You know when you come across an event, place, or simply look at a photo and think, “I feel called there”? That’s how I felt when I first saw a photo that my friend, Elliott, posted on Instagram of Sunshinestories Surf Camp &Yoga Retreat in Sri Lanka
Two Swedish travelers, Linn and Petter, set out on a backpacking adventure when they found a place that felt like home, Sri Lanka. After requesting to finish their University degrees from abroad, they moved to Sri Lanka full-time and invited friends and family to stay with them. This quickly grew into other travelers coming to stay and Sunshinestories was born.
Sunshinestories attracts like-minded people from around the world and is built on the foundations of good surf, yoga, food and people. Their passion for life and community continued on to build their lifestyle concept hotel Ceylon Sliders down the road from Sunshinestories.
Linn and Petter’s story shows that you can create a life that is unique to you.
Meet Linn and Petter…
Where are you in the world?
We live in Ahangama on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. That’s also where our retreat Sunshinestories is based and our hotel Ceylon Sliders is down the beach road in the next little fishing village, Weligama.
How did you go from having the idea of creating Sunshinestories to making it a reality?
Me (Linn) and Petter met in upper secondary school when we were 18. It was love at first sight as we both shared the same dream of exploring the world. We grew up by the ocean in a small village south of Sweden and had bigger plans for our lives.
The following year when we graduated, in 2009, we went on our first 6 month trip. We had both studied photography in school and started the blog sunshinestories.com as a way to share our travel photography
This wasn’t very usual back in the days, with a couple blogging together and posting photos. We don’t want to claim that we were pionering that, but we managed to get a lot of media attention and several brands sponsored our travels such as Bing Surfboards, Billabong, Sea to summit, Seea, and Fjällräven to name a few.
The photography also came in handy when we traveled through Central America shooting hotels and villas in exchange for staying there. We traveled to South Africa, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Guatemala, Laos, and Thailand to name a few. We started interviewing the inspiring people we met along the way to try and figure out, what made a good life?
We traveled and worked for 3 years before we started university and settled in Malmö, south of Sweden. Petter started a three year media and communication bachelor and I started Information architecture with the goal as a bachelor in computing. Malmö was the perfect place for two nomads but our travel bug bite was itching. Thanks to our side jobs as freelance media creators, we had the chance to travel on every school holiday we had. On the Christmas breaks we went on month long trips back to Sri Lanka where we knew the waves and culture. When writing our last thesis and finishing up our last courses, we got the green light from University to do so abroad and we packed up our apartment and moved to Sri Lanka the autumn of 2014.Photo @mitchfongphoto
Looking for a place to live in our new country, we found the old colonial villa in the jungle of Ahangama on the south coast of Sri Lanka. The house was too big so we invited friends and family to come stay. Before we knew it ,we had to hire staff and the house was a bed & breakfast with guests from around the world. With a hashtag on instagram and our travel blog, we got super busy. We noticed the demand of doing the same things as we did; surf, yoga, eating healthy and exploring the local culture. From that, the idea of Sunshinestories surf and yoga retreat was born. It felt like everything we have been doing just came together. We opened up the doors as a surf & yoga retreat in November 2015 and got an amazing response. Many of the guests that came were old blog readers who had been following our journey.
A year later (late 2016) we opened up Ceylon Sliders a lifestyle concept hotel,Cafe in Weligama and Weligama surf shop. Situated beachfront, Ceylon Sliders also builds upon the lifestyle by the sea as well as being a hub for people to meet and create. It’s become kind of a hub for hosting surfers, artists and creatives from around the island and the world. In the courtyard lies a small café and on the rooftop and out front a little shop with some handpicked items for the traveller. This also made it possible for us to work with some of the people we met during our travels and we’re proud to sell Quality Peoples t-shirts, Seea suits and Bing Boards to name a few.
What is it about Sri Lanka that drew you in?
The waves, the people the empty beaches. Sri Lanka is, and was even more a few years ago, an undiscovered paradise.
We discovered Sri Lanka on one of our first backpacking trips as nineteen year olds. We traveled along the south coast for a month. It was just after the war had ended and there was a melancholic feel to the whole island.. I remember we didn’t meet a single Swede and very little tourists. It felt like traveling back in time.
Continuing our vagabonding trips through countries like Bali, Thailand and Costa Rica meeting a lot of inspiring expats who had moved and started up a new life, we often said ”I wish we were here 10 years ago.” We then realized Sri Lanka was that place. A place where we could still have a shot at creating a life for ourselves. We moved here in 2014 with the hopes to finish our university degrees, instead we ended up starting the foundation to what later became Sunshinestories just a year later.