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Emma clearly had the best time on expedition to Borneo and she came away with some different view points too – have a read about her experience and what she learnt!

Ok, so I jumped right into the deep end with this one. About a year prior to our departure Camps International came and did a presentation at our school about the expedition to Borneo and as much as I wanted to go I didn’t put my name down because I was scared of the unknown, I didn’t know most of the people that were going and (me being a typical teenager) I wouldn’t have a SIM card to allow me to keep up to date with what was happening back home.

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Fast forward to about 10-11 months later and I was talking to one of my friends that was going after she’d gone to a ‘Pre-Departure’ sort of meeting.  She started telling me about it and I started kicking myself that I didn’t sign up. My friend was dying for me to come, so once I showed the slightest bit of interest she emailed Camps International to see if there was any chance of me getting me on the trip.  With only just over a month until the departure date I had very little hope of being able to go.  Emails and phone calls started to go back and forth between Camps International and my parents and I, and after about a week of this I was on the expedition! Luckily I already had a passport!  I couldn’t thank Camps International enough for this and all the hard (and rