A Sri Lanka State of Mind
While travelling in Sri Lanka, Kiva Bottero slowed to a stop in the beach town of Negombo and discovered that slow travel is a state of mind. Plus, he learned to cook curry.
Slow travel doesn’t always mean taking months or years off work to ramble around the world. It’s a state of mind. A matter of choice. Do we choose the drive-thru or parking our car and ordering inside. Better yet, how about staying in and cooking at home.
Cooking at home was just what I did at Rani’s Inn in Negombo, Sri Lanka—a kitchen opportunity I never would have had if I’d just torn through town as most people do in Negombo.
With its proximity to the airport, the beachside town has unfortunately become known as the place to crash when you get off the plane. A spot to spend a night or two upon first arriving in Sri Lanka, which doesn’t suffer from the oppressive traffic and pollution of Colombo.
There are better beaches in Sri Lanka, better places for sightseeing and probably better restaurants too. So, yes, the guidebooks are justified in marking it as a stopover point.
Where the guidebooks fall short, however, (as they typically do) is in capturing the human aspect of the place, the culture, the people.
It’s the people that make a place and by extension, it’s the people that generally make a trip special. Beautiful beaches can be found anywhere in the world. Same with mountains, lakes, cities and shopping malls. Sites of historical and cultural significance are great to see, but if it’s culture you’re after, it’s not all bound up in a 2,000-year-old tomb or the made-for-tourists dance performances.
Checking out those attractions is great, not knocking them, but they only illuminate one side of a nation’s culture, and in the case of Sri Lanka, the ancient, not the living, breathing, present.
I stuck around Negombo for two weeks. Though not long, it was a lot longer than most travellers spend. During my stay I saw many people come and go. It’s a sight the locals get used to, which gives them an excuse to not know your name, and for some, a reason to rip you off.
In my time there I befriended Gayan, a local waiter about my age, hung out at the local joints and met some of his friends. I danced on the beach with the locals. I learned how to make the Sri Lankan staple, rice and curry, and I heard the story of Maurice, a fisherman who lost everything in the 2004 tsunami and was voraciously practicing his English every chance he got. His goal: to get out of poverty and get his two teenage kids the education he didn’t get.
Slowly moving through a place need not take much time, just more time than usual.
Enough time for the people to open up and call you a friend. One of the most beautiful aspects of travel is the element of surprise. Slow down your pace where most people wouldn’t to uncover treasures that otherwise would have gone unseen.