Adventure Travel

Digital Nomading & Surfing in Sri Lanka for a Month

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I’m literally frothing at the mouth right now with how excited I am to tell you about this experience. Fingers cannot type fast enough how awesome this was. If you are thinking about doing this, you must add it to your bucket list. Okay, I’ll shut up and get on with it. 

Traveling in Sri Lanka

Let’s cut to the chase: The Sri Lanka surf spots are epic. 

We stayed in Midigama, the next town over from Weligama, which is the main area, and also the name of the train stop.

Heading to Weligama

Sri Lanka surf breaks are as follows: Coconut Beach (advanced intermediate), Plantations (intermediate/beginner), Rams (intermediate), Lazy Lefts (beginner), Fishermans (beginner), and I’m sure there’s some hidden ones that we weren’t lucky enough to find. You have to save some things for the next time! These all have reef to watch for as a head’s up.

Sri Lanka Surf

Lazy Lefts

Then there’s the main surf beach for beginners — Weligama, a 5-minute scooter ride from Midigama. At Weligama, the bottom is clear (no reef), and the waves are the most consistent, buuuuuut they can crash out if you don’t go at a good time. You can also surf at Mirissa, but watch for sea urchins. I am a baby and didn’t want one to get an urchin stuck in my foot, as three of my friends did, so we didn’t surf there.

Tip: Buy special zinc surf sunscreen. You will look like a kook, but that’s part of the fun. Nothing else works. We tried special waterproof stuff from the pharmacy, and even that didn’t work. AMAZINC works really well (PS – I didn’t get paid to say that). This puddy was $35, but it works and will prevent your nose from looking like cancer.

The digital nomad aspect. 

I’ll be real. Being a digital nomad is tough in this country. There was one main coffee shop that we went to called Barista Lavazza. It was a 25-minute scooter ride over there because it was in Mirissa, so that got kind of old really fast. Plus, we felt inclined to buy breakfast, lunch, and dinner there since we were posted up there all day at times. Other times we’d go to the internet cafe where we’d post up on super old Windows 97 computers and chill with the guy selling pirated DVDs.

Barista Lavazza Kaitlyn Schlicht

We eventually lucked out though. The owners of our hostel were nice enough to set up a second private wi-fi connection just for us. I mean we paid for it, but without that I don’t know what we’d have done besides make camp at the coffee shop. It’s weird, in other parts of the world you don’t get unlimited internet. You pay for as much as you use (in GBs). We blew through 15 GBs in a week or two.

The hardest part of being a digi-nomad at Sri Lanka? Refer to previous section.

Want to become a digital nomad? Watch the video below to learn how.

Give me foooooooooood. Kaitlyn hungry. Nom nom nom. 

Welcome to Sri Lanka where every meal is Thanksgiving! Okay, not really, but with traditional Sri Lankan meals, you get rice and curry, and then five or six different vegetables that are mixed in with amazing spices. We were really there on Thanksgiving though, and luckily found some cool friends to chill and share stories with.

Sri Lanka - VIRTVE

They don’t really do meat here, besides fish. We tried, and it’s just not part of their culture, so don’t force it.

Food that makes my eyes wide with excitement:

  • Jackfruit!
  • Barbecue mangos! Man I wish I had some right now…
  • Breadfruit!
  • Ladyfingers! Sounds like something that should be part of Halloween, but it’s not, it’s a delicious veggie.
  • Coconut pancakes! I’m a sucker for anything that resembles a crepe. 

Sri Lanka

Driving here is scarier than the wildest roller coaster you’ve ever been on. 

Helmets required for scooters. The median line is fair game for anyone. I thought I was going to die every minute, but now that I’m in India, I’ve realized that was only the start of it! It is this reason alone that I consider purchasing travel insurance, but then I pray to the travel gods and decide to take my chances.

Oh, and everybody honks. To turn, to stop, to go, to pass, to not pass. It’s kind of like “hello”, but gets rather annoying at times. Speaking of driving, if you plan on renting a scooter (which we did for 800 Sri Lanka rupees, about $5.50 a day), bring some clear goggles. Seriously. There’s so much dust and crap that flies into your eyes when driving (or in my case, riding dirty on the back), and regular sunnies just don’t do the job.

Cost of living is cheaper than a burger at Vail. 

Spent about $33 a day for basic hostel, eating out for almost every meal, daily surf rental, scooter rental, and beer — which also isn’t a  big part of their culture. They only have one kind of beer called Lion. They drink arrack, which I probably should have tried for the cultural experience, but didn’t. Heard it makes you kind of hallucinate though, so maybe that’s okay. There are no bars in Weligama or Midigama, but you can go to Mirissa apparently if you want to get your crazy on.

