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First month into sabbatical

This is a brief write-up on how the first month of my sabbatical has been.

First of all, I’ve been able to build an initial impression about Sri Lanka as a winter destination. While it hasn’t been all roses, there have been many times when I was blown away by what this country has to offer to a sole traveler like myself for a very low price. The low-cost aspect may be temporal, though, and I will get back to this in a minute.

Here’s a brief overview of all the places I’ve been so far, in chronological order: Colombo (the capital), Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Tangalle, Mirissa, Weligama, and Hiriketiya. What I learned is that there’s no way to assess in advance whether I’m going to like a place by simply reading the Internet or talking to a “fellow traveler”. It took me 2 weeks of slow-pace traveling, to finally discover my first wow-place: Ella.

Ella is amazing. Situated inland at an altitude of 1000 meters, it has an almost ideal climate, with a fair share of sun, rain, chill and heat. It’s easily walkable and has a few hiking trails ending in magnificent view points. Regarding the day-to-day life in Ella, I found a couple places to have a nice meal, a quiet, well-run guesthouse with an amazing view for only 7 dollars a night, a gym, an abandoned stadium suitable for sprinting, a good massage place, and a supermarket with a selection better than what I had seen even in Colombo. I spent almost 2 weeks there, and will probably go back given that I may still have 2 months in Sri Lanka ahead of me. There are also a whole lot of beautiful inland places besides Ella, and I plan to explore those as well.

The south coast of Sri Lanka is a totally different story. Quite a bit warmer, although still not too hot due to the fact that it’s often cloudy. Quite a bit noisier, too. It’s a surfer’s mecca, especially for beginners. The living is more expensive here, which is not surprising given the fact that the majority of all tourists end up staying around this area. Still, I managed to find a quiet living near a beginner-friendly beach in Hiriketiya, and started to learn surfing 2 days ago. Apparently, Hiriketiya is a unique coastal place with much less of a party vibe than the rest of the area. This is something that I learned the hard way, as I was unwillingly exposed to the party noise that went on until 5am that memorable night in Mirissa. Note, that for one, it’s illegal by Sri Lankan law, and the locals are not happy with that either, as some tourists simply leave that otherwise amazing place after their first night. Surprisingly, nobody calls the police.

A quick closing note on Sri Lanka: everyone around is saying that the country is going through very low-tourism times. So I suppose I’m lucky, receiving the most amount of comfort for the least amount of money, and this may never repeat itself (does anything ever?).

Now, about getting things done. This month’s focus has been on Keto Keto Bakery, the first and only low-carb bakery in Ukraine that I started almost 5 years ago as a hobby. It has, to my surprise, and due to our amazing tiny team, withstood the harsh times of the Russian invasion. I’ll write a separate post on this “hobbysiness” of mine, which so far hasn’t been able to financially provide for me. I’m not losing hope, however, as I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. If anything, this is a pretty entertaining playground for me to apply what I’m learning from business books such as Company of One, The E-Myth, Zero to One, and others. Still, most of my time goes into writing code to automate manufacturing, logistics, customer support, and so on. This month I implemented customer satisfaction feedback, which allowed us to discover where we had been falling short and to begin fixing some of those issues.

Lastly, I’ll mention how I’ve been feeling during my first “free” month. The shiny effect of being able to focus on my own projects quickly wore off, no surprises here. A mere habit of worrying will always provide a reason to worry. No matter how I rearrange my life or how much I get done day by day, it’s no substitute for feeling fulfilled: the proper habit of perceiving life as mundane needs to change. 2 days ago I was walking around a most beautiful small foreland at 7am, thinking about how everything that I have these days is actually what I have ever dreamt of, and suddenly realized that instead of feeling finally at peace, I was feverishly thinking about how to get the most out of it. I was looking at things as if I wasn’t on a sabbatical, being able to stay here as long as I want, but rather as if I was on a weekend trip, with the miserable Monday ahead of me.

This realization hit me hard. There’s something inherently wrong when a dream come true makes one anxious. What sort of a dream is that? Is this what I want? What am I missing? And, finally, is there anything else to this life?

Ironically, I do seem to have the answer to these questions, but that’s only half the deal. Doing always beats thinking, and I do hope that next month I will be able to push that needle too.