The Borneo Expedition 2018 was for me one of the best expeditions that we have ever done. The one and only reason I can say this is because of the students. This is no cliché. These were young men with whom I would trust my life, no exaggeration. But I certainly didn’t have those feelings to begin with.
It all started 7 years ago. Our south London Boys school consisted of a chatty but well-behaved cohort of middle to upper class London lads, who for the most part had their adventures via the computer games they played at home and the package holidays that they went on with their parents. Their school education was fed to them and even though they were quite smart, they didn’t need to be to get better than average results. You can put that down to the teachers who were breaking themselves in half for those boys every day.
I did an assembly at the school for the year 8 students and talked about real adventure, and treasure; fire, weapons and some of the best survival training they will get to partake in. They all put their hands up with interest.
We had some really good times training those boys how to thrive in UK winter conditions and they learn quickly and well.
Skip forward a few years to Ross, a brilliantly talented young man, strong in character, sitting on a rock on a Cornwall shore on a beautiful sunny June day, as far away from civilisation as one can be in Cornwall; with me, explaining to him that the toothbrush with which I was about to scrub his bleeding and septic foot was going to hurt quite a lot. He nodded and braced himself for the consequences of his breaking of the rule “keep your shoes on”.
Now Ross was on a completely deserted tropical island in the South China Sea with his friends building one of the most incredible water crafts I had ever seen! built from the plastic and junk debris found on the coastline of that jungle island.
We raced the rafts on the open water then they foraged for dry wood and made a fire on the beach to cook dinner. We ate well thanks to the young men who learnt how to manage fire with great competence and worked efficiently as a team.
I had great pride for those young men at the end of that trip. When leaving our deserted island, I saw one of my lads looking out into the uncharted jungle with a fiery confidence in his eye. “I’d love to just go and trek that jungle, wouldn’t you sir?”. I grinned at him, knowing that he could do it and do it well. He grinned back with even more confidence. I hope that when these men make it big in life they remember these learning moments, the ones that help them replace fear with wisdom and knowledge.