Living in Sri Lanka: Margriet does it

Living in another country. A dream for some and a reality for others. What is it like to emigrate and live as a vegetarian or vegan in a country other than the Netherlands? We set out to find the stories of women who eat vega(n) and decided to take the plunge and live abroad. What is their story?


One-way Sri Lanka


Awareness, holistic living and being more at one with nature. That’s what Margriet Hospers wants. She was allowed to detach from herself. Discovering things. But how did she end up in Sri Lanka? Grab a cup of tea or coffee and read all about the beautiful path Margriet is following in this blog. You are guaranteed to get inspiration!

Who are you and how did you end up in Tricomalee Sri Lanka?

My name is Margriet Hospers and I have been in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka for over six months now. Despite that, I am a purebred Haarlem mosquito (local thingy 😉 ) who has been roaming mostly outside the Netherlands for about 3 years. In the Netherlands I worked as a graphic designer and for the last 2 years to earn more serious money for my travels, also in logistics. When I felt I had saved enough, I was allowed to let go of myself; I felt that my passion and creativity flowed harder as soon as money was involved.


From dream to reality

Over the years, my dream of living self-sufficiently took a clear shape. But, self-sufficient living for me bordered on selfishness, because if you live only for yourself, where is the connection and accountability you want to give to society and the earth?

I saw the documentary “The Green Gold” with permaculture guru John D. Liu and everything fell into place. I always feel, no matter what I do, work or leisure or food or communication, a strong responsibility to convey positivity and look at the world holistically. Self-sufficient living suddenly took on the extra layer of holistic constructiveness that I had previously missed in my vision and thus in my possibilities.


So then I started saving and as soon as I had a certain amount of money I was allowed to “cut loose” for 3 months


After three months ‘loose’

What this beautiful documentary highlights is that the earth needs enrichment after a long time of unconsciously handling food production. As a result, the soil becomes poorer and poorer. After watching this docu, being self-sufficient and setting up your own holistic environment and lifestyle got the green light in my head with that, like, go ahead, it’s allowed now. So then I started saving and as soon as I had a certain amount of money I was allowed to “cut loose” for 3 months.


In Trinco, that translates to planting new beds on clayey rocky soil, making connections with the locals to inspire each other with beautiful new ideas and visions.


Sri Lanka? First apprenticeship in Andalusia

I went to the largely self-sufficient learning community Sunseed in Andalusia. Because where on this planet is the earth poorer than in the desert? That connection to a subsistence existence on extremely poor soil became my starting point. It brought me to this beautiful place, which, by the way, has been enriched for 30 years, and it’s going great. From my “light” alone (as mentioned, it is a learning community, which means that people go and give form to what they have learned themselves somewhere else on this globe), at least 3 new places in the desert have now emerged in Spain that are being worked holistically and feeding people on it.


And now…Sri Lanka

In Trinco, that translates to planting new beds on clayey rocky soil, making connections with the locals to inspire each other with beautiful new ideas and visions. That’s how I started doing yoga training and now I get to teach. I also make beautiful new jewelry and hair bands from “waste” that I will sell.

The jewelry is all made from broken shells, so the concept bears the name “Broken Shells. The choice of the name comes from the fact that (part of) the Asian tourism industry takes shells away from animals that the animals themselves use as homes. By bringing attention to Broken Shells, I hope people become aware that whole shells are the most beautiful underwater and broken shells might be in your display case or around your arm or neck!

Sustainable projects

Ambition: away with plastic

Another project we plan to tackle is supporting the Plastic Ban that went into effect this September in Sri Lanka. Palm leaves as packaging have unfortunately been replaced by plastic here, and while reversing this does not seem directly possible, reduction is certainly a good option. Fortunately, the government also sees this, and we hope to advance this with a project in schools.

We want to show how much fun it is to make your own bags from t-shirts or from rice bags with a nice shoulder strap made from leftover fabric. All virtually free and much nicer and more fun than yet another unconscious plastic bag thrown into the sewer and eaten by a cow/dog/cat/leguana.


Anyone who thinks we live in a big vacation is wrong, but it is also absolutely nothing like my life used to be.


