Saturday, November 02, 2013

Life lessons from my Borneo boondoggle


Twenty-five days ago I left Taiwan in search of adventure in Malaysian Borneo.  There would be endless possibilities for excitement – Kota Kinabalu (the highest mountain in South East Asia), Sipadan (considered the best diving in the world), Survivor Island/Pulau Tiga (where the first season of Survivor was filmed), Orangutang Sanctuaries, Jungle Treks, Caves, and a stop into Brunei to add another country to this trip.

As a child, my father and I would make bird houses in the spring.  (We once even made a ‘bird hotel.’)  I remember that I enjoyed creating these things and always being excited to start our project …and at that exact moment he would ruin all of the fun by saying that we had to draw out what the bird house would look like on grid paper so that we knew what we were building.  What an idiot – we’re building a bird house, it should look like a bird house, and certainly by now you should know how to make one.  Supplies?  There are nails and wood in the basement – how could you have not known that?  So what does this have to do with Borneo?  Everything.

Borneo was a shitty bird house.  (Perhaps even the second one I’ve made in the last eight months.)  After arriving in Kota Kinabalu and getting situated at my first hostel, it quickly became clear that I didn’t have the right tools for this project.  Instead of hiking boots and reliable rain gear I had sandals and a four-year-old bathing suit.  (Better than a four-year-old’s bathing suit I suppose.)  Instead of cold weather mountain climbing clothes I had sleeveless shirts, a set of cheaply made Thai t-shirts that were $3 a piece, and shorts that quickly fall down to my knees if anything heavier than a pair of keys are in the pockets.

Even worse than everything tangible that I didn’t have was the fact that I didn’t have the desire to spend the remainder of my money to go on the myriad of tours associated with all of the interesting things in Borneo that I had wanted to see.  As it turns out – the most essential supply that I was running low on in Borneo was money.  I left on March 15th for a 2 to 3 month trip to Asia, never imagining that on November 1st I’d still be on this side of the world.

As this trip has stretched from three months to five months and now into November, the concepts of Resource Management and Opportunity Cost have become more and more important as I decide what is and isn’t worth doing for the respective costs of each activity.  In Sipadan I could spend $500 for 10 dives across 3 days and 2 nights, but for half of that money I could rent an apartment for an entire month on Koh Tao.

In Sandakan I could go on a jungle trek for 3 days and 2 nights for $110, but if I got caught in a downpour my laptop and camera would be ruined.  Two nights in Brunei would run me $100 in the cheapest of accommodation, while in Taipei I could live and eat well for more than a week on that same sum of money.  Making matters seem even worse is the fact that for “adventures of a lifetime” none of those things really costs all that much, yet after months and months of three-day adventures…well that money starts to finally add up.

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