A man smiling_TEXT_World Vegan Sri Lanka Unveiled: Vegan Travel, Yoga, and Transformation | Alexander Keil | Ep 131_

Sri Lanka Unveiled: Vegan Travel, Yoga, and Transformation | Alexander Keil | Ep 131

Introducing Alexander

Today, we’re excited to introduce our guest, Alexander Keil. He’s a versatile individual with a range of talents. Alexander is a Breathwork, Meditation, and Yoga Teacher, helping people find balance and calm. He also works as a Retreat Facilitator and Coach, guiding personal growth journeys. In the digital world, he’s a Web Designer & IT Freelancer, and he’s got a knack for Google & Facebook Ads too. On top of all that, he’s a vegan & Gluten-Free Chef, creating delicious and healthy dishes.

Alexander takes us on a captivating journey to the enchanting land of Sri Lanka. We’ll dive into the unique allure of this destination and explore the enriching experiences it offers as the backdrop for his vegan yoga retreats. From delving into Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture to discussing transportation options, we’ll uncover what makes this place special. Alexander will share the inspiring story of how his retreats came to fruition, offering insights into the motivation behind their creation. Join us as we step into a day in the life at his retreats, gaining a glimpse of the rejuvenating activities and practices that shape the experience. And of course, we’ll touch on the vegan-friendliness of Sri Lanka, delving into the culinary delights that await vegan travelers.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The unique qualities of Sri Lanka that make it an ideal setting for a vegan retreat center.
  • Why Alexander chose Sri Lanka as his home and the backdrop for his retreat center.
  • The spiritual significance of living and operating a retreat in Sri Lanka.
  • Alexander’s retreat offerings, discussing the variety of holistic experiences and personal growth journeys he facilitates.
  • The philosophy behind offering vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, and lectin-free food as an integral part of the retreat experience.
  • How Alexander’s diverse skills and passions, including vegan cooking, and meditation come together in his work.
  • The interconnectedness of veganism, mindfulness, and holistic well-being in Alexander’s approach to life and his retreats.
  • The challenges and rewards of introducing veganism to a new cultural context.
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Brighde: Hello, Alex. Welcome to The World Vegan Travel Podcast. Thanks for joining me.

Alex: Hi. Welcome. Thank you.

Brighde: I am so pleased to have you here today because we have not talked about this destination at all in the hundred and twenty or so episodes that we have done on this podcast. And it’s a country that I don’t know very much about and a topic I don’t know very much of either, and that is Sri Lanka, that little island nation just off the Indian coast. So, before we talk about Sri Lanka and the retreats and the workshops that you offer, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Alex: Of course. So my name is Alex, and I studied IT. I do have an IT company. But 14 years ago, I’ve been traveling the world and came across meditation and yoga and different breathing techniques which changed my life. And then I was traveling the world with my own company and one day I traveled to Sri Lanka to surf. And then someone offered me his hotel. And since then actually, I live in Sri Lanka. I teach in SRI Lanka. I have a retreat center in Sri Lanka and live now half the year in Zurich. I run retreats in Europe and the other half of I’m in Sri Lanka with my own retreat center in winter where I teach holistic breakfast retreats.

Brighde: How did it come to pass that you were offered a hotel? Was it to buy or to rent, or did they gift it to you?

Alex: Yeah, that’s an interesting story because I never wanted to be a meditation teacher or a yogi or breakfast teacher. It’s the universe of God, however, you want to call it, just guided me because we booked a hotel in Sri Lanka, and even my girlfriend back then, my business partner, Martina, I told her, “Let’s cancel Sri Lanka.” Because I worked in India as a team manager, and I thought, oh, let’s go to Bali. I don’t wanna go to Sri Lanka. Let’s cancel our flights. Let’s go somewhere else. And she convinced me to go to Sri Lanka. And then we booked the hotels, we arrived there. And then they told us, look, we are fully booked. You can’t have a room. And this is the first time it happened in my whole ten years or even more of travel that someone told me, the room you booked is not available. It was like eleven in the night. But he said, “Oh, but the guy next door, maybe he has a room.” Then the guy next door is the hotel, which I run now, the retreats. So we went there. I nearly started a fight with him because I was like, “Look, I need the wifi because I have my own IT company. I need to work.” And he said, “No, first you have to pay for the room and then you get a wifi.” But I said, “No, wait. First the wifi, then I pay for the room.” So we had an argument for a while, and then after a while, he said, “Okay, you can check the wifi.” I checked the wifi. We booked another hotel two days later. So I actually would leave the hotel after two days and then the next day we got an email, “Sorry. It’s fully booked. You can’t stay in the next hotel.” I was like, “Huh?.” And this is the only two time in my whole life this happened to me. And then we asked the owner, can we stay longer? He said, yes, sure. It’s empty. Because it was like half finished, half construction. It’s like how it is sometimes in the Eastern world. People build, people start renting, they earn money, they renovate again. So it was more like a half-construction. Four rooms have been ready, but beautiful rooms on the beach, like close to the beach, nearly on the beach. And then after the second cancelation, he came across and said, “Hey, don’t wonder. People are walking around who want to buy this place.” And I was just joking. You know, I said,” Oh, how much do you want?”

