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.
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.