Sharing with sharing shelf

Another small project we are doing here is inspiring awareness through a sharing shelf out front. In the process, we share the life of our sharing shelf on our facebook page “Shelflife.” In our shelf, we put everything we don’t use ourselves; a great way for us to minimize but also to bring local attention to self-sufficiency and plastic use.

For example, we put young fruit trees and vegetable plants there, which we cultivate until they are strong enough to go into the open ground somewhere else. So we are demonstrating the natural power of the earth, demonstrating the nature of sharing and actively asking for the plastic recycled plant pots back to be used again for someone else.


And love


I do all this together with my friend Michiel, now for more than 2 years together on the path of awareness. A challenging adventure, which creates positive but of course also sometimes negative tension. Who thinks we live in a big vacation is wrong, but it is also absolutely not comparable to my life before.


Our quarrels? These are not about money, but about, say, whether or not to have Nutella?


Fortunately, we met at a time when both of us had already embarked on a new, somewhat unconventional path. So we didn’t have the burden of one person having a dream and having to persuade the other. We had already independently created a life in which we could spontaneously explore new things. In this, we reinforce each other as much as we can. Our quarrels? These are not about money, but about, say, whether or not to have Nutella? Do you buy something new made of plastic or can you make it yourself?

We try to make it the default setting in our minds and lives to assume that we can approach every challenge holistically, only we often have to discover it. Whether that’s finding a substitute for dish soap(easypeasy) or making your own compost for the first time instead of buying from someone who uses a fertilizer….


For example, have you ever thought about the impact of sponges and all the other things in your life that float micro-plastics into the ocean?

We see them as luxury problems, given that we create space for such things, no matter how small the “problem” seems, here it gets priority. For example, have you ever thought about the impact of sponges and all the other things in your life that float micro-plastics into the ocean? This deserves priority, I think. And if I don’t have the space for that in my life, then I don’t think I’m doing well.

Conscious eating in Sri Lanka

Awareness about eating

As part of “that can be better,” I am a vegetarian. Years ago I went vegan, now I eat eggs again from our tuktuk driver ‘s land (when monkeys don’t steal them, that is…) and from the little store down the street. Not ideal, but it is resources. We eat otherwise vegan in the house except for eggs, with the occasional splurge of a bowl of ice cream or chocolate. We both don’t necessarily want to reduce that, but definitely replace it with super delicious alternatives. That process of creating alternatives is one that regularly causes tension, but well, that’s part of awareness!


Why did you start eating vegetarian or vegan?

As part of “that can be better,” I am a vegetarian


I have always had a great passion for food. In my younger years I was enjoying experimenting, making my own ravioli at home. My mother, who generally wields the kitchen scepter, may have watched it with sadness, but always let me do it and even gave me space to cook dinner more often when I was inspired.

That little ball has always kept rolling, before bedtime I read recipe books and as I got older I read more about the background of what the ingredients were made of and where everything came from.


I think I was in my early twenties when I began to question large parts of globalizing food production more seriously. The shift from seeing it as the responsibility of government and businesses gradually and steadily shifted to a new vision. Namely, that when we spend money and thus create demand we ourselves are ultimately responsible for it. Especially if you know how something was created.


Family and friends were frequently surprised to learn afterwards, after a meticulous 6-course dinner, that everything was vegan.


Figures don’t lie

So it’s very nice relaxed life when you don’t look at all those onerous things, but once you start it you can’t stop. Not me, science and images and figures grabbed me by the neck and motivated me to innovate. Family and friends were frequently surprised to learn afterwards, after a meticulous six-course dinner, that everything was vegan. I do think everyone around me is affected by this shift, also because it is becoming more globally visible and I was kind of a practical in-your-face expression of that idealism.


I also notice that when answering this question (ed. why do you eat veg?) I don’t come up with practical facts because it’s so obvious to me. This is one just for me. When people get into discussions with me, I also often feel like I’m on the spot, as if I have to answer for the fact that I might make them feel uncomfortable by a confrontation they feel internally.


