First visit in Sri Lanka from family…

Our nest is full!

Oren and his fiancee Jess, came to visit us in Sri Lanka over Christmas and New Year. This was their first trip to Asia and we were super excited to host them and share Sri Lanka with them. They live in Chicago, where winters are long and harsh. Jess is Brazilian (from Sao Paolo) and warm weather and beaches are something she needs for survival.

We prioritized beach and time in the sun by planning a road trip that took us from Unawatuna beach, close to us, to a string of our favorite beaches further South. We incorporated a few visits to Buddhist temples, and a day of safari in a game park. They were our first of the family to visit and we enjoyed every minute with them.

Oren had a motorbike when he lived in Granada, Nicaragua for 3 years. So he was super stoked to have wheels waiting for him!

How does a Jewish family, living in a Buddhist/Muslim/Hindu country, share the “spirit of Christmas” with a Catholic Brazilian girl who celebrates Christmas, and is spending her first Christmas away from her parents? Answer: Buy a small symbolic tree,  a few ornaments and an pile of small gifts to open at the beach on Christmas eve. Peta’s first tree ever!

Sri Lankan curry dinner ~ which traditionally entails numerous dishes with a variety of spicy curries. So much fun to share this local cuisine with them. They loved it!

Yoga is always on the menu. It was very fun to go to one of our favorite yoga studios with Oren and Jess and have them experience yoga in the tropics.

Our Buddhist neighbors came over with cute handmade Christmas cards. Jess enjoyed meeting them and afterwards she and Oren bought them a bucket of multicolored pens and pads and little toys.


An assortment of beaches: small, large, populated, deserted… They wanted to forget about the cold weather in Chicago, and we delivered.

So nice to have Oren and Jess with us!!!

Wijaya beach ~ with its protected cove and calm waters. Getting a geography lesson about Brazil, from Jess.

A stretch of public beach ~ with kids playing cricket (the favorite sport in Sri Lanka) and novice monks enjoying the edge of the waves.

Traditional Sri Lankan stilt fishermen in the distance, poised like flamingoes on one leg, in the ocean.

Still fishing as the sun goes down.

Hiriketiya beaach ~ few people, lots of surf waves and great sunsets.

Perfect beach for some surfing the waves.

Jess on the right, Oren on the left.

Tired but happy…

The best seafood is that which is eaten with one’s feet in the sand!

Finding a good spot on the rocks to watch the sun go down.


A cow strolls by and Ben takes the opportunity to go and say hi.

A dose of luxury for a drink and lunch, beach front.

Catching the rays….

Sri Lanka is known for its palm shaded coves.


Ben had temple fever and wanted to stop at every temple we passed. And that would be a whole LOT of temples.. We managed to limit him to just a few selected ones, such as the cave temples near Dikwella. To get there, it’s a  nice drive through lush countryside of rice paddies with water buffaloes and smaller temples along the way. And then, a climb up hundreds of steps…

A herd of water buffalo passes us by along the way. Buffalo curd is a specialty of Southern Sri Lanka (and tastes like a tangy yogurt.)

Somewhere up there.. are the temple caves we are about to visit.

The caves are built high into the hillside, with about four levels of temples to see.

It’s definitely a good work out going up all those steps, something they both enjoyed.

Tackling the stairs like a pro…

Buddhist cave temples richly decorated with ancient painted murals on the walls and ceilings. (The paintings are about 3,000 years old.) We come bearing lotus flowers for Buddha.

Each cave temple has different sculptures of Lord Buddha. Here an approximately 30 ft long reclining Buddha.

A decorated doorway into one of the many caves…

Four of them ~ four of us.

Finally we reach the last temple at the top, and receive blessings for a happy life.

And then down again….

As we get to the bottom, a wave of elderly pilgrims is about to make their way up the steep steps.


Sri Lanka has 16 national parks, a large number of wildlife parks for an island that is only about one sixth the size of California, or one tenth the size of France.

We woke up at 4.30 a.m. to be at the game park when the sun rose. Being the busiest time of the year for visitors, all wanting to do the same thing, we had quite a long wait outside the entrance to the game park before we could go in

I am dressed and standing, but still asleep.

Waiting with the jeep for the safari to get started… The girls!

Painted storks are quite rare. We were lucky to see a few of them…

One of Sri Lanka’s prettiest little birds, the green bee eater.

Water buffaloes enjoying a soak.. Just the tops of their heads showing above water. Fun to watch them frolicking around.

An elephant enjoying the puddle from recent rains…  

All in all, we had almost two lovely weeks together, after which they left to go on to another of our adopted homes, Hoi An in Viet Nam.


