Destinations,  Family,  Sri Lanka

A month in…

So we’re a month in. We’ve been in a total of 4 places in that month. Certainly slow travel. Here’s four things we’ve done and noticed.

  1. There are SOOO many families travelling Sri Lanka and SOO many families doing the long-term travel thing.
  2. We still have to play Mum and Dad, and the kids still play the [insert relevant adjective here] kids.
  3. We are sooo lucky, and like at home, often forget it.
  4. Hiriketiya may have ruined Sri Lanka for a few people.

“Travel is so much more than the seeing of sights; it is the change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the philosophy of living”

Mirian Beard as read in @Globe_Toddlers

Read on if your family and friends, or you’d like a 8 minute read on our experiences that gave rise to these experiences.

Dear Family and Friends,

1. There are SOOO many families travelling Sri Lanka and SOO many families doing the long-term travel thing.

It’s always nice to feel vindicated that others are doing what your doing; and never is this more true than after a rocky start we had with little Evie’s bug. I think we’ve found the perfect place to start in Hiriketiya in terms of meeting other families seeing Sri Lanka with their young ones. “Hiri” is not well known (yet) in Australia, but given how quickly Instagram and Facebook news travels, it’s only months away from being on most people’s hit list. It has definitely hit the European radar.

Party at Surf House

Over the last 24 days, we have spent 2-4 hours on the beach most days, for 21 of them, it has been us and around 25 other families scattered along the 350 metre shoreline that cradles Hiriketiya Beach. (We’re still outnumbered by the mid 20s crew living their best pre-kids life. Not jealous at all.) Most are only in Hiri for a short time, but many are staying a month or so. A family friend travelling through likened it to Byron Bay 30 years ago.

As always, it’s the people you meet travelling that give you the greatest kick, and thus far we’ve:

  • had day trips with a Swedish family who we get the feeling might see a bit more of us over the coming decades;
  • met numerous English families and their littlies escaping the winter blues;
  • swam and had beach playdates with 3 German families; including 1 that are on the long term travel thing with their two little ones, who also run various online businesses include ‘bohemian wedding paraphernalia’;
  • caught the morning pre-crowds swim bug with an Austrian family that home-school their children and are on their annual 7 week winter vacation;
  • caught ‘best wave’ recommendations from surfing families across the world including a Norwegian/Aussie couple pursuing a year’s travel with their two seven year old surfer twins;
  • a Danish couple (Globe_Toddlers) travel vlogging their way across SE-Asia this year; starting in Sri Lanka in January – a sneaky suspicion we might cross paths a few times!
  • met an amazing Canadian/USA couple who are travelling the world with their 3 kids and aiming to launch a family travel concept across SE Asia for parents who love to travel with their tribe.

It’s lovely to know that we’re following a well-travelled path, and have the safety net of many recommendations coming our way. It’s also nice to know and not feel isolated at all. Something that is always concerning when you are doing something for the first time.

2. We still have to play Mum and Dad, and the kids still play the [insert relevant adjective here] kids.

We’ve also had it confirmed that our roles still exist in the ‘fairytale land’ which is long term Asian travel. The kids are still kids, fussy/fighty/lovely/loopy all within a 5 minute period. We’ve used our AirBNB Surf House (that we gave 5 stars) to its full degree; getting into a routine of breakfast each morning with the girls; and often coming back for lunch and/or dinner.

Etta and Mum

The same challenges of feeding and getting three kids ready still exist, and Lisa and I still play the roles of zen/lost the plot parents depending on time of day / situation / amount of sweat dripping from our faces. The girls eat the same standard stuff they do at home. Mostly nothing. Insert crying emoji here. We encourage/force feed them cucumber/carrot/”chicken nuggets”/sandwiches intermittently throughout the day to ensure they still develop into little adults. In between this, the kids have tried:

  • banana and chocolate pancakes (all)
  • rice and curry (Etta and Evie)
  • mango/banana smoothies (all)
  • roti (Issy and Evie)
  • kottu roti (Evie)
  • fried rice (Evie)

It’s hard yakka. We’ve reset our expectations on dinner times, finding it currently more enjoyable to eat at home (we get takeaway from one of the local restaurants); than take them out for witching hour. Suffice to say, like at home, we appreciate the peace and quiet that comes about at 8pm at night.

We had the parents of Therese, one of our good friends, visit for a couple of days, and just appreciated their company so much. The girls treated them like grandparents, and in doing so, gave us a slight chop out. Our two dinners with them were 2 of the 4 dinners we had out in month 1! Amazing and appreciated! Thanks Mark and Marg!

3. We are sooo lucky, and like at home, often forget it.

We’ve gone away to take the year, slow down with the kids and really embrace them, and some time together. 4 weeks in and we are now starting to find that routine and rhythm. The great thing about this is it’s getting easier as the kids find their own feet and we start to understand their limits and likes. The danger, like anything, is we quickly take it for granted, and then get all uppity when things aren’t going the way we’d expect it!

