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Sameera Batagoda, The Backpacker Who Became An Entreprenuer

Sameera Batagoda, the backpacker who became an entreprenuer

Do you love hiking in the misty mountains of Sri Lanka? How about a safari with your best friends? If you’re a person who loves going places, you gonna enjoy the story of Sameera Batagoda, the founder of Trips Lanka.

Trips Lanka is a startup specialized in organizing customized trips to any location in Sri Lanka. If you want to go on a hike, they will arrange it for you. How about a trek through the jungles to Bambarakanda water fall? They got you covered. Do you want to meet fellow Sri Lankan travelers? You can do that too.

Sameera Batagoda; a passionate traveler, a sexy dancer and a language master (Sinhalese, English, Tamil, Hindi and German) and a graduate from University of Sri Jayewardenepura shares his story of founding a traveling company and turning his passion into a profitable business.

Sameera Batagoda - Jump.lk
Sameera with his backpack!

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Basically I run Trips Lanka. That’s my traveling business which I started in 2015. Other than that I’m the President and Co-founder of RECTA, a youth organization which does all kinds of charitable events. My day job is at a construction company. I love traveling and dancing!

What is the best part about going places?

Traveling simply brings me peace and makes me feel alive. Being a Sri Lankan, I am gifted to travel and experience so many places. The most memorable tours are the road trips that I go alone, with my camera and backpack!

Have you always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur? What was the triggering point in your journey?

Ever since I can remember, I hated the idea of working 9-5. I always wanted to work in a place where I can be happy, not a place where others get satisfied with my work! I think that was the first green light to becoming an entrepreneur.

Not to brag about me (maybe a little) but I was always good at academics. That got me into the Department of Accounting in Management Faculty of University of Sri Jayewardenenpura, where the highest A/L result holders in commerce stream go to. This is the place that changed my life. I was always appointed/requested to organize trips and other outings (funerals and alms-giving’s). That made me realize that I have a knack for organizing trips and tours.

On the other hand, I wanted to follow a career of dancing too (because I love dancing!). But later on, I realized that dancing has to be a hobby while travelling became my startup.

I started working in an audit firm in my 3rd year at the university (it was a mandatory internship). That’s where I realized that accounting and auditing is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I am not a man who wants a dream house, a dream car or a six-digit salary. I realized that becoming an auditor or accountant required sacrificing your personal life (at least to some extent). I am a man who wants to live by my own rules. So I left my auditing career after a year.

After quitting my job, I started searching for my soul (not literally of course!). That’s when I stumbled upon two amazing movies, Into the wild and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. These movies awakened the traveler in me. The first thing I did after resigning was buying a DSLR camera. Then in April 2014, I packed my backpack and went on a journey to Badulla with Me and Myself. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t speedy, it wasn’t comfortable but that was exactly what I wanted.

Details of my first backpacking journey

By bus             :           324Km

By train          :           368Km

By Tuk tuk      :           62Km

By Walking     :           28Km

Other               :           14Km

After two months I joined to a construction company where I do my day job at present.

Then I created a Facebook page called Make my trip – Sri Lanka to share the images and stories of my journeys. Then I thought, why not organize trip so that even others could join me. Later that year, I created an event on Facebook, a trip to Bambarakanda and I started inviting all my friends. I was so determined to go on this trip and I decided that even if no one shows up, I’m still going to hire a vehicle and go alone! But it wasn’t that bad. One school mate and ten university friends signed up to go on my first planned tour. I’m still thankful for them for joining me. That’s what got me motivated to continue my startup.

So, was my first trip profitable? Not really. I made a loss of Rs. 2509.00 but for me, it was a success like no other! Since then I have arranged more than 30 tours with approximately 400 participants. Then I changed my Facebook page name to Trips Lanka. The website will be launched soon, so heads up!

trips-lanka-trips
Some snaps from their trips

What was the toughest decision you had to make in your life? How do you feel about it now?

Signing up for a job which doesn’t match my academic and professional qualifications was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. I’m not regretting it yet as long as I get to do what I love to do rather than what the world wants me to do.

What were some of the challenges you faced in Trips Lanka? How did you overcome them?

Finding some money to arrange the first trip was a challenge. I had to use all my personal savings in the beginning. Getting information about locations and contacting people were difficult. So I created a database that could help it. Now it’s all downhill.

What is your greatest fear? How do you manage it?

Not being able to do what I love. I always want to do what I love and what I feel is right!

What makes you happy?

Living my life on my own terms.

Do you feel demotivated? How do you overcome it?

Of course yes. Being an average human being, getting demotivated is a natural thing. Self confidence and focusing on the tasks at hand always bring me to the track.

What is your target market and how do you promote Trips Lanka to them?

My target market is the people who love to travel – Locals and foreigners. We are not just an entity which takes people on hikes. We are “traveling” travelers. Those who really want to travel with buddy travelers, we welcome them warmly. Facebook is our main promotion & advertising platform. Also Instagram, Twitter and soon to be launched website.

If a person with a 9-5 job wants to start their own business, what is the best advice you can give them?

First, think what you really want to do. Do you want to start a business and stand on your feet or is it because the whole world seems to start businesses? Decide whether you’re really up for a challenge and capable of taking a risk. If you’re confident that even if you don’t a make a cent, you can stand on your feet until you make your first rupee, by all means go for it! Start your business while you’re on your day job. If you’re smart enough, you will balance both of them.

Happy travelers - Jump.lk
Happy travelers!

What do you most enjoy about being an entrepreneur?

No one to give you orders. You are the boss of yourself. Whenever you feel like quitting, you are capable of doing just that.

What are your hobbies, apart from traveling around?

Dancing, reading, talking about travel destinations, watching movies, talking with strangers and getting to know their lifestyles.

I often engage in charitable activities with RECTA, a club which is led by me and the work we do always brings me happiness. So that has automatically become my hobby.

If you could talk to one person from the history, who would that be?

Rawana – Being such a legendary person born in Sri Lanka but never got the attention or respect he deserved. He wasn’t recognized as a legend but rather a villain in most parts of the country. I would love to meet him in person.

What are some of your favorite movies and books?

Into The Wild and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani– Two movies which made a huge impact on my traveling career.

Ho Gaana Pokuna – Best Sri Lankan movie ever.

Guru Geethaya (First Teacher) is my favorite book.

What are your future plans for Trips Lanka?

Launching of Trips Lanka website is the most recent plan.

What is the best advice you can give someone who wants to start their own business?

Just try it. Let yourself be fu*ked up if it is meant to be, at least for a while.

How can we find you?

Mobile – +94 771 621 501

Facebook – www.facebook.com/tripslankatravels

Web – www.tripslanka.com

Instagram – tripslanka

Twitter – www.twitter.com/TripsLanka

We hope you enjoyed this inspiring story about another Sri Lankan entrepreneur. Now, don’t just stare at the screen. Go start your own business. Someday your story might end up in Jump.lk. You never know 🙂

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