Shaping our future ~ A new adventure begins

IF you have been following our Green Global Trek, you know that we lived for 6 years in Nicaragua before launching on the the Asia leg of our trek.

We had an explicit intention to select a country to base ourselves in for a few years, and from which to explore the region.  We set out with a list of criteria and lived sequentially in Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and now we’ve made a decision.

It looks like we are going to go from “empty nester” to “double nester”.

Ben has orchestrated a work scope which will require him to spend considerable time in both Sri Lanka and Viet Nam (as well as travel in the region).

Our home base will therefore be… DRUM ROLL… Unawatuna, a short tuk tuk ride from the UNESCO world heritage site of Fort Galle.

And our “home away from home” will be in Hoi An Viet Nam (




It was on this day, on this beach at this spot that we made the decision to live here, that will shape our lives to come.


Vintage poster of the beach in Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, captures the feeling of nostalgia and old world charm that is still pervasive today.



Fishermen today in the region, still use wooden posts in some areas, for fishing, much as they have done for generations.



Tea remains Sri Lanka’s largest export and is part of the culture. Growing up in South Africa, Peta appreciates the value of a good cup of tea, to punctuate the day and the notion that a “cup of tea” solves all.

IMG_6182 IMG_6184


Enjoying the breeze and fresh air at the ramparts. Built by the Portuguese at a strategic location in 1588 and then extensively augmented by the Dutch in the 1700s. Fort Galle is now a UNESCO World Heritage site recognized for the rich collection of buildings that blend European and South Asian architectural styles. To this date, the ramparts of Fort Galle provide unequaled protection to its population. In 2004 a devastating tsunami destroyed a large part of the city of Galle, but the historic enclave was protected in its entirety by the large ramparts.

IMG_0282Sweeping views from the ramparts, include the Catholic church, a testament to the once vibrant Christian community in Fort Galle. Today Fort Galle’s population is equally divided between Muslims, Hindus and Christians who all live in harmony.


We are here on one of the last days of the month of Ramadan, the holiest time for Muslims. This young boy is enjoying the open space adjacent to the ramparts, with his friends. We look forward to learning more about the Sri Lankan Muslim population’s experience ~ history and culture.


One can gauge the significant height of the fortress walls by comparing to the height of the two people on one of the small coves to be found at the foot of the fortress walls.


The lighthouse is a natural social gathering point for the community at dusk when the heat of the day subsides.


A small protected beach, provides a perfect spot for a dip in the ocean. (Fully clothed off course, given the required modesty of the Muslim and Buddhist community.)


This photo, one of our favorites, from our first visit to Sri Lanka. Peta easily initiates conversations. Here she befriends a group of young Muslim women and their children.


A small Buddhist stuppa graces the front promenade of Fort Galle.

The historic walled city of Fort Galle is adjacent to the bustling modern day city of Galle. Fishermen work the nearby waters and bring in their catch for immediate sale on the beach along the coastal road.


Bundles of fishing nets lined up on the beach create a modern art type installation.


Fresh fish for sale by the pound. (Prediction: I will be coming here to buy fish for a stray cat or two….)

After spending a weekend being hosted at the lovely Kikili Beach (see last blog entry), we have made a big decision. This is the location we really like. Not in the city of Galle itself, but close enough that we can go back and forth by tuk tuk or motorbike. Close enough to walk to a really attractive beach with soft white sand and palm trees, and close enough to walk to the yoga center we discovered. There are rice paddies, lush forest and the tranquility of the countryside.

While I (Peta) am getting a massage at the yoga center, Ben borrows a motor scooter and I know that by the time my massage is over, he will probably come back announcing that he has found a few options for us to consider for rental, when we return towards the end of summer. Now that we have made a decision about our desired location, it would not be out of character for Ben to move fast to concretize our decision and “lock something in.”

And indeed, “classic Ben” move, he comes back to the yoga center with a large smile on his face and four potential places to show me which are all available for rent now or in the months to come. They are all within close proximity to the yoga center and super affordable. Woo hoo!!

Game ON!

All four selections turn out to be viable living options.  I ask Ben how he found these spots. And in two cases, he literally saw houses he liked and knocked on the door to find out who was living there.

This is remindful of Hoi An, where we lived for 3 months, when I, from the back of the bike while riding through a large organic herb farm, exclaimed “Now THIS is where I would like to live.” Ben got off the bike and started talking to farmers. A day later we were living with the woman we now affectionately call “auntie”, a farmer who opened her house and family to us, spoke no English and with whom we lived until we found our own home to rent on the organic farm.



Peta getting an education from “auntie”, in organic farming the” Tra Que” way ~ using river seaweed as compost and chili peppers as pest control.


