It’s no secret that I consider our decision to start 20YH one of the best choices we made before leaving on our Big Trip. The site hasn’t always been easy to maintain and has lent itself to frustration and become a source of stress on more than one occasion, but on the whole, it’s been a really rewarding and fulfilling creative endeavor. We decided pretty early on that we would forgo trinkets and tchotchkes in favor of journal entries and copious photographs, most of which we ultimately package as stories here. As much as we were motivated to share our adventures with our readers, we also had selfish incentives: we knew that once our trip was over we would want something tangible to look back on, to remind us of all that we have accomplished, all of the cool experiences we have had along the way, all of the fantastic places we have had the good fortune to visit. Like a virtual pinch, the site reminds us the last two years DID happen and weren’t just the best dream ever.
More often than not, it has been an intense joy to revisit destinations through our photos and reflect back on our time there so that we can share them with you. But with Sri Lanka it’s all been rather bittersweet and the blog has felt a bit like a double-edged sword. As much as I have loved revisiting our beautiful adventures weaving our way through the island, it has also been really hard to look back on our halcyon days there simply because the country is painfully pretty, and each post we write is a reminder of what we are missing.
I think it’s fairly safe to say that, over the course of our 24 days in Sri Lanka, we fell in love with the place. It wasn’t the only country that stole our hearts during our trip around the world—far from it!—but it’s probably the one I look back on with the most acute sense of longing. Honestly, we’ve left plenty of places wishing our visit had been longer, but with Sri Lanka, we weren’t able to extend our time, and I felt our premature departure like a sledgehammer to the heart.
At no point have I felt it more than now, as I remember our journey up the east coast of the country to the beach town of Kalkudah. I know in my first post about our epic road trip, I joked about how normally the traveling portion of every journey is really just a means to an end, but in Sri Lanka, the journey was a joy. I lived for the hours when we’d go rambling through the countryside in our red sardine can on wheels.
I mean, with countryside like this rolling out in all directions, as far as the eye can see can you blame me?
Before we visited Sri Lanka, I had gawked at and ogled the photos of the beaches that had popped up on a few other travel blogs, thinking that they looked like paradise, but secretly believing that they had all found a way to Photoshop them. There was just no way somewhere so gorgeous could possibly be real. You may be thinking the same about our photos, but I assure you, as lovely as these are, the shocking thing about Sri Lanka is actually how much better it is in real life. And not just the beaches, but the verdant, fertile countryside carpeted in rice paddies and the misty mountainous hill country too. The food is amazing, and the people are a delight, quick to offer a smile and only too happy to chat. The soundtrack of our road trip was long exhalations of “Woooooow!” and “Look at how GORGEOUS that is!” and a laugher that rang with equal parts joy and disbelief. Often times, we’d hear the sound echo back, as locals cheered on the crazy foreigners touring their country by tuk tuk.
When I rave to people about how beautiful Sri Lanka is, they always look at me with unveiled skepticism, like the truth is really that it is nothing but a dirty warzone. Certainly it is a country whose history features its fair share of sorrows, from civil wars to natural disasters, yet you’d be hard pressed to believe it when you’re there on the ground. We always felt safe and welcome, even as we ventured up to parts of the country where Tamils and Sinhalese fought bloody battles that ended only five years ago and places that were felled by the 2004 tsunami. It’s incredible to think that this could ever be a country at war; these days, it looks an awful lot like paradise and the happiness we felt there seemed an awful lot like peace.
It astounds me that more people don’t know about Sri Lanka or care to visit it. It’s affordable, it’s friendly, it’s heaven on earth. I hope that the intrepid amongst you will be inspired by our coverage on it and one day make your ways there so that you can revel in this South Asian secret.
Just know that Sri Lanka slips under your skin and once you’re caught, it might never let you go. It’s been months now, and still I’m pining, I’m wistful, and—whenever I think of the pearl of the Indian Ocean—my heart clenches like a dejected lover who wants what she can’t have. I am swept up in a tidal wave of yearning. I think that if Homesickness had a scrapbook, it would be filled with these pictures.
Who can say when Sri Lanka snared my heart? 24 days or 24 hours? All I know is that the island haunts me, and I suspect it always will. I look at our photos and I feel a tug I can’t ignore. One day, I know we’ll return.
Tell Us: Is there a country you’re pining to return to? Have you ever been anywhere so pretty you feel it like a punch to the gut?