61 thoughts on “First visit in Sri Lanka from family…

  1. Patti

    A wonderful collection of photos and how nice you had such special guests for the holiday!

    It is 23 degrees here in Maryland, with a dusting of snow and a brisk wind that I always say will freeze your face off. What I would give to be on one of those beautiful beaches right now!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Patti. Nothing more special than having any of our kids visit, that is for sure!

      When we left Chicago to move to Nicaragua ten years ago, we were hopefully finally done with long cold winters. I do miss the snow, that was the one part of winter that we both enjoyed with our dogs.

      Peta & Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      It was a funny feeling for a Jewish girl ~ buying a christmas tree. We wanted to make sure that Jess had a good Christmas given that she had given up going to Brazil to be with her parents, to be in Asia.

      Peta & Ben

  2. Lynn

    Oh my gosh Peta, so many things I love about this post!

    Precious time with family, travel, a mix of traditions coming together, friendship & fab photos! Looks like you had a wonderful time together & I am sure it was with mixed feelings when it was time to say goodbye. What a beautiful life you have created!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Lynn. “Mix of traditions coming together”… we like that! We had an amazing time together and it was hard to say goodbye. We were excited for them as they left us and were heading to one of our favorite places in the world ~ Hoi An, Viet Nam.

      With respect to your last comment about a life created, that is quite spot on, as we see life not as something that happens to us, but something that we choose to shape, as much as we can. Just by choosing different countries to live in, we know that this fundamentally changes the trajectory of our lives and exposes our children to different cultures and lifestyles that they would not be exposed to otherwise.

      Peta & Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Gilda. What is interesting about Sri Lanka that there is such a diversity of “things to do” that one can shape a Sri Lankan vacation in many different ways to reflect the visitors unique interests.

      The Christmas celebrations kicked off the trip on a festive note.

      Peta & Ben

  3. Oren

    What an absolutely amazing trip!! Looking at the pictures really brings back all of those great moments. We had the absolute best time and cannot thank you both enough for the endless hours of planning which brought us to incredible beaches, Buddhist temples, fantastic restaurants and amazing sights.

    Outside of the constant fear of getting flattened by a bus while driving on the wild Sri Lankan roads, every moment was pure bliss.

    Thanks again, we love you tons!!!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Or, all the planning was oh so worth it!! Thanks to you both for making the time and effort to come and visit us. We know it was a particularly important decision for Jess, as she had to give up time in Brazil with her parents. As you know, we absolutely loved having you guys here and your being here for an extended period of time reminded both of us of the wonderful time we had living in Nicaragua together.

      About those crazy bus drivers.. nothing like an existential threat to make one appreciate being in the moment ~ a very Buddhist experience, by default.

      Love you both too!! xoxo Fantastic trip. Stay warm.


  4. Pamela

    I’m in love! With your good-looking family, with the happiness that beams out of these photos, with the pet-able cow and the frolicking water buffalo, the temples and abundant colors, the yoga, the SUNSETS and the water and the beach and the…oh. What? Am I ever going to stop? I could go on and on. I’m amazed that Oren and Jess left. If I was the one visiting, you’d have a long time forever guest. 🙂

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Pamela this is such a delightful comment, you have us both smiling ear to ear.

      The last time that Oren visited us in an adopted country was when we lived in Nicaragua and he did come back to live there, for another 3 years!! So who knows, anything is possible 🙂

      Peta & Ben

  5. Darlene Foster

    How wonderful to have family visit over Christmas! It looks like you showed them a fabulous time and it is evident from the pictures that they enjoyed it all. None of my kids have been to Spain to visit us, yet.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Darlene, maybe you could send our blog to your kids and use some good old Jewish guilt to get them over there? The comparison between cold wintery days and tropical sun shining on beaches is a great lure. We always think about what might lure any of our kids to come and visit us in a particular place and then “sell that hard”. A variation of “build it and they will come”… Hopefully!

      Peta & Ben

  6. Suzanne

    Seems as though you packed just about everything imaginable into this family visit. They must be back home now figuring out how to relocate and live this life full-time. Love the little Christmas tree. How thoughtful.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Suzanne for your lovely comments. Haha that’s funny. Well, one of our sons did relocate to our last adopted home in Nicaragua. He came to visit and returned later to live there for 3 years. He even stayed after we had left for Asia. Our youngest Adam, also worked in Nicaragua in an upscale restaurant for a few months and Ezra spent a month in an intentional community on the island of Ometepe. Our oldest Josh came to visit and loved his time with us.

      So of course, Asia is a lot further from the U.S. than Nicaragua, but hey, you never know.

      Ben & Peta

  7. Rochy

    Such a beautiful holiday. Such beautiful pics. Jess and Oren are suc a beautiful couple. You look Happy Peta.. I’m glad..

