p: The Borneo Adventure Begins

borneo-mapWhere in the World?

Where should we go to embark on this first learning expedition?  My instincts told me to travel to a place I’d been before– somewhere safe, and clean with good tourism infrastructure (read: pools with waterslides for the kids).  Perhaps somewhere that covered our family priorities for a vacation: interesting food, culture, arts & crafts, choice photo opportunities, geological features, and a place to swim.  It made very good sense to visit Bali, a remarkable green gem of an island in Indonesia where Josh and I had a remarkable trip fifteen years ago.

So why in the world did we end up planning a trip to Borneo?  Borneo is the third largest island in the world (after Greenland and Papua New Guinea).  It is located smack in the middle of the world on the equator, covered in lush rainforest and claims the largest cave passage in the world—a staggering 100 meters high and home to 3 million bats.  Until 1930s there were still tribes living on the island with a tradition of headhunting. Borneo is divided between Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei As a developing area; it has health risks like malaria, dengue fever, cholera, Hep A, Hep B and Avian flu.  How could I take my kids into this threatening jungle terrain?

Into the Wild

The first idea came from Josh who suggested that we could explore Malaysia on our upcoming fall visit since we were going there for a course. (Josh runs a non-profit 6seconds and travels around the globe helping people develop their EQ).  When I began to search my favorite travel website Borneo was a recurring top destination for families.   The top reason for all the excitement about Borneo? —the animals!  Borneo is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet.  It is home to the endangered Borneo Orangutan, Asian Elephant, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Borneo Clouded Leopard, and the Dayak Fruit Bat.  Over 361 animal and plant species have been discovered in Borneo since 1996.  In the water are vibrant and thriving coral reefs. Hugging the coastline to the east, are the famous Turtle Islands where Leatherback and Green turtles come ashore by the hundreds to lay their eggs on moonlit beaches.  These wonders were too exciting and tempting to let a few immunizations deter us.  So we began to plan our expedition.

Lots of Lists

Once we proposed the trip to the kids they were very enthusiastic about helping plan and study for it.  I did a search at our library and checked out every resource Santa Cruz County had to offer about Borneo.  The kids poured over the books especially the gorgeous big coffee table ones filled with images of plants, animals, reefs and rivers.  We dove deeply into the books and when we came up for air we began a series of lists:  What do we know about Borneo? What do we want to learn, experience, discover about Borneo? and finally What do we need to do before we go?  Here are the lists:

Borneo What We Know List:

  • “Cyrano” Probiscus Monkey
  • Muslim
  • Huge caves
  • Coral reefs
  • Luminous mushrooms
  • Not a developed country
  • Angel fish
  • Either very fancy resorts or not so good hotels
  • Fish
  • Cool bugs, snakes, amphibians, and tree frogs
  • Big river
  • Great snorkeling
  • Volcanic
  • Surrounded by Ocean
  • Covered in Jungle
  • Lots of Hotels

Want to See/Learn/Do List

Emma Max Patty Josh
Have once in a lifetime experiences.  Visit Orangutan reserve. See animals in early morning. Hear animals at night. See cool things in the jungle like waterfalls, plants & animals, big flowers not seen anywhere else in the world.  Boat tour to see animals.  Spend night at a camp in the wild. See turtles hatching.  Go on night hike. See giant moths. See things from above in helicopter or airplane. Not get leeches.

Trekking in the jungle.  Snorkeling. Climb trees.  Play in the water.  River rafting. See giant clams and squid. See orangutans.

Stay healthy on trip.

Take cool pictures. Have adventures.

Learn to scuba

Have Friendly Adventures.

Add Kindness to the world.

Meet interesting people.

See some crafts and arts being made.

TO DO LIST (this is the very short list I made with the children—Josh and I both had other huge lists to complete our house remodel, finish moving and unpacking, preparing to leave the country for 6 weeks, all of Josh’s conference preparations and speaking engagements—but I won’t bore you with by listing those here)

  • Make Budget
  • Study Maps
  • Get Immunizations
  • Learn about where we are going
  • Make expert lists
  • Shop
  • Pack

The lists have been getting shorter each day as the countdown approaches.  We’re terribly excited now that we are in our final week before departure.

