17 April, 2024


Digital Nomads Invade Sri Lanka

By Somasiri Munasinghe

Somasiri Munasinghe

Some well-known Youtube digital nomads are in Sri Lanka, boosting the island’s tourism crippled by the devastating 2019 Easter attack. Recently, four veteran Vloggers who have travelled widely in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America got together in Kandy in a sort of celebration.

Ali (Go with Ali), an Iraqi based in London, says he had given up his $180,000 job to follow his idol, Luke Damant, an Australian traveller, who has a charming way of looking at cultures through the eyes of a restless millennial.

Ali also seems to have fallen in love with the island as he said on a couple of occasions that he does not mind marrying a Sri Lankan girl and settling down here!

Last week, two other big names in the field, American Mac Candee (World Nomac) and Briton Harry Jaggard, got together at a luxurious four-room villa in Kandy, jokingly describing the meeting as the Vloggers’ Bootcamp Head Quarters. Jaggard arrived for the rendezvous from Colombia that morning.

Later another Aussie vlogger, Travis Fein, joined the quartet on the Weligama beach for a night out and pizza on Mirissa beach. Fein, who tasted our national Lion beer, commented that it is even better than one he drank in Spain, but the pizza was not up to the mark. His advice: Try only Sri Lankan native food while in Sri Lanka.

Harold Baldr, a Norwegian who calls himself a Viking, is yet another footloose blogger giving honest feedback on the country’s marvellous accommodation, keen on learning about the islanders and their strange ways.

Davud Akhundzadd, an Azerbaijani national, met Ali, Damant and Mac in Kandy to compare notes and have a good time on a previous occasion. Davud, who has difficulty explaining where he comes from, makes it simple by telling the curious locals, “My country is close to Turkey, Russia and Iran.”

Akhundzadd tried a haircut at a wayside barbershop, chewed betel and areca nut without knowing what he was eating and attended a traditional Sri Lankan wedding in Weligama in a sarong, a tight short-sleeve shirt, and flip flops.

The young barber gave him a haircut and trimmed his beard, finishing the job with a soothing head massage. In addition to his Rs. 1200 fee, Davud’s reward was Rs. 10,000 after coming to know that he has a 10-month-old son.

The bloggers who tour here are excellent tippers and generous givers, perhaps considering it a social responsibility because they earn part of their living from Youtube, depending on how the public responds to their Vlogs.

They don’t disclose their earnings except for Luke Damant. Twenty-two-year-old US-born travel Vlogger who lives in Australia has a net worth of US $ 1 million, according to the internet data.

Recently, Harald Baldr stopped his motorbike at a tea shop on his way to Ella and offered $1000 for a cup of tea made by a young vendor struggling to repay a bank loan he obtained to start his business. Much-travelled Baldar has made some beautiful videos during a Himalayan trek covering a Nepali landscape devastated by the recent earthquake, with considerable documentary value.

Also, Romanian couple Madalina and Vlad, who recently left for India, were generous givers. On their way to Galle, they stopped near a dilapidated home of a low-income family and offered them Rs.10,000. On their rounds in marketplaces, they paid many people’s bills buying vegetables and other things to keep the home fire burning.

Once Madalina was seen waving a placard saying ‘Free Taxi Hires’ in a busy Colombo Street promising rides to homes in Vlad’s rented tuk-tuk by which they crisscrossed the island. People were surprised by the offer of the beautiful woman, and many shunned her unusual offer, running away from Madalina. A few who dared to travel with them were not disappointed. The passengers were given generous tips for trusting their good intentions.

At a Negombo filling station, the couple spent Rs. 30,000 offering free petrol to motorbikes and tuk-tuks. The people were too shocked even to thank them.

One morning they filled their three-wheeler with rice, flour and other items and distributed all the goodies among the needy families in a suburb near Negombo. They also visited Delft Island and left a dinner of apples and carrots for wild horses.

The couple ventured the dangerous depths of the Nil Diya Pokuna, the deepest underground cave on the island and also descended to the soggy bowels of a gem mine in Ratnapura to see how men burrowed into the earth in search of gemstones risking their lives. They also climbed the Sigiriya, Pidurangala and Little Adam’s Peak in Ella.

‘Ken Abroad,’ a German from Bremen, is yet another Youtuber here after spending one year each in Malaysia and Thailand. Ken almost became a scam victim of a man who described himself as a guide, a tuk-tuk driver and a Colombo gem merchant, but the seasoned German traveller managed to wriggle himself out of the mess tactfully.