However, in reality and/or reflection our days are brilliant. Today for example, we swam for 3 hours in the morning, and Issy/Etta made sand-mermaids and the Arendale city (from Frozen) with some newly acquired friends from Denmark; we then went to a beautiful cafe Salt and spent the afternoon swimming and drinking juices, Lisa and I shared a cheese platter and the kids had ice-cream and chocolate brownie. This is a little silly ridiculous to think we had an “average day”, so we are tremendously grateful and appreciative (despite sometimes forgetting it!).

Dad and Evie on a morning walk (Photo: Isabelle Ross)

Lisa and I are also getting some much needed time. I’m learning slowly not to think about work and being productive; Lisa has heavily reduced her reliance on phone and we are both better parents / partners for it. We read each night to the girls, with Issy having had read to her her first Roald Dahl book: George’s Marvellous Medicine. She’s also picked up Uno and is learning to be bored, something that home life doesn’t really lend itself to. It’s nice to watch. The two other girls are loving the attention – both babbling away a lot, with Etta having some really insightful comments throughout the day about our trip, the people we meet and what we’re doing next.

4. Hiriketiya may have ruined Sri Lanka for families.

We’re sad to have left Hiriketiya, and this is actually the second time we’ve left, having left once for 5 days a week ago (only lasting one night away at Goyambokka Beach), but we’ve moved on to Gurubebila (a beautiful seaside surfer town annexed to Mitigama; think the Jan Jan to Australia’s Torquay). Gurubebila is stunning with cows meandering down its little streets on its beachside cricket green, but I’ve got a feeling we will be back to Hiri at some stage.

I’d also like to think that in Hiri, Sri Lanka has discovered a kind of family travel paradise, and in doing so, is inspiring a whole lot more family travellers given the thousands of 20-somethings that pass through each season also getting their fix of beginner waves, Italian-style pizzas, Melbourne quality coffees and rice and curry venues all within a 400 metre enclave. I’m scared to potentially have found out, there’s probably not a place better in Sri Lanka for families.

And so I’ve renamed the 50 metre stretch of beach that runs out the front of Beach House Cafe, Hiriketiya: Family Beach. Each morning there are no less that 10 families that swim with their little ones whilst basking in the travel that is Sri Lanka. As truth is, many stay much longer than their intended stay. It’s an unbelievable meeting ground for families, and a great way to while away the days.

Issy, along with many other 4, 5 and 6 year olds caught her first wave in Hiri, and caught the bug which is the beach. Water temperature and the lack of a strong rip make it perfect for families and those that enjoy a relaxing beach swim. We booked 12 nights, we stayed 21 of our first 28!

According to the locals “Hiri” as a tourist destination did not exist 4 years ago. Within 4 years the beach has been filled little shacks and surfboard hire guys, which disperse the population of families, beginner surfers and everyone else that arrives at Colombo airport with the hot tip that Hiri is the place to be. It is. At first, you may not ‘like it’, feeling a bit like a tourist in Bali (maybe 20 years ago).

Moral is, although Hiri isn’t the undiscovered glorious shaded empty beach of 2014, it certainly isn’t the Hiri of 2025 and that’s it likely to be a favourite destination of many travelling through in 2019, families included.

A sweet start to the trip. Love and rice and curry to you all xxx Ads, Lise, Issy, Et and Evie.


  • Liz

    Hi guys, loving your blog. We are a young family soon to embark on a very similar trip – 12 months away. How are you managing your money whilst travelling? Cash, credit card, prepaid FX card? What would you recommend? Thanks

    • thesmalllane

      Hi Liz,

      Yay for your plans. We bank with ING in Australia, they offer free international transactions and reimburse ATM fees so banking is super easy for us. Where are you based? I wonder if you have the equivalent?

  • Kris

    Great post, I hadn’t heard of Hiriketiya before this. We spent a few months at hikkaduwa a few years ago,apparently that is no longer the lost paradise that it was! Where are you guys off to next? We leave forBali soon!! Can’t wait! It was nice to read this honest post. I know now not to expect too much of our kids. It will take a bit to relax into slow travel mode with all the moods we have to handle. But I can’t wait!! Cheers, Kris 😊

    • thesmalllane

      Hi Kris. Loved the article in the newspaper!!! We spent a few days recently in Hikkaduwa, the beach was mostly filled with boats for snorkelling and scuba trips and the water was quite murky. It was also too rough for our girls to swim in comfortably. we did however get to swim with turtles at the beach there and that was an amazing experience. There are also lots of other things to do around Hikkaduwa like jungle and waterfall walks etc. Let us know if you want accom recommendtions for Sri lanka = although from memory it isn’t on your list this time round πŸ™‚ Hopefully we catch up sometime this year!

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