Resident Experts

To help the kids focus their learning, each of them made a “Top 6 list” of the things they wanted to see.   We agreed that they’d do research on the animals so that they would have some background knowledge to help them appreciate and have a better understanding of Borneo.  But the lists were too long and resource materials a little too advanced in some cases.

So driving in the car and thinking out loud a few weeks ago—I realized that on most expeditions they bring along experts with different capacities.  That way not every person needs to be responsible for knowing everything.  When the team works together they pool their experience and knowledge to the benefit of the group.  I suggested to our expedition team (and the kids loved to think about our family as adventurers!) that we should have Resident Experts.  Each resident expert would be responsible for being our resource on the topic.  Max chose Orangutans, Emma chose Rafflesia and Probiscus Monkeys.  I am in charge of immunizations and logistics, Josh is the AV specialist and tech support.

Final Days at Home

This week has been a series of lasts.  Today was the last day of Ballet for Emma and tomorrow will be Max’s last soccer game.  We’re saying see you soon in December to our family this weekend.  We’re done shopping; the sunscreen, Deet bug repellant, REI trekking pants and snorkels have all arrived—Thanks Amazon.   In good old days an expedition required much more than Oneclick ordering online.  But we live in a very rapid time so even shopping and shipping is instantaneous. On Sunday we’ll start the packing process. We are limited to 20kg per person and really we don’t want or need more that that.  As a final item on the list we are meeting with Marcy, our Educational Specialist for homeschool on Monday and handing over work samples and learning journals (including this piece).  Then Wednesday night we load up and get out the door.  It’s going to feel good—scary big adventure good—to get going.


5 thoughts on “p: The Borneo Adventure Begins

  1. This sounds like a wonderful expotition! I look forward to hearing about your adventures and seeing your new house when you all get back. I was very impressed with your decision to hire and train team experts. It made me think of a creative non-fiction book I recently finished that you might enjoy as a family read-aloud (some parental review/editing might be required–but I doubt it). It’s called The River of Doubt, about Teddy Roosevelt’s ill-fated trip up the Amazon River. It might be interesting for your family to read this at the same time you’re on your adventure (or maybe not!). Anyway, Mr. Roosevelt made the mistake of hiring some very ill-prepared experts! He survived, although a number of the (dark-skinned) Brazilian guides did not. It’s a page turner, with fascinating descriptions of the rainforest habitat, and offers interesting perspectives on the differences between the time of Manifest Destiny and now.

    May your own trip meet all your expectations, and exceed them in thrilling (and safe) ways. Bon voyage! Michelle

  2. Dear Freedmans,
    I am so excited and wish for you the trip you are all hoping for! May you have GRAND AND FRIENDLY AND SAFE adventures! I will be thinking of you with alot of Love and Fairy Godmother Blessings!

    I would greatly appreciate it if you would send me one postcard that I can share with the kids at school when you get the chance! And if you learn some songs from these far-away places, I would love to learn them from you when you get back!

  3. Dear Adventurers,
    I am so excited for you! I never even flew on a plane (or left the East Coast) until I was 21, so I can hardly imagine what it must be like for you Emma and Max to experience a trip like this!! Wow! I look forward to going along with you via this blog!
    Love, Grammy

  4. Being there, seeing, touching, hearing, tasting and smelling all the wonders you will experience is so extraordinarily exciting. This is a trip that only adventurers like you might take. I am so excited for you. I will look forward to, and enjoy through your eyes whatever you might share on this blog.

    Lots of love to you all,

  5. So good to hear from you and the glimpse of your learning adventure! What an awesome opportunity for all of you to share this time together in such an exotic and diverse locale. Aspects and moments of this great trip will stay with you forever.

    I can’t wait to hear more about the jungle trekking, animals and culture.

    Take care, stay safe…watch out for leeches! Patty, I’d be a little freaked to try scuba, too, but maybe, with your honest sharing….I would be brave and give it a try.

    Leigh Ann

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