Santosha Society’s First Sri Lanka Escape

{Featured Article for Outdoor UAE Magazine}

Traveling the world is a dream to many.  Thoughts of seeing the most beautiful places, exploring exotic cultures and learning about the history and way of life in a land far from home are just a few of the reasons I have found myself living on the road for the past 15 years.  In the beginning I loved the independence and confidence I found traveling alone.

After six months journeying solo through Sri Lanka I yearned to share the experience with others.  I wanted to surf and practice yoga with friends.  

I didn’t necessarily want to join a surf camp or a strictly yoga retreat either.  I wanted it to be wild and free, just like me!  So a few months later “Santosha Society” was born.  Santosha Society offers boutique surf and yoga trips around the world.  As a yoga teacher, a surfer and a world traveler, I designed the “escapes”  by including all the tools in life that have made me a happier and healthier person ~ surf, travel, yoga and mediation.    

photo by nick green photography
Stunning Anna Ehrgott

So last month, the dream became a reality.  A group of wander lusting travelers arrived one by one to Colombo International Airport.  Some came with surfboards and others with yoga mats, all headed south along the coast to the tranquil little surfing village of Madiha.   

For the week our home would be in two stunningly beautiful beachfront villas offering two pools on a spacious lawn full of towering palm trees and hanging hammocks.  Just out front were some of the best waves in the area.  With a zen little yoga pavilion just out front, the location couldn’t have been more perfect.

surf and yoga retreat sri lanka
Villa hangs

We started every morning with a peaceful little meditation followed by an invigorating yoga class for all levels.  With the soothing sound of the sea and the simple shade of towering palm trees,  the yoga only amplified the peace we were already experiencing.

Yoga sri lanka surf retreat
photo by Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald

With a happy mix of surfers, yogis, older travelers and couples, we wanted everyone to feel free to do whatever it is they came for. Like choosing a flavor of ice cream, decisions were hard to make as the options were just too good. Some dedicated the week to rejuvenation and health, taking advantage of the yoga classes before heading off to try the Ayurvedic massage treatments available in the area while others were here strictly to surf.   Cyndy, my mother, and her jovial friend Suzanne made a point to get a massage every single day after a long walk on the beach and refreshing swim in the turquoise waters.  Many actually managed to do it all, two yoga and meditation sessions a day, surf, and even wandered off to explore.

Sri Lanka is home to a stunningly beautiful coastline offering surf breaks for all skill levels. With perfect peeling waves crashing just a few meters away, there were a few glassy mornings the surfers couldn’t help themselves and snuck away from the yoga class to the ocean.   The surf was incredible.  With two breaks just out front, the longboarders and less experienced surfers enjoyed a nice mellow right hander while the more advanced surfers chose the fast little left hander.  Villa and Mareike decided to give surfing a try for the first time, so off they went to Weligama for a lesson with the same local surf coach that taught me.  Jason and Kasha found the quieter more romantic surf spots where they might have spent more time kissing than catching waves, but they left the water feeling satisfied none the less.

santosha society surf trip yoga retreat
Surfer Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald
surf trip yoga retreat santosha society
Cyndy & Suzanne enjoying a relaxing morning {Photo by Kori Hahn}

Throughout the week each of us experienced the spicy culture of Sri Lanka.  Cruising around in colorful tuk-tuks, we explored ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples, the lush green tea plantations, and endless deserted beaches.  Enroute we stopped at Ayurvedic shops, local markets, and even a run down little snake farm.  For lunch, guests would indulge in all the local culinary options like rotti, kottu, steamed chickpea street food, king coconuts and rice and curry.    

santosha sri lanka surf and yoga
Anna adventuring
surf and yoga retreat santosha society
Exploring Temples
santosha sri lanka surf trip
Tuk Tuk Transportation
santosha surf and yoga retreat
Sri Lanka Village Life

Every evening as the sky darkened and the stars appeared, one by one the tuk tuks would slowly return in time for the a gentle, slow, relaxing yoga class.  Villa, a popular German food blogger, could always be found in the kitchen helping the staff prepare our delectable dinners while learning about the Ayurvedic foods at the same time.  Some drank wine and others relaxed by the pool, but as soon as yoga was over dinner was served.

santosha sri lanka surf and yoga      surf trip yoga retreat

With only a week to experience the country, it is understandable to feel like you just don’t have enough time.  Dinner was a great antidote to that as everyone had a story to tell about their own personal daily adventures.  While time might have limited us to go everywhere we would have liked, through the dinner conversations we shared,  I felt like I lived 12 lives in one day.   It was a lovely way to experience more than was physically possible.

Santosha society travel surf and yoga
Photo by Vilia Zeisig    1V2A6667

As the week came to an end and the last guest waved goodbye from the colorful northbound train, I heard her shout to me, “See you in Morocco!”  I sure hoped I would.  After years of being an independent traveler, I now look forward to trips with fun-loving friends (new and old).  Where you just show up, and have one hell of a good time.   If you don’t mesh with someone, then you at least learn from them.  Thats all apart of the experience as well.

For now I would return to the life I was so familiar with, where modest accomodation and one course dinners are the norm.  Where reading a book at the dinner table is possible.  Alone time is great, and traveling alone as well.  But sharing an experience like this with a group of likeminded individuals is truly a beautiful way to travel in a new country.

Sri Lanka Surf trip yoga retreat
Photo by Freshteh Piltan

 The sounds of belly laughter and Lex’s ukulele are all just a memory now.  I reminisce of the amazing week that was once just a dream.  The truth is yoga is less likely to happen when it isn’t offered just out your front door and having a group of friends to surf with is a lot more fun.  By surfing, stretching, and traveling together, we inspire each other and learn from one another.  I learned a Buddhist chant from Anna.  Vilia taught me all about being a vegan on the road.    The list of places I want to travel grew exponentially after every talk with Mareike and Freshteh, both well-travelled.  I surfed nearly everyday with Chrystal, Ishita, and Vanessa.  And every morning I loved waking up to have a cup of coffee with Kasha and Jason.  And my mother Cyndy and her fun-loving friend Suzanne taught me that its important to grab a girlfriend and get away from it all, even when it seems impossible to leave behind your husband and kids. 

Sri Lanka yoga and surf retreat

I think more than anything  I feel I made a lot of friends, like-minded adventurous motivated inspiring friends.  Traveling with others gives your friendship so much strength by creating such special memories and experiencing the uncomfortable and unfamiliar aspects of a new culture together.  The buzz of energy and excitement that comes with a group, made me leave the retreat inspired, motivated, and well…. feeling content.  “Santosha” is the sanskrit word meaning “contentment.”  This one week in paradise, we created a little society.  A society passionate about surf, yoga and travel.  Surfed out, Stretched out, while exploring and adventuring in the less traveled parts of the world we created a society who were all searching for a little Santosha.   Amazingly enough, I think most of us found it.

(Photos by Nick Green Photography unless otherwise stated)

surf sri lanka surf trip
Anna Ehrgott showing us her Sri Lankan Slide
Sri Lanka Santosha
Photo by Chrystal Dawn Fitzgerald