Wow. Six months. I didn't think I would make it this far. When I began my journey this past May, I never would have guessed I'd be where I am now. Originally, I had counted on my budget lasting just through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Well here I am, eight countries in, with plenty of steam left. Not only have I been to some places I hadn't originally counted on, one of those countries is an expensive one!
The past 30 days were spent in India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, though mostly in the latter two. I've already talked about India at length (and will do so more in the upcoming month), so I'll focus on the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Maldives was awesome! People usually just think of it as a bunch of tourist resorts. Honestly, those do exist, but the country is much more than that. It has a very laid back vibe, delicious food (it's Heaven if you love tuna), and a really cool shipping port. On my last day there, I walked through the port and enjoyed a joyous atmosphere, where everyone was buying and selling overseas imports!
Sri Lanka has a rather large tourism industry, and is therefore very easy to travel in. While the food was a bit of a step down from Indian cuisine, it is still pretty good. The country has many beautiful beaches and tourist resorts. Honestly, though, the place where Sri Lanka excelled for me was its hill country. The area outside Nuwara Eliya is simply gorgeous: green rolling hills and tea plantations abound. The area feels different from pretty much everywhere else I visited in Sri Lanka.
Next month will be spent in India. I have slightly more than one month left in that gargantuan land, and intend on making the best of that time. While the first leg of my Indian trip was spent in the country's south, the second leg will take place in the center and north. India has so much to see, that I'm sure I will require revisits to the country. For now, though, let's see where the road takes me.
The three currencies I used during my sixth month: Indian and Sri Lankan Rupee, and Maldivian Rufiyaa. My week in the Maldives took a sizable chunk out of my savings. But you know what? It was worth every penny.
Accommodation - $385.95. Average of $12.87 per day. Accommodation was by far the biggest expense from this month, mostly as the result of my Maldives adventure. Although I managed to find accommodation for roughly $30 per night, it came with plenty of tacked on taxes and island fees. I averaged about $7-8 per night in Sri Lanka.
Food and Drink - $215. Average of $7.17 per day, or $2.39 per meal. Food in Sri Lank and the Maldives was more expensive than in India. However, it was still very cheap. I'd say the food costs about as much as in Southeast Asia.
Alcohol - $16.14. The Maldives is an Islamic country, so alcohol is not readily available (at least on the local islands. I didn't drink much this month, even in India and Sri Lanka. However, a beer usually costs between $1-3 in both countries.
Transport - $121.99. More than half of this expense came from an $85 speedboat I took in the Maldives. Local ferries usually cost about $5. Unfortunately, they do not always run every day, so you might have to take an expensive alternative. My advice is to arrive at a time where you can take local transport. Sri Lanka, however, has ridiculously cheap transport.
Miscellaneous - $88.87. Includes things such as toiletries, laundry, ATM fees, souvenirs, etc.
Total amount spent - $827.95. Average of $27.60 per day. This was by far my most expensive month. However, I think I did pretty well, seeing as I managed to comfortably include a trip to the Maldives!
Once more, thank you to Simon and Erin, the creators of Trail Wallet. Their app continues to be my #1 budgeting tool. If you feel so inclined, check out their journey at neverendingvoyage.com.
I decided to head to the city of Nuwara Eliya, located in the hill country of Sri Lanka. It is a fantastic place, surrounded by beautiful nature. Outside the city center are lots of rolling green hills, waterfalls, and tea plantations. Upon dodging the seemingly endless barrage of tuk-tuk touts, I managed to secure myself a guesthouse, at the cost of roughly $7.50 per night. Thankfully, it was located on the outskirts of town, with plenty of trees, plants, and fresh air. While most of the country has a tropical climate, the hill country is an exception. Nuwara Eliya can get rather chilly, especially in the evening.
And so it was, I caught a terrible cold overnight. Through my miserable sniffling and sneezing, I contemplated what to do that day. The delicious home-cooked banana and coconut pancakes I ate for breakfast didn’t help my cold. Neither did the large pot of tea that I drank. After visiting the pharmacy and taking some (negligibly helpful) medication, I figured it was time to learn a bit about my surroundings. So I decided to take a bus to one of the local tea factories.
The Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Centre was located on a large estate, though the factory itself stood on a fairly small area of land. Many tourists were crowded around guides, who gave a brief description of the various functions of the factory. Because of my annoying cold, I remember very little of what was said. However, it was very concise and educational. Surprisingly, there was no entrance fee. I’m pretty sure that they were counting on tourists spending time and money in the gift shop and restaurant. Indeed, there were crowds of people in both facilities. Without further ado, I peaced out and took a bus back to the Nuwara Eliya. Total cost of my excursion? 50 cents.
Because of restrictively high prices, I’ve been skipping most of the sites in Sri Lanka. My traveling style doesn’t really revolve around “site-seeing,” and it takes something as essential as Angkor Wat to necessitate me blowing 2-3 days worth of budget on an admission fee. To be honest, the factory experience itself wasn’t very exciting, and perhaps I should have actually spent more money to have a good time. But you know what? It helped me forget about my horrible cold for a few minutes, and gave me the chance to spend some time with nature. It’s all good.
When I returned to my guesthouse, the kindly owner brewed some medicinal leaves in boiling water, and had me inhale the steam while covered by a blanket. No, it did not cure my cold. But it ended my night on an up note.
The day made me think a bit about the notion of “experience.” I think experience goes way beyond individual moments and places; it’s more of the collective yearning, learning, and feeling that we face all the time. Nothing mind-blowing ended up happening in those 24 hours, but I think that’s the point. It was the collective blasé of the day that caused it to stick to my brain. I’ll take it.
Sri Lanka (duh) has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 57!
I've recently hit a mini-landmark in my traveling career. Now that I'm comfortably situated in Sri Lanka, I have officially been to ten countries.
There are roughly 200 countries in the world, so I know ten means very little in the long run. However, it still means a lot to me. Less than one year ago, I had never left the United States. Now, I am ten times as well-traveled as I was before!
It's very easy to pop into a country just to pick up a stamp, but I'm not interested in that. I think that it's entirely possible to visit every single country in the world, but still have learned nothing about any of them. Therefore, I've made it a priority to thoroughly explore each place I visit. It's not necessary to visit every single city within a country, but one should at least stay long enough to get a general feel for it. What is the food like? What are the mentalities like? What can you learn from this trip?
I can honestly answer those questions for each country I have been to. Well, almost every one. I did arrive recently to Sri Lanka, and still have a lot to see and learn. However, I've allocated a solid 2-3 weeks for that. I am confident that when I leave (returning to India), Sri Lanka will have left an impression on me, just as every country has thus far.
Sri Lanka is an island nation located directly to the south of India. They had a 25 year civil war which finally ended in 2009, causing a resurgence in its tourism industry. I arrived in Colombo, the country's de facto capital, and immediately headed to a city called Kandy. My first impression of the country is that it feels like a less hectic version of Southern India. The food is very similar, and some people even speak the same language. However, it is definitely a more tourist-friendly place. Despite its relatively small size, Sri Lanka feels densely packed, with a slew of places to see.
Here's to the next ten countries!
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.