Co-working and Co-living in Hiriketiya

clics colliding

After a few months of being a digital nomad, I was ready for my first co-work, co-living experience. My red Barefoot duffel bag was filled to the brim with my essentials and quivering thoughts of anxiety and fear. And, I was en route to Hiriketiya. This sleepy surf town is roughly two hours away from the safety of the four walls I’ve been accustomed to.

Where is Hiriketiya?

Hiriketiya, or Hiri, as it is affectionately known, is in the south of Sri Lanka. It’s about 15km before Tangalle and 22km after Matara – also, the closest spots to get the highway bus. If you’re travelling by train, there’s a station closer towards Dikwella. If you’re coming by car, just follow Google Maps.

The Co-Living part

I’m a newbie at co-living. While I’ve always booked myself into a private room and cocooned in isolation, I felt a need to ‘get out there and meet people‘, to ‘step outside my comfort zone’… you get the gist.

I stayed at Clics Co-living for the first two nights. The colonial house has a large garden, an a/c co-working space, a shared kitchen, and two dorms: a female and a mixed one. My comfort zone allowed me to go as far as staying in a female dorm. After all, I hadn’t shared a room since my early teens with my messy sister.

After securing my bags in the cupboard, I planted myself for the rest of the day on the outdoor sofa, working away. I had a cute pupper at my feet, a cup of coffee, the island breeze and nothing else.

How was it sharing the night with strangers in a dorm?

It was interesting. While I assumed it staying in a dorm was a great place to meet people, it was not. By 10 pm, two girls in my dorm were already asleep, and the lights were off. I had to navigate through a dark room, using only my phone torch to find my Pjs, shower, change and climb up a vertical ladder to reach my bunk. Luckily, I had already put my mosquito net down and tucked it in nicely. Lord knows, I didn’t want to find any geckos inside there with me, so had to do a quick sweep and dust too before I cocooned myself in my princess tower. As luck would have it, on my last morning, a gecko plummeted from the ceiling onto my legs in an ungraceful splat – my nightmare was now a reality.

Did I miss getting dressed with the lights on, and walking around like a normal human, instead of tiptoeing? Fuck, yes. Would I do it again? Probably not. I like my privacy. I like moving around without being anxious about disturbing other people. And, I REALLY don’t like climbing ladders to get to my bed. My 30+ year old bones simply can’t do it.

Dots Bay House, on the other hand, was different. I stayed (ish) here on my last night, and the set-up was much nicer! The mixed dormitory offers air-conditioning and private spaces with each bed separated by half walls and half doors. You can walk, change in privacy, switch the lights on or off as you like and just relax in your own little bed – while being in a dorm.

F&B in Hiri

One of the best parts I’ve found about solo travelling, is wine-ing and dine-ing where you wanted to.

Breakfast at Dots was an absolute treat. The cocktails at Smoke & Bitters are to die for. And, Verse Collective serves the perfect after-beach comfort food for when you’ve spent too long in the sea.

I even grabbed dinner at the Big Mighty Deli – which had its launch party on my first night! The burgers and the fresh wedges were delissssh.

My days in this south coast town revolved around pleasing my belly – and my soul.

The Co-Working part

One of the things that digital nomads don’t rant about, is how lonely you feel when you’re a remote worker. There’s no work community, office events, low-key bullying co-workers, building rapports or just plain-old office things. While I love the company of my dog and bunny, not being around other humans felt weird. Hence the need for this experience. I’ve also gotten used to working in silence, so the dedicated, private workspaces at Clics were a good fit for me, plus it was incredibly quiet during the day and night.

I had a quiet corner on a soft, red sofa, overlooking the garden and the main house. Had occasional conversations when people stopped at the bar for a coffee or a king coconut and continued my day. Co-working in Hiriketiya was a breeze.

The Beach part

Hiriketiya Beach is good for one thing and one thing only, surfing. I don’t surf, as I like to tell anyone who’d ask, I prefer being in and under the water, than over it. Hiri Beach is packed like sardines with surfers of all levels. The beach is cluttered with sun lounges, surfboards and surf schools dubbed as bars selling below-average cocktails for above-average prices; the textbook definition of ‘touristy’.

After a day, I was ready to call it quits on Hiri. It just wasn’t my vibe! My favourite boutique villa located in front of a stunning beach in Mawella was more appealing, and I was ready to jet-set to that town. Until I discovered – through a friend’s help – Pehembiya Beach.

Pehembiya Beach, or PB as I will affectionately (and very lazily) call it, stole my heart. Set over a steep hill, roughly 15 minutes from Hiri Beach, it was everything I was looking for. Calm warm waters, empty shores, nicer bars, nicer beach beds to sleep on and a much safer feel in general. PB is also a hop, skip and a jump away from my now-all-time-favourite bar, Smoke & Bitters.

After a whole evening in the water, I was convinced. I would extend my stay in Hiri and spend the weekend on PB Beach.

The Meeting-people part

This was the trickiest part for me. Meeting new people and saying yes to things involves letting your walls down, moving your barriers and sometimes, even opening the door. All of which gives me the absolute shits- not literally, thankfully. But it’s all just very scary. I’d like to think I dipped my toes in this part each day a little deeper than the previous day.

By my last night, I was dancing, drinking and sharing stories with friends. As it happens, Saturday nights are party nights at Dots Bay – and the whole town was talking about it! The night was beautiful. The rain blessed us, the wine was good and the music was the perfect vibe for this surf town.

And the verdict?

Co-working in Hiriketiya was a wonderful experience. The digital nomad lifestyle is not as peachy as social media makes it out to be. But, you find ways to make it work for you. And sometimes, you find another place to leave a part of your heart behind and learn something else about yourself.

Until my next adventures.

Yours truly,

Imperfect Traveller

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