Sri Lanka, Malaysia & Bali…

by Elaine Abonal June 19, 2014

2014 has been crazy (in a good way) and amazing for me and we haven’t even finished the 1st half of the year!! Ever since I started my own company Surfista Travels, I didn’t plan or think about going out of the country at all because I wanted to focus on my business and support surfing in the Philippines. I’ve been very lucky with the success of my business and it’s become quite popular in the surfing scene here which is very cool but comes with responsibilities. We’ve have gotten a lot of media coverage which means that I can’t really surf anywhere anymore where I would be completely anonymous, where nobody would talk about business / making their company popular through me, or where I could just relax and just focus on myself.

So with the invitation of my friends, I decided that I needed well deserved break and travel. And in the last 6 months, I have been to Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. It was awesome!

SRI LANKA is far from the Philippines and is already halfway to Africa. It reminded me a lot of the Philippines – coconut trees, tropical weather, the simple life, friendly locals. But this time, I was surfing in the Indian Ocean, local women didn’t surf at all – much less wore bikinis – and men wearing skirts was normal (ironic, I know). We stayed in a small town called Midigama on the south of the island and lived with a Sri Lankan family. They were very lovely, took care of me, made conversations despite their limited English and always offered tea or coffee. I became very fond of them. The locals were friendly and smiled when I smiled although they didn’t quite know what to make of me. I was tan like they were but not as tan, and I was Asian but not quite Sri Lankan. I spoke English like a foreigner but walked around like I was living in my own home country. Nevertheless, the local surfers made me feel like I was one of them and made me feel at home. I was very lucky to have been invited there, to have travelled with boys who took care of me well – in and out of the water – and to have been treated like a princess.

There are so many things in travel that I can’t capture in photos but wish I could. Like the smell of Jasmine incense coming from the tuktuks on the side of the street. Or the sound of crazy honking of buses. Or the touch and hugs of babies and the Sri Lankan family I am staying with – who called me their daughter or granddaughter. Or the image of getting out of really crappy rainy surf with the boys and the local surfers but still laughing and happy to be living this beautiful surf life. I wish I could capture them all in images and share those with you. But these words words will have to do and I hope you feel the love too.

I spent a day in MALAYSIA since it was in between flights from Sri Lanka and the Philippines and I was lucky enough to be hosted and shown around by my friend Nette. I didn’t really need to see anything besides the amazing Petronas Towers. All I wanted to do was to eat and spend time with my friend. And eat we did! The thing with Malaysia is that it’s such a mix of cultures that I got to eat Chinese food, Western food, Malaysian coffee, Kaya, etc. I loved it!

Then I also went to BALI, INDONESIA. I had already been to Bali 5 years ago but at that time I was a beginner surfer and didn’t surf so much. I was also turned off by the overwhelming number of tourists and the trash in the ocean. This time I went to visit the friends I went to Sri Lanka with and they took care of me again and showed me surf spots that I didn’t know of before. Indonesia, again, is like the Philippines. The weather and humidity were the same, the food Asian, and this time I looked like a local. The number of tourists was still overwhelming and the only time I really saw NO foreigners was when it was raining and the sun wasn’t out. It made me appreciate where I lived even more and how pure home still is. Bali’s Hindu culture is also very different from our Catholic upbringing but then all I really wanted to do was surf and spend time with my friends.

The comforting thing about traveling for me, is that no matter how crazy life gets, how many new faces I meet and goodbyes I have to say, no matter what country or island in the Philippines I visit – is that every time I get on my board and in the ocean or sea, I feel somehow like I’m coming home. And the people who share that home is my family.

But as they say, good times have to end and despite my well deserved breaks, I had to go home. Not that home is all that horrible. I love the Philippines and am just really proud of where I come from. This year, every Surfista Travels trip has been a success and every Surfista has gone home with a smile. I still travel and surf a lot and I’m looking forward to spend 2 months on paradise island in Siargao this July and August. It will be hard work but my life is usually better than other people’s vacation so I should just appreciate it!

Travel is such good food for the soul and I think it’s good to go someplace we’ve never been to before every year – whether it’s to a different country or in your own city. You know you’re more of a traveller than a tourist when you didn’t shop at all despite being surrounded by countless outlet stores (and you’re a girl), when you brought home photos instead of souvenirs for your family, and when you find more comfort in the foreign than in the familiar.

People say that they travel to find themselves but I feel like for me, I travel to remind myself of who I really am. And I’ll always want to be that – a traveller.

 

Elaine Abonal
Elaine Abonal



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