Why I Left Sri Lanka.

It's still hard to believe that I stayed in Sri Lanka for over a year, and honestly it would have been longer if it wasn't for a day with no WIFI that pushed me over the edge to book a flight to Ukraine. My original plan was to stay in Sri Lanka until summer or longer, maybe to visit Ukraine when the weather would improve in Europe by then. From my Youtube channel, I was traveling all around the island for the 13 months prior, earning a decent living, while staying in a beautiful beachfront villa on the south of the island. I had even considered staying longer for a second season on the east coast of Arugam Bay, the best surf stop in Sri Lanka, and maybe even the world. 

On one hand, it was nice getting vip service, upgrades, and the occasional free trips through my videos. But things were so low cost in Sri Lanka anyways during these tourist free times, anyone with a bit of money could stay in 4 star beachfront hotels or shared villas that would normally cost 5-10x that amount. To be honest, I thought for sure I would stay a few months longer as it was too good of a value and deal to pass up. The surf lineups were also as empty as they've been in the past decade and there was a great group of other tourists and expats which all became friends. I had a great group of friends, nice housemates, and life was literally paradise. Rarely, but sometimes, there's such a thing, as too much paradise. But I was one of the last digital nomads left, one of the few remaining who actually needed solid WIFI to work and earn a living, and the internet connection in Sri Lanka would fail me one too many times to want to deal with the headaches of it all.

Why I Left Sri Lanka

Exactly 1 year ago at the start of the month of February, I arrived in Sri Lanka with the intention of staying for 2 months. Then the lockdowns started and I ended up staying in Sri Lanka for more than one year.  Part of me knew that it was time to go, but things were just too good here. Costs of living were too cheap, the weather was too perfect, the surf lineups were too amazing and uncrowded. And I was earning decent money and my subscriber count was growing each and every month on Youtube thanks to my loyal Sri Lankan viewers both inside the country as well as aboard. 

I was also helping promote the country to those wanting to travel again in 2021 but showcasing what there is to do in Sri Lanka and what it's like as a tourist, long term digital nomad, or expat. Sri Lankans were appreciative of the work I did to promote the country during these tough times and really welcomed me with warm arms. I will always remember and appreciate their kindness, love and generosity. But at the end of the day, I'm a traveler and explorer at heart, which is why I haven't spent more than 3-6 months in any one country since 2008 when I left the USA. 

The fact is, as beautiful as the sunrises and sunsets were, I stopped appreciating them. I was living directly on the beach and saw them twice a day for 13 months now. During this past year I ate about 1,000 portions of rice and curry, chicken biryani and egg rotis, and don't get me wrong, I love the cuisine, spices, and dishes, but honestly, outside of Colombo, restaurants really aren't that great. But even worse than that is the WIFI which was recently ranked at the bottom of the list even behind Nigeria, Peru, Algeria and the Philippines. Holding that number up from being even worse on the very bottom of the list is that in Colombo itself, internet is decent and 4G signals are strong. But down south in the beach areas and in most of the rest of the country, it's often non-existant. 

The straw that broke the camel's back, me being the camel, was when my laptop stopped connecting one day to Mobitel's 4G, and my backup Dialog SIM had zero bars of service. The hotel I stayed at didn't have WIFI which is actually common as it's so expensive that they can't afford it when it's not peak tourist season, the nearby ones all had ran out of data as it was near the end of the month and there's no such thing as truly unlimited WIFI here even for businesses (regardless of what people say in the comments). 

I ended up driving over 4 miles/8km to EKHO Hotel which I had to leave because they Dialog WIFI they use had an annoying popup login system that didn't work. So then I drove again and finally found working WIFI at Hangtime, which was a surprise as they often run out near the end of the month as well. The worse part of the entire experience was almost getting killed by a crazy bus driver who was speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road while blinding everyone with his headlamps on high beam, all while blowing people's hearing by constantly honking his overly loud airhorn. Everyday, I knew that there was a significant chance of getting hit by a bus or truck while walking, driving, or even while in a tuk-tuk, and finally I had enough of it and decided to book a flight 1-2 months early to get out of there. It's a shame as there are so many positives about the country, but these two negatives sometimes outweighs everything else. 

Income and Options

Here's the thing. I potentially gave up $1,000-$2,500 a month from YouTube earnings by leaving Sri Lanka as 40% of my audience was Sri Lanka, and maybe 80% or more were watching because I was making content about the country. A lot was overseas workers, expats, or those who grew up in Sri Lanka but are not living aboard in Canada, the USA, Australia or working in Europe and the Middle East. 

