Post-divorce therapy – how a trip to Sri Lanka helped me to start a whole new & exciting chapter
2022 saw me finally feel at peace with my bitter divorce and this was mainly down to my recent trip to Sri Lanka with a good friend and her girls. This was the post-divorce therapy I so desperately needed and the start of a new and exciting chapter of travels and fun. Only this time, as a middle-aged, divorced and single woman, I was looking for girls-only laid-back luxury and adventure.
Life after divorce
Post-divorce therapy I expect means something very different for anyone who has has the misfortune of going through a bitter break-up. For me, it was about finding myself again after a long and painful divorce through travel and adventure, and realising that I could still do just as much of what we did together, when my husband and I were married - i.e. far-flung adventures across the world.
Post loss (I call it this because it has been worse than any other grief I have encountered) is also a time for reflection and sadness. My family were my world – the memories of our time together are imprinted in my mind and captured in hundreds of photos. Various tattoos that evoke many wonderful memories grace various parts of my body.
The final realization and acceptance that we would no longer be one unit - that my husband and I would not be standing side-by-side when our children get married, and that we wouldn’t share many happy loving times together as a couple with our grandchildren took me many years to process. But 2022 saw me finally feel at peace with it all and my recent trip to Sri Lanka was the final part of the post-divorce therapy puzzle and the start of a new and exciting chapter of my life. A new beginning.
One of the main things the ex and I prioritized was travelling – I’ve worked in travel for many years so this lifestyle was made more achievable and each year we set out to explore somewhere new.
Not just a new beach to lie on but a new adventure to be had.
The experiences weren’t all cocktails, swimming pools and sunsets - they ranged from momentarily losing a small child on the slopes (funny now – not then admittedly) to getting seriously lost on one of our epic walks in Croatia (only to be rescued by a speedboat!).
These adventures also included arriving just as a coup was about to start in Egypt and climbing waterfalls in Sri Lanka with our incredible guide and a small child clinging on limpet-like to Daddy’s neck.
It was this particular Sri Lanka trip that was my favourite trip of all - and it was, for this reason, I suggested to a girlfriend that our first trip post-pandemic and my first post-divorce therapy trip should be to this tiny teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka memories, pre and post divorce
As a family, we travelled for six weeks through the rainforests and beaches in Sri Lanka. We climbed waterfalls, read books to each other by candlelight, raced in tuk-tuks, surfed the waves on the East Coast with the locals and adopted more puppies than I care to recall.
I think perhaps I had filed these memories of Sri Lanka in the box of married life. Another thing of the past - not the type of adventure a single woman would or should do post-divorce.
But then I started to question this logic as part of my post-divorce therapy. Why the heck couldn’t I travel and make more amazing memories?
Middle-aged divorced women absolutely can embark on big, farflung adventures and that’s exactly what I was going to do.
And so our girls-only post-divorce adventure began.
My travel buddies were my friend Laura and her two daughters, Mia and Esme, and it turned out to be one of hell of an adventure - fuelled by the most incredible soul-searching experiences and beautiful friendships - post-divorce therapy at its best.
My girls-only, post-divorce therapy - my Sri Lankan adventure
Sri Lanka is breathtakingly beautiful for many reasons, but the no.1 reason has to be the genuine smiles and the incredible warmth of the Sri Lankan people. This tiny island has seen more than its fair share of hardship, civil war, the tsunami, Easter bombings, Covid and of course the recent political troubles, but the genuine warmth and humbleness of the people never falters.
Our seven-night itinerary would take us from east to west, staying in no less than three incredible hotels and a luxury tented camp, and a trip on a luxury houseboat- all of which are owned and impeccably ran by Sri Lanka’s leading travel company and owners of 30 of the island’s best hotels - Jetwing Hotels.
1) The city of Galle - a luxury lighthouse stay in Sri Lanka’s famous walled city
We landed in Colombo Airport in Sri Lanka’s capital where we were greeted by the warm smile of our driver and began the three-hour drive to our first port of call - Jetwing Lighthouse in Sri Lanka’s famous walled city of Galle, on the Southwestern coast of Sri Lanka.
The lobby reception at the lighthouse opens onto a view of the sea and the famous Galle Fort - a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Galle’s Old Town. The Galle Fort, or Dutch Fort as it is also known, was built by the Portuguese - the old town is a beautiful blend of cultural history with exquisite narrow streets packed full of chic cafe's, hotels, markets and boutique shops.
