I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this while traveling, but the Brits are EVERYWHERE. Especially British couples. I felt like everywhere I went, I encountered a new happy pair of adorable English folk. I never found one that was alone. They always appeared as a precious, perfect example of what we all want love to be. And it was welcome. Particularly in Sri Lanka, where early on in my stay there the trains, busses and life in general could be a foreign and terrifying experience. So an English accent was one of the most comforting things I could imagine. Other than maybe a decent hamburger.
A few weeks ago I met the 38th adorable British couple since I began my journey. I was on a bus. Sri Lankan busses are an experience. They go 80 miles an hour at all times, blare Sinhalese party music, usually have both Buddhist and Hindu idols somewhere aboard, don’t seem to have a maximum occupancy, and don’t brake for ANYTHING including pedestrians and blind turns. But they do honk defensively every 20 or 30 seconds just in case you didn’t happen to notice the bus headed straight for you at 80 miles an hour. The seats are also made for someone approximately half my size, so you tend to share personal space with several other people while traveling. They are usually a breezy 75 degrees while moving, but as soon as they stop, the temperature climbs to a sweltering 104.
A few stops after I got on, as I was sharing sweat with the man seated next to me, they boarded and came to stand by my seat. Tom and Lucy from Manchester. While traveling alone, I’m making a huge effort to talk to strangers more often than I normally would. I think it’s a super important life skill to work on. So I struck up conversation. Tom was a cop. He was tall, had light blue eyes, dark hair, a short, well-trimmed beard and giant arms. He might make someone want to move to England, start an underground fighting ring, and advertise it sloppily on the off chance that he might be the one to bust it up. Then maybe you’d strike up conversation in the squad car and he’d decide to take you out for a drink instead of going to the station. I don’t remember what Lucy looked like. We talked for a few hours about life and travels and the fact that I should probably not visit Manchester and then they got off the bus. Leaving my life forever.
A few days before that, while climbing Ella Rock, I ran into Greg and Kelly. They were headed down the path while I was ascending. They were both blond, young and fit, but so pasty that they clearly hadn’t been in Sri Lanka very long. They told me I was getting close to the top and that there were a lot of dogs up there. I caught up to them again on the walk back along the train tracks and decided to slow down so we could be friends. At this point one of the dogs from the top had fully adopted them and had followed them for the last few miles. They had named him Rupert. Completely without irony, they used words like “blimey” and “bloke” and would say things like “Rupert sure looks peaky doesn’t he, Greg?” or “We quit our jobs to travel, too! Isn’t that what we did, Kelly?” I loved them so much.
On a train my first week in Sri Lanka I met Maggie and her husband, a smallish man who wore a floppy hat who never spoke. She got on the train and was talking loudly on her phone. “Yeah, we just got on the train! What’s that, dear? Oh no, it isn’t nice AT ALL.” She talked my ear off for the next hour and helped get me acclimated to the entire train experience. They were an elderly couple who had been to Sri Lanka 4 times, India twice and all over the rest of the world. They had the leathery skin of the kind of people who’ve been in the sun for most of their lives. They were an inspiration.