And then he said such a ridiculous amount of money. And I said, okay, that’s too much. I’m not paying so much for a half-constructed building. And maybe they don’t even have the money. The next day he just comes across and he is like, “Why do you don’t wanna rent my building?” I said, ‘”Because I have a dream life. Why should I.” It’s like I have my company and traveling the world. We have a good life. Why should I rent a building? And then he just kept asking. He just kept on, “Yeah, why not? Why not?” He’d been just annoying us. It’s, “Yeah, but why you don’t wanna live in Sri Lanka? Why do you don’t wanna have my place? Why you don’t wanna have it.” After a while was just joking back to him. It’s like, look if we would take it, we have to renovate because it’s half finished. And then he was like, “Yeah, but what would you then renovate?” And I was like, yeah, look, we have to get windows, doors, then we have a need to get a kitchen, we need to get a restaurant, we need to get this.

And I was joking around with him for an hour or two, and then after two days he came with a list and said, “Hey Alex. Yes, that’s the price.” I said, “Which price?” Yeah, for the renovation, everything you told me. So he went to a construction company and then he got all the prices, what it would cost us to renovate. Everything with us joking, and then the renovation price was really cheap. And then Martina and me being like, “That’s really cheap to renovate a whole hotel in Sri Lanka.” But then it’s okay, we don’t want to do this as a couple because, I don’t know if you know how much work it’s to run a hotel and a retreat center, a yoga studio, and a restaurant at the same time.

It’s a lot of work. And we said, okay, this will break our relationship. We had flights to Bali, and then I met a friend there for a coffee and she said, “Oh Alex, I wanna go back to Sri Lanka looking for a place to teach yoga.” And then I was joking again. I said, “Look, this guy offered us a place with a beautiful terrace and ocean view and that’s the amount to renovate.” And she was, “I’m in.” I was like, “What do you mean you’re in?” “Yeah, if you two guys are doing this, I’m in.” So we had a team. I went back to Martina and I said, look, Amy would join us.

She said, “What do you mean to join us? “She checked out the building and then she said, “Okay. I like it.” And then she went to the lawyer. She got her stuff. We’ve been flying back to Germany. We got our stuff. We quit flat. We’ve been sending money to the owner, trusting that this guy, which we met for five days will actually do what we told him. We sent him all the money for the construction and then believed that half a year later we will come and he actually renovated it for half a year a whole hotel.

And he did. We arrived and he did everything we agreed on without a contract, without anything.

Brighde: That’s an incredible story. What an incredible story of trust on both parts and, wow, that’s so interesting. I’m guessing you are renting the hotel now, or did you buy it?

Alex: I am renting it.


You are renting it now? Obviously, there must be more to Sri Lanka than just this lovely space.

What is it about Sri Lanka that keeps making you want to go back?