It is here at The Lighthouse that, just after the 2004 tsunami in which so many Sri Lankan children died because they couldn’t swim, a local swimming pool was created in the sea to allow children to learn how to swim - some twenty years on it’s still there.
I’ve stayed at Jetwing Lighthouse before, so I knew what to expect, however, for my female companions, this was their first visit, and the looks on their faces when they opened the door to their rooms was priceless. Teak polished floors and beautiful four poster beds, green shutters and the most stunning views give this hotel the absolute WOW factor.
I mean really the word ‘lighthouse’ doesn’t do the hotel any justice whatsoever. This is one of the best and most luxurious hotels in Galle, boasting splendid architecture and an unapparelled location with 20 divine hotel rooms.
When you stay at Jetwing Lighthouse, expect to feel like extended family. It’s a beautiful place owned and run by beautiful people who cannot do enough to make their guests feel truly at home.
A great way to see Galle and learn about the city’s colourful and enchanting history is to hire a guide.
We took a guided tour with local author and photographer and a good friend of mine - Juliet Coombe. Juliet provides wonderful insights into life and the characters in Galle Fort. She’s been living in the city for 25 years and this tour is well worth the $25* per person (from).
Her children’s one-hour tailor-made experience to secret spots includes some homemade ice cream and a meeting with the Fort's last traditional storyteller.
Juliet told us stories of ‘The Turtle Man’ who spends his mornings spotting turtles off the rocks outside the hotel, so the following morning, before we tucked into an incredible breakfast at The Lighthouse, we joined Chappa (the chap’s real name) and climbed over the rocks to view the turtles with him. An early morning well spent.
For more up-close and personal experiences with the turtles, just a few minutes drive away from Galle, Mahamodara Sea Turtle Hatchery is one of many conservation centres that rescue injured turtles. The family-run turtle rescue center with tanks for the injured & newly hatched babies is a conservation project and worth the visit.
Our rather authentic turtle-viewing experience on Galle’s rocky shoreline was followed by a snorkelling adventure at nearby Hikkaduwa Beach. Lahiru from Sri Lanka’s International Diving School was our instructor for the afternoon who was just brilliant and helped Laura’s daughter to really tackle her fear of the water. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn out to dive.
We spent two days in Galle. We could have absolutely stayed longer. There is plenty to see and do and it’s a great base for exploring further afield.
Our final evening was spent tucking into the most incredible Sri Lankan curries at a local haunt and hidden-gem of a restaurant, or rather, a hut. We ate like kings for £15.
As the sun set over Galle Fort we took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel ahead of our next adventure and more post-divorce therapy.
2) Saman Villas in Bentara - oceanside luxury on the sandy shores of the Southern coast
An hour’s drive north of Galle, the next few nights were spent in Saman Villas.
This boutique hotel, probably the most famous boutique hotel in Sri Lanka, like Jetwing Lighthouse, belongs to The Jetwing family and it’s nothing short of heaven.
The whole place oozes dreamy sophisticated and romance - probably a bit too much romance for two middle-aged females and a couple of teenagers in tow but nevertheless, we were here and we sure as hell was going to enjoy this exquisite place.
It almost made me want to search for romance once more. Almost.
You’d be hard pushed to match Saman Villas. The infinity pool with its far-reaching coastal views over the aqua waters of the Indian Ocean is simply breath-taking. The hotel’s enviable location, perched on a rocky headland dividing two long and seemingly endless beaches of golden sand, is exquisite. It all pushes the boundaries of luxury.
Our double room boasts its own private pool and the kids are in it before we can say G&T!
This hotel has it all;
-The spa offers everything you need to restore and unwind
-Exceptional service includes 24hr personalized butler service
-Breath-taking views - the sunsets are something else…
- And of course that unique hospitality and warmth of the Sri Lankan’s that’s neither never too much, or not enough.
3) Yathra Houseboat in Bentara - floating 5 star luxury
We ended this leg of our adventure with a trip on Sri Lanka’s first houseboat - Yathra Houseboat. A luxury floating echo-friendly vessel that cruises gently into the Sri Lankan jungle - along the Bentara River. Another luxurious masterpiece belonging to The Jetwing family, visitors can sleep on this 5 star boat (we didn’t), or simply enjoy dining on deck, over the gentle waters, or on the rooftop deck under the stars. We did just that.
