How did we get here?
We are friends with impossibly long last names, who went to university together here in Sri Lanka, taking time off between classes and exams for road trips, up-country camping and just chillaxing under an ancient banyan tree, making grand, exciting plans for our glorious futures.
Tourism and hospitality run in my family. My father managed one of Sri Lanka’s largest inbound tour operators in the ’60s and ‘70s, happier days for this palm-dappled isle blissfully situated just south of the equator in the Indian Ocean. Political realities meant following in my father’s footsteps was not immediately an option when I reached adulthood.
We each joined the corporate world yet kept a piece of our hearts, and as much time as our workloads allowed, in the timeless landscape which provoked many an ancient mariner to mistake our native island for the Garden of Eden. “The Ultimate Campers” we humbly called ourselves. More than once we would each set off from home for work yet somehow end up camping together at Hatharaman Handiya, Horton Plains or among the elephants and leopards of Yala. This was a time ‘B.M.P.’ before mobile phones, so we would trek deep into the Sri Lankan jungles with our camping gear and without any news of the world until we re-emerged, usually three days later. Then we didn’t appreciate how those innocent adventures provided our monthly stress relief. Admittedly with cigarettes and arrack in our packs, we were nonetheless establishing some vital work-life balance at the start of our adult lives.
Climbing to higher rungs on our respective professional ladders meant disbanding the brotherhood for business school in America followed by global strategy consulting for me while others excelled in their careers at Harvard and USAID, investment banking in Australia and entrepreneurship in Dubai.
Success, I found, came with its challenges. Responsibilities, insecurities, uncertainties and aging bombarded me daily. As these human realities took a toll on my health, I knew I had to find ways to manage this ‘success stress.’ My soul mate, the mother of my daughter, introduced me to yoga, meditation and healthy eating. Surprisingly to me, along with calculable health benefits, these lifestyle choices brought back those feelings of peace, freedom and wholeness I recognised from our youthful community forged in the untrammelled jungle.
As the global conversation about sustainability heated up, I understood this must start within each of us. Human resilience requires physical, mental and emotional balance. As I realigned my body, mind and spirit, wellness followed. The businessman in me curiously dug deeper, unsatisfied merely to have improved my own condition. From this journey inspired, guided and supported by my wife, I have come to understand that we as humans thrive in harmony with our external and internal selves. Santani is about thriving.