A talk with ‘Lanka locals’ Phoebe Taylor & Seddy Di Francesco from The Kip in Ahangama, Sri Lanka
Phoebe Taylor & Seddy Di Francesco moved to Sri Lanka in 2015 in pursuit of a slower lifestyle. Having first met in Melbourne while both being caught up in the corporate world, Phoebe and Seddy were tired of the rat race so many of us call life these days. While feeling constantly overwhelmed, tired, and burnt out and like neither of them was made for the modern fast-paced life, they made a conscious decision: wanting more from life!
Initially coming to the tropical south coast of Sri Lanka to slow down, is what made them feel alive again.
Alive, inspired, creative, connected to the environment, people, and the world around them. Shifting towards the simple life and the simple things. Following their dream of a slower life, Phoebe & Seddy packed up their things and moved to Sri Lanka for good.
Two months in, the idea of The Kip was born and two years later it was a reality. An intimate boho hideaway in a colonial villa on the south coast of Sri Lanka. A place where creatives, makers, entrepreneurs, wanderers, and everyone else can have a timeout – a taste of the slow life.
You lived in Melbourne first. What was it like to adapt to living in Sri Lanka and building a life on the south coast?
‘Adapting to life in Sri Lanka has been everything from easy, fabulous, fun, and rewarding to hard, slow, comical, and challenging. Like everything worthwhile in life really. The easiest thing to adapt to was defiantly the slowness of life here while funnily/ironically enough that was also the hardest thing to adapt too.
Adapting culturally was also an experience. They have all these little idiosyncrasies that at first, you struggle to understand but after a while learn to embrace. For example, you learn to understand “yes” doesn’t necessarily mean “yes” while “tomorrow” doesn’t necessarily mean “tomorrow”. The key was adjusting our expectations. Once we did that everything flowed far more easily.
Living and moving to Sri Lanka has taught us a lot especially about living in the present moment and not taking ourselves too seriously. The Sinhalese manage to do this very well.
When something goes wrong their take on it is a simple “what to do” philosophy. This is seriously the most liberating phase ever and one we now live by. No electricity for a few days – “What to do”, no point getting frustrated. It is what it is, it’s out of your control, don’t waste your energy trying to rationalize the situation. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Accept it and move on.’
When did the idea for The Kip spark?
‘The idea of The Kip started a month or two into our travels. Seddy and I started to thrive on meeting new and inspiring people. We started to see so clearly that we didn’t have to conform, that working 9-5 wasn’t the only way of living. That perhaps, we could have a business that mixed lifestyle and our passions together. Passion for people, passion for the environment, passion for animals, passion for creativity, passion for the slow life. So, we slowly came up with a dream to create a space where like-minded people could come together and be inspired through slow living in Sri Lanka, which is The Kip. On top of this, during our travels around Sri Lanka we really noticed a gap in the accommodation market. You either had luxury accommodation or backpacker accommodation, not many options in between, so we also wanted to create something that filled this gap in terms of style, concept, vibe, and price point.’
What does slow living mean to you?
‘To us, it means everything from creating time and space in your life to appreciate the simple things. Being conscious & connected to yourself, people, and the environment around you.
Cutting out all the garbage from your life (preconceived ideas, toxic people, etc..) and focusing your energy instead on the important things. Things you love, make you happy and that you are passionate about.
Embracing the process of slow, which can sometimes be far longer and harder than the quick option but is nearly always more rewarding, meaningful, and long-lasting. Weeds grow fast. Trees grow slow.’
How do you merge it into life at The Kip?
‘We started a concept called Slow Life Sundays, which is essentially a series of workshops (held on Sundays of course) that are about creating a space that is conducive for people to slow down, learn something new and connect with other like-minded people. For these events, we always ensure we collaborate with individuals and brands that share the same values, ethos, and morals that we do. E.g. Amma, a social enterprise making plant-dyed textiles and employing local mothers in the highlands of Sri Lanka.
As a natural extension of this, we are also planning on launching other pop-ups including slow living retreats, supper clubs, and artists in residency placements.
On a more basic level, we will offer guests access to a small library full of inspiring reads, games, and coloring in, encourage them to have a mini digital detox while staying with us, organize weekly communal dinners and are also in the process of starting a veggie garden and opening a little shop that will sell a curation of slowly made products.’
A slow living retreat? What to expect?
‘Our plan is to offer small and intimate week-long retreats that are worlds away from the frantic pace of modern-day life. A space to relax, recharge, and connect while discovering this little island, its culture and its food. We will also be inviting a mix of creators, makers & entrepreneurs that personally inspire us to co-host the retreats. During the week these hosts will hold hands-on and conversational workshops to explore different subjects we are passionate about (from art to sustainability, to the environment, to pursue your passion as a career, to wellbeing). Essentially the retreat aims to provide people with the opportunity to take a step off the treadmill of life for a little while, to gain perspective, clarity, and sense of community, while also experiencing a little bit of adventure, creativity & most importantly magic.’
What do you think makes more and more people long for a slow living lifestyle?
‘I think the pressure on people today is insane. Today’s pace of life is out of control and I think people feel at their absolute limits. Employees are expected to answer today’s emails yesterday and people feel the need to be “connected” 24/7 yet have never been more disconnected from each other and the world around them than ever before. I think this sort of pressure makes people crave a slow/old school life, a life that is balanced, includes downtime and real conversations over dinner (as opposed to a quick meal eaten in front of the telly because you are so fried from such a hectic day that you just want to switch off and not think).
I also think more and more people are longing for a slow lifestyle because ideas around what defines ‘success’ are starting to shift. People are finally starting to define success based on the quality of life & relationships rather than material things and the amount of $$ in their bank account. Amen to that.’
One word that comes to mind when thinking of The Kip?
What is the one thing from your ‘old life’ you have never missed?
‘Working for someone else.’
And what do you miss?
‘Friends & Family of course and followed closely by cheese. Sri Lanka has a very limited supply of quality cheese. Seddy’s family brings full suitcases over when they visit and we seriously eat it all in less than a week.’
The one thing you value the most of your life here?
‘Freedom. Seddy and I have so much freedom over here that just wouldn’t be possible back home; like the freedom of having our own business, working together, meeting inspiring people from around the world and most importantly having the freedom to hop down to the beach, read a book or even take a nap whenever we feel like it without being beholden to anyone else.’
Early mornings or late nights?
‘Neither. I seriously require sleep like no other even when living a very slow life. I am an early night and a late morning kinda person hahaha. Seddy, on the other hand, is an early morning, early nights kinda guy. Can’t keep either of us up past 9 pm these days and we wouldn’t have it any other way.’
Rice & curry or Italian pasta?
‘I have to say as much as we love our rice and curry we, absolutely love our Italian pasta. For us, nothing beats a home-cooked Italian pasta topped with fresh parmesan.’
Where else to go when in Ahangama? Read more about the surf and yoga retreat at Sunshinestories.
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