2020 Sri Lanka Creativity Retreat

There are a lot of complexities involved in planning this Sri Lanka writing retreat — so many variables! The tentative plan is for the main retreat to happen in the south, in Weligama / Talalla, on beautiful beaches with incredible food. I’ve actually never been to that particular area, but I’m confident that Mandy Jayatissa and Suchetha Wijenayake will make sure that we have an amazing time.

I’m going to use ‘writers’ as shorthand through this, but I’m thinking of this trip as not necessarily being for people who identify as writers, but rather, anyone who wants to do a luxurious tropical vacation with a strong creativity component; I’ll be leading journalling sessions, giving prompts to help unlock creativity.

For those who do want to try to write more seriously, I’d plan to include coaching sessions, business of writing conversations around agents and publishing, etc. Maybe I offer some of this as optional evening lectures? I need to figure out how to write all this up so it makes sense. (Hm, I wonder if I can find a local artist who can lead sketching sessions for those interested — maybe Pamudu, if she’s back in the country then?)

For the food tour component, mostly I’m planning to eat with you, talk lots about the food, and hopefully have Suchetha help us find fabulous food options beyond what the hotel provides — he’s awesome at taking you to local places. 


– if you book now, for next June, airfare is around $1500 from Chicago. It’s going to vary a lot. From San Francisco, it looks like more in the $1000 range. From Melbourne, only $500-ish. You’d need to book your own flight!

– the tour itself will cost somewhere in the $2200 range, and cover 10 days and nights of luxury boutique hotel and half board (breakfast and dinner), along with an air-conditioned van (1 for every 6 people), a yoga lesson, visit to turtle hatchery, Madu River safari, and Temple of the Tooth visit in Kandy. Plus lots of cold bottled water. You’d also be able to add on surfing ($20), village experience ($25), and a cooking experience at Galle Fort ($30). Tips not included; I can guide you in budgeting for that.

QUESTION: Would people be interested in childcare? I can explore what the options are there — I’m not really sure. I was originally thinking people wouldn’t bring kids on this. But esp. now that mine are older, I can imagine that you might bring them, and then want to spend some time with your kids, and some time with someone else taking your kids to the pool / beach while you write. But if you’re thinking along those lines, note that the writing sessions won’t be geared towards kids, so you’ll have to occupy them elsewhere somehow. (Kavi, age 12, was very happy to spend a few hours each day reading in her room or playing video games / watching tv, along with the pool time.)


I still have lots of details to work out with Mandy.  For one, it’s a 2.5 hr drive, I think, from the airport to the hotel area. (Weligama and Talalla are near each other.)

Questions I’ll be working out with her:

a) Galle Fort is on the way down, but I assume you wouldn’t try to stop there right after the airport for your cooking experience, if you opted for that — you’d come back up to do it? It looks like it’s about 45 minutes away from Weligama. A half-day trip?

b) Similarly for the Madu River Safari, which is between Colombo and Galle Fort, maybe 1 hr from the hotels. Another half-day trip?

I need to figure out if these would be in the mornings or the afternoons, so I can plan writing / retreat sessions around them. I’m assuming the turtle hatchery is also in these areas. (I’d like to do all of these, myself!)

c) Now, Kandy is on the other side of Colombo, and it looks like a really long drive from Weligama, 4 hr. I’m not sure the Temple of the Tooth visit makes a lot of sense in that context, unless people were extending their trip and staying in the hill country afterwards.

d) Personally, I’d like to go on, after the writing retreat, to the hill country. Beaches are great, but some of my favorite areas of Sri Lanka are in the hills, where the air is cool and the gardens are gorgeous, among the tea plantations. It’s maybe 5-6 hrs away to Nuwara Eliya, from where you can visit Horton Plains and Adam’s Peak. (I’d love to talk to Mythri and find out if anyone she worked with for her book would be willing to talk with me; as I’m reading it, I’m realizing how little I know about this region.)

So should I ask Mandy to also price out an additional 5 days in the hill country? I can just do that on my own, of course — I don’t know if writers would be interested in that segment of the trip?

e) And finally, I definitely want to go back to Sigiriya myself, for research purposes, which is another 4-5 hours north, to the cultural triangle area, from where you can explore the (hot) ancient cities. So for me, another 5 days in that area would be terrific, and then a 5 hour drive back to the Colombo area. Probably to Negombo directly for one more day on the beach before flying out.

Again, would writers be interested in that segment, or should I just plan to do it on my own?

I also have to figure out which parts of this to bring my family along for, if any. I don’t really want to leave them for three solid weeks (which is what I’m envisioning, when I map out my part of the trip), but I’m not sure Kevin and the kids will want to come for that long. I don’t know if Jed or Karina will want to come again that soon either. They could join for just part of it, perhaps. Anand loves the beach, so maybe just have them come for the beach part, which none of them have been to either? But on the other hand, Kevin is very much not a beach person, and would enjoy the hill country more. So many factors.


None of this even gets us to the north, to Jaffna or Trinco, and I’m torn, because I haven’t been there since I was a little girl. But I think it’s just too much to try to cram into one trip — summer 2020 I think is the ‘figure out how to do the writing retreat well’ trip, and then maybe 2022 is the return to the north trip….?

(NayomiYudhanjayaSugi — still figuring out what we can do in terms of including all of you as teachers / facilitators. Possibly not in 2020, but we’ll see? Maybe hold the first half of June semi-open for now?)


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