8 mins

What Borneo taught me about living

Our featured blogger, Mike Bonner, returns from Borneo determined to live a life he doesn't need to escape from

Borneo by the sea (Mike Bonner)

A Westerly wind blows to take me home. Five airports, four planes, one taxi, one coach and a bus. Reality sinking in with each transfer. Island life left behind. Friendships reduced to social networks and fading memories.

The happiness of children playing in Mabul's shantytown plays in my mind. Young girls set a tin can on the floor and retreat 10 yards. They each throw a flip flop. Closest to the can wins. Young boys craft boats from polystyrene, footballs from rolled socks, kites from driftwood and waste fabric. Who needs more when you have imagination, friendship and sunshine.

The flip flops have grown comfortable. White patches scar their imprint on my feet. Soon, thick socks and heavy workboots will hide them. Flip flops discarded to the junk room.

But maybe not. For on my return the room shall become my writing space. My place to dream, to hope, to imagine. A land where driftwood flies high and flip flops are key to every game.

The trip began with Whitesnake echoing in my ears. Each line holding meaning, resonance. As I board the plane, a different line plays in my heart;

'I don't know where I'm going...but I sure know where I've been'

I've been to Brunei, to Borneo, to Sipadan. Most importantly I've been to places of friendships, dreams and happiness. Once home, the Westerly wind must continue to blow. Change at work. Change in my social life. In every aspect, writing has a part to play.

Many people on this trip have traded successful yet unfulfilled existences at home for simpler lives of sunshine, enjoyment, and community. The essence of travelling is meeting others. I have met more likeminded Yorkshire folk on this trip than I ever would during a wet February back in Leeds.

My favourite evening was spent in the local shanty town, far away from tourist luxury. Rickety benches and tables. Travellers, locals, guitar, rum. A chef cooking for the selfless reward of pleasing others. Singing songs we thought we knew the words to. Loudly. Learning local songs. Badly.

Ex-pats and Malays readily sharing meals, drinks, stories. Trading hopes, dreams, ideas.

I met an English couple who married in Rome then drove to Asia. I was jealous. I am jealous. Mongolia sounds fun.

A Yorkshire lawyer with the guts to leave her successful law career to work in fields that motivate and enthuse her. A recognition that happiness is all that matters.

A Belgian architect who came to Sipadan for a fun dive in July. He stayed for August. In September, he went home and studied to be a Dive Master. He now dives Sipadan 12 times a week. I like his office.

A message from a friend back home reminds me life is often tragically short. My thoughts are with her. My thoughts are also with my Grandad who has spent the last month in hospital. He's 88; that's a damn fine innings and I hope he has loved every minute of those years.

I return to a sentiment I wrote on my way out here;

'Don't spend a lifetime plotting yearly escapes. Spend your holidays planning a life you seek no escape from.' 

Borneo Adventures | Mike Bonner

Proud member and current chair of Leeds Savages writing group.

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