I think then aren’t you inspired, triggered, excited and curious? Then I realize that people cannot often give the space, will and priority to a more challenging, holistic way of looking at things. So it is our responsibility to create a life where you can do that.

Taste buds are our enemy in more sustainable living

Anyway, in a nutshell, practical shit! Meat and dairy product production are linked to each other to such an extent that both have fallen into a funnel of money, with our taste buds in the slipstream. Methane gas emissions are enormous, direct outcomes are hurricanes and, of course, a huge, gigantic, incalculable mountain of animal suffering. Insemination of emaciated cows, inflamed udders, antibiotic use which affects the soil, the dairy user becoming more resistant to forms of antibiotics and last but not least, the cow and calves, if left with their mothers at all.


My path was already there, all I had to do was take a small step further and further.


This is because priorities are set based on the demand we create, a.k.a. money. 95% Of the fish worldwide are fished with large vacuum cleaner-type boats. So these suck up not only our sushi, but also sharks, turtles, coral, etc. Trawling, bomb fishing, long line fishing, shark fishing, lobster fishing and overfishing are all havoc-causing practices you won’t encounter at the canned fish department or fish auction.



The only way that is less destructive in terms of impact (and I’ll even leave out the animal suffering in this whole fishy consideration) is to fish with a single line and a single hook. Preferably yourself, and not as a silly sport. Fish indeed have sensation in the entire body just like you do, just do research.


I find that with giving such facts that anyone can find, I feel irritated that I have to start broadcasting them/confronting myself with suffering and negativity. Because others are, excuse my french, too comfortable with “the way the world is. Bottom line: give yourself room for priorities and thus walk your path of awareness.


What is it like to live in Sri Lanka as a flexinist?


One super positive point is that eggs are seen here as something that can potentially live and so if you say you are a vegetarian, you WILL be looked at oddly, but thus do NOT have to explain that you prefer not to have egg in your food.

I hear you thinking, but hello you ate egg, right? Yes that’s true, but only if I know that the chickens live in a natural environment in a natural chicken society with roosters AND space AND trees AND worms AND, the two magic words; healthy soil. Okay, so that’s a fat advantage of living here.



Power of large corporations

Unfortunately, locals see the arrival of, say, Nestlé and consorts including the junk they sell through advertisements (which you see OVERALL) as progress. America and Western culture is imitated as much as possible in its own way. Tuktuks, for example, you can order as a tuktuk driver with mostly Western themes; Pirates of the carribean, Bob Marley, white models-with-minimal clothing. All of Asia seems to want to copy this as best they can in their own new business ventures, because yes, money priorities…so, for example, I got very sad at the sight of a giant machinated live stock fair in the capital.


For example, ads on how to get the most (profit) out of your production (cows) were on big billboards along the road. People think they need an endless well of money because otherwise your child cannot get by in the world. This ensures that a sincere belief in religion and goodness is combined very effectively with chasing profits. A particularly bad influence of colonialism and unfortunately still a very present driving force here.




Benefits I experience are the versatile way of local cooking. My boyfriend and I both love cooking immensely and the subsequent getting fat. In that context, O MY GOD I MISS WINE. The wine here is giga expensive and the glass is not recycled so yes…priorities 😉 gin tonic with curry leaf and cloves (thanks to my big brother for the inspiration!) works wonders against this lack.


A touch of spicy means spiiiiiicy, and mild means exactly the same thing haha.

Cooking lessons in Sri Lanka

We both took cooking lessons to make the local way of cooking our own. The dear gentleman who lives here on the property in his own cottage, we feed every day and so he is also very charmed by this. And so did our ex-street dog. The use of spices is also really a thing. Go big or go home is the credo, no pinches but tablespoons are used, often and a lot.

A touch of spicy means spiiiiiicy and mild means exactly the same thing haha. We discover not only the native versions of spinach (which we now have in the garden) but also the local fruits, for example, I have become addicted to fresh jackfruit and Chiel goes wild with jackfruit curry. There are so many fruits here that I had never seen or tasted before, and that even though we do eat it, I still don’t know the name of. It is so much!

