A One Way Ticket to Sri Lanka

Traveler: Roksan Sarfati – Retail Brand Manager 

I come from a very international family. My grandmother is half German and half Italian, and my father’s family has a Spanish background. I hence grew up with a mix of Italian and Turkish culture and in a bilingual home home. 

I have a twin sister and our parents helped us build our life in different countries. From an early age we often traveled alone, sharing different cultures and collecting memories from all around the world.  In 2016 I founded a sustainable and up-cycled fashion brand, Máh-roc, and the story of which is derived from this culture of traveling and collecting.

My parents have been in the textile business in Turkey for more than 30 years. I grew up in their tiny atelier, and later went on to study fashion design in Italy. After working for seven years in the fast-fashion industry I was inspired to take action on production waste. For more than two years, we collected leftover and unwanted garments from around the world, and gathered them in our Balat atelier in order to ultimately repurpose them and form an ethical fashion brand. Máh-roc was founded with the mission of raising awareness in up-cycled fashion.

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What is your most unforgettable escape? Sri Lanka! I came to Sri Lanka for the first time last June for a retreat camp with a group of people I had never met before. Besides the retreat experience the island itself amazed me. At the time, I was working at a company as Buying & Brand Manager, and following 10 days traveling through the country I decided to quit my job and return to the island to find inspiration, meet new people, and take the opportunity to focus on my own brand.

What was the purpose of your travel? The primary focus of my travel was to focus on our motto at Máh-roc; travel, collect and re-design. I had the opportunity to travel a lot while working as a designer in different companies. During these travels I collected unused fabrics from the different countries in which we carried out our production.  However due to chaotic work schedules I never had the time to slowly gather more inspiration, and meet new people in these various locations.

I was looking for more. I craved the time to find more inspiration, connections and opportunities, so I made the ultimate decision to open new doors for myself. 

With how many people did you travel? My first trip in the country was with 10 people. This time I am travelling mostly alone.   

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Where did you stay? I stayed at the Mellow Hostel by the Kabalana beach for 10 days during my first trip. This time I’m staying in a house very close by.

What did you most like about the trip? Not planning my day at all and being next to the ocean. I love going surfing every morning and every afternoon. It’s the ideal place to meet with new friends. 🙂

Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? During the summer season I spent in Unawatuna, I ran into a local boy and after a few minutes of conversing he said that he wanted to show me something. I couldn’t quite understand what he wanted to say to me so I just followed him. He led me to a secret Temple under the heavy rain.

There was a full moon. The full moon, Poya is the most important day of the month in Sri Lanka, and locals don’t go to work, and instead go to Temple to pray. Following his lead, I prayed and we thanked Nature, the rain, and the ocean. It was truly spontaneous and magical.

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Your most surprising find during the trip? Learning and practicing an easy life. Here you witness everyday how poor but also how happy Sri Lankan people are. They smile at everything and everyone.

The island is full of unexpected places. It has endured the burden of colonization and civil wars for many years. You can see European influence mixed with the south Asian island culture everywhere. You will be surprised by the colours, the architecture, and raw materials…

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Favorite restaurant(s) or food you have tried during your trip?

Mama’s restaurant: Local buffet place. You can eat all you can just for 2 dollars. Best rice and curry. You have to try the beetroot and pumpkin curry.

Citra: Fusion food mixed with Israeli, Mediteranean and Sri Lankan tastes. They serve focaccia baked over a cinnamon stick. You feel the taste of cinnamon. They have the best tabula salad ever, made with local ingredients. 

The Kip for BrunchFish Point: you go there and choose the fish, sit on the tables right on the beach. Very local, very fresh.

Park street trattoria in Colombo: the owner is Italian. I lived for 4 years in Italy, my Mom is Italian and the food here is even better than my Italian experience.  I highly suggest the pumpkin ravioli.

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What are the must tries of the city?

Galle Fort, Unawatuna, Ahangama, Weligama, Madiha, Hiriketiya on the coast.

The train between Ella and Kandy. The botanical gardens in Kandy and mountain views in Ella. 

Adam’s Peak.

Udawalawe National Park for Safari.

Colombo to have Asian city vibes.

Any hidden gems you could whisper to us? Inland of the west coast. Just take a bicycle or scooter and go inland without thinking or planning. You will meet tons of local people. See the nature. I am sure that you will be surprised when you see the paddy fields and cinnamon gardens you pass by.

Would you go back? I came with a one way ticket ☺

Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with? Travelling always pushes you to change in new and unexpected ways. I am getting closer to what I want to do in my life and to myself.

Any tips that might be useful to know before going there?

Most of the restaurants and shops are closed every full moon. Drinking and selling alcohol is forbidden during Poya (full moon).

Bring a bottle for water, not plastic of course.. You can fill it up wherever you go. 

A raincoat is necessary if you are going to travel inland.

Don’t forget mosquito spray.

You need to know how to bargain everywhere especially if you’re planning on traveling by tuk tuk.

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Next stop you would like to visit? India. I am so close to India and want to experience more of their culture.

What does traveling mean to you? Growing more everyday and letting go more everyday. Learning acceptance, widening my vision and opening my heart more.