Taken from my travelogue: Sometime early April at Gypsea Yoga in Lombok, Indonesia

I landed on this beautiful island just under two weeks ago and can hardly grasp how fast time has flown by. I am now in Lombok  just off the shores of Bali for a few days of solitude, rest and relaxation at a hideaway in the jungle, Gypsea Yoga. There are countless memories I could write about but I thought I might focus my next blog on travel tips, which I have been brewing on recently. Traveling alone can be the most incredible time of your life and sharing memories with new friends in unknown places is something you can’t quite put into words.

It’s very special.

Here are a few things I have learned traveling alone as a female in South East Asia.  I hope one day you will all be able to experience this part of the world.  It has changed my life and will forever feel like home in my heart.

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Reading time: 9 min

I have been sitting on several blogs these past weeks; most of which share thoughts, adventures, and detailed descriptions of the paradises I have discovered here in Indonesia.  It’s quite overwhelming when I think about where to start when I sit down to write, there have been so many incredible moments worth capturing it would be exhausting to share them all. They are also very intimate moments that I often like keeping to myself, having the ability to unplug for the first time in my life and share memories alone.

For this reason, I have struggled posting them and have been thinking a lot about why. I find myself now sitting on white tile floor in my new room on Gili Air Island listening to the pouring rain outside… and it finally hit me. For me, this journey is not about only exploring nature’s beauty, but my own as well. I’ve been in a deeper space and thought it was time to go into the raw about what it has been like traveling alone as a woman for over six weeks and two countries now.

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Before getting in my morning tuk tuk on the way to the local hospice this morning in Maharagama, I took a while to soak in sunshine. I knew today would be a tough day emotionally but I had prepared well for it, spending the last month filling my cup and gaining emotional strength. I had arranged for the same driver from the day before to get me early in the morning. One thing I have learned traveling is the greatest way to show your appreciation for excellent service is to be a repeat customer. This goes a long way as far as recognizing the locals who are working hard. Leslie, a Sri Lankan gentleman in his 50’s, showed up smiling and full of cheer to take me to go “care for someone.” I couldn’t help but think I hope this would be the case today, immediately deciding no matter what I saw I would smile through it and bring light to the experience. “Madame I am so happy to drive you today, I want to see the Cancer Hospital too….”  We chatted about family most of the way riding along in his candy red tuk tuk.  He shared how proud he is to be a grandfather and have a daughter at university.  Leslie reconfirmed my belief that family is the true heart of this country.

I showed up just before 9am and walked past the front garden area, shaded in mature willowing trees where an elderly unshaven man in a wheel chair was slumped over playing his handheld radio at full volume listening to what I believe was the morning news. He looked up as I passed and smiled welcoming me to his home. I noticed immediately, like most things in Sri Lanka, the facility had an open-air concept, with no glass windows or walls to keep the mosquitos and outside world out.  The words “Shantha Sevana Hospice” hung above the wide doorway in big white letters, letting me know I had arrived.

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Wind blowing. Trees swaying. Cars buzzing. Around each bend laughter echoed through the mountains.  At the last minute I decided to adventure off into the rural inland of Sri Lanka with two fun loving Irish ladies I met surfing, who enjoy the spontaneity in life as much as I do.  Travel friends give new meaning to the phrase “kindred spirits;” exploring foreign places together without hindrance brings you close quickly.  On my journey into the countryside of Ella, breathing in the mountain air and singing wildly with my new friends, I felt at home nearly halfway across the world. Admiring the lush green landscapes as we drove along the dusty narrow roads, we relished together the serenity of this island. From riding party waves in the ocean to walking barefoot through pastel colored temples in the jungle, life was sweet and we embraced each moment as it came.  Sharing these memories in life is priceless.

After a weekend away, I was looking forward to seeing the waves again and arriving at the Amuura Beach House in Beruwala, just up the coast about an hour and a half from my last location. I connected with the owners, a German family of three women, through WorkAway and my purpose is to help them with marketing for their property and organic cinnamon that’s harvested just a few miles inland. In exchange, they feed me wonderful healthy meals and I am able to sleep in one of their serene beachfront rooms.

