The world full of amazing places | Sunday Observer

The world full of amazing places

Taking pictures of where you have been and posting them on social media is the in thing. For some it’s business and pleasure with useful insights on planning your next vacation. For still others it is travelling on their job which turns into an adventure and makes them decide to tell the world of the amazing places there are still in spite of all the destruction. For Damitha Perara travelling comes as a necessity.

Youth Observer found it inspiring to talk to Damitha take us through her intriguing experiences of travelling across the world.

Why did you start travel writing?

I didn't consciously set out to travel. I was a Womenswear Buyer for a long time before I became a travel writer. So, I was always flying around the world to visit suppliers and factories. I'd be in historic places like Italy, Istanbul and Korea, where my suppliers were based, and only ever see the inside of my hotel room and the inside of factories. My day would start around 7am and finish around 11pm and I'd not have seen daylight. That used to upset me. There was no moment when I fell in love with travel. It's always been my way of life.

What’s your travel style?

Now I travel for a different purpose. I'm a travel writer so I travel to write a story. I write about luxury travel. But luxury is not staying in five-star hotels and sipping cocktails by a pool. That's not a luxury. Anyone can do that. Luxury is when you are able to experience something that very few people in the world can. So it might be eating a meal with hunters inside a cave in Mongolia or watching a tiger feeding its cubs in India. Luxury is a presence in that moment.

Honestly, how do you manage expenses? Can you give me a practical day to day example of thecosts involved?

I'm paid to write about travel. As a freelance journalist I negotiate the articles and fees with the magazines or newspapers that I write for before I go anywhere. My travel doesn't cost me anything. I'm invited to the places I write about through a tourist board or agencies handling their destination marketing.

But if anyone wants to choose this path it's very important to know that it's never going to pay your bills. I have chosen this for the lifestyle, not money. I'm financially secure and I own a PR company in London. All of that allows me to pursue this path.

How do you manage to get upgrades based on your traveling lifestyle?

I don't make demands when I travel. If I'm travelling for work, I don't book my own flights or hotels. Most of the time I have no idea which airline I'll be flying or where I will stay until a few days before I travel. All of that is done by someone else and I'm sent a pre-planned itinerary for my entire trip. Sometimes I might be on a business class flight and other times I'm in a no-frills, low-cost airline with barely any room above my head. I'm not fazed by how I get there. I've never asked for a privilege I haven't earned or paid for. I think thats bad manners.

Have you ever had any extra-ordinary experience? What was it?

Everything about travelling is extraordinary. Every moment is extraordinary. Some of the best and honest conversations I've had have been with people I've met somewhere that I will never ever see again. The most extraordinary thing I've learnt from travel is that there are only two kinds of people in the world; men and women. The second most extraordinary thing I've learned is that we all have the same concerns and worries. We all want our children to do well, we want the world to be a better place and we all want to help. So simple and yet they elude so many.

Do you feel burnt out by constant traveling?

Not at all. The more I travel the more I want to travel. I noticed that I no longer have a regular body clock. I might wake up at 3am in Oman and at 7am in London. I've learnt to flow with it. If I'm tired I have a nap. I'm a big believer in taking naps to rest. I can't work if I'm tired.

Some traveling hacks, which is generally not known by people?

Honestly, there are no short cuts to life. If you want something work for it. If it comes too easily you can bet your bottom dollar that you will lose it just as easily. Work consistently with humility. When I first started writing full-time the first thing, I established was that I knew nothing. It helped me a great deal because it made me open to accepting help and guidance from experienced people. It's arrogant to think that you're the same as someone who's been writing for a decade or pretend that you know everything. It wouldn't be true. Understanding your limitations is more important than knowing what you are good at.

My greatest advice for travel is being prepared. Otherwise it will hold you back. If you’re travelling in a group, it will hold others back. It's inconsiderate. Also, eat the food you're offered without complaining. You have no idea what someone might have gone through to give you that.

What's the favourite place you've visited?

I get asked this a lot. I don't have a favourite place, but I was most affected by the old town in Bethlehem, Jerusalem. Something like 90% of the city is an active dig so they're discovering new artefacts or unearthing something new even as we speak. Every time they do it changes the history of the world either by establishing a fact or disproving one.

It was the first time that something I'd only ever read about became a reality. I was standing on the roof of a building in the old town and my guide said, "That’s the Garden of Gethsemane to your left". It was a penny-drop moment for me. I had a Catholic upbringing, so I knew exactly what that was. It was the first time I'd connected religion with reality.

Then when I was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the guide pointed to the tomb of Jesus. As he did the thought entered my mind that I'd just walked in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene. The Jerusalem Tourist Board had, very thoughtfully, sent a female scholar to accompany me, who specialised in biblical women. She was there to help me separate fact from fiction.

I spoke to my editor about it when I got back to London and he told me not to be spooked out by it because he had the same experience in that same spot. Follow me on Instagram and you will see what I mean

What advice can you give the youth?

The best advice I could give the youth is to work efficiently not laboriously. Don't waste a second on things that don't yield results. Be dedicated, have integrity. Failure should not define the rest of your life.

I say this because I noticed that in Sri Lankan culture there's sensitivity about everything and nothing. If you disagree with something that is said it's taken very personally. Know that this cultural sensitivity exists and then teach yourself to rise above it. Develop a filter to separate emotion and opinion from fact. Process what is being said and have the capacity to change your mind. That's a very powerful place to be.