Scary Easter Holiday in Sri Lanka

Girls Who Travel | Sri Lanka

‘Make fear a tailwind, not a headwind’. – Jimmy Lovine

Scary Easter Holiday in Sri Lanka

As I write this, it is Easter holiday. I am in Sri Lanka, and it is sadly been attacked by several suicide bombers. Whilst my family and friends all over the world try to reach me to make sure I am okay, I remain calm. I’m planning to stick to my original plan during my last few days in Sri Lanka. I decided: don’t let fear win.

Girls Who Travel | Sri Lanka

This is how a fearful girl looks like: fearless

I am writing this to prove this decision comes from a lot of warmth in my heart. And I hope this may inspire some of you out there to do the same. This is a good life perspective no only for moments of crisis, but for everything in life.

Rethink your relationship with fear

On my third day into the sabbatical, I met this German guy. Amongst other things, he was telling me about an epiphany that he had a couple of years ago. It inspired him to rethink his relationship towards fear. He said to me, with a bit of a smug face, that he became completely FEARLESS! Yup, apparently he managed to create a technique to cut fear out of his life. Well, the date didn’t work out. But one thing kept bugging me. I just couldn’t accept a fearless life as a desirable one.

Fear may be as old as life on Earth

Our first neural systems had the role to react to any threat that could fight against our most ancient life forms. With evolution, our fear response was developed in the amygdala. This is a more primitive part of the brain which has the role to sense how a particular stimulus should be emotionally dealt with. Well, which is quite commonly to freak out like a diva. Thanks to evolution again, our brain has further evolved from the amygdala. Now it also has a ‘judge’ of our emotions. Neuroscientists call it the “executive brain”. They interpret our environment in a much higher quality. And decide whether the threat we feel is real.

Judge Brain

Once our judge brain gives a feedback to our diva brain that an experience we fear is actually safe. It is known that the same extreme feeling of arousal in our body can then be read by the brain as a positive feeling of excitement. But most importantly, is how we analyze our fear. Our judge brain learns what to choose to fear based on our personal experiences. Or most often it is the lack of them.

Lack of experience

To fill in the blanks in those cases new to us, our brain learns from what we register other people’s experiences to be, and imaginary experiences too. We can quite easily believe a fantasy story about what it is to jump the airplane for the first time, or to run a marathon, if we don’t have any tangible experience to guide us. Problem is, our imagination loves to run on extremes. Seeing a shark will be exhilarating and extremely terrifying.

Most of the time the diva brain wins

As you are more likely to have a longer list of potential experiences that you have not yet done, then of experiences that you have already done, this means our judge brain is not so fit for deciding on a verdict for most of our fears. The diva, most of the time, wins.

When I planned for my sabbatical, I did not put much planning into it, except one thing: I would chose something that I really wanted to experience, but had extreme fear in doing: to explore the deep ocean.

Exploring the deep ocean

I’ve decided to learn to dive and go straight to advanced level in Gili Islands. At my first open water dive, I was calm – I was breathing in absolute peace. This experience under water was of total quietness and meditation. For 45 minutes, there was only me, the instructor making sure things are okay, the soothing sound of water, and my controlled breathing. A massive turtle swam down my way. As I looked into its eyes, I couldn’t help but cry with joy behind my goggles. Like jumping for mushrooms in Mario Bros, I had acquired a new super power! There was a whole new unlocked level in my game.

‘Courage is fear that has said its prayers and decided to go away.’

As the beautiful quote from Joyce Meyer says, “courage is fear that has said its prayers and decided to go anyway”. This experience then gave me courage to jump in to many fears which were misguided by my amygdala: driving a scooter in crazy Bali, hiking up a volcano, traveling all over Sri Lanka in a tuk tuk. The latest one will start next week: I start my climb up the Annapurna, in Nepal.

Girls Who Travel | Sri Lanka
Around Sri Lanka on my tuk tuk.

Am I fearless?

So I am fearless? I am not doing all these things because of my lack of fear, but because I question the reasons why I fear living certain experiences. Every time I feel fear, I don’t see it as the end of the line anymore. I ponder, talk to people who have done it, read a lot, check thought patterns. As I get more aware of my fears, I don’t let them define me, instead I let fear propel me forward. Don’t let fear win!

Sri Lanka after the attacks

As for me experiencing Sri Lanka after the attacks, this is a very scary and sad happening. Living this is a type of fear that came without much time to ponder, so it could be seen as a different case of fear. However, I also know a lot of the paranoia that my amygdala fires up is biased. The feeling of fear related to terrorist attacks is a flaw in human reasoning called the availability heuristic. The easier it is to think of something, the more likely you’ll think it is to happen… to you!

Girls Who Travel | Sri Lanka

The many incredibly warm and open people I met on my time in Sri Lanka.

I will not let fear shut me down

So my executive brain pondered again, and reflected that: 1. it is very likely that I am safer here than I would be in Brazil, where I am originally from and 2. these horrible people don’t define Sri Lanka, as I could experience myself getting to know so many amazing people around here. Therefore, I chose to enjoy all wonders this amazing country and its people have to offer, don’t let fear win.

The German Guy’s Theory

Maybe I cracked the theory that German guy was trying to explain to me. Maybe he didn’t mean he is “fearless”; perhaps he meant he was fearless of facing his fears. When we are not controlled by our fears, but use our fears to help us understand ourselves more, we can go past emotions, concentrate on what is meaningful to us and make choices that we believe to be important in our improvements and progression in life. This opens up an infinite world of new opportunities.

I only have this one life to live

As I like to remember myself I only have this one life to live, I decide to chose not to let fear shut me down to any these amazing new experiences that this life experience can give me. What is the thing you’d like to do the most, but has a lot of fear doing it? Take your first step, go into that direction, and enjoy the thrill of a ride that only fear can take you to!

Don’t let fear win!

To the people from Sri Lanka, I leave a final note: be strong, be brave, and don’t let these awful attacks define you. You are a stunning country, you are beautiful, warm, and open people. My thoughts are with you. Don’t let fear win.

For those of you considering to go to Sri Lanka – please don’t change your plans! The country is not defined by these attacks, and the people here need tourism to survive and thrive. Don’t let fear win


Nathalie Gil is a marketing strategist who quit her job and moved from being workaholic to lifeaholic. She is now rethinking her life strategy on a year sabbatical around the world and reporting it as she goes along. You can keep up with her on Lifeaholic (her blog) and on Instagram.

2 thoughts on “Scary Easter Holiday in Sri Lanka”

  1. Nathalie, have a great time in Sri Lanka. Your story is really inspiring and for a country like Sri Lanka it’s important that toerist keep coming.

  2. love this so much! i want to go to this country so bad on my trip in January- and i told my friends and family that I’m not telling this event prevent me from going. so well written! thank you so much-i’m even more excited now!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.



Subscribe for news, updates, giveaways, and more!

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.


Join our inclusive community
of tens of thousands of women who
share your passion for travel in our
Girls Who Travel Facebook group!


You Might Also Like

Her Adventures | Niagara Falls itinerary

Best Niagara Falls Itinerary For a Weekend

Girls Who Travel | LGBTQ+ beach reads

Pride Month Books: 5 LGBTQ+ Beach Reads

Girls Who Travel | Bali Animals - 5 Months of Welfare and Sustainability

Bali Animals – 5 Months of Welfare and Sustainability

Her Adventures | Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir

10 Fine Facts About Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir