Month two of lockdown. I haven’t gone this long without traveling in seemingly forever. As much as I’d like to keep pushing out content and travel guides, it’s a bit difficult to find the inspiration when you know no one’s going to be able to travel for at least a few more months. What’s keeping the travel bug alive has been looking through and re-editing old photos with new eyes.
Perhaps that’s been the biggest blessing of this time in quarantine, at least for me. I’m used to traveling at such a nonstop pace that I often don’t have time to process or truly appreciate the moment while I’m there. Most people will go on a week-long holiday and then have that fluttery feeling stay with them for the following weeks. I’ll wrap up one adventure and by the following day or two, be off on yet another adventure. I’ve been looking through old photos and asking myself if I was really even there. Some of the places seem so foreign to me, and at age 25, I definitely shouldn’t already be losing my memory.
I’m going to take this time in lockdown to relive some of those adventures and try to really capture what those moments were like. It’s going to be fun, digging deep into the crevasses of my memory and really forcing myself to go back in time and smell the roses that I may have missed. I’m doing this for me, as these types of posts aren’t the typical money-making, SEO-fueled, affiliate-link-riddled blogs that rake in traffic from curious travelers. The odds of you reading this are very slim, but if you’re here, thanks for coming along for the ride.
Welcome to my Travel Stories From Lockdown series.
Part 1: Summiting Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka
One of the nicest parts of Instagram is that the community one can build with it. While I travel solo full-time, it never feels like I’m alone thanks to having the Insta-fam with me at all times. Every time I post something on my stories or on my feed, odds are, someone’s already been there and has a recommendation and some advice for me. Heading into Sri Lanka, I was completely blind. I hadn’t done any research, and that’s how I wanted to things to be.
After the comfort and cushiness of my six weeks living large in Bali on a paid work trip, I was longing for the taste of adventure again. I was getting tired of the obnoxiously Instagram-centered culture that had overtaken Bali, and wanted something on the opposite side of the spectrum. I opted for Sri Lanka, and up to this point, it had been everything I wanted it to be. There I was, lost, clueless, and alone in a foreign country for the first time in months.
Welcome To Sri Lanka
Remember when I mentioned that rad Instagram community and never truly being alone? Sometimes, that Instagram community manifests itself into real life. I ran into a follower of mine in Kandy, who invited me to go hike Adam’s Peak with them. I had no idea what Adam’s Peak was, but never one to turn down a good hike, I followed along.
The train was packed, and for me and my newfound friends, it was standing room only. Only about halfway into the six-hour bus ride did we finally manage to snag a seat. Arriving into Hatton, it was still another hour or so by bus to the small town of Nallathanniya. The journey seemed never-ending, but that was what I asked for, hey? Unfiltered, uncomfortable, and unforgettable adventures.
We made it to our hostel before scouring the town for anywhere we could eat. It was way more difficult than we expected, but finally, we were able to find a hotel with a stunning view of Adam’s Peak. It was my first time seeing the mountain, and it seemed infinitely more daunting than I could have imagined. The hike involved about 5,500 stairs, and we would be starting early at around 2 AM. We scarfed down our massive, carbohydrate-loaded meals before turning in early.
I was restless, mostly because I was a night owl to begin with. After midnight is when I really thrive, if that isn’t evident by my blog name. Eventually, I managed to squeeze a couple of hours of sleep from the short night and was wide awake by 2 AM.
The Long Road Ahead
It was pitch black, and the coldest I’ve ever been in Sri Lanka. This island was a different kind of muggy, and I was thankful for the cool respite from the sweltering heat, even if it was just for a few hours. We lumbered slowly to the base of the mountain, a group of six shadows in the dark. The shadows grew in number as we approached town and more and more hikers and pilgrims joined the caravan. The stores lining the trail were already lit up, offering food and drinks to the stream of hikers.
We stayed zoned in on the goal, with a bathroom break being our only stop in the first hour. Street lamps lit the path, but we were still engulfed in complete darkness outside of the concrete confines of the stairs. Each passing step made me wonder if this was even going to be worth it. There’s not much to remember on the way up. Just tired legs, heavy breathing, and a passing smile to the occasional hiker.
The crowds of people working their way to the top were diverse, coming from all backgrounds and all ages. I’d never seen so many old women on a hike before, but with the sacred status of Adam’s Peak, it should have been no surprise that pilgrims of all ages would be making this journey. Adam’s Peak, or Sri Pada, is believed to be home to the footprint of Buddha, Adam, or Shiva, depending on your religious beliefs. For us travelers, I’ve decided that it’s the footprint of the guy who invented Instagram.
The crowds got thicker and thicker as we approached the peak. At a brisk pace, it should take about 3 hours to reach the peak. While we started at 2 AM, it was likely that many of the people had camped here overnight. The peak was packed with people, sprawled out over blankets and trying to stay warm. I can assume most of these were pilgrims from throughout the country, many of whom were much higher up in age.
At this point, we had finished ahead of schedule and the sun had yet to rise. We roamed through the small platforms at the top before deciding that it was best to find a less crowded spot a bit lower down. Of course, not before ringing the bell at the top to signify our completion of the trek.
We began to slowly walk down and the sky began to slowly light up. The midnight black made way to a deep blue, with a crack of orange and violet splitting the sky from the earth. Somehow, I lost the rest of my group and continued my walk down assuming they had gone ahead of me. With camera in hand, I raced down the mountain. Or, at least raced as fast as I could while stopping after every flight to take pictures of the increasingly beautiful sunrise.
Eventually, I just stopped. The air was still cool. The violet sky was still a little hazy, but finally, I could see exactly why this site was deemed to be so holy. It was nothing short of inspirational. As people passed me on their way up, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears at the sheer beauty of the moment. Regardless of background, age, religion, skin color, or whatever other pointless thing you could think of to divide us by, all of us were here for the common goal of reaching the top. We were all encouraging each other, even if it was just a passing smile or brief wave.
The streams of Buddhist flags lining the path started to gently wave in the morning breeze. The clouds had not yet been dried up by the sizzling sun, and softly blanketed the still-purple countryside. The sky had started to fire up into a dazzling orange, decimating the vast blackness that had consumed us just minutes ago. Slowly, the morning light started to paint the landscapes. The black silhouettes were suddenly blue, and purple, then orange, before nestling into their natural greens basking in rays of gold.
This morning was one of those moments that has stuck with me throughout the years. Granted, it’s actually been only a year since I did this hike. But it has stuck with me, so that’s technically the truth. The views played second-fiddle to the moment, which might be hard to believe with how breathtaking the scenery was. It reminded me exactly why I travel. After the six weeks in Bali that had quite frankly, messed with my mental health, self-esteem, and self-worth, I felt like I had rekindled a spark and passion for travel that was inspired by the right reasons.
I had been away from home for the longest I’d ever been, and that travel fatigue and burnout had me questioning why it was that I traveled. It’s difficult to put into words the emotions and what went through my head that morning, but one thing I do remember clearly is thinking to myself, “This is it. This is why I travel.”
Thanks for tuning in to the first of my Travel Stories In Lockdown series. Stay tuned for the next one. Will it be tomorrow? Will it be in a month? With my unpredictable productivity levels these days, not even I know.