‘This journey has been fun and inspired me to travel more’

  • Achini Udayarathne on creating travel content online

Achini Udayarathne, better known by her Instagram name @sl_runaway_girl, turned her all-time passion and hobby travelling into an opportunity for content creation by utilising social media platforms.

Brunch had a chat with her to learn more about her travels and social media content creation.

Following are excerpts of the interview.

How did you discover your passion for travel?

When I was a little girl, we used to hike to a hermitage situated on a mountain in my father’s village for a dana ceremony, once a year. As I grew up, I noticed that I was eagerly waiting for that day every year, because it was a very beautiful mountain near the Sinharaja Forest, and there was a cascade of waterfalls. This eagerness in me was how I noticed that I love to travel and explore nature.

What inspired you to start a travel blog and how has the journey been so far?

At first, I started travelling with my friends to beautiful places and took pictures for my pleasure, but I never thought to start a travel blog. But I had the habit of posting those pics randomly on social media. Once, one of my friends from Jaffna, Danny, suggested that I start a travel blog and he immensely helped me to start my Instagram travel blog.

This journey has been so cool from the beginning, as it inspired me to travel more and more. I’m also so thankful to my travel buddies, because they are the scene supporters behind every picture and travel story.

What is your most memorable travel experience?

It was my first long-distance travel experience and it was an unforgettable journey from Kandy to Ella by train. We hiked to Ella Rock early in the morning and then visited the Nine Arch Bridge. In the afternoon, we hiked to Little Adam’s Peak and then came back to Nuwara Eliya by evening. The next day, we visited Horton Plains. It is my most memorable travel experience because it was from that day onwards that I started ticking off my bucket list.

Have you been anywhere that turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

Yes. Nil Diya Pokuna is one of them. It’s an underwater pond near Ella and we imagined a route with rat holes to reach the pond. As we have seen in the photos, the entrance of the cave was very small, but after we entered from it, there were huge cave spaces inside. It was completely the opposite of what we’ve imagined it to be. We didn’t even bend down to reach the pond. There were some hard and rough places, but after the entrance, the path was flagged even though it was pitch dark.

What has been your most successful blog post to date and what was it about?

One of them is my post about Knuckles Five Peaks. It was posted on Environmental Day and I spoke about the rich environmental value of the Knuckles Mountain Range.

What are the biggest challenges you faced when you started out your travel blog? Anything you would’ve done differently today?

Making good travel content was the biggest challenge; posting continuously was a challenge while balancing my studies. The first challenge I faced was giving my photographs a good edit. Somehow I studied some tutorials and learned to do my edits through lightroom mobile.

Mostly, I write blogs about locations, but sometimes we must be cautious about this too, as some travellers don’t respect nature, and the pollution they do is irreversible. Thus, finding the correct and best audience was also a challenge.

A different thing I have done while travelling is participating in many volunteer programmes. So, while I travelled, I was also able to help rural students in many ways. It’s been a great pleasure to me.

What are your travel plans for the rest of the year? Are there any bucket list destinations you will be ticking off?

I have no proper plans for the rest of the year due to the Covid situation. But if I am able to, I would love to tick off Baththalangunduwa, off season Sri Pada, Knuckles-Thunhisgala hike, and Wawathanna camping from my bucket list.

Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers?

Yes. Most of the girls think that girls can’t travel alone. All I have to say is that I have travelled a lot only with my girl besties and we always had a totally safe environment. And sometimes people worry about money. In my opinion, if you really need to travel, you can start from small budgets. The only thing you need for travelling is courage. Additionally, and most importantly, if you start travelling, do care about the environment. Do not pollute and destroy the beautiful places. Always be nature-friendly.

Instagram: @sl_runaway_girl