As we gently floated down the Bentara river deep into the Mango groves, we encountered wildlife including kingfishers and marsh crocodiles – as dinner was served we spotted huge fruit bats and owls before our driver delivered us all back to Saman Villas.
Jetwing Safari Camp - a luxurious tented adventure in the heart of Yala National Park
Sri Lanka is a great destination for a safari and the place to do it is in the vast and untamed Yala National Park. A three and a half hour drive from Bentota (two and half hours from Galle and four hours from Colombo), the park, which covers nearly one thousand square kilometres, is located in Sri Lanka's south-east and hugs the Indian Ocean.
Yala boasts the highest concentration of leopards in the world, and many Indian elephants roam free through forests and grassland. Whilst crocs swim in its swaps and lagoons. It rivals parts of Africa for a once-in-a-lifetime safari experience. And in my opinion, it’s a better option for anyone who wants an authentic safari experience with kids in tow.
3) Our third accommodation was Jetwing Safari Camp, which promises wildlife enthusiasts a camping experience like no other. And for post-divorce therapy it ticks all the boxes too.
Luxurious and elegantly designed tents provide an immersive experience among the sights and sounds of the island’s remarkable fauna. With a team of attentive butlers and passionate rangers, and more of that all-important authentic Sri Lankan hospitality, a stay a Jetwing Safari Camp promises amazing memories from start to finish.
We rose very early on our first morning in Yala, and as the scorching sun rose over the plains, we headed out on a game drive with resident on-site naturalist and head ranger - Chamara Amarasinghe - who is also a sustainability expert.
We were lucky enough to see many elephants in the morning sun, but unfortunately, the leopards evaded us. Still, it was a magical experience for us all.
Much of our time in Yala was spent swinging in hammocks sipping cocktails from the beach bar, adjacent to the camp.
And as this incredible soul searching, post-divorce therapy, seven-night adventure came to a near end, with just one last Jetwing hotel lined up for us before our flight home - we sat quietly and relaxed in the raw natural beauty that surrounded us. Enjoying our final eve in the camp, where cows graze by the pool and every so often, the camp’s most famous visitor, an elephant called Nettakota, will occasionally wander into reception and back out again.
4) Our final night was in the iconic Columbo Seven hotel
The following day, and a four-hour journey across the island by car, our lovely driver delivered us to the Columbo Seven hotel in Sri Lanka’s Capilal of Columbo. Built on land owned by Jetwing Hotel’s Founder - Herbert Cooray, the hotel is located in the upscale neighbourhood of Cinnamon Gardens.
Rising high above the city, the hotel boasts the most amazing rooftop bar with gorgeous views across this bustling city. A sense of calm washed over us as we studied the craziness of Columbo from above, down on the streets below.
We sipped yet more cocktails and reminisced over the last seven days, and with a heavy heart, in the knowledge that we have only but scraped the surface of this incredibly island – a pact was made.
'Same time next year then ladies!'
Same island, but a totally different itinerary.
In 2023, together we will discover the lesser known North of Sri Lanka and we’ll be sure to report back to Girl About Travel readers with every little incredible detail.
Thanks to Jetwing hotels for making each and every stay so remarkable.
As post-divorce therapy goes, this adventure has given me a completely new lease of life and I’m grabbing it by the horns and taking every adventure head-on.
Jetwing hotels - a luxury hospitality business with enviable sustainable credentials
The story behind Jetwing’s sustainable credentials is one worth studying, especially if sustainable tourism is important to you. And it should be!
Yala National Park is located in the dry arid zone of Sri Lanka and (along with the other large hotels in this part of the country) uses a colossal amount of water – using water from the much-needed water supplies of local villages.
The family behind Jetwing Hotels, now the largest resort brand in the island, with 30 properties across Sri Lanka, went on to devise a system that de-salinates (removes the salt from) sea water so it can used throughout Jetwing Safari Camp. Thanks to this reverse osmosis plant, which also features an energy recovery unit that helps reduce energy demand by one third (and looks a little bit like something from The Wizard of Oz), the camp treats and reuses 100% of its wastewater on-site through the dedicated Wastewater Treatment Plant from which it collects black, grey, and laundry water separately, in order to improve the efficiency of the system.
Just some of the ways in which Jetwing and the family behind the company is working alongside local communities to ensure they are a leading sustainable hospitality brand.