Alex: There are a lot of different aspects. One is my vegan diet like I’m trying to live as vegan as possible. And if you travel the world as a vegan, in some countries it’s easier than the others. Sri Lanka is like a Buddhist country and it’s an island, so everything is imported. So it means if you want to drink cow milk, it’s double three times as much as coconut milk. So the local people, like all the local restaurants, use coconut milk. So you don’t even have to ask. Every dish you get, it’s dairy free. Yeah, because no one will pay three times as much, so people just get coconut milk. And because it’s a Buddhist country, people know what is a vegetarian. You don’t have to explain yourself. But like 14 years ago, it’s like you really had to explain yourself like, “What are you? Vegetarian?” So Sri Lanka is for me, it’s like a little Bali, but 15 years back or 20 years back. When we moved there, we’ve been one of the first vegan restaurants in the whole country. If you compare it to Bali, which is more crowded with vegan restaurants on every corner. Sri Lanka, it’s more rough, it’s more laid back. There are no traffic jams. It’s like Bali was like 20 years ago. You can cruise around beautiful beaches and Turkish water. there are some beaches where you find some plastic, but compared to other countries, it’s paradise. There are turtles in the water. Perfect surf. In the inland jungle, you have like different climate zones. If you go inland, you have mountains, you can go for hikes, you have different seasons. So from November to April is my season, like in the South. And then from April till November is the season on the East Coast. If you want to kite surf, you can do this on the West Coast. So for everyone, you can come for an Ayurveda treatment of 21 days of Panchakarma, of massages, of inner healing, of inner work.

Or if you just wanna surf, you can just surf. Or if you wanna do a yoga retreat, you can do a yoga retreat. So the range, that Sri Lanka offers, it’s nearly for every couple, for every age. For me, it’s one of the best countries because my girlfriend finds something to do. If there are kids around, they find something to do. If my mom would come there, she gets massages every day. It’s quite deeply rooted in this country.

Brighde: That’s so interesting that Sri Lanka has become a destination for inner work and meditation. Maybe not so surprising given the religion of the country and the climate. Tell me. How is it to get around Sri Lanka? Of course, it’s quite a small country.

How do people normally get around? What’s the infrastructure like?

Alex: So just like different choices. I mean, the cheapest choice is the train, but the train tracks are built for the British, so they’re still the same trains, the same train tracks. Nothing has changed. You can get around from Colombo to my place, which is 200 kilometers, maybe for one dollar, two dollars. Depends on the day. It’s like super cheap. But, it’s super slow. It’s super slow, super crowded because most of the population takes the cheapest option. But it’s definitely an experience. I can recommend everyone to do it once. And then you have buses. The buses are a little bit more expensive, but maybe like three, four dollars, five dollars, and you can still come from Colombo to my place to the South or travel around. The buses go everywhere. The train tracks are kind of limited because you have like one train track that goes from Colombo down South, one train track up North and one into the inland. That’s it. But the bus network is insane. It’s like you can get to every single corner by bus because that’s what local people do. There are like buses and then mostly for the last little bits, if you have a special hotel or a special destination, you just take a tuk-tuk, like a three-wheeler. It’s like a three-wheeler taxi. And for everyone who loves more comfort, private taxis. Private taxis from the airport, a two-hour journey to my place is around between eighty dollars and a hundred dollars. Depends on the petrol prices which is still fine, like driving two hours in a taxi for a hundred dollars. So if you want to get a pickup, you want to have seat, you want to have comfort or someone puts you back somewhere that you don’t want to sweat in a train. It’s like a taxi is an option. You get the backpackers who mostly can take the train or the buses, and then you have the middle-rich people who maybe take the tuk-tuk. And then if you want to have more luxury, you just have a private van or a private car.

Brighde: Okay. That’s so interesting. So tell me a little bit more about where your hotel and retreat center is located north of Colombo, south?

Alex: No, we are in the South, close to Weligama and Mirissa. It’s like two famous spots for surf or holidays. Beautiful beaches. It’s two hours with a taxi down South.

Brighde: So the fact that you opened up this retreat center is just very interesting to me. So tell me, how was it to start getting clients? Where did your clients come from? First of all, because of course you are from Central Europe originally.

Alex: The first year we opened a vegan hotel. We had a vegan restaurant on site and a yoga studio. And most of the clients been just travelers who traveled to Sri Lanka and who’ve been looking for a yoga studio just to continue to practice or people who are looking for vegan food. And as I said, we’ve been the first one in the whole of Sri Lanka when we opened. So it was quite easy. So because I do have an IT company. So I do Google ads and Facebook ads for clients for over ten years. So I do have this expertise. If you looked for vegan restaurant in Sri Lanka, or yoga studio in Sri Lanka, we’d be number one. So it was quite easy the first year to be fully booked. But after a while we realized it’s so much work. And the food waste was high because people come at random times. I’m a vegan, gluten-free chef at the same time. So the whole menu of we offer is vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free. And even from next year on, it’ll be lectin-free because that’s what I believe it is the healthiest diet, and this is what I want to offer to my guests. I was asking Martina, “What do we actually want?” Because we nearly burned out because we’ve been working from morning till evening, and we said, hey, look, daily check-ins or checkouts, it’s too much. Let’s make people’s minimum stay seven days. Both Martina and I, we never been to retreats before.

