I like to begin my traveling mornings with a walk…but instead of a carefree wandering, I have some specific rules that I’ve gained from years of experience.* I begin by walking out the doors of my hotel** and selecting a direction. From this point, I walk straight-with little deviation- in the identified direction- for EXACTLY one hour.*** Wherever I end up when my hour concludes is where I stop and turn around…even if I see something amazing up ahead.
So yesterday…after days of trying to get to Sri Lanka, I was ready for my pre-breakfast ritual. Day one…an hour to right- following the Negombo shoreline.
As I started my walk, my first glimpse of the beach was viewed from my typically Western lens seeing the water as a potential haven of relaxation and recreation. I looked at the sand and thought…”This beach is kind of dirty.” The typically colorful beach chairs and umbrellas were missing and the path was littered with assorted debris. I couldn’t imagine this as a place where spunky beach busboys would be serving margaritas.
As I traipsed along the sandy shore…something interesting happened. In one hour, this beach transformed into one of the most memorable I’ve had the fortune to explore.
My first walking companion was also the first Muhammad I met of the day. He shared stories about the fishing season and his work on a catamaran. As I continued, I met three more men named Muhammad who shared their fishing stories. The dedication and smile of each Muhammad I met reminded me of my own good friend, B2M founder..Clayton Muhammad! Hey, Clayton! Unlike the “I missed a big one” stories from home, they talked about the challenges of supporting their families during this monsoon season and near fatal tragedies when they knew better, but challenged the rocky waves. As I strolled, I watched groups of 20 men pushing boats into the water showcasing their modest sense of teamwork and resilience. I watched teens playing cricket and a PE class doing warm-ups. I encountered a small village of homes where women were tending to children and old men were nonchalantly lounging in what I’m sure were pajamas. I saw a big turtle sunning on the sand and a group of baby goats playing tag. I walked for about a mile with a stray dog who wouldn’t take the hint that I’m not much of a dog person.****
When I reached the one hour mark…I stopped to take in the scene from a boulder on the shore. I had the distinct feeling that someone was watching me and I turned to find….
You’ll have to read my next post. I think this one is long enough already.
To sum up my epiphany… I discovered that this beach was not there for my pleasure. In my eyes, I have always viewed tropical coastlines from an “all about me” perspective, but this view was far better. (Taking a moment for shock and awe gasp of family and friends that I recognized something is not all about me) Instead I was walking along a living breathing place filled with… every day existence. It’s a playground, a workplace, and a home…and lucky me, I had a chance to gather an insiders’ view.
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*Experiences like Beijing where I used the “red building with the Chinese characters” as a landmark for the corner where I turned, only to find that every corner had a red building with Chinese characters.
**I place a business card from the hotel in my pocket because on that same Beijing walk where I was clearly lost, I also failed to remember the name of the hotel from which I departed. Money in the pockets helps, too, just in case you have to pay for a return trip via taxi or need bandaids for scraped knees…just sayin’.
***I have also learned through trial and error that I love walking to a destination, but if I go too far, the long walk back can be sort of a dehydrated drag.
****That darn dog was persistent. I also learned years ago that when you want dogs to leave you alone, you should just not look at them. Running with flailing arms is dog code for “let’s play.” I tried my ignoring trick, but every once is a while, I would feel a wet nose on the back of my legs which led me to believe this was no ordinary hound.