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Roch, so nice to read you and to know you are keeping up with our adventures. Yes, Oren and Jess are a beautiful couple! Yup am happy indeed.

      Much love your way

  8. shoreacres

    What an absolutely wonderful holiday: traditions, family, good food, and travel. It was lovely to read about, and no doubt it was even more special to live. The painted stork was fabulous — as colorful as the rest of the countryside.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks! We were pretty lucky to see the painted stork as these are rather rare in the world today. Sri Lanka is known as a bird watchers paradise! Many who go to the parks tend to focus on the big animals, but we definitely enjoy bird watching too. We also saw a leopard, even rarer!!! Just for a few moments and from a distance but they were glorious moments.

      Ben & Peta

  9. Lisa Dorenfest

    I bet they were thrilled to trade in Chicago chill for the warmth of Sri Lanka. Adore the smiles in the picture of Jess with your neighbors. Can’t wait to share those beautiful beaches with you when we visit 😍

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Ah yes those Chicago winters never seem to end! It was so sweet to have our little neighbors come down the hill excitedly to meet Jess and Oren and to give them the cards they had made. And Jess and Oren really enjoyed meeting them!

      There is so much to see in Sri Lanka depending on your interests. There are 8 UNESCO world heritage sites on one island! You might enjoy seeing some of these in addition to the beaches Lisa.

      Peta & Ben

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      We did indeed! We were last in the U.S. in early summer, so it was really nice to have one of our sons come here to spend time with us. Makes the interval between our visits to the U.S. feel shorter.


  10. Johanna Bradley

    I don’t think I’d even realised you are Jewish, Peta, though I must have read it somewhere. Still practising? The little tree is a nice gesture. 🙂 🙂

    Lovely to share family time and have everyone so relaxed and happy.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Both Ben and I are Jewish. Much more so in a cultural sense than a practicing, conventional religious sense. Interestingly there are so many Jewish that have converted to Buddhism that there is a term for them “JewBu”s. Not sure if that made it into Webster’s dictionary though. We try to absorb as much culturally from where we live, so while we are here, we pay more attention to Buddhist holidays and teachings.

      Oh yes, bliss….Now we need to start lobbying for the other 3 sons to get over here! 🙂 Hey Josh? Ezra? Adam?

      Peta & Ben

  11. Joanne Sisco

    I like this version of Christmas with Peta and Ben. Where do I sign up? 🙂

    … and I LOVED all your pictures and memories of your family visit. It’s always a special time when family gets together, but you cranked it up several notches with your blend of religions and culture. It doesn’t get any better than that! What a handsome, happy family 💕

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Joanne you made us both laugh and smile delightedly with your comments… 🙂

      You can sign up right here… haha. Very glad that our version of Christmas went down well with our future daugher in law. That was important to both of us

      When we get to have time with our kids in a country outside of the U.S. (where they all now live) it is a great opportunity to expose them to different cultures, countries, religions etc and we love that. And furthermore, they know what they are signing up to when they plan to come. By the end of the trip, Jess was teasing Ben, asking him if he had any more Buddhist temples for her to see….. 🙂


    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Agness. Sri Lanka has so much to offer, especially when you consider how small an island it is! The more time you have, the more you can experience. On our first visit here, before we lived here, we stayed for 3 weeks and were eager to return again, which of course we did. Now we have been living here for a year and a half and we are still discovering!!

      Peta & Ben

  12. Lexklein

    There is nothing better than sharing the life and places you love with your family. Our kids all came to our new home for Christmas, and it was heavenly. Getting Oren and Jess all the way to Asia is a beautiful testament to the power of family; they clearly are willing to go to a lot of trouble to be with you! And what an amazing time you had! Every day and activity seemed better than the last. Wonderful people photos – you are all so happy and photogenic and fulfilled!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Lex for these lovely words. Asia is definitely a big commitment in terms of time for travel, so we really appreciate that they joined us here and we could share our favorite places with them.

      It was Oren and Jess’s first trip to Asia, but a few years ago, Adam met us in Viet Nam and we travelled together through the country (even one week on a motorbike trip!!) and to Thailand and then met up in Laos. Ezra lived in Thailand a year or so ago and we visited him there after our trip to Myanmar. So in addition to Sri Lanka we have had some other family time in Asia. Thanks for the compliments on the photos.

