist, we actually won! Here was our winning photo, taken in Tainan, Taiwan. Just looking at it now brings tears to our eyes and drool to our mouths—as much fun as we’re having eating all the bread, pasta & cheese here in Europe, we REALLY miss Asian food. Looking back, we DEFINITELY didn’t eat enough dumplings…

Vegetarian dumplings Taiwan

As the winners of the last round, it is now our honor to host Round 81. After putting on our thinking caps, we’ve decided the next theme will be:

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Why We’re Going Home, Why We Haven’t Written About It & What Comes Next

Sunset over Bali

A few months ago, I began alluding to (and explicitly mentioning… subtlety is rarely my strong suit) the fact that Tony & I will be winding up our trip and heading home this summer. I didn’t go into detail about why this was happening, in part because I didn’t really think anyone other than the two of us would care.

But, as it turns out, you did care! Very much, in fact. Many of you expressed alarm/confusion/dismay/concern/shock/horror or some combination thereof at this news and politely demanded an explanation regarding this turn of events. Had there been a family emergency? (Thankfully, no.) Were we no longer having fun? (Quite the opposite, actually.) Had we run out of money/was our Design Business a huge failure? (We still have a respectable chunk of change in our travel fund and actually have managed to secure enough work since officially launching that we tend to break even most months!) Was I pregnant? (I firmly believe that the status of a woman’s womb is her own business and really no one else’s, save her partner’s (should she have one), but given that my response to this question was a horrified, “Gross!” we can safely conclude I am not with child.)

So why are we heading back to North America this summer? And why did I have to be so secretive about the whole thing?

I promised you I would eventually write about both of these things in some detail. Given that we now have a return date set and summer is almost here, it seems time to spill the beans.

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