A kind of lychees with very long hairs, 30 kinds of native bananas, different kinds of coconut…by the way, we have a lot of these fruits on our land and once in a while someone tells us, oh gosh you have a jackfruit tree, how nice! To which we are then delightfully surprised, because we are still getting to know all the fruits and tree species.

When the mangoes are flying around your ears because an army of monkeys has come to pluck the crop from the tree, it is somewhere unfortunate for our chutney supply but also a fun spectacle. Recently we discovered that we even have a neem tree, so it is not at all mystical here, and its fruits, leaves and bark are edible. What riches we discover this way.

Gone burgundy French, Fusion Sri Lankan it is

Our palate has developed quite a bit as a result. I usually cooked Mediterranean, burgundy, French, these days I mix it with bang on Sri Lankan. Black bean and oregano burgers but with our own peppers and northern jaffna spices, or coffee with garam masala and ginger, dosai but with oregano and basil. Every day dahl but sometimes with basil from the garden, coconut sambal with French potato salad, pizza with spicy “melting cheese” and of course my very favorite basil…. if we were not aware of what we want to see happen and achieve here, you would almost think that food is our top priority. Almost…

How do people within your hometown or country react when you tell them you are vegetarian or vegan?

I see growth on the conscious and, unfortunately, the unconscious side of this coin. As I said earlier, the admiration, ambition and copying of everything that seems Western progress is growing. And milk production franchises are lavished by companies such as Nestlé, Milkmaid and the government. What does not fit the commercial picture in this regard is the development of the green revolution in the West. Companies like Coca Cola or Nestlé don’t make money on that. Because of this, neither do the locals.

In Colombo, more room for thinking about food

In the capital where people have more money to spend, there is more time to think about the whys and hows of health combined with capitalism. As a result, there is some “green” development there! For example, there is the Good Market where young entrepreneurs from around the country come to sell their organic vegetables or socially produced products. There are as many as 80 stalls every Saturday! The Good Market also has a permanent store with a little restaurant. Conscious and green living is becoming better known, but is still in its infancy.


“The Buddha never said anything specific about this”

Buddhists and vega food

Religion and philosophy of life is an interesting point of contention that I can talk about especially with Buddhists. Why? Because those often label themselves as vegetarians. One particular view is that for all arguments about the environment or animal suffering, they have a rebuttal that begins with; “….well the great Buddha said… “or “The Buddha never said anything specific about this”… etc.

That frustrates me sometimes, for example, when I point out that a fish is also an animal, they say they are not responsible for the death or suffering of that fish that someone else caught.

Then I think: so then you saddle someone else with your bad karma? Because they wouldn’t kill a fish themselves, because the Buddha says that’s not cool. Do you see the unconsciousness covering itself nice and warm? (By the way, I myself am far from perfect, should anyone think I see myself that way. I am a walking project of awareness and will always be inspired and sometimes tired by it ).


What does it cost to eat healthy and varied food as a vegetarian or vegan in Sri Lanka

We spend veeeeeeeeeeeeeery less on the whole life in Sri Lanka than in Holland. It is not comparable. We live here on about 500 euros a month, the two of us!

Broken down per person per month is pretty much that:

  • €100 fixed Dutch expenses
  • € 65 euro rent incl GWE,
  • €50 spending on food
  • € 35 on tuktuks and other little things for e.g. the garden or fixing a broken bike or something like that


What tips do you have for other vegetarians and/or vegans to when they come to Sri Lanka?

Discover local fruits and all kinds of vegetables and herbs! Don’t look for it in the hipster corner because IF they have it, it is extremely expensive. I think the Western-looking places are just outward appearances and there is not very much thought put into food in my opinion.

Further recommendations;

  • Take an ayurvedic course
  • Learn about the properties of this island which is actually a giant undercover medicine garden 😉
  • Take a cooking class. There are plenty of vegetarians out there. Tip: Don’t get into a rant about Buddha’s lack of vision of fish or responsibility.
  • There is a festival around Colombo and very nice to visit. It is, I believe, in June. People set up a stall with free (often vegan) food on the street in order to increase their positive karma by sharing
  • Visit the Good Markets on Saturdays in Colombo and in Galle. In Colombo, you also have a Good Market store with a restaurant with vegan options. And especially buy a packet of coconut powder in your bag. They only sell those for 2 euros without milk powder hidden in them.