The Vloggers stay clear of politics and do not seem to be bothered by the current situation in Sri Lanka. When Mac went to meet a Sri Lankan friend at a popular watering hole in Kandy there was a cooking gas explosion. The situation was brought under control, but I did not see this accident reported in the mainstream media next day.

Just as Ali finished his ‘Dolphin Koththu’ in a Weligama restaurant, the electricity went out, but it was not much of a problem as happened in an afternoon.

Luke Damant’s accident in Kerala highlighted the dangers these restless globe trotters are exposed to while travelling in unfamiliar territories.

Damant lost a part of a finger in a firework accident on Deewali day in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. Before leaving India, he went to the hospital for an emotional farewell with the doctor and the ward staff, who looked after him for ten days. His mother flew in from Australia to be by his side.

In another incident, Scottish Vlogger Dale Phillips, twisted his ankle after falling on a Kandy railway track. In a very generous gesture, a young couple invited him to their place to spend time till he recovered fully, exhibiting the magnanimous nature of the Sri Lankans. The video has been viewed more than million times. These kind gestures speak volumes about how the islanders care for the foreigners visiting the island.

Madalina, too had a narrow escape when a wild elephant tried to attack her on a lonely road.

Dale, who had visited the island three times, was perhaps the bravest Vlogger to visit Sri Lanka. Not willing to pay Rs.6000 to tuk-tuk drivers, he decided to walk the 20-mile stretch to Thoppigala mountain from the Batticaloa main road without knowing that wild elephants frequented the dirt road.

Fortunately, he could hitch a pillion ride up to an army camp with a soldier in civvies. He resumed his journey on foot, and once more, a kind traveller offered him his pillion.

Dale gave us a peek into the Thoppigala memorial, climbed the rock, and even picked plastic garbage strewn on the rocky top. He must be the only tourist to walk all the way up to the stony hill, the site of a dreadful battle during the 30-year war. It was getting dark when he started his return journey, and once more, a good Samaritan offered his pillion and dropped him off at the main road.

The language barrier is a considerable handicap in the bloggers’ interaction with the natives, making many good gestures lost in translation. Harald Baldr had a funny incident at a Haputale market. A slightly drunk older man was following him, trying to repeat every word the Norwegian was saying. Though he considered the man a nuisance, what the native following him told the traders in Sinhala was not to overcharge the tourist. Baldr had a similar encounter with another drunk older man in a tavern in Galewela.

Attila and Zae are a Canadian couple who gave up their jobs to travel on a budget. They are presently exploring Sri Lanka’s places of interest. Zae cautioned the visitors to be careful of the spice garden tours. She had bought a hair removal cream made of herbs but found out that the same product was available outside at a much lower price.

An English woman living with her Sri Lankan fiancé while helping a shelter with 2000 stray dogs is behind the Vlog “Where is Lucie?”. They don’t travel like the others.

Lucie is grounded in a scenic seaside village down south, engaged in renovating an old house. Halfway through the project, her parents came from England for a holiday. In a recent post, she said she could not buy cement to complete the house due to the shortage of building materials gripping the local builders. She also promotes ecologically friendly Sri Lankan products in her blog.

Last week, in a Youtube video, she said her boyfriend, Lahiru, applied for a passport from the Matara Immigration Office and pleaded for help in money and kind to maintain the dog shelter.

Steph and Pete are an American couple (Away with Hays) travelling in Sri Lanka with their two-year-old son. They have visited 70-odd countries before coming here. The couple was selected to “live anywhere” on Airbnb for a year, calling a new destination home for a month at a time.

Janet Newenham, another British woman, travels solo in Sri Lanka after a hectic tour of the Middle East.

A Cypriot, JJ, and his Russian wife, Julia, are behind the blog “Love Live Discover” and three days ago, they had dinner in candlelight mainly due to a power cut in Weligama.

Earlier, the couple took us to a house where they petted poisonous snakes and spent an evening on the beach smoking shisha (water pipes). Such an outlet in Sri Lanka’s down south is news to me!

“With the Sparrows” is a blog created by Simon, a Briton, who quit his executive job to be a digital nomad two years ago.

Luke Martin and Sabrina Davidson (Chopstick Travel), who have been travelling since 2012, were invited to Sri Lanka by the Tourist Board. The highlight of their tour was a dinner with the Vedda’s (the aborigines) living in the jungle.

“Growing Up Without Borders” features a mother and three daughters of a Canadian/Swiss family from England. It is a study holiday travel for the daughters as they were seen joining their classes back home online. The family was in Sri Lanka in their quest to cover 197 countries since 2013, and now they are travelling in New Zealand.

