The year began with all manner of smug, pithy ‘2020 vision’ articles, comments and posts. Who’d have thunk what would happen next?
Words by Ed Templeton | Photography by Joel Rollason | 21st December ‘20
It’s easy to dwell on the shit so many of us have been through this year, but I tend to focus on the things to be grateful for. That’s not to de-value the shitness, but to recognise that from all situations positive change can and often does occur, as long as you’re open to it.
For Soul & Surf, 2020 began with positivity. We were just beginning to recover in Sri Lanka from the devastation caused by the Easter 19 attacks, we had managed to keep on our whole local team on with bookings beginning to grow again, our Kerala hotel was going well and we were days away from launching into our second main season in Portugal where we’d gathered a brilliant team as well as a year’s worth of learnings when… you know the rest.
Those first eight to ten weeks or so after C-Day were really, really tough. I won’t dwell too much but having to desperately stop everything, let so many freelancers go, work out survival packages for full-time local staff, negotiate arrangements with landlords - or fail in Sri Lanka’s case - and seek funding to support our businesses and our teams in the UK, India, Portugal & Sri Lanka for an indefinite period took its toll and was not how I’d imagined my Spring and Summer to go.
But nestled in amongst these crises and dramas positive things were already happening. Brilliant people stepped forward to help and support us, brilliant people had to leave and start afresh, new ways of being, working, and doing were born, and a gift of time was thrust upon us which we used to reflect, examine and plan in order to re-emerge as an even better organisation on the other side.
I stumbled upon the term ‘Sustainable-ish’ whilst working on our relaunch plan, and it made so much sense on a domestic and company-wide level. Sustainability is an ongoing process not an actual goal so all we can do is work towards it as best we can. And that we are doing, using the UN’s Sustainable development framework as our guide. We are focusing on goals we can affect: Climate Action, Health & Wellness, Responsible Consumption & Production, Life Below Water, Gender Equality, Decent Work & Economic Growth & Reduced Inequalities.
I also discovered the House of Beautiful Business and their ‘The Great Wave’ playbook, the premise of which is to “...dream bigger. And build something better, something softer, more social, more soulful, more regenerative.” That is exactly what we have been working towards these last ten years. Read it.
This year has been an opportunity to reset. I’ve been resetting left, right & centre: the business, my mental health, my gut health and my fitness.
In between all this resetting, my faith in the goodness of people and the belief in the power of good people doing good things has only been strengthened.
We are open in Kerala for Indian tourists only, and are filling up fast. It’s been a long-held goal of ours to attract more local tourists to this location so we’re not just a foreign-focused hotel and here, suddenly, we are. Raff - the life & soul of our Kerala branch - in particular has jumped to the challenge here, quickly getting us up and running again even when he can’t physically be on site himself.
Over in Sri Lanka, we are unfortunately still closed. But that’s given us the chance to think about the long-term here. When we’re allowed (fingers crossed soon) we’ll be starting small again from our amazing villa, and working on a more permanent home for winter 2021. This is a key part of our sustainable-ish plan, accelerated.
Side note - there’s a growing wait list for the Sri Lanka villa. You need to be on it if you’re looking for an early trip there next year!
And in Portugal, we have been open continuously since July. An incredible group of people took a leap with us and steered it incredibly this year. We have a few people wintering with us and a few more dropping in for shorter stays. March 1st marks the opening of our third full season (yes, you can book now) and it’s even starting to feel like we’ll have something approaching normal service by then.
2021 then looks promising (even delightful) after this last 12 months. Sofie, Kit & I and the rest of the Soul & Surf family are really looking forward to doing what we do best. Going the extra mile to make your stay with us mean something.