Love this woman who exhibits strength and grace every day of her life. She is up at 5 a.m. to harvest her greens for market and has a beautiful melodic voice ~ she sings melodically while harvesting and tried valiantly to teach me a few Vietnamese songs. (Haha not an easy task on so many levels!)


On business topics, Ben often refers to an approach he learned while working for Boeing as VP of Strategy for one of their business units: Success comes from “shaping the market“. Decide what you want, and go from there to make it happen. A core part of our Green Global Trek philosophy and approach to life and travel.

“Shaping the market” in the case of the search for our home, an anchor for the next few years, means that the realm of places for us to live does not have to be limited by the inventory of landlords who have decided to rent their spaces.  Find the spaces that appeal, knock on doors and see what happens….. This approach once again, yields success.


It came down to two viable options:

Option 1 – Traditional rural house in pretty bad shape, but restorable ~ could we turn this into a fabulous home? Sure…  but… the landlord!  Not the type of personality we want to deal with on an ongoing basis. So nix this one.




A small Buddhist temple on the hill, behind this house.



Option #2, has us riding the motorbike past open rice fields and cows ~ now that’s a good start in OUR book..


Rice fields along the way. (Currently not in use as it is not the rice growing season.)


Cows resting in the shade of a coconut tree on the side of the road.


A tree lined sand road leads to a simple, well located shell of a house. Recently partially built and uninhabited. We see this house as a “blank canvas” under the trees.


“Check out all this space on the side of the house, and in the back!” (Ben) “Perfect spot for an ayurvedic herb garden, and a flower garden to attract butterflies” (Peta).


This could be a very spacious cool living room area! Used as a storage space right now, but we see the potential!



One of three small bedrooms. Certainly not in “move in” condition. But that scares us not, it actually motivates us… “Hmmm, what can we do with this place?”


On this side of the house, next to a forested area to the right, the space is being used as a cement block making workshop. We can think of MANY things we could and would use this space for…. ! Keep reading the blog, and watch the space blossom…

This concrete shell, has no current kitchen to speak of, just a room allocated for future use, no bathroom. It does have wiring for electricity, and a well for water. What it does have in abundance, is a canopy of green trees and a ton of potential for those with imagination.


Of course, many people would stop right here and walk away. However, we certainly have the necessary design and project management skills to pull this off. No problemo. After all, we have done this in Nicaragua. First with the totally rundown shack we bought and rebuilt and lived in for 6 years in Granada, and then taking a concrete shell and building a stunning bamboo house above it as an example of the work our company could do in the bamboo housing business we created in Nicaragua.

On our very first trip to Granada, Nicaragua in 2006 we bought a derelict house on the last day of our trip.  Below are a few “before” and “after”, photographs.

It was easy for us to envision what we could create and turn this neglected space into. Initially we thought we would wait to build, but the time our plane landed back in Chicago, we had designed the whole house and six months later the house was built.


Before. Roof falling down, old broken well. Dark dingy rooms. Granada at this time, was pretty much “off the map” as a location for mainstream tourism and certainly there were not many foreigners building homes there.


It was easy for us to envision what we could create and turn this space into.














We transformed a neglected shack, sad and falling apart, into a lush oasis in the Historic district of Granada.



We designed every detail of this house. Every curve, every tile, every inch was carefully thought out, with air flow and simplicity in mind. Doesn’t hurt to have an structural engineers daughter with an artist eye and a French fashion designer’s son’s flair for design.

And so, a new adventure begins….

Our plan is to rent this little house nestled under the trees, and invest some time and effort and as little money as possible, to build a unique and creative space. Our inspiration will be nature, the nearby gorgeous yoga center and the Sri Lankan appreciation of color. The money we invest will be in lieu of rent, until such time as our investment is reimbursed.

One  more wink at our future life in Unawatuna ~ the yoga studio with salt water infinity pool, now minutes from our humble (really humble, at present) abode.


The pool next to the yoga shala is beautiful. It’s huge, it has a view into the trees. Having this resource just minutes from where we will be living, is a huge asset to both of us.

We look forward to visit from our sons, family and friends and hope this future nest proves as much of a magnet as our home in Nicaragua was.  Our model as empty nesters toward our sons is “build it and they will come”.  By so doing, we have the pleasure of their company as well as contribute to their exposure to new cultures.

57 thoughts on “Shaping our future ~ A new adventure begins

  1. carolinehelbig

    I greatly admire you guys for taking on this new adventure…and having the courage, vision, and ability needed to transform this “shell” and pretty property into something you will love (amazing what you did in Granada!). You’ve really turned me on to Sri Lanka and I will be reading with much interest (and awe) as your new adventure unfolds.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thank you for the compliments Caroline.

