Sitting at the gate in Abu Dhabi I had taken out my Lonely Planet guide book. I read the “Understand” and “Survival guide” parts of the book, and as I reached the section “Women Travellers,” the nerves started kicking in.
“”Are you married?” could be the snappy conversation starter you hear most often, so consider wearing a fake wedding ring and carrying a few pics of your imaginary partner back home. Women traveling alone may be hassled while walking around day and night, or while exploring isolated places. Physical harassment (grabbing and groping) can occur anywhere. Single women may be followed, so try to be connected with larger groups of people. There have also been cases of solo women being attacked by guides at heritage sites; again, don’t go alone” the guide book states. To be fair the sections ends stating that unpleasant experiences are more likely to be the exception than the rule, but that didn’t save me from the images now running through my head.“Why are you traveling alone again!?” I questioned myself, but as I sat down in my seat on the airplane my nerves started to calm. Flying by Nice Little Penguins came on shuffle on my phone, and for the first time ever I actually listened to the lyrics:
Here I am, I am on my own. For the first time really on my own. So will I make it, will it work alright? Can I make it through the night? And I go uuuuuh, uuuuuuuh I am flying
I couldn’t help but laugh and after receiving a weird glance from my side buddy of the next four hours I was so ready to go. The “LET’S DO THIS” mentality was back.
After hours of charmingly sleeping and waking up with my mouth open, I could see the Sri Lankan landscape beneath me. I think this is when it really hit me, in the best way possible. I am spending nothing short of five weeks in this palm tree covered heavenly country. Five weeks! I’ve only ever spent five weeks in Denmark or the States before. This is huge. Trying to contain my jittering body from exploding from excitement I took a few deep breaths and smiled to the Sri Lankan rice fields rolling by me with the speed of lighting.
After the easiest walk through immigration I waited for my suitcase for half an hour before I followed the exit signs, hoping that they would lead me to my driver. The reason why I had a driver was, long story short, my suddenly worrisome and incredibly nice dad who pulled some strings among business connections to get me a contact in case of emergencies, and ended up with both a contact, a car and a driver. When he had asked how much it would cost the answer had been “View it as a gift to your family sir,” so I couldn’t say no that.
Sure enough there he was, Mr. Sudath, a very smiling Sri Lankan man holding a “Ms. Annika” sign.
Mr. Sudath and I had 160 kilometers of driving ahead of us, so I was happy to discover that we very quickly bonded with big laughs over my awful pronunciation when giving the Sinhala language a try. Instead I showed off with my newly acquired knowledge of Sri Lankan culture and history, and he helped me out with filling in the gaps.
He told me, in his incredibly charming broken English, how his main job was being a farmer, but whenever his boss had VIP clients who needed a ride, Mr. Sudath was the one he called. After laughing at the fact that I was a Very Important Person a car honked at us and made signs to say something was wrong with our vehicle. We pulled over to discover that the left front wheel was flat..
Luckily the car had a spare wheel hanging on the trunk, and after 30 minutes of struggling Mr. Sudath had managed to change the wheel with just a little help from his VIP guest. Throughout the action we had periodically been honked at by cars, which according to Mr. Sudath was due to my light skin and blond hair. It was also the event of the day for the village located on the side of the highway, as at least 7 people stood lined up by the fence to watch the wheel changing happen. Quite a first Sri Lankan experience I got myself!
A total of 27 hours had passed from when I walked out the door of my apartment to putting down my backpack in my hostel room, so it is safe to say that I was exhausted.
I got to spent about 37 seconds in my new room before I was invited to dinner with two of the other guest, an Aussie women and an Irish man. Now that’s hostel living for you.
We met up with a French women that the Aussie had met a few weeks prior in Colombo and ventured out to eat a well deserved meal. The best thing about meeting people in hostels like this is that everyone is like minded and have a very essential thing in common; the love of traveling and exploring. All dinner long we all shared stories of previous trips and dreams of those to come. My favorite moment was asking the French women what she did at home, as she responded saying “you mean my job?” because she is oh so right. What you do at home shouldn’t necessarily be what your job title is. The answer to that question should be so much more.
I of course had to order a Sri Lankan curry, as I had been waiting months to try one. Luckily it was everything I had expected it to be, so now I am going to sleep under my princess like mosquito net as a very full and happy camper.