Watching these incredible and entertaining videos, Sri Lankans like me living abroad for a long time have the unique opportunity of seeing how the island has developed to be one of the best tourist destinations in the world.

Who would have heard twenty years ago of cheese koththu, Dolphine koththu, Nutella roti, chocolate roti, wood-fired pizza, a shisha outlet on the beach, and an array of healthy smoothies made from fresh Sri Lankan fruits?

The present political logjam has not thwarted the enthusiasm of these wonderful Vloggers but let us hope the situation in the country will improve for the better.

Another cause of concern is how the English language use has deteriorated over the years despite the internet facilities. It was worrying to see how young schoolboys were struggling to form a sentence with correct grammar in their interactions with the Vloggers.

The digital nomads’ top destinations are Ella, Kandy, Nuwaraeliya and beaches down south. Still, I am at a loss to understand why none of them are interested in visiting traditional tourist destinations like Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa despite having comfortable accommodation and preserving the country’s ancient cultural glory.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    All these youtubers are briliiant. I had the chance to watch some of their the videos of each mentioned above. Above all that Ali eho is an iraki is a real kind young man. His is go viral. I also have noticed him helping out a diabetes – dialyse patient living in a flat colombo. These young men are seen to be offering lot more grauities to tuk tuk drivers and whereever they go and rely on the services of anyone.
    Tourists arrive to this country are not only to have beach holidays but also to learn the culture and people.
    I think it is high time authorities to work on taking speedy actions on the improvement of standards focusing on ” tourist guides”. Many compalin about being harased by beach boys. Only option to improve their behaviours is through proper awareness workshops. As one living in Europe for such a long time, I think we can improve tourissm industry in our motherland if each of us the expats would transport the message to them.

    That son of a bitch Iraj Weeratne should be removed from Tourist board – he the kind of men can only ruin srilanken tourism. By appointing real good and geunine ones to the positions, govt can definitely reach their targets.

    • 3

      Sri Lanka needs to look East and forget about the imploding West that that has colonized it and turned it into a Banana Republic and Service economy for White People, ruled by US citizens Goat and Basil Rajapaksas.

      Tourism is useless – Servicing and massaging White folks to earn some crashing US dollars and EUROs.
      The tourism and garment industry dependent Sri Lankan Business community is completely Colonized and Servile to the imploding West whose Economy is crashing that has created a tourism and underwear Economy in the island, rather than enable Lanka to industrialize its Economy utilizing its valuable Marine (FIsheries and Sea bed resources) and Rare Earth Minerals and Elements including Graphite important in the manufacture of batteries and Solar panels…

  • 1

    I watch all of them other than baldr who is not even in the country and is a bigot. and to a man and woman, they say how amazing and cheap the country is. but not our tuk tuk drivers and citizenry. they are all complaining and hoping the country would be taken over by anyone other than our leaders.

    What gives?

    • 4

      a14455 / March 9, 2022

      You the kind of pingutthtarayas would not see it right. To me , many have complained, that our srilanken tourism industry would have improved, if the law and order would work well in this country. Gawky people of your nature, …. would do lot more harm to the arriving tourists…. even if their last blood drop is being sucked by Medamulana animals today.
      These YTubers add only positive things about a country for their own survivals. If this would reveal the ground realities of RAJAPAKSHE led srilanka not a single tourist would arrive.
      Their job has been working and travelling to make such videos. Tuk tuk drivers no all but most of them are like mosquitoes. So are the beach boys. That sons of bitchs like Iraj Weeraratne or the like could share you lot more, because they are your bird of feather.

      I see it positive about the telecasts being made by all these – believing that could improve the number of arrivals to the country… and most that are busy with their illegal acts in their day today life, could go down… more they reveal much better it will be for the tourists visiting the country.

    • 4

      “to a man and woman, they say how amazing and cheap the country is.”
      Of course it’s cheap. To the countries that are buying up ports, power stations, oil tanks, due to the utter financial stupidity of just one family.
      And of course private planes are so cheap that the Prime Minister can afford one on a salary of 90,000 bucks.

      • 5

        old codger

        “And of course private planes are so cheap that the Prime Minister can afford one on a salary of 90,000 bucks.”

        Do the people get in return value for money?
        A value for money audit should be introduced by people on what they pay to politicians, including MPs, President, Ministers, .state functionaries .. and those religious institutions and educational establishments that depend on state grants.

      • 1

        Tourists and a few vloggers are not buying airports you fool

        • 3

          If living here is as cheap as you say, why don’t you
          live here?
          Do you know that vloggers make an average of 300,000 DOLLARS a year? Of course they can afford to live here. Do the Rajapaksas pay you in cash, or is it through colonic irrigation? You must really enjoy it.

