In your 20ies after studying you’d usually ask yourself ‘Who do I want to be?’ or ‘What do I want to do? My current question is ‘How do I want to live?’. Do I want to live together with people? Alone? At the beach? In a city?
And all these questions started with a surf trip to Arugam Bay for 1.5 months, just 3 weeks after the devasting Easter bombings that killed hundreds of people.
Arugam Bay is a village, that rose to fame for its surf breaks after the Tsunami 2004. Since then, the facilities for tourists have been developed, but it has been spared by high rise concrete hotels, that you can find in the south. Most Restaurant, Bars and Shops are along one main road, that is always busy with cars, Tuk-Tuk’s or cows.
Many tourists had cancelled their travel plans, so most of the people I met were ‘Visatravellers’ (my made up term, people who have seasonal work or are digital nomads and stay in a country of their choice, until the visa expires). I had just finished my bachelors degree and my peers were all starting their careers with 60 hours a week and suddenly I was next to a person that works for 3 days a year as a troop entertainer. Or another one 4 months a year as a ski instructor. Or a surf photographer that is in the process of recording a music in a barrel. And I was like, what? That works?
What really set this journey apart from others, was that there were so 1/4 of the normal tourist amount. When I met someone I knew that I’d see them again on the street, in the line-up or somewhere. When I walked down the street, I knew the people hanging out at their Tuk Tuk’s or Restaturants and when I wanted to meet somebody I just walked there.
I always thought that I was a city person, because it was all I knew. I grew up in Berlin, the least german city in Germany, where you can learn anything and you can look however, without people judging you. You want to wear Pyjamas on the subway? Or a cloak? Or non gender-conforming clothes? Go ahead, nobody cares. Which is awesome for the freedom to keep reinventing yourself, but it also comes with the of anonymity from 3.5 mio people. It is normal not to know your neighbors after 5 years of living door to door.
Prior to living in Sri Lanka, I had never experienced village life other than visiting my grandparents conservative, ageing villages for a week at a time. And there it felt like one political, religious opinion and one way of life is allowed per village, with no room to discuss.
And of course my Arugam Bay experience was a bubble, we travelers mixed only with a few locals, that didn’t agree with the sexist views of the rest of the village. Which I could go on about, but not in a smiling matter. We were on holiday, sleeping in hostels and eating a meal for 75ct, without having to worry about the things that make it tough. I saw how we lived, surfed and supported each other and I realised that I want that in life. A group of people to face the complexity of the world with.
However from living in flatshares for years, I know there are so many topics that make living together with other people difficult (taking out the trash, splitting chores fairly, finances). Earlier that year I went to a conference from an organisation called attac, where I got to know some interesting consesus methods and discussed alternatives to capitalism. And I thought throwing these in one pot is a recipe that I’d like to try. But I’m not the first one to think that, so as you may know, I’ve been visiting in communities a lot for the last 6 months. I’ll continue to keep you posted on my pracitcal and theoretical insights. And it’s been a wild journey.