Walking up the neatly manicured lawn blanketed with bright green palm trees, I felt the ocean breeze in my hair and peaceful energy encompass my soul once again. Sri Lanka has a way of doing that each day.  Life on the road gives you little trinkets of memories that will forever remind you of a moment in time. Each morning I am awoken to the peaceful sounds of chanting in the distance when the mosque opens for worship.  At 5:00am communal prayer begins and its methodical sounds reach underneath my wooden doorway to lull me from my sleep. At about the same time, the ruler of the nest lets me also know it is time to rise and shine. There is a chicken coop here at the beach house with a very loud rooster who shouts the beauty of the day at a very early hour. I always kindly thank him for allowing me to catch the sunrise just in time each morning from our second floor veranda, where there are no windows and we let the natural wind touch our skin as we walk about.

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After a couple of days in the capital city, I couldn’t wait to take off my shoes, stretch a bit and feel my toes in the sand. With excitement in my belly, I set out last Friday in the early morning hours to the main train station in Colombo to start my descent south to Surf Camp Sri Lanka. Waiting in line with my pack on, all I could think about between sweating and back pain was how much I had over packed. Barely standing for ten minutes, I felt like I might topple over as the long line seemed to go on forever and my personal space slowly diminished. More to come on packing strategies for long-term travel, since I am developing a plethora of travel tips I am more than happy to share.

A Sri Lankan man in a dark t-shirt and tailored pants walked up to inform me of something, but I immediately shrugged him away after feeling bothered by many that morning. Later, I learned he was kindly trying to let me know that trains had all been canceled for the day because of construction. I knew this because that same man, Chimanda, became my taxi driver a couple hours down to camp. We laughed about this later from the road as we sipped our Nescafe’s and blasted Sri Lanka music. He was in a band and loved sharing with me all about his experience touring in different parts of the world. “I thought you were a mean American girl at first… but now I know, you’re cool!” We both laughed. I’ll take it.  

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From the moment my airplane hovered over this new island, the twinkling lights of the city were alive and captivating. It looked as though a blanket of stars was woven into the landscape below. I will never forget the exciting feeling of staring out my window that day and waiting to finally land after 36 hours of travel. I had created this plan alone and was landing here alone to finally live it out, feeling liberated and also a bit overwhelmed if I must admit. After touching down and entering the tiny airport of Sri Lanka I took a deep breath in, preparing myself for the new chapter ahead and all the unknowns that it would bring.  I knew I would never be the same again; an evolution of my life’s story was in progress and the page had officially turned.

Within a mere 30 minutes I made two new European friends, other travelers of the island who had left their routine lives behind and set off for long-term exploration, seeking freedom and adventure. I immediately felt comforted being around like-minded travelers and we shared a cab to our separate places, swapping stories of all we hoped to do while we were here. The UK, France and USA all bonding over the same desire to experience more of the world and dive into studying new cultures. I truly believe that good energy attracts good energy and this couldn’t be more of the case already in my few short days here. The power of positivity is infectious and since I made it the center of my life it has done nothing but greet me with others of the same mindset in return.

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I made the decision to set out on what I hope to be the greatest and most daring adventure of my life.  I will pack a backpack that is about half of my size full of very limited belongings and board a one way flight to Sri Lanka.  This will be my first stop, but I plan to explore more of South East Asia and then head to Europe during what will most likely be a 4-5 month journey.   Each small item I pack will be chosen with careful thought, leaving behind most of my possessions and all familiarity. “Life cleansing” is proving to be both a difficult task and extremely freeing.  It has challenged me to let go and embrace a relationship with my self and the present moment.

Why Sri Lanka? I get asked this question many times. Sri Lanka is a teardrop island just south of India. Besides being one of South Asia’s most beautiful beach escapes, Sri Lanka is scattered with buddhist temples, roaring wildlife, bustling villages, tea farms and majestic green mountains.  It is best known for its biodiversity (in the top 25 global hot spots), golden beaches, world-renowned surfing, ayurveda practices, buddhist culture, spicy curry and wide range of native species.  While there, I hope to have time to dive  into the things I enjoy most: writing, adventuring, growing my skill-set, giving back and letting my creative self run wild. After visiting Japan, I always felt interested to explore more of Asia for the fact that it is so different from my home country.   I signed myself up on a volunteer website called WorkAway, where you exchange volunteer hours for accommodations with a local family. I love this concept and plan to utilize it throughout some of my travel, while also adventuring on my own.

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Reading time: 3 min