We didn’t know what retreats are. So what we did, it was more like, okay, what do we want? okay, people should stay seven days and then we changed it. So we made it more a yoga stay and you don’t have to do yoga, but you can book the yoga additional, but you have to stay a certain amount of time. And we made our schedule. Breakfast is included, dinner’s included.

So we ended up being fully booked as a hotel, but then only three people came to yoga classes and we said that’s not what we want. And then people would be like, you know, getting drunk.

And then it’s okay, how can we force people to to do yoga? Okay, let’s make it mandatory. So if you come to us, you have to stay seven days and you have to practice. If you don’t want to practice, don’t come. And then the third year we actually became a yoga retreat center. We loved it. Before Covid there was a huge boom. Different other news was featuring Sri Lanka. There were yoga retreat centers popping out everywhere.

So we try to make our retreats holistic. So we included Vipassana, Anapana, breath awareness, body awareness, different meditations, breath work. Everything Martina and I have been doing for ourselves for many years, we’ve been trying to make it a holistic experience, like a life transformative experience with food and on all these practices we learned in our life. We created this eight day intensive breath work retreat where we just include different practices, where we do now six hours a day of practice, and people, that’s a lot yes, that’s a lot. But the people who sign up, you know, that’s the people I love because suddenly we have the target group I really feel connected to, and I love hanging out with this target group. I love talking to them, the questions they ask. It suddenly becomes a dream life. It transformed from a business, from offering something to actually, I really love what I do. And yeah, this is what we do now since three years. Covid stopped us for a year, but now since two years we’re back and I’m really looking forward to November to teach again.

Brighde: I am so excited for you that you managed to just evolve so quickly. That’s so interesting. Tell me, where are your clients generally from?

Alex: In the beginning they’ve been mostly Europe based, like Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Sweden, Scandinavia, like countries where people do have money. They do have holidays and they do look to go on health retreats to actually do something for them. But since Covid, it shifted.

So we still have 50% of European clients, but it goes even more international, and we do get now like 40% of expats, like Europeans who live in Shanghai or Hong Kong or Singapore because Sri Lanka is really close, it’s the center of Asia. You get the whole Middle East. You get people from Australia coming or Bali, it’s like we are actually getting people all over. European people. They book ages is in advance, and then we’ve been fully booked with Europeans.

Since Covid, it changed a little bit. I don’t know why, because maybe they’re having more anxiety or people don’t want to travel long distances. Something changed, and now we are getting more people booking from Southeast Asia. It’s more like a mix. And sometimes now Americans and Canadians, but for them it’s like a long travel, it’s the other side of the world, but we do get here and there one or two. People are mostly having two weeks because people are not traveling from America just for a week. It’s just the distance is to far.

Brighde: So for listeners that have never really delved into a meditation or a breathwork retreat like this, they’ve never experienced this before. Could you maybe walk us through in what a day in the life is? For example, I did a Vippasana ten day. A silent retreat probably about 10 years ago now, and even those people had told me what to expect. It was still a bit of a shock, and it was one of the hardest but rewarding things I’ve ever done. So why don’t you tell our listeners what it is like to do something like this from the moment they wake up?

Alex: I’ve done a few of these ten day retreats and I really feel you. And even you have done ones, like every single one you do again is the same. So you’re like, oh my God, I forgot how hard it is.

Brighde: Yeah.

Alex: And what Tina and I, what we want to create is, you know, it’s more like a middle path because what I see with my friends or people I talk to for this ten day Vipassanas, people are really afraid of going there. Because ten days of silence, ten hours a day of meditation, ten hours of sitting, it’s really hard for most people, and there’s nothing in between. There are yoga retreats on the market who do morning yoga and evening yoga, but that’s not the same direction. And what we try to do, is taking the experience that you can get from a hundred hour retreat of Vipassana, break it down, adding different modalities, which I think are beneficial, and trying to give the same experience with less suffering and less work and make it more fun and make it more accessible. So people wake up in our place around six thirty, the sun rises at six. Some people even get go up earlier and go to the beach, go for a swim, or for a run on the beach. So start at seven with a very basic yoga class. Everything that we do is from meditation to yoga to breath work, we start at zero because everyone should start. We have yoga teachers, we have meditation teachers, and we have people coming. They’ve never done any of them. And it’s fine because even for myself, even being a teacher, I love to go into classes because to really listen, is so important to not forget. We start guiding people from zero to a hundred step by step. And then at seven in the morning, we do have a 60 or 70 minute yoga class, but really easy. It’s more about moving the body, feeling the body, becoming alive, waking up, and then we go into a little meditation. We work every single day on a different body part from top to bottom. Just so that the energy can flow throughout the seven days or eight days. And then we go into a one and a half hour, two hour conscious connected breathing exercise based on the day. We are changing the breath pattern every day. We give different guidance so people can play around with what power has the breath. Because most people are not aware of how powerful our breath is. And every single day we’re modifying a little bit of the breath and then people can actually experience this themselves. So this is in the morning from seven to eleven. And then people get writing assignments. We all have a beautiful big brunch together from eleven to twelve, and the afternoons are sometimes free. Sometimes we go for a massage, we get an Ayurvedic treatment. On some other days we have a workshop or we talk and people are free to use the afternoon. They can go for a surf, they can get a second massage or whatever, or just read a book, or whatever they want to do, or hang out or talk to the guests. At five o’clock we start with a Yin Yoga class on our rooftop. We have a big, beautiful rooftop, ocean view, the sunset in front of our house. And then we have a 90 minute relaxing restorative Yin class where people can just integrate the whole day, calm down, bring down the nervous system.

And then we have a beautiful dinner. Mostly I do four of the dinners. And then, the wife of the owner, she makes Sri Lankan rice and curry. Like a beautiful vegan rice and curry. Three times in the week, and after dinner, we meditate, every day a different meditation. I guide them to give different modalities because what I believe is, there’s not the right meditation for every human being. So what are trying to do is give them different yoga styles, different meditation styles, different breathing styles that everyone can just pick what they like. And if people walk home with one technique they like they can do every single day, I did my job, that’s my mission. If people find a technique they love doing, they find joy in doing it, and they introduce them into their daily practice, that’s a win. Then I’ve done my job for the whole week, and then people go to bed.

Brighde: That sounds like a very full, but what an enriching day. I’m guessing that the participants become very close with each other throughout the time that they’re together. Is that fair to say?

Alex: Yes. We’re spending a lot of time together. We do a lot of sharing. We talk about what we experience, we talk about where we stand, what we to do future, where we came from. The bonding, and so most people even creating WhatsApp groups to stay in contact after.

Brighde: Are most of the people that come to your retreats vegan, or for some, is this the first time that they’re delving into this kind of eating?

Alex: Yeah, it’s both. We had some people who are actually sitting at the table and telling me into my eyes, “That’s the first vegan dish of my life.” I was like, “Oh, wow! It’s a pleasure.” And then of course we have people who only come to us because we are offering gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free food.

It’s both. It’s like the ones I’m here to inspire. The other ones, they come because it’s their standard of which retreats they’re going to.

Brighde: I was curious about your transition to lectin-free food next year. I don’t think I even know what a lectin is. Can you explain that?

Alex: It’s quite new to me too. I’ve just been reading a book recently called, The Plant Paradox, and so gluten, gluten is lectin. And there’s more lectins in the market. Most people don’t really feel the lectins because we are not as sensitive because most people are not meditators. And for me it was all the time I was sometimes eating a salad, and then I felt an impact in my body. Something was changing and I could never figure out, okay, what is it? I was eating a raw vegan organic salad. What’s wrong with this salad? Why is my body reacting to it? And after I was reading this book, and I was, for example, skipping out the tomatoes or the skin of cucumbers. Suddenly I don’t have those “drops” anymore. Suddenly I stay awake, I stay present, and my energetic field stays the same. And my meditation are better. And because I was reading this book, this book has a lot of critics because it’s not really enough studies and whatever. And for me, this is not as important. I do myself study. I’m just trying it out. I do feel better when I do it. So that’s for me. All I need. I live in my retreat center. I eat my own food. So what I do is because I believe it, so everyone just gets this food. It’s a lot of work for me because I have to redo the whole menu. I have to write all the recipes new. I have three months to go, so I have to redo the whole menu. My belief changed and then I change what I offer because I can’t offer something that I don’t believe anymore.

