I have recently spent two weeks in Sri Lanka. I know it was Sri Lanka because that is what it said on the e-ticket from the airline company. Indeed, the airline was Sri Lankan airlines, which is a bit of a giveaway. However apart from these details I might as well have been anywhere.
We booked into a beach resort and didn't leave, we lazed around reading, swimming, catching rays, avoiding tropical downpours, and eating and drinking for fourteen days straight. It was beautiful, a kind of paradise with added mosquitos. Delightful people, wonderful staff - you get the picture. I won't rub it in.
However, at the end of those two weeks, as we were driven to the airport by a very nice guy who occasionally would stop and point out a Tamil shrine or perhaps a Buddhist temple (Sri lanka has four main religions Tamil, Buddhism, Muslim and Christian), I began to feel a creeping sense of guilt. I had seen nothing of this country, I had experienced nothing of it's culture.
Was it morally acceptable to fly five and a half thousand miles around the world to sit on my backside doing nothing?
A couple of days before we left Sri Lanka, I had a missed call from my mother. I couldn't face returning the call straight away. She would be appalled at our lack of cultural opportunism. I can hear her now... 'What about the temples? What about the elephant sanctuaries? What about the national parks? You saw none of them?' Hell, she probably knows more about Sri Lanka's history than I do and she's never been! This is a woman who has travelled extensively. She was in Iraq a couple months before the first Gulf war, she has been to Iran more times than I have had hot dinners, she has been to Pakistan, Kurdistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, just about every 'Stan' you can think of. And when mum goes to these places she gets properly stuck in, she comes back with new friends, all of them local, she stays in touch too...
So what gives me the right to take my recent and, not for the first time, cavalier attitude to travel?
On the one hand, nothing really. On the other hand, nothing really. Should I change my ways? Probably, however I figure Mum does enough of that kind of travel for the both of us, and the itinerary for future hoiday ideas is currently looking vaguely similar.
While I'm at it though, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Palagama Beach resort in the northwest of Sri Lanka for their exceptional hospitality. You gave us exactly what we wanted and needed - a really good rest. Just enough care and attention, and I haven't felt so refreshed, well, since the end of my last holiday doing nothing! I feel ready, willing and above all able to face 2013. So bring it on!