      Peta & Ben

  13. Liesbet

    What a wonderful visit, Peta. Thanks for taking us along on the “visitor trail”. There truly is so much to do and see in your adopted home country. Talk about a unique Christmas experience, as well. I’d love to soak up some sun, sand and fun about now, after a couple of weeks in New England. One day, we hope to do another SE Asian tour as well and Sri Lanka will definitely be part of itinerary!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      It definitely was a wonderful visit. Glad to have inspired you to include Sri Lanka in your next SE Asian trip! This particular trip was heavy on beaches and light on culture. But for those more interested in Buddhist history, this is after all the oldest country in the world to have maintained continuous Buddhist practices over multiple centuries. There are 8! Unesco world heritage sites, which is a lot for a small country.

      Peta & Ben

  14. jet eliot

    A delight to visit the temples and beaches, and see the wildlife with you and your foursome, Peta. Looks like a really special time with your brother and his fiancée, and how luxurious for them to escape the brutal winters of Chicago and spend the holidays here with you two. Wonderful post, as always.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Oh my thanks Jet, you certainly made MY day. That is not my brother, it is my 29 year old son!! (Although he does look like my brother, who died many years ago…)

      Escaping the long winter of Chicago for a while, is certainly a positive, plus I would like to think they were also lured here by our charming company 🙂

      Thanks Jet 🙂

  15. Cheryl

    Your post made me smile. It was such a warm account of a family meeting. I love the sea and the sand and the waves lashing along the shore. The food looks tempting! 🙂

  16. Jeff Bell

    It is always fun when people come to visit. Living in Bangkok we have friends pass through often, but I supposed way over in Sri Lanka it is harder to get people to visit. Looks like you had a great time. This posts makes me miss rice and curry.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      It IS fun to have people visit. We get to see the country we are living in through different eyes and to share our favorite places. Especially fun to have our children visit of course. It is quite a journey though and not “on the map” as much as a place like Bangkok!

      The Sri Lankan rice and curry gets quite addictive!


  17. caroline

    That must have been so nice for you to have your son and his fiancee visit over the holidays! It looks like you all had a wonderful time. All your beautiful beach photos are making me green with envy (the sun has been a very infrequent visitor this January). The surfing beach looks especially appealing to me! Cute Christmas tree and I love the little story behind it. Thanks for the tour and hope you have more family visits soon. Cheers, Caroline

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Caroline for your lovely comments. Now that they are back in Chicago and it is still cold and snowy, the photos are making THEM green with envy… We were super lucky to get one of our sons over here, because of course it is a big and long trip to make to get here. Having extended relaxed time is rare because everyone is busy with jobs and so on. Hopefully the others will come at some point as well. If not here, then elsewhere…


  18. Amit

    What a wonderful wrap-up of a family reunion in your neck of the woods! So glad you both had a chance to show around the country of your newly adopted home to Oren and Jess. Love the idea of incorporating different cultures and religious ideas and ornaments into a festive season.. and as a Jew-buddhist-leaning expat, I totally get you!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Hahaha Amit, thanks. Too bad we missed each other in Ubud, Bali ~ hopefully next time. It IS interesting how many Jews seem to be drawn to Buddhism, ourselves included. Of course the Buddhism practiced in Bali is very much influenced by traditional Balinese culture and in this respect manifests itself differently than Buddhism here in Sri Lanka. Mind you, come to think of it, Sri Lankan Buddhism feels rather different to Buddhism we have experienced in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, so it seems that Buddhism we experience in South East Asia is of course influenced by the culture within each of the host nations.

      Peta & Ben

  19. Judith Westerfield

    Don’t know how I originally missed this great post but glad to have found it in my stacked up e-mail. As another “nice Jewish girl” my first teeny christmas tree for a relative felt really weird. But since we celebrate many events each with their own “symbols” it no longer is “weird”. However, I did buy a living tree that grows in a pot and it has become my own personal symbol of growth and gratitude.
    It was so nice to see pictures of your son and Jess. They make almost as beautiful a couple as you and Ben!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Haha Judith thanks for this lovely feedback. Yup, having my first christmas tree was definitely a strange feeling, but Ben was determined that it was the right thing to do and it definitely was. The tree gave an immediate message of inclusion and respect for Jess’s culture and traditions. I do really like your idea of having a living tree in a pot rather than a plastic symbol ~ Ok, for next time then.

      Still smiling and laughing at your last sentence 🙂 They are a good looking couple indeed!


  20. Anita @ No Particular Place to Go

    How fun to introduce some of your family to Sri Lanka and show off the countryside, culture, foods and exotic wildlife. The photo of the painted stork is great and I loved the green bee eater too. You keep adding to the many reasons I already have to visit Sri Lanka – hopefully one of these days!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Anita so glad you liked the photo of the birds. We don’t unfortunately have a good quality camera and so capturing photos of wildlife, especially birds is always a challenge. I think you would love Sri Lanka!


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