Natsuko, from Japan, had booked a trip to Sri Lanka with her family of two children. They had searched for activities for children in Sri Lanka and one of their highlights during the trip was that they wanted to immerse themselves with the local culture. That is why they had booked a 2 nights stay with Duara in Kudawewa village in central Sri Lanka.
A week before their trip, the terrorist attacked to several destinations and killed hundreds of people.
“Before travelling, we were very worried because we couldn’t get much information”, says Natsuko.
Natsuko and her family started to plan their trip to Sri Lanka in January. They made searches on the Internet and sent emails to different organisations and companies, for finally confirming their travel plans for a week-long holiday in May. Everything was looking great and they had even managed to book 2 nights in a Duara village for spending some time with locals during their trip.
But then, in Easter 2019, horrible attacks happened in several places in Sri Lanka and killed hundreds of people. Just a week before Natsuko’s family was supposed to travel!
They were worried and hesitated what to do. Japanese media was not telling much about the events, and it was difficult to get information about the situation.
The family had been waiting for this holiday for a long time and did not want to cancel everything immediately. Instead, they decided to contact local people and ask them directly what to do and how is the real situation in the country. Natsuko contacted travel agents, and hotels as well as Jayasiri, the local contact person of Duara Travels, and asked if the attacks had affected the daily life of the locals. At the end of the day the family decided to travel: they found out locals lived their normal life and Natsuko did not find a reason for cancelling the trip.
While many others cancelled their trips, Natsuko was thinking that the local tourism industry will anyway suffer about this situation. At least they could do something about it and show that it is still okay to travel to the country. Furthermore, her family is very used to travel after they lived in Brazil for 5 years and travelled all over Latin America.
“It felt better that there was the high-security situation because I had a safe mind”.
Natsuko and her husband packed their suitcases and left to Sri Lanka with their 7-years old daughter and 6-years old son. They had explained to their children beforehand the situation in Sri Lanka and warned that there might be more policies and military people than at home.
And there was! The airport, main roads and big cities were under high-security surveillance and packed with army people. Natsuko says that seeing the security did not surprise the children and made the parents feel safer.
The family has always travelled with the children, all of them together, so for them it is easy. They do not see inconveniences or difficulties in travelling with kids, even when the safety situation of the destination is different than normally, or if they are staying in rural areas with less infrastructure. According to Natsuko the stay in the Duara village Kudawewa, was a wonderful experience for the whole family, although it was the first time they stayed in a homestay with local people.
The reason why they chose Duara among companies offering homestays was that there were children in the village with whom their own kids could play. That appeared to be a very good choice, as the kids were playing a lot together during the stay. Especially Natsuko’s daughter enjoyed showing the Sri Lankan children traditional Japanese toys and teach things about her culture. For both families, the Japanese and the local host family, the 3 days spent together were especially targeted for cultural exchange and learning from each other.
“We usually book cottages, hostels OR individual accommodations which are cheap, and we always try to go to the countryside and outside the touristic areas. But we had never stayed in a homestay like this before”, Natsuko explains.
Natsuko said that for her the most interesting finding was that Sri Lankan culture is very similar to Japanese culture 50 - 60 years ago. She saw Japan a long time ago and noticed for example that in Sri Lanka there is no high technology compared to Japan. “Although our kids are accustomed to many situations, we explained them beforehand that in the village there will not be normal toilets but squat toilets, which are common all over in Sri Lanka”, Natsuko says laughing. We agree that for some things, it is better to be prepared beforehand to avoid negative surprises!
For the parents, the stay in the village was a wonderful experience and they were extremely impressed with the hospitality they got from the hosts. When asking about the safety in the village Natsuko laughs again and says: “The village is very calm and peaceful, there is nothing to worry about”.