Restaurant tips in Sri Lanka


  • VoV Coffee Lounge
  • Smokeys for FANTASTIC cakes brownies
  • Mount Lavinia Hotel. Here they have a full vegan buffet with pool access every poya day and otherwise have a lot of vegan options on the regular menu as standard.
  • Ice cream at Good Market/Carino Creamery and Arpico Hyde Park Corner
  • Green Magic restaurant for vegan pizza

South Coast

  • Ahimsa Cafe in Mirissa
  • Ilse of Gelato with delicious Caramel Pumpkin flavor in Galle Fort


By the way, as a vegan tourist, join Vegan Sri Lanka, here you will also find great tips for great restaurants!


Health and vitamins in Sri Lanka

Afraid of not getting enough omega3 and B12 in Sri Lanka? Avocados are available everywhere, but nuts are very expensive so when you come for a vacation or trip, bring them with you. Also, take your vitamin pills yourself when you use them. Vitamins = western = big f#$%^&*ing business.

Usually the vitamins are also not yet the optimally absorbable types. We used to take magnesium, but they are only available here in the chloride form, which is difficult for your body to absorb. Not the easily absorbed lactate or citrate. For the attentive reader; lactate does not have to be animal, plants produce lactates too! No shortage of vitamin D here, by the way. Especially with all our work in the garden.


I don’t know my future path yet, but my dreams encourage me to walk further and discover where it will take me.


What did you find most difficult about your emigration? And what did you like best?

I never experienced leaving the Netherlands as an emigration or farewell. My path is just here and my family and my friends are still here. I am making new contacts that if we ever stay somewhere else again, will be welcome again.

Out of sight, out of mind

Distance does not create an out of sight out of mind effect with me. Letting go of my home also felt very natural, cleaning up was emotional because I let go of my creative projects as well. Nevertheless, I had my goal clearly in mind. My path was already there, all I had to do was take a small step further and further. This is what my comfort zone feels like these days. I don’t know my future path yet, but my dreams encourage me to walk further and discover where it will take me.

Do you plan to return to the Netherlands someday?


Back to Holland for sure yes, but not to live. Maybe only for a few months now and then. Besides, I can’t and won’t look into the future ;). I do quietly dream of refurbishing a ruined village with refugees in Southern Europe. Living together with my dear friends and family to dance the polka and cuddle sheep together or something like that….haha. We’ll see!

Has foreign countries changed your view of the Netherlands? How do you look at the Netherlands now?

Dutch people are honest, direct, no bullshit. A lot more than here haha. I’m not the most punctual person on this planet ..ahem…but hallelujah for a little bit of punctuality. Just the fact that it allows you to count on people.

Mentality of Sri Lankans

Even though punctuality in Holland sometimes gets to me, a balance between Dutch and Sri Lankan culture would be nice. For example, when the plumber tells you for the umpteenth time that he is coming a week late because he couldn’t find an umbrella, because yes it was raining, right? Or that he had to go to the neighbor’s sick great-aunt and then, of course, was yet another festival and yes…. ah. Refreshing. By the way.

I am a proud equalist in Holland, which in Sri Lanka means as much as an extremist feminist. Walking down the street without (too much) chatter on your mind and the feeling of being constantly sexually watched…I’m sure that would feel like a huge relief again when I’m in the Netherlands! It is sometimes quite swallowable here.

Food for thought

Part of my own realization is that I no longer want to fly around as if the atmosphere and everything in it doesn’t suffer. For me, the flight back to Europe from Sri Lanka at some point, is the last flight.

So honestly….make the place where you sit or somewhere near there your own and take care of that environment. Taking responsibility and living a nice life, it doesn’t have to be on the other side of the world. In short, set priorities.

More inspiring world women

Emigrating abroad is not something you do lightly. There is often a story behind this. A dream, love, work or other reasons. Do you enjoy telling your story and inspiring other people with it? Or do you know someone who should tell her story? I’d love to hear about it! Send an email to: