Hi, my name is Stéphanie! I’m 28 years old, a graphic designer based in Paris, and I’m deaf. What I love most about traveling is meeting new people and discovering new cultures.
As a deaf person, it’s always interesting to meet foreign deafies to exchange about our culture and learn new sign languages (sign language is not international). I’m also an amateur photographer, so traveling keeps me inspired. I have found that travel is also the best way to learn about myself, fix new personal challenges, and become more open-minded.
What brought you to Sri Lanka and did you have any expectations?
I was just curious. I had already been traveling for 8 months and was quite ready to go back home, but thought Sri Lanka was a nice idea. Upon arriving, I had absolutely no expectations because I knew absolutely nothing about the country. It was a new challenge for me to go to a country without any preparation and I have to admit I was extremely surprised when everything worked out! It's emotional for me and I have a lot of mixed feelings about what I saw and felt there; so it's quite difficult for me to describe. I had always wondered whether travel could transform a person, because it had never happened to me - not until I went to this amazing country. So it’s for that reason that Sri Lanka is my most memorable trip.
What was your experience as a tourist?
I had the opportunity to be hosted by a Sri Lankan family while there, which turned out to be a unique experience. I learned quite a few new things from them, including how to make a few local recipes. However, as a black woman, I felt harassed by people’s glances, with men constantly asking me if I was married or where my boyfriend was. During the entire trip, I wore an engagement ring since I was alone - most people didn't understand why a woman would travel alone, and I believe my skin color seemed strange to them. However, the women showed solidarity to me. I was once on a bus looking for a seat, when a woman looked at me with a glance that said, “Come seat with me, you’ll be safe”.
I started my trip traveling the hill country by train and it was truly amazing. The landscape gives such beautiful scenery with all of the tea plantations, and the ride made me feel like I was moving in slow motion. After meeting a few other travelers on the train, we decided to hike together at Ella Rock where we ended up randomly meeting a local guy on the road who became our guide.
How did you plan your trip? Do you have any advice for individuals that want to start travelling internationally, but don’t know how to start?
My trip to Sri Lanka was part of a larger 9-month trip throughout Southeast Asia, Australia, and Eastern Europe. Because I was traveling for a long period of time, it took me a year to prepare. I bought a one-way ticket and only planned the 5 first weeks because I knew I wanted to spend 4 weeks in Southeast Asia and 1 week in Australia. Everything beyond that was purely instinct. I just followed my desires and have to admit that I loved that - I was totally free!
The most important part is money though, so save as much as you can; more is always better than enough.
Before the departure, make some contacts (via Facebook for example) - maybe you have friends who know people who know other people? If you want to live as a local, couch-surfing is the best option (sleep on a local’s couch). Also, don’t forget to check your health and purchase health insurance. Medical fees can be very expensive!
What recommendations do you have for future travelers visiting Sri Lanka?
Firstly, I would not recommend women to travel solo to Sri Lanka as I did, mainly because it can be very difficult as a result of cultural differences.. As for places to see, the ancient cities are a must. The architectural sites are really impressive and have a rich historical and cultural past. Having a guide with a car is not obligatory, but it will take a lot more time to navigate without one. I would also highly recommend travel by train to the hill country for a unique experience.
What is your favorite memory from your time in Sri Lanka? Your funniest?
I was out for a walk in Negombo, when suddenly a father with his 6years old-daughter came to me. I said that I was deaf with a smile and told them that I was just going for a walk then said goodbye. But the little girl ran to me and took my hand like she didn’t want to let me go. I felt so touched. So we walked together, hand in hand, while her father followed us on his bike. After a short visit to the fish market, he took me to a church then explained to me that he has a wife who is very sick and at the hospital at the moment. He was just trying to do his best to take care of his daughter who couldn’t go to school anymore. I felt so moved by my time with them and it changed how I look at life.
The funniest was when I was at Batticaloa market. People who saw me with my camera thought that I was a professional, but I’m not! They asked me to take pictures of them and they’d act like they were models. They even gave me direction about how to take each picture - it was very funny!
What’s next for you?
I would love go to Africa! South Africa, Namibia... Oh yeah ! If I don't go this year, I will certainly try for next!
How can readers see more of your travels?
Images Courtesy of 2 Hands 1 Backpack