Brighde: Wow, so interesting. So you spent half of the year in Europe and half of the year in Sri Lanka. Why is that? Is that because there’s some sort of weather, a peak season to travel in Sri Lanka?

Yes, there’s two seasons. Where my retreat center is in the South, the season is from November till April. In this time, mostly it’s dry season, it’s blue sky, 28 degrees. The best travel months, I would say is from mid of November till February, March. You can still come till end of April, but from middle of March it starts getting hot because Sri Lanka is like in the North of the planet. So we are still in winter. The best month is December, but December and January is really crowded sometimes. So you’d have to decide, do you want to have perfect weather and crowded, or you come in February, which is my favorite month because it’s not as crowded and the weather’s still perfect. Or if you like hot weather because you come out of winter, March and April are still perfect, it’s just beautiful. Instead of 28 degrees, we have 33 degrees, 30, 34, 35, sometimes. But the rain mostly starts in May in the South Coast. And then we have the East Coast. Because it’s a small country, but it’s like micro climates. So on the East Coast, which is just from my place, like three hours drive, we have a different season. The season starts in April and finish November. And then we get the rain in the South Coast and they get a dry season. And because I’m from Europe and I love European summer, I don’t really like the winter, so I’m spending the winter in Sri Lanka, the six months. I could stay in Sri Lanka and go to the East Coast. A lot of businesses, what they do, they have two businesses. They have one for half year in the south and another half on the East Coast, and they just switch for people who like want to live in Sri Lanka the whole year. But for me, sometimes, Sri Lanka is chaotic, a little bit extreme. Living the other half in Switzerland, , where everything’s like organized. It’s perfect. It gives me like both of both worlds. So half the year II teach retreats in Europe. I have second brand, and I do still have my own IT company. So in some, I do a little bit of computer work it, I teach here and there, and breakfast classes, some meditation classes. I go for hikes, nature, forest, mountains, and then winter, surfing, beach, nature, teaching. So I’m just trying to get the best out of both worlds. It sounds like a lot of work, but it sounds like you really enjoy it, Alex, that’s so cool. So your restaurant that you have, is that open to the public as well, or is it only open to participants who are at the retreat?

Alex: It was open for public in the first year, but because I tried to reduce food waste, it’s so hard to plan as a restaurant when people walk in and out. And then we decided after the one year, no, we just close it. We have sixteen guests plus us and the staff, so it’s twenty people. So I go to the market and I buy for twenty people. I cook for twenty people. We don’t have food waste, and that’s the reason why we just closed for people who don’t stay with us. So you have to stay eight days with us and then you can enjoy the whole service, the whole food. But now there’s more vegan places opening in Sri Lanka Before Covid, there have been many, but they couldn’t survive. Now, after one or two years, people started business again and there is some really good restaurants now around us. There are good vegan restaurants, and as I said before, the local restaurants, they’re not announced as vegan, but all of them are vegan because the Sri Lankan dishes, they cook rice and then they cook mostly 4, 5, 6 different curries. And only one of them is mostly with fish. So what you do, is you just tell them, can I get just the vegetarian curries and not the fish? And because it’s always different pots, you just skip the fish curry and then you have a vegan curry because it’s always made with coconut milk and they don’t use anything else. Nearly every restaurant is vegan. That’s the beauty of Sri Lanka.

Brighde: Oh my goodness. That kind of food is absolutely my favorite. Coconut milk based curries are so good. This has been so interesting.

So I followed the news quite closely and I heard recently that there’s been some really huge problems in Sri Lanka. I think in regards to terrible inflation or economic problems from the government. Am I understanding that right? And what’s going on there?

