There’s something special about staying a few nights somewhere—you start to feel like part of the community.
A lot of my trips involve one day here, one day there. Maybe an overnight stay, then an early morning departure. In the end, you see a lot but it can be hectic. It isn’t until you stay somewhere a little longer that you pick up on the vibe. You make eye contact with the locals, smile, and feel connected to them. You are experiencing a glimpse of their life.
In Sri Lanka, I ran every day. Originally, it started when I joined a challenge to run daily in December. I loved it so much that I carried on into January.
In the mystical town of Sirgara, all routes involved “that rock.” Lions Rock is an ancient rock fortress that has you captivated the minute you first spot it. Wherever you are in the town, you spot it. When I ran, I spotted it, and it brought great joy into my life.
There was a back road near my hotel where it felt like you were running toward it. I would gasp in awe each time I caught a glimpse of it. As I passed, I turned and ran back.
One morning I wanted to run further than my usual route; that back road had served its purpose, and I wanted to venture out further into town. The only slight consideration was the number of stray dogs I would encounter and quite possibly need to manoeuvre past.
I couldn’t allow the thought of a possible stray dog encounter to hold me back—life is too short for that. I think I told myself that for reassurance because stray dogs can be terrifying.
I ran along the main road and moved to the opposite side of the road when I encountered some dogs—there were lots. Most seemed sleepy and uninterested, and I wondered what I was so worried about. I reached the halfway point of the run and turned to head back, the view of the rock ahead. My legs were enjoying the extra stretch and my mind the music pumping from my earphones.
Ahead, I sensed an overly playful dog who seemed to be wandering about erratically. Gulp. As I tried to cross the road, it crossed too. When I slowed down to a walk, it arrived at my feet trying to be playful. Whenever I edged away, it made snarling noises. Arggh, I was still five kilometres away from my hotel. I hadn’t anticipated getting stuck by a dog. This wasn’t the plan.
Whenever I tried to walk past the imaginary dog boundary, it would come back at me. I felt stuck. I was too scared to start running, knowing it would definitely jump on me. I felt frustrated that I was trapped by a dog.
Glancing back, I saw a local man on his bike. “Could he be my eager dog saviour?” I thought. We caught each other’s eye, so I nodded at the dog and made a universal sign to indicate that “the dog won’t let me run past,” while shrugging like the stuck traveller I was.
He nodded back in agreement to my request for help, cycled up to the dog, and shooed it away. The dog began jumping between us, seeing the man on his bike as a new player to the game. This wasn’t how I envisaged the rescue being played out. The dog now seemed even more hyper, and I felt unease bubble away inside.
A second man appeared on his bike. We all looked at each other and nodded toward the dog. Both local men formed a barrier between me and the dog, using their bikes as a shield. They then signalled to run. How wild.
It all seemed to happen so quickly I didn’t have time to fully process it. So, I went for it and just ran, a little scared to look back, completely seizing the opportunity. I did glance back briefly to wave at the local men while shouting “thank you” at the top of my lungs.
“Maybe dogs are my animal spirit, telling me to slow down,” I thought.
I laughed most of the way back to my hotel at how pathetic I must have looked to those local guys. Bless them for instantly taking action and being my real-life angels.
In every situation we have a choice—we can throw in the towel, or figure it out. Without those two amazing men, I would probably still be stuck there.
“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” ~ The Dali Lama