Fleeing the Rat Race
I live in a corporate world, surrounded by high-rises and traffic jams, unruly crowds and heaps of concrete.
Social media provides an escape from that – a means to finding inspiration and breathing spaces in other realities.
This is how Sri Lanka captivated me even before I got there.
There were so many stunning photos of the country online that I couldn’t wait to experience its richness and have it all pop out at me first-hand.
I was eager to capture such a wealth of history, culture, and landscape with my own lens. So eager that I dragged my new bride to Sri Lanka for our honeymoon.
What we found there was so much more than we expected.
Back to Basics
Sri Lanka was bursting with color.
From the elephant sanctuary in Udawalawe – to the lush tea plantations in Ella.
The golden beaches of Mirissa, where time slipped by — to the colonial traces of Europe in Galle, where time stood still.
There was such divinity in its numerous temples – and a striking roughness to the capital, Colombo.
We wove through it all by taking an unforgettable train ride through the country, crossing extraordinary manmade structures to revel at natural marvels.
Down the Line
As the train rocked and clattered over timeless tracks, you could hang your legs out the door for the entire journey.
Seeing the Nine Arch this way made me understand why people call it the Bridge in the Sky.
Then, we reached Sigiriya Rock. At two hundred metres high, it was a skyscraper unlike any other on the landscape.
We also visited farms and saw how produce was sorted and packaged. It reminded me that all things come from somewhere – and go through multiple processes that we as the end consumer may forget to appreciate.
They put a lot of hard work and passion into their end-products – reminding me to savor the littlest things.
From the littlest things – to the most profound.
We were there during a religious festival at the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. I felt blessed witnessing their faithful devotion, which exhibited but a fraction of their rich culture.
But more than cultural expressions, it was the personal ones that I found most enthralling. There were such nuances in people’s countenance and manner – a charming playfulness and joy in their eyes.
From the moment we arrived at the airport in Colombo, we were greeted by radiant smiles. Their warmth reached out and touched you – I hadn’t expected that at all.
At one point, we had to select a tour guide from three men before us – we went with the one whose smile was the warmest and most comforting.
Following our instinct proved to be the right choice. He was determined to give us visitors the best experience of his country possible, something to remember.
He introduced himself as Mr. Tilak – and after fifteen years of being a guide, he spoke English better than most.
Mr. Tilak was an outdoors man and smelled like the sun. He wore the radiance of the day like a king’s robe.
He took his time explaining the history of things – and he led us down unpaved paths less travelled to show us less ordinary things.
Such as the ancient King’s Seat which had been overrun by grass.
I wanted to take his photo there – but he told me to wait because he knew a “perfect spot” closer to the top of the hike.
So, I waited – and took his portrait at the spot he recommended. He tried three different poses – at his behest – before I clicked my camera.
Mr. Tilak made the treacherous climb seem easier than it was. He made a difficult trek more fun.
This was a man who clearly enjoyed what he did. He loved his country and was proud to shared it with visitors.
Tea & Simplicity
Being in the corporate world, I sometimes feel like I am part of the proverbial rat race – it’s always a competition to be the best, to do the best, and have the best.
Experiencing the different workers in Sri Lanka – from the woodcarvers, the fishermen, the coconut vendors and Mr. Tilak – two things resonated the most: their sense of gratitude and contentment.
It felt like in the simplicity of their lives, they were being the best of themselves.
Seeing this brought me back to myself. It grounded me and reminded me to breathe. To pause and see how great life is. To release anxieties because eventually, we will get to where we want to be.
My experience of Sri Lanka’s diversity reminded that in the end – no matter what religion, if any, we believe in – we are all human beings participating in the same race – and no matter what part of society we occupy or belong to, it is our attitude and outlook that matter.
To be kind and loving is what makes all the difference.
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I knew your travels would lead to something like this👍🏼