You kind of get what you pay for when it comes to accomodations. We didn’t have hot water or A/C in our room, but we were paying $10 a night and had our own private beach practically. Coconut Surf Inn was the name of it if you’re interested (I didn’t get paid to say that either … Can some accommodation throw me a bone here?!).

Surf board rental was 250 Sri Lanka rupees ($1.75) per hour per board. Better bargainers could probably get it down more, but I didn’t have the patience for that — just get me in the water!

Sri Lanka Surf

People here are chatty (so I fit in well). 

Everybody wants to know who you are, where you’re going, what you’re eating, how long you’re staying, what your mom’s name is … Little did they know, I’m quite talkative for anyone who’s willing to listen! Get this white girl out of here.

You can have bonfires on the beach, but the locals don’t understand why. 

I tried explaining to our friendly hostel owner that we didn’t want a fire to cook, just for fun. He laughed, and was like “Are you serious”? We did it a couple of times.

Bonfires in Sri Lanka

Had the whole beach to ourselves. It was awesome.

Mosquitos suck here (literally).

If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, use coconut oil!

If you don’t like humidity, stop reading this, and head to our Arizona blog post on the natural elements of the desert. Oh wait, we haven’t been there yet … Nevermind, keep reading.  

Okay, the humidity here is for real. It’s like a tropical jungle kind of climate. There’s so much moisture in the air that our clothes grew mold on them, and our pillows and sheets felt damp when we went to sleep at night. My face broke out too. Okay, I’ll stop whining now. Back to the fun stuff…

Hindu celebrations are magical. 

We were invited to a Hindu celebration. It was hard to get the full scoop on the details, but everyone in the town invited us — from our tuk tuk drivers to our hostel owners.

Hindu celebration in Sri Lanka

There was a guy belly dancer, and some monks prayed to seven different god statues. One god had an elephant head, another had a bunch of hands and faces. Made me wish I had studied Religion Studies in college. Eh, maybe not.

We got fed this hot cinnamon dessert thing. Everyone there was very welcoming. We were told to come back to it at 3 a.m. to watch the fire walkers. Well, we woke back up and drove our scooter back, but the fire walkers went on early, so we missed it. I asked our tuk tuk driver how they didn’t burn the shit out of their feet, and he explained that the gods keep him safe. Man, I could use some of those gods’ on my side, particularly with snowboarding. Anyway…

Beach observations. 

During the day, it’s rare to see the local women on the beach at all. I only recall seeing a couple of them, and they were all fully clothed when they took a dip in the ocean.

Coconut Surf Inn in Sri Lanka

At night, young boys will play cricket against a falling sun.

Trash here is kind of an issue. 

I think they’re still figuring this one out. We got used to the trash smell mixed with dead fish smell after a few days, and we only really noticed it when we were driving.

Weligama, Sri Lanka

Whale watching here is pretty epic. 

Especially when one whale did a back summersault in the water. You could see his white belly illuminate against the turquoise sea. I know whale watching is kind of controversial … Take it up with me in the comments section.

Weligama is still being developed.

If I had to make a comparison, I’d say it kind of reminded me of Tamarindo, Costa Rica, except like ten years before it hit its peak. Weligama doesn’t have nearly as many tourists. There’s only one skyscraper, and it’s still being built. The rest of it is just homes, small restaurants, and shops. One of our drivers said it only became popular as a western surf spot a few years ago.

Coconut Beach in Sri Lanka

It’s pretty cool because there’s not just one central tourist spot. Most all of the hostels blend in with actual local neighborhoods. Try to visit before it gets OC.

Bakery trucks are a funny thing in Sri Lanka. 

There are these trucks that go from neighborhood to neighborhood selling bakery items, as it loudly plays the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” over a loudspeaker. Think: ice cream truck for bread loaves.

Special appearance by Crush the sea turtle! 

You can go on sea turtle egg-laying expeditions, but we didn’t need to. I saw this HUGE sea turtle — probably it was Crush from Find Nemo — riding waves one day when I was surfing. Crush rocked like three of them. It was so funny watching him get taken up through the waves and back down again. He was totally stoked. Toooooooootally. 

Sri Lanka VIRTVE

 

I’m done. If I write anymore, I’m just going to fly back, and I can’t do that, I have housesitting obligations in India. Luckily, we have another surf trip to Philippines planned in a month. Anybody have any surf or travel tips for the islands?

PHOTOS: @THECOLT

Always in search of worldly knowledge and broader understandings, Kaitlyn has been freelancing while traveling since 2015. She's passionate about digital content, being environmentally friendly, and surfing. 16+ countries and counting.

  • Chicken of Tomorrow

    Great post! I’m looking for a place on the coast to beach bum + digital nomad for a week or so and this was really helpful. My current thinking is a guest house in Mirissa and using the Barista Lavazza coffee shop you mentioned for work. Cheers!

    • Awesome, I’m glad you found the info helpful! You will have an awesome time in Mirissa. Safe travels!