If I was smart, would have kept riding the rice and curry train until it either grew even bigger, or really started to slow down. But I've left at a weird spot where there was still a lot of potential, and I was on an upward trend. If I was reliant on YouTube income to live, I would have 100% stayed as me leaving now is taking a huge gamble that I'll lose 80% of my viewers and income. 

However, I am really fortunate that although YouTube is currently the majority of my active income, prior to this I had created a bunch of sources of passive income and investments. A lot of my newer viewers don't realize this, but I never needed the income from my channel, it was just a side benefit as I really loved making videos anyways. The fact is, I still have a dozen other streams of income that pay me each month, and although some of them are dwindling now that I haven't been actively maintaining or updating them, I've made and invested enough of it these past 8 years to be able to live comfortably and never work again, which is why I officially "retired" in 2017 and have since only been working on passion projects that I really love doing like hosting the Nomad Summit conference, hosting my podcasts, blogging, and now creating videos on Youtube. 

How Much I Earned

I started doing monthly income reports in 2014 and haven't missed a month since. Here's an archive to all of them if you want to go back in time and see how I grew and got started. Since then I've been earning anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 a month and have luckily been smart enough to save and invest 80% of it. That's the only reason why I don't need to work today if I chose not to as following the 4% rule and FIRE guidelines, combined with my passive income, I can comfortably spent anywhere between $3,000-$5,000 a month and never go broke.

I am also super lucky to have been a student of Anton's dropshipping course ever since it first came out in 2013 as even today, the partner stores that I am a partial owner of are still doing over $47,000 a month in revenue and I hopefully will get a cut of that as agreed upon when we started the store together. 

So that being said, it's funny because this is going to be the first month where I won't be updating my accounting and logging into each individual account to add up the totals, as to be honest, I no longer really care how much my books earn me, or my courses on Udemy do. If you really want to case study everything I did to earn money these past 7 years, go through those videos on Income Boss and do it for yourself. This month I've officially retired once again, but this time, it's for real. 

How Much I Spent

Life in Sri Lanka can be really cheap, or really expensive depending on what you do, where you eat, what you drive, and how you live. This month was a mix of both as I was staying on the beach for just $230 a month, but also spent that much in a day treating out friends to dinner and high tea in Colombo, or drinks and dinner at the Marriott in Weligama. 

But my philosophy is what's the point of having money if you're not going to enjoy yourself and be generous with your friends? Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to start making it rain, or buy anything financially stupid like a new Bentley, but after hitting a gigantic milestone this month financially, I've decided that it was time to start spending a bit more of it and enjoying myself while I'm still relatively young, healthy, single and energetic. 

So for the final month in Sri Lanka, I spent maybe around $2,000 (400,000lkr) not including the flight to Ukraine where I am today which set me back another $500 or so. I also gave my Mom $1,000 as I've been doing every month for the past 4 years or so. Honestly, I have no idea how much I spent last month as that's just a super rough estimate. I'm done counting rupees and living as frugally as possible. I'm still going to be smart with my money as I want it to last, but especially while i'm single and child free, I'm going to start enjoying myself a bit more. 

Total Monthly Expenses: $3,500 +/-

Final Thoughts for the Month

It was a great adventure and wrap up for the year long trip. But I can already tell you just 4 days in that it was the best decision I've made in a while to come to Kyiv sooner than later. The truth is, we all get too comfortable and scared to take risks even though the reward may be a life even greater than what we had. It's not that I had a bad life in Sri Lanka, in fact it was incredible by most standards and I was super fortunate to have had it. I appreciate all of the positive people I met, and all of the good experiences I had. In fact, I still have 2 weeks worth of videos from the country already edited, uploaded, and scheduled to be published on My Youtube Channel from Sri Lanka that contains some of the coolest experiences and trips yet. 

I almost thought about keeping silent on social media, my blog, and on my instagram until the last video finishes from Sri Lanka, but then again, I honestly don't care anymore. If someone wants to stop watching or gets mad because they fast forwarded to the ending of the book or googled the ending of a series before watching the entire show, I can't stop them and can't help them either. I'm not going to left a handful of angry people in the comments spoil the 49,999 positive experiences that other people have that watch the videos and genuinely love them.

