I cannot really recollect how and from where did the idea of travelling outside India this year originate. Maybe it was when my official trip to Benin (A small country in African continent) got cancelled or maybe it was the cliché way of dealing with the issues in my personal life. Romanticising travel in the most conventional way. Whatever it was I had made up my mind to travel to a different country no matter what and it had to be this year. Now, because professional trips were so unreliable I took things into my own hands.
I began my search and shortlisted three countries based on my budget (which was really less) – Vietnam, Oman, and Sri Lanka. Now I really did not have many choices to begin with so it got easier.
Another round of research and I finalised Sri Lanka. The decision was taken mostly coz the island country is really close and the Visa is available on arrival.
In spite of finalising the place it took me a long time to book my tickets as I was still not sure if I can manage to be safe alone in a different country and I was thinking of all the things I can buy with the money I’ll save to begin with – a laptop. My personal laptop crashed a couple of months back. Everyone I shared the idea with were very encouraging except my mother for obvious reasons. Once I shared the idea of traveling to Lanka she was okay with me traveling anywhere in India. One fine day I just booked my flight from Colombo to Chennai and then it got easier. I had no intention of cancelling the ticket so I booked the remaining tickets. And this was a week before I was supposed to leave. BTW, I was leaving during the Diwali week which is a big festival in India. Deciding to travel to Lanka and not visiting home was another shocker for my family.
Then I started checking out the map of Sri Lanka every day, read about interesting places to visit just to get a fair idea of at least the route I would want to take. I knew one thing clearly that I didn’t want to book any of my hotels before reaching there nor did I want to take a tour package.
I decided upon a route which was Colombo -> Dambulla -> Nuwara Eliya -> Yala -> Mirissa/ Galle
I decided to skip the north part in the interest of time.
I had decided to make these my base locations and travel to close by places from there. I posted a travel buddy request on Lonely Planet but nothing worked out with any female traveler. Later I made my trip public in Couchsurfing from where I got a couple of offers from people who wished to host me.
Ticket for my first leg of the trip were yet to be booked as I was planning to take a train to Chennai from where I was to board the Colombo flight. The direct flight from Mumbai was nearly as expensive as the entire budget of my trip so to save cost I decided to travel this part by train instead of reaching there early and waiting for the connecting flight. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the train tickets on the last day and was left with no choice but to take a bus which was going to take 26 hours to reach.
On the day of my onward journey (6th Nov) I casually checked the Visa norms of Sri Lanka and got the shock of my life upon reading that not everyone is eligible for Visa on arrival. I couldn’t find the updated norms for Indian citizens and got really nervous. I started imagining being deported at the airport for not arriving with a Visa. I applied for Visa an hour before I was to leave from office for the bus station but the payment wouldn’t go through. Eventually the payment processed through a credit card that I had never used before and I got the Visa within 10 minutes of that.
Took a print and left immediately for the bus station just before which I was to collect the Sri Lankan currency. The guy was running late too so he handed over the currency to me at the bus station. I got 25000 LKR in exchange of 16700 INR.
It all seemed unplanned to the level of being careless but nothing could take my enthusiasm levels down that day. I was on my own in a land where no one knew me nor did I know anyone. It’s the perfect recipe for adventure!