HOW TO CONNECT WITH YOUR SURROUNDINGS

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With the ongoing fuel crisis and economic collapse caused by the failure in our government and political system, a lot of us have been reduced to remaining stuck indoors with very little opportunity for travel. But that doesn’t mean that we’ve been deprived of ways to escape from the madness going on today.

In fact, travel at all would be a difficult pill to swallow. On one hand the country as a whole needs to conserve fuel, but then again, multiple livelihoods and industries rely on tourism and people travelling to make a living. There really is no proper answer to the problem.

Additionally, not a lot of people are able to travel as they would have in the past. This is one part due to the fuel crisis and another because travelling is now even bigger a luxury that even fewer are able to afford as it is. With our travel capabilities and economy on a chokehold, you could say that our world, the bubble we live in has become smaller, considerably. But has it?

Through modern technology, our many tools and gadgets have helped us become more connected, and made things more accessible in the world around us, the world has become smaller in our perception. Who would’ve thought travelling down south to Hambantota was only a couple of hours’ worth of driving away from Colombo? With new infrastructure and roads, this tiny island has grown even smaller in our perception.

But there is a side effect from this progress. Much like when zooming out of a map, when the world is no longer as vast as we perceived before, we lose sight of a lot of details that simply are too small to notice. And being spoilt with opportunities to travel and experience things far away, maybe we have overlooked opportunities that lie hidden around the corner.

Having lived where I do for many years now, you would thing that I know the area like the back of my hand, but to be truthful, I don’t. I know the main roads and places I need to use for my everyday life, but I still have no clue what my home area truly has to offer, and perhaps this may be the same for you.

Technology and infrastructure have shrunk the vastness of our perceived world. It feels small, but in fact the world around is vast, and much larger than what we would have originally considered it to be. And with infrastructure failing due to the crisis, perhaps our world has grown a little bit larger.

Being forced to walk distances that I would have normally taken the bus for, I’ve come to grow more familiar with the area that I live in. As a result, I’ve encountered new stores and little locations that otherwise I would have completely overlooked, and that has allowed me to learn a little more about what the area around home has to offer, and to be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised.

Just because we aren’t able to travel to the places and locations that we are attracted to as hotspots of Sri Lanka’s hospitality sector, doesn’t mean that we are deprived of ways and places to escape to, and to be quite frank, these places have certainly been more affordable.

It has also allowed me to experience the joy of exploration for a brief moment. Each time I notice a shop that I didn’t know was there before, or beautiful little lane with lush trees on each side and flowers sprawling the ground on my occasional expeditions to places around me, there is this feeling of elation, which I have sorely missed. It has also helped me to better get to know members of my local community. Not to mention, my ranking as a local guide in Google maps has skyrocketed.

Perhaps you have been more connected with your surrounding neighbourhood more than I have, or you believe that there really is nothing exciting around you out there to begin with. To this I say, you never know what you’ll find when you step out with the spirit of adventure taking you. Besides, it’s better than staying cooped up inside all day. At least you’ll have fun getting your daily step count in.

The ongoing crisis is certainly not easy, and there is hardly any light at the end of the tunnel. I’m sure like many, the past few months have been a stronger blow to an increasingly difficult spell of years. Even just getting by can be a struggle for life, and too much has been asked of us to sacrifice, even though this catastrophe we are in is hardly part of our doing. We must not normalise the hardships we face.

But when life gets too overwhelming, it is important to escape, to reset and the circumstances have made it all the more difficult. There are too many reminders, and barriers to overcome. But perhaps in this all, there is also opportunity, and when the need to escape arises, it is my firm belief that you don’t need to travel far to do so. Sometimes, our escapes can be closer to home that we think. All you need to do is go looking.

By Shanuka Kadupitiyage