Of daring Dylan Samarawickrama and his incredible journey
Dylan Samarawickrama grew up in Sri Lanka before he immigrated to Switzerland in 2000. Nowadays the skilled auto mechanic feels like he’s half Swiss. When he grew up in poverty as a child he always dreamt longingly for adventures and hoped that one day he would be able to explore the world. His name Samarawickrama means “the one, who celebrates adventures” and so Dylan had clung to his dream for years until he decided to go on a world trip in 2010. The adventures that he experienced with his motor bike that he named Bruce on five continents, and what he did when suddenly all roads ended in Panama he shared at the outdoor fair in Trier. Journeedia was able to speak with him.
Journeedia: Can you tell a little bit about your childhood? How was it growing up in Sri Lanka?
Dylan S.: My childhood was anything but easy. I grew up as a poor child. My father died very young, I was only six years old. To grow up in a land like Sri Lanka without a father is not pleasant. I also have three brothers. My mother had to work a lot and we still always had little money, and were always hungry. But it was a very nice childhood, when I look back. The things I experienced, that I went through. I am very, very thankful for that. This made me the man, I am today.
Where is your family now?
I have a brother in Switzerland and two brothers in Sri Lanka. My mother also lives in Sri Lanka.
Are you visiting them regularly?
No, I kind of became a world explorer. And when you like to travel, then you never have enough time for a certain place. I try to visit Sri Lanka often but I do not manage that very often. Last time I was there in 2011 and when I did my world trip. Back then I was there almost every year or every two years. It‘s about time to visit though.
Could you tell us something about your book?
The book originated after my world trip. In those three and half years I had experienced much. A lot of people told me to write a book about my experiences. And I also have so many interesting stories from my childhood that I could tell. I think the experiences you make, you should also share. Otherwise, everything would be just lost.
Could you name a few examples from these experiences?
Yes, well I transformed my motor bike into a raft. I wanted to experience an adventure. And then I built a raft from ten oil drums to be able to go from Panama to Columbia via the Pacific. Back then there was no ferry between those countries. And to actually do something like that – to go over an ocean by a motor bike – is something special. Many believed that I would not come back. I also experienced some really dangerous moments. I had to go through two storms. But I also met some wonderful people. Every time when I speak about those intense moments I get really emotional.
What was such an intense moment?
When I was on my way with the raft I was lost for a few days. I was not sure where I was. My gps was not working. My compass was not working. They just showed me contradictory directions. There were strong currents. I was just carried off into the ocean. Finally a group of dolphins came to my rescue. Well, when I think back to this moment – that is so enormous. I did not have any orientation and the animals just headed me toward land and saved me. Also the people I met while travelling could help me in such an impossible way. Between Panama and Columbia there is a jungle area, there is only wilderness, there is just nothing. I ran out of gas and accidentally arrived in this small village, where the people give you everything. These were special moments.
So you were standing in front of the Pacific with your motor bike. How did you come up with idea to build a raft?
The idea? Pure desire for adventure. I did have the chance to search for a boat. Many motorcyclists and car drivers are on their way on this route – the Pan-American Highway from North to South America. And as I said, there was no official ferry back then. You have to go to Colon, a city in Panama with a huge crime rate. There you have to find a captain or a sail boat which takes you along. But I heard reports about those ships, that they have sunk. And so I thought why not try it myself? If I go down I at least have tried it.
What pushed you to do this journey? At what moment did you say, I am leaving now?
Already as a child, although I grew up very poor, I always wanted to see the world. I read books, adventure books. The world fascinated me. I always wanted to travel in an easy way. I know that as a child I would always say that one day I would take a 50cc motor bike and travel the world. This dream has stayed for a long time. Finally I travelled the world with a 150cc motor bike. When you dream something as a child and hold this dream warm so that it will not die – I think these dreams will come true.
What is your next plan? Another journey?
I always want to travel. I was born to travel. But so many things have to fit of course. You need money. And when you have money you also have time. Eventually, we do not have time because we have to work for the money. Now I do not want to just leave my book behind to travel. But if it sells a million copies…
Finally concerning one of your quotations in your book. You say: “It is said that the edge is a dangerous place to be. But I say the edge is the best place to be, if you want to see the other side”. What did you want to express with this sentence?
Well, many people are afraid, afraid of the world; afraid to see something new. But nevertheless we are longing for it. I think every person is an adventurer but our laziness does not make us very motivated. The animals just live their lives and I suppose they are happy. But we always want everything secure. We insure our insurances with an insurance. That is how we live. We do not manage to live life like we want to. We read in the newspaper this is dangerous, you cannot go there. And for me this is not true. You have to risk this tightrope walk. To go there and to see what is actually true. People do not understand many things I did because they say that it was too dangerous. But I say when you want to see the other side you have to risk this step. Do not only stay where you are and believe what the newspapers say. You have to look for yourself.
Translated from German