Travel is not only about the place, however, about sensing people, their culture heritage and experiences. Natalie Soysa, a writer, photographer and a consultant based in Colombo, inspires us to travel in every possible way. She grasps every opportunity that she gets to explore new destinations. We recently caught up with her and conversed about her incredibly beautiful journey.
- Tell us about yourself.
I’m a born traveller, restless in my own bed. I spent many years pursuing just about anything I set my mind to from a now-retired 13-years in advertising to managing a national arts programme and exhibiting as a photography-based artist. But I always come back to an innate need to be on the road and I give into it whenever I can. Today, among the many other things I do, I am a passionate traveller, travel photographer and writer.
- When did you first catch the travel bug?
It’s in my DNA. My father was an adventurer, wildlife enthusiast, camper, diver and loved being out at sea for days. I’ve travelled with him around Sri Lanka and around the world, and it made my childhood so much richer. To travel with him was to see everything through new eyes. He lived, breathed and became little bit of the places he visited. I lost him 3 months ago to a battle with cancer. In death, as in life, I will honour him with every new journey I take.
- What was your last travel like? What is your style of travel?
I love travelling alone or at most with one other traveller. I travel intensely, personally and deeply, letting the destination determine my style of travel. If I’m visiting a place for the first time, I’m a little edgy with my travel choices, because I want to see a new place from the inside out. My last journey took me through central and southern Greece. I stayed in quaint little B&Bs, drove around islands, ate local and walked until my feet couldn’t take it anymore.
- What interests you the most about photography?
Moments vanish if you don’t freeze them in time, moments that can teach you a lot about yourself and the world around you. The way shadows dance across someone’s face completely change who they are for an instant. The very moment a military aircraft flies over the peak of a temple, you’re reminded of the new gods of our times. Powerful narratives are out there that happen fleetingly. Being able to be in those moments and capture them are at the soul of what I do.
- What according to you, is the relationship between art and travel?
Travelling is an art. We curate travel plans like we curate exhibitions. And there’s an art to how we travel and what we chose to do on our journey. Travelling is a creative process for everyone, not merely the artist.
- Tell us something about your native country?
Plato got it wrong. Sri Lanka is Atlantis. Our history, and mythology affirm that my island and her people were advanced beyond human imagination, with engineering feats that have left experts baffled to date. We’ve built kingdoms in the sky you can still visit today, with air-conditioning in age before electricity. Our kings, queens, ancient tribes and their psychedelic mythologies continue to intrigue me beyond words.
- What is your dream destination? Why?
The journey is the dream, not necessarily one destination. I want to keep travelling until I drop dead. I can’t pick out one place or one reason. The Himalayas because its existence alone is enough to awaken you. Edinburgh for the fairytale that it is. Tokyo for the mad style and even madder music. Aegina for its too many churches and solitary temple to the goddess Aphaia. New Orleans for voodoo, vampires and the blues. I could keep going….
Every place has a story neither the guidebooks nor locals will tell you. In Greece, whose gods are among the oldest, I found no believers in the old ways. I come from Sri Lanka where the world’s oldest mythology (Hinduism) is still alive and its pantheon worshipped daily. I found it most peculiar that colonial Christianity is held in higher esteem than the gods of their own land. There was a story there and I wanted to tell it.
What is it about a place that inspires you to write?
- How do you think has the style of travel changed over the years?
Technology has changed everything. We can visit a place before getting there, translate foreign signposts with our smartphones and make the experience easier. I only hope it doesn’t digress to the point where the journey becomes less important than the technology that assists it.
- Where are you headed to next?
I have an assignment in Mandalay coming up in January and plans to visit Kathmandu next March. I also want to spend some time in either Prague or Nairobi soon.