Alex: The biggest problem happened after Covid because the Parliament wanted to do some really good choices to make a lot of farms organic, to change a lot of stuff. But what it didn’t really think of, is you can’t just change a whole country from non-organic to organic. That step is too big because people are not educated or whatever. And then Covid came at the same time, and then they ran out of money, so they couldn’t pay the petrol ships, which are coming to Sri Lanka and the country ran out of petrol, ran out of US dollars. And then the tourists couldn’t come to Sri Lanka, so no one was bringing in dollars or euros. But the petrol or the diesel, you have to pay in dollars. No one wants rupees. So if you don’t get tourists, you can’t pay petrol. And this means people run out of petrol. People couldn’t run buses. People had to close schools because the news has been announcing it. Hey, maybe we run out of petrol. It’s the same that happened in Europe with toilet paper. You announce it, and then everyone runs to the shops and buys it. And the same happens in Sri Lanka. Everyone would have been running to the petrol stations because everyone’s listening to the news and everyone gets as much petrol as possible to hoard it. And that caused a problem. But now it’s since one year we got a QR code. For example, for my scooter, I have a QR code and I only get four liters a week. And that’s enough. That’s enough for me to go shopping and do all the stuff I want. And if I want to get more than four liters a week, I have to pay extra. I can still get it, but what they do is they’re trying to control the people are not hoarding it. And since then the buses are running, the trains are running, the taxis are running. I would say it’s even better than before because now there is a system. Before it was very chaotic, and now of course there’s still inflation. The Rupee is high, which is,

as a tourist, it’s great because for you, everything’s cheap. The prices went up for the people because the salary is the same. People, they are struggling a little bit because the inflation went up, but the salary didn’t go up. But for us, as tourist, because the exchange went up, for us, it’s the same price. What the country actually needs is tourists because people need tourists who come there, who bring dollars, who bring euros, who buy the stuff, who give actually business to restaurants, to hotels, because the hotel business to tourist business is one of the biggest incomes of the country. So when we don’t come, there’s a lot of money missing. There are some problems and there have been some strikes in Colombo, but mostly it’s just Colombo. They are very friendly, and the news that kind of, they’re only taking snapshots of one burning car. There was like one, and it was like one year ago. Now everything’s safe. You can travel around. Everything works. I really feel it is better because now people start thinking.

Brighde: That’s so interesting, and I’m really pleased that you could explain that because I do think a lot of people will have a tendency to avoid a destination because of these kinds of situations, but they’re often very localized, and yeah, I can imagine that tourism is really needed right now. Alright, Alex, this has been so interesting. I cannot wait to come to Sri Lanka one day, and maybe I will even be brave enough to do another ten day meditation breath work, as certainly, I’m sure it would be so beneficial for me. Tell me how is it that people can reach out to you, find out more about what it is you are doing, and then what’s the process for booking some sort of, eight day retreat?

Alex: So we do have two websites, one called Green Peace Inn. You can just type in “breathwork Sri Lanka”, and you will find me. There’s only one breathwork center who’s offering this kind of retreats. So it’s quite easy. And for the European retreats called Husma, Husma Retreats. I think you can post links. And husma means In Sinhala, and In Sinhala is the language of Sri Lanka. It means breath. And that’s how it’s inspired because our whole journey started in Sri Lanka. So if you type Husma Retreats, you find our European retreats or Green Peace, the organization,Green Peace Inn, the place called before Green Peace Inn, we just took the name, we haven’t changed it because I think because it’s green, it’s peaceful, that’s the reason how it’s inspired, and that’s the easiest way. Just Google Sri Lanka. You’ll find me.

Brighde: Fantastic. Alright. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Alex. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Alex: You’re welcome. Thank you. Thanks for asking me to be on this podcast.

Brighde: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for your time.

Alex: Thank you.

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Joyful Vegan Alsace 2023

MAGICAL CHRISTMAS IN PARIS & ALSACE with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau


10-17 December, 2023
8 Days, 7 Nights
Group size: 18-28
100% vegan local French cuisine
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PARIS TO LOIRE & DORDOGNE VALLEYS: Castles, Caves, and Countryside with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau


2-10 September, 2023
9 Days, 8 Nights
Group size: 15-26
stay in a château
Tons of castles and quaint villages
17,000 year-old prehistoric cave art

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This trip is still in the planning stage, but you can expect:

Scheduled for September 2025
100% vegan local French cuisine
stay in a château!
Visit castles and medieval villages
17,000 year-old prehistoric cave art
Visit & tasting at a Loire winery

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