There’s almost like a sort of invisible pact made amongst travellers that we just help each other out in whatever way we can. The information you can get from a fellow traveller could make a big difference to the experience you have on whichever trip you’re on, so I always make it a point to at least have a chat, even if it’s with a local traveller.
On a recent visit to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, we met what we assumed was a local on the beach and well we weren’t alone in assuming he’s a local because we went on to explore quite a bit of the island with him and the locals themselves think he’s from around town. Well, it helps that he speaks French and that he can also speak the local Creole dialect, so nobody could fault anybody else here for assuming he’s a local, except for the fact that he has a Portuguese surname and is in actual fact Sri Lankan. So anyway — Kumar Da Silva (that’s his name) showed us some of the cheapest spots in Mauritius to get some good eats and really helped us get around on what turns out to be a fraction of what it would otherwise have cost us had we not had some insider knowledge from a “local.”
Unfortunately he was leaving for the Maldives before heading back to his home country of Sri Lanka, but he cordially invited us to come over and stay with him and his family (siblings and cousins only though) if we ever came to Sri Lanka, so that’s what we did only a couple of months later.
What a humbling experience we had, essentially living off the grid at a price that will shock any traveller who has any information about how much it costs for accommodation around the Yaya National Park in Sri Lanka. We spent all of $50 for the whole month and that was just as our contribution to the household goods and fuel to get around in so that we could enjoy some fresh food every day. Coconuts are everywhere so it’d be folly to buy them from anyone and we delighted in shedding some fat as the food was mainly comprised out of fresh fish dishes.
About 300 metres away from what was essentially the tree house we were staying in (great views and a real exotic experience), in every direction, the average cost of accommodation comes up to around just over $500 for the month, so it literally pays to know someone as we essentially stayed for free and only really had to pay for basic living expenses.
Oddly enough though, we had good Wi-Fi access, so it was a nice mix between going off the grid and not going off the grid completely in that Wi-Fi is perhaps an essential of modern day life, no matter how far off the grid you want to go and we got our charge from these little cubic solar units each of which was enough to fully charge up to six laptops on an eight-hour charge in the sun.
Taking a bath took some getting used to though — we had to heat up water and use buckets to throw it over ourselves to rinse off the soap, otherwise, the locals don’t even heat the water and they take fresh “showers” all the time.
A truly humbling experience which really gives you a good perspective on life in general.