      We enjoy the process of transformation, as much as the end result. There is a huge feeling of satisfaction in designing a house whereby all the details that are important to us are incorporated to create a comfy home. The creative process has much value in and of itself as well.

      Our house in Granada really turned out exactly as we envisioned it. It was a big project, but well worth it.

      This house, as well as our bamboo house in Granada, were featured in “Houzz” an online architecture and design magazine.

      So glad that we have you excited about Sri Lanka!


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Louise.

      We do work well together and actually over several years launched two distinct businesses together and enjoy the constant problem solving and creative process that comes with being entrepeneurs…

      The first business we launched was Ethnicities ~ importing artisanal furniture from Argentina. The second, was CO2Bambu, a bamboo plantation and housing business in Nicaragua.


  2. Sue Slaght

    Wow! I so admire your open minded visions, your ability to see the potential, your willingness to start anew. I very much look forward to reading of your new life and the chapters of this new chapter in your book.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Sue, we look forward to sharing our adventures and progress on the blog.

      Starting “anew” speaks to the issue of change. Life with Ben is NEVER boring, but thats one of the reasons I love him so and enjoy the fact that change is a constant and never ceases to deliver interesting life opportunities for us.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Gili.

      We look very forward to having family visit. We are already all booked up for March!! Email me before you book! 🙂 See you in Sri Lanka, or Viet Nam.


  3. lexklein

    Oh, I’d love to do this, but I don’t think I’d have your guts! Or your patience and talent. Or a husband who would sign on with me for such a venture. I am captivated by the challenge and hope you will keep posted about the new venture – both business and personal. I am going to read your Houzz article, too! What fun!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Lex, glad to have you reading our blog and look forward to sharing our next adventure with you!


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Alison and Don.

      If you see the reply below to Caroline’s comment, there are two links embedded, which give a great history and overview of our house in Granada and the bamboo house we built there as well, which one of our sons lived in for a while.


  4. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    You and Ben have as much energy as imagination. Can’t wait to see the house as you work to create a habitable place. I love your attitude – possibility, can do, and respect for the local culture.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thank you Sharon.

      Your comments really resonate. Respect for the local culture is core to our approach, always.

      When we first moved to Nicaragua, our entry move before laying the first brick in the house, was to launch an art project at a local school in our neighborhood. Our motivation: by working with and for the community we live in, we would fast track the process of becoming “nearly local”. That art program which started off serving 10 children, grew over several semesters into a rich collection of classes (painting, photography, tile making….) and served about 200 children.

      Thereafter, we became known in the community (before we launched our low cost bamboo housing business) as “that couple that started the art program for the community’s kids.”

      Connectivity to the local population is a key element of integrating into the community. No doubt, that as our home takes shape, so will a variety of other projects to integrate ourselves into the Unawatuna/Fort Galle community.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Anabel.

      We have so many ideas brimming right now… It is really such a fun process to take a blank canvas and create something new. As a painter, its easy to envision what “could be.”

      Do sign up as a “follower” of the blog and that way you will get automatic updates of the process…


  5. Sharon Rosenzweig

    I always expect the unexpected from Peta and Ben.

    How did you decide on this location out of all the amazing places you’ve described? What was it about your weekend at Kikili beach that made you want to be more settled? So many questions…

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Well, as you probably know, we had a basket of criteria, documented many a time in past blog posts. We balanced: the ability to create work, proximity to a beach or body of water, a large trove of cultural richness, and opportunities for impact, social and/or environmental.

      See just one of the blog posts addressing this selection process, written in another strong contender — Luang Prabang, Laos:

      Not sure the term “settled” applies very well to us, rather we think of it as a regional anchor to keep exploring the region while not being on the move continually.

      So much yet to discover in Sri Lanka and of course the overall region. We will be just an hours flight away from India, an few hours from Viet Nam, Indonesia, Malaysia…….

      Peta & Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      We eventually sold our house in Granada, Nicaragua because we needed the money to fund the next phase in our lives.

      It was hard to say goodbye to a place we loved so much, but then again, that is all part of the process of appreciating impermanence and letting go, in order to move forward. It was definitely a process for me.

      Before we moved to Nicaragua, we had a cosy nest of a home in Chicago and that was hard to leave to. I thought we would never be able to replicate the feeling we had while in that beautiful house. And yet, in Nicaragua we created something new and equally fabulous but in different ways.

      Unawatuna is yet to reveal itself in its details but we have the confidence that it too will become a beautiful home.

      Peta & Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Proactive is indeed the key attribute required to “shape the market”. We have been consistently rewarded in our lives by taking some risk, formulating a vision, and working hard as hell to execute the vision. We too are interested to see how the house turns out!