I am grateful for them reminding me how much of a waste of time it is to try to explain to them the way production schedules work, and that not everything is filmed, edited and published within 24 hours even though I'm sure they would like it to be. I'm also thankful for the drunken expat who constantly tried to start a fight with me on the beach for reminding me why I never want to become that guy. I've met guys like him in almost every country including Thailand, and throughout my scuba diving career in the Caribbeans, and SE Asia. These are the guys usually in their 50's that were losers back home, moved aboard to try to be someone, but instead of being happy, they grew disgruntled at change, started drinking too much, and secretly want to leave, but are too invested in a country to do so, and don't have the money to go elsewhere. Here's to never becoming that old grumpy white guy who's names I honestly can't even remember right now as they matter so little. Here's to staying the masters of our own destiny and only being where we want to be, and moving on while you're still happy, and leaving as soon as you're not. 

Thank you to all of my Sri Lankan friends, followers, and to the country for being so amazing in so many ways. 

P.S. Take a listen to Travel Like a Boss Podcast Episode 266 where I go into a lot more detail about why I left Sri Lanka, what their WIFI and Traffic safety is like, as well as what things are like here in Kyiv, Ukraine. 

With Love from Kyiv,

Johnny FD


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  1. If money wasn't an issue, where would you go right now if you could book a flight?

    1. I think I would still go to Bali. But Kyiv sounds nice right now. Congrats on the move. :)

  2. I like the i don't care anymore Johnny.

    Finance wise it sounds like someone has added a comma to their net worth?! Well done!

  3. I have been in southern Mexico for 6 months. There are 36 beaches with no one on them, great snorkling and a huge national forest. My lack of Spanish doesn't bother anyone. There are so many indigenous languages spoken here that everyone seems to go with the flow. My expenses are low at only $750 a month for everything. I thought I would retire here but I am not ready to stay put. This old solo woman nomad needs to get back into a converted van and hit the road. I miss the constent connection to earth I had as a nomad vanner. I will go back to the US, buy another van, convert it to a home with solar and a mobile cell booster so I can work online even in the back country and head to the artic circle as soon as Canada will let me cross through their border. That could take awhile with the craziness going on in the US. I will stay here for 5 more months, I think and wait it out a bit longer while I find my van online and arrange everything to get it ready for travel when I return to the US.

    1. Sounds like a good move! I'm glad you enjoyed the empty beaches but I can see why you've had enough!

  4. Wow you actually drove in Sri Lanka?! Brave man.

    As yeah I know exactly what you mean about the Expat 50 year old who tried to start a fight with you. Met a lot of those types in thailand and cambodia. *Eye roll*.

    Interesting that you decided to go to ukraine! How did you decide on that country?

    1. It's actually more dangerous to walk on the road or ride a bicycle than to drive there, so it was the best option. =)

  5. I cannot wait for you to write (and film!) your next pieces of content from Ukraine!

    1. Keep an eye out! I still have 2 weeks of videos in queue for Sri Lanka, but then it's Ukraine all day =)

  6. We will continue to watch your videos in Ukraine and elsewhere. As for bus drivers in SL officials have taken steps to include traffic law enforcers as passengers in buses. I hope these driver get heavy fines.

    1. Thanks Jem! Good move on the police! I hope that continues! But a lot of it is just speeding, and overtaking in the wrong lane for no reason as they have to stop 300m from there anyways.

  7. Pity about the racial slur at the end, otherwise a good read.

    1. It's not a racial slur and I have nothing against white people. I'm talking specially about the five old disgruntled guys that come to mind, and they all happen to be white.

  8. Good on you, mate! Hope you find it as liberating as I did, when leaving "paradise" in Taiwan...turns out, paradise isn't a place (or at least not just one, haha). Cheers!

    1. I liked Taiwan as well, but I can't imagine living there year round. Or maybe any one place. Having the option to travel and live in other countries for 3-6 months at a time really is a blessing:

  9. I hope you find Peace one day, Johnny.

  10. Yes, me too. Apologies for being frank, but I feel like Johnny still has those inner demons, that arrogance, for lack of a better word, comes across in his latest posts a bit, but I think it just stems from insecurity, it's a projected shield more than anything I like to think. Money and 'success' in the traditional sense doesn't bring you happiness clearly. I guess you have to ask yourself - is your self worth wrapped up in your material worth or perceived success compared to others? Is material worth what defines you? What makes you who you are?

    I think we're all on this journey though, we all struggle with it at some point in our lives

    1. It's not arrogance nor insecurity, it's being fed up with idiocy. It's true that money and success alone doesn't make us happy. But being broke and needing to depend on others isn't the answer either. We're all on a journey, including me, that's why I write these blogs, to express the way I'm feeling and growing each year. Let's see how things change in future years.

  11. Johnny, have you ever thought about looking for something more stable? where to be, whom to spend time with...?


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