The Sunshinestories Retreat


The Sunshinestories Retreat is the main driver behind my Sri Lanka trip. I found this place on instagram months back and knew I’d have to pay them a visit. 

When I first entered the house I saw the much awaited “welcome” board that I had seen on their Instagram. I quickly noticed that the board only had my name on it, and couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed. Luckily being the only guest at the retreat turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  

The perks quickly started showing. “Since you’re the only one here, you get the best room and bed,” as I walked through the double mahogany wooden doors my eyes went straight to the huge double bed in the middle of the room, as always in Sri Lanka, covered in a princess like musqito net. “The room has an ensuite bathroom” Tosca, the front desk girl said as she walked towards another door. I entered the bathroom and my jaw dropped. I had seen pictures of this bathroom online, but to have it be all mine was too good to be true. I had two showers. I also got to have private one on one surf lessons for an entire week, which has been nothing short of incredible for my progress. Last but not least I got to hang out with the incredible staff everyday, which completely made up for there not being any other guests. 

The villa

The retreat is set in a beautiful old Dutch colonial house. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. 

Out of the entire villa my bathroom was still my favorite part. One day I was sitting in my outdoor bathroom peeing, as most people do every once in a while, when a monkey swung by and caught on to the palm tree above my bathroom. It instantly became the best pee of my life.

My life peeked later that night, after the sun had set and the darkness had emerged, when I went to take a shower. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about this earlier, but after letting the water refresh my sweaty self I turned around, and there they were, my favorites, the stars. Those who know me well knows that I am very fond of the stars. I have every meteor shower as a yearly occurrence in my calendar and every time I get the chance I can spend hours gazing up into the sky. At this point I was pretty close to bursting in to tears from happiness. 

The surf 

The retreat is located on the south coast of Sri Lanka where it’s off season for surfing right now. However, for beginners the waves here are pretty perfect all year round, why It was still a good fit for me. Since I was the only guest I got the luxury of one on one surf lessons with the lovely Australian surf coach, Michael. 

The retreat included five theory lessons and five in water lessons. The first day I started out on a foamie (a beginners surfboard made of foam), but after half an hour I was, according to Michael, ready to move on to a hard board. Every wave I caught was filmed so that we could do video analysis of my surfing, which in my opinion is the best tool for learning how to surf and correct all of the mistakes that you’re making. The first day I caught 54 waves in the whitewater, and I was told by Michael that all of my previous surf lessons had definitely paid off. So good to hear. The only thing I really had to work on was popping up in one movement, which was the theme of every surf lesson we had that week since I just couldn’t get it right. I managed to move to green waves, and when the week was over I was able to catch green waves all by myself, over and over again. Most importantly the fear I had previously required from a bad crash in Portugal was completely gone. The smaller, cleaner and more forgiving Sri Lankan waves turned out to be everything I had needed, just like I had hoped. 

I left the retreat with a 6 minute long video of me surfing, and I can’t wait to get home and watch it over and over and over again. I came so far that week. 

The yoga 

Every morning at 6 am and most afternoons it was yoga time. The yoga teacher was a lovely Swedish girl named Hannah. The classes were simple and restorative, preparing you for the daily surf. The routine of doing yoga daily was nothing short of amazing, and Hannah is the best. 

The food 

Everyday except for the Wednesday (my day off from the “boot camp” schedule) and Saturday night the wonderful chef and sous chef prepared incredible meals for us. 

The breakfast was made up of curd (a Sri Lankan type of yougurt, kind of similar to the danish skyr), granola, fresh cut Sri Lankan fruit (they honestly take fruit to a whole new level from what I have ever known. So fresh and tasty), fresh squeezed smoothie, eggs and delicious Sri Lankan bread. 

Lunch was the delicious, classic and famous rice and curry everyday, but the type og currys changed on a daily basis. 

The dinners were the best part, it was always a nice mix of Sri Lankan and Western food inspired from each other and put together in amazing combinations that made my tastebuds sing sweet, sweet songs of joy. 
  I also got to do a cooking class with the chefs, which was a very cool experience. I was amazed at how simple all of the dishes are. They create the most tasty and flavorful dishes with only 5-6 ingredients. 

Last but not least I kept finding myself with a coconut in my hand. “For you Madame” the wonderful Champika would say with the biggest smile on his face as he kept handing me coconuts. 

The experiences

The retreat is made up out of a jam packed boot camp schedule. Along with eating, surfing and yoga, they’ve also planned out a few other activities for you to do, if you feel like it. 

On Monday I got to go have tea at a surf shack with Tosca and Michael. When they asked me if I wanted to go to a surf shack I hadn’t expected it to so literally be a surf shack. We got to enjoy various Sri Lankan treats. Sunshine Stories go here weekly as a “thank you for letting us surf on your beaches” act to the locals in the area. 

On Tuesday there was a visit at a temple planned. We got a tour from a (very) talkative monk around the temple and got to have tea and biscuits with the “top” monk. I got a blessing from the monk as he tied a white band around my wrist while saying that he wished me a long and happy life in Sinhalese. We had some interesting conversations with the monks and were taught many lessons. One of them being a smart saying of how you yourself affect your life through the three human doors. Your hands, your mouth and your mind. With these three tools we are able to shape our own lives. I like and agree with that way of looking at life. 

On Wednesday it was my day “off,” and I decided to just hang out at the villa and relax. I went to the local market with Tosca to get different fruits and vegetables for our lunch. The retreat is located in the town of Ahangama, which is a lovely little village that manages to stay clear of all tourists. 

At night we had dinner at a beach. Tosca and I went early to play on a Instagram famous palm tree swing that’s tied up by the most lovely Sri Lankan family. We saw sea turtles and got to go for the most amazing sunset swim I’ve ever been a part of. The sunset was so beautiful that Tosca and I had to pinch ourselves to believe that the moment of us being on a palm tree covered Sri Lankan beach, swimming around in the warm water while enjoying a sight like that, was actually true. I took hundreds of mental pictures. 

My last night, Saturday night, the whole crew went out to dinner at the famous Mirissa beach. That night was so beautiful that it got an entire post to itself. 

My favorite thing about my stay at the Sunshinestories retreat have been really deeply appreciating the little things. I’ve gotten to enjoy moments like laying in a hammock with a good book, slowly rocking side to side while listening to the crisp noise of palm tress swaying in the wind, trying not to let my eyes fall shut. I’ve done yoga outside under a roof while it poured down next to me, and I got to take in both the smell and the noise. I also got to meet the amazing staff that made not only my week at the retreat nothing short of amazing, but also the following weeks as I have continued to hang out with them throughout my time in Sri Lanka. 

I’m so happy I went there. 

// Annika