  6. LaVagabonde

    I like how you can see potential in rundown, neglected places and have such motivation to see it through. You’re right, the process is as rewarding as the result. Best of luck to you. Looking forward to seeing the results! –Julie

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Julie.

      We start here with a much humbler abode than your magnificent apartment building in Angers. In the past, we used our house in Nicaragua many times over to do home exchanges all over the world. Once this house is complete, we hope to do the same thing. Who knows…. perhaps there is an Angers/Sri Lankan exchange in our mutual future?

      Ben is French yet has never been to Angers. We have travelled many times together to France and would look forward to discovering a new destination in France!

      Stay tuned….!


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Gib, we are wondering how long it will take before you come and check out the bamboo situation in Sri Lanka!


  7. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

    Helen K:

    All I can say is we have the same taste!! Two of my fave places, Unawatuna, all time best beach, and charming Hoi An, great picks. Have a good time, Helen

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Oh we do! What are the odds of having the same fave places in the world? Lets exchange homes!


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Magic moments of manifestation happening. Originally Ben was convinced that Fort Galle was the place to live, I was not sure. I was looking for something more immersed in nature. So here having the beach, the forest AND a gorgeous yoga center as a no brainer!


  8. Maya

    Good luck in your next chapter, that’s very exciting! I’ve never seen pics of the Granada house from before, it’s very impressive what you did with it. It was such an Oasis and I am sure your new place will be the same.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Maya!

      We just found the album with those photos of the Granada house and what it looked like when we bought it. It was such fun to see them after all these years!

      We kept the basic layout of the rooms being in an “L shape” and around an open courtyard, but other than reusing the red ceramic roof tiles, we rebuilt and redesigned the whole house. Yes, it really was an oasis and we are hopefull that this house in Sri Lanka, will have its own unique “flavor” yet the same feeling of tranquility.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Sal. We are hoping that it WILL be! You guys should come and visit us there…


  9. joannesisco

    Wow – this is an exciting new chapter!! I love the energy and enthusiasm the two of you throw into your decision making. You know what you want and you work like hell to make it happen. Awesome!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Yes, this is definitely an exciting phase! We have invested about two years to refine our priorities of how we want to shape our next chapter of life. Now that we have zeroed in on Unawatuna in Sri Lanka and Hoi An in Viet Nam, comes the fun part of setting up our bases, which will take several weeks.

      It will be interesting transitioning from nomadic to having two! nests…

      The added layers that come from extended time in a place, will provide richness and depth to our experience. What new friends will we make? What animals will cross our path? What projects will we get involved in? And… which home will we spend more time in and which will we like best?


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Linda, glad to have you as a reader of Green Global Trek. I am enjoying reading your blog about life on the farm in Colorado as well.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks! Absolutely, we will have an extra room and look forward to having friends and family visit either in Sri Lanka or in Viet Nam.


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Kirt.

      Yup, we were super pleased with the end result on our hoise in Nicaragua! It was fun to revisit the “before” photos, whch we have not seen in years.


  10. Kim E Obermeyer

    Hi Guys,
    Wow, you do get around, sounds awesome. You probably don’t remember but we were in touch while you were in nicaragua regarding bamboo building. I am looking for builders and designers etc to build bamboo houses in northern nica- would like to make it happen this time. Could you put me in contact with people you trained who are still active? Do you know the status of guadua treatment and availability (ie. Is the workshop still functioning)? Anyway , best of luck on your new endeavor and email directly if you like at

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hi Kim, nice to hear from you! Thanks for reading our blog.
      We will respond to you via email. Great to hear you are hoping to move forward with bamboo construction.


  11. My Inner Chick

    *What it does have in abundance, is a canopy of green trees and a ton of potential for those with imagination.*

    Love that sentence.

    Reading about your great adventure and seeing these AMAZING photos is breathtaking.

    Thank you for inspiring all of us!

    From MN.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks MN for the lovely compliments. I love that sentence too. (Credit goes to Ben.)

      So glad you are enjoying the photos and the adventure!


  12. GreenGlobalTrek Post author


    Hey sweeties, how are things working! I just read your last blogpost, and whoooowwwu, CONGRATULATIONS! This is an incredible development of manifestation! I remember you were telling on my last day in sri lanka that you were thinking about finding a house in galle and now. Kabooooooom:-))) when are you moving????

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hi Bea sweetie,

      Amazing how that manifestation thing works, huh?! Thanks! Can’t wait to have you visit us there. Serendipitous meeting you at the airport and sharing lovely time together.

      We will be in Viet Nam end September and probably by end October in Sri Lanka.


  13. Danny

    Congrats on starting this new chapter! I would love to visit both Sri Lanka and Vietnam – they seem like such beautiful places. By the way, I really like your photo with the cloaked buddhist monk statues on the hill. 🙂

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