          • 1

            Most vloggers do not make that kind of money if you know anything about how youtube monetized. and certainly not these guys.

            and Yesh I don’t live there as I have what one calls is a “job” in the united states unlike leeches like yourself.

            and yes I do enjoy the 25 $ grand that the Rajapaksas pay me per article. lol

  • 2

    Beware the cute sounding Digital Nomads who are a big part of Digital Colonialism and gaming the narrative in the countries of the Global South where US_EU continue to manipulte and colonize Economy and Society.
    We saw how they pump and dump tourism as was the case with The Lonely Planet travel award to Sri Lanka just before the Saudi-CIA funded and owned ISIS claimed Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka in 2019 which destroyed the economy and tourism.
    Facebook Whistle blower Francis Haugen showed how Digital Nomads spread hate Speeach on the Social Media in Myanmar and Ethiopia. Sri Lanka was also named as a country where Ethnic conflict narratives were promoted by digital nomads to Divide and RUle and Loot the island’s people and resources and Energy Security.
    Sri Lanka, ruled by 2 US citizen puppets of the American Deep State, Goat (accused of war crimes) and Basil the high school drop our is being pumped up as a Hotspot for an Indian Ocean Proxy War between India and China, just as Ukraine was pumped up as the Proxy war for US/NATO between EU and Russia.
    This is why the Kerewelapitiya Power plant was sold in a midnight deal by the US citizen Rajapaksa brothers to USA!

  • 2

    Sri Lanka needs to stop relying on COLONIAL servicing of White Folks and Stop massaging EU tourists and making underwear for them!
    This is the Colonial Economy that is promoted by Digital Nomads many of whom work for Foreign Intelligence Agencies… Like the American Proxy Ukrainian “Tourists and Lithuvanian operators who spread the Covid psychosis…

    The tourism and garment industry dependent Sri Lankan Business community is completely Colonized and Servile to the imploding West whose Economy is crashing that has created a tourism and underwear Economy in the island, rather than enable Lanka to industrialize its Economy utilizing its valuable Marine (FIsheries and Sea bed resources) and Rare Earth Minerals and Elements including Graphite important in the manufacture of batteries and Solar panels…

    • 4

      “Sri Lanka needs to stop relying on COLONIAL servicing of White Folks and Stop massaging EU tourists and making underwear for them!”
      What on earth are you suggesting that we do to earn a few dollars?
      Ah, I get it! We must start servicing Indian tourists, start massaging Nigerians, and make underwear for Chinese.
      Madam, you are brilliant!

      • 5

        Old Codger,

        Saddest reality – so long colonial hatreds harbour in their minds, srilankens would not find avenues for their forex revenues. All other countries as Bangladesh did, would overtake us fastly. Before long, Nepalese would be the next to overtake us.

        Best option to srilanken would be – Rajapkshes to export uneducated youth to Middle east/Italy/ Korea. They have been doing it over the years – rural women and men be as their domestic servants. …. that will then do lot more our ” 2500 year old so called heritage”. ….
        To tell you my flight heading back to europe last Nov… it was a FLYDUBAI flight from CMBO to Dubai – then furter to central europe by Emirates… first flight was filled with first time travellers ( 60 or more young men ) upto Dubai… surprisingly, I got to know from a friend of mine in Colombo yday.. – over 90% of those young men flew to Dubai returned to the country not being able to find a job in Middle east. Each of them had paid nearly 2 lacks or more to colombo agencies. See, their fate ?

      • 4

        Old Codger,
        A japanese Prof once said, that SRILANKENS could achieve their goals within shorter period of time, if they would be taught to be away from any overestimations about their own people.
        Our people dont know who they are ? Now Rajapakshes have made it very clear, we are another ” begging nation” – they could sing a song about their so called SINHALA HERITAGE within island bounderies. but the message is gone to the world, curse ot our MEDAMULANA animals, ours is another Lebanon in making.

  • 3

    Let’s keep politics out of this. I have watched many videos in many countries and these young people have a genuine desire to know how the other half lives. They travel partly funded by what the YouTube pays them and through sponsorships and perhaps they are not happy about what is happening in their own countries. Many Sri Lankans have started vlogging and I don’t think they are employed by spy agencies. This is what social media offers the youth of today.

    • 4

      making amateur videos has become a job for these men.
      It is the case also to many within the country. YTubers have become an avenue to the revenues of forex market to the country today.
      But all these videos are just from their POV. Very subjective.. not the ground realities being displayed by them. I got to know that the quality of our street food has improved over the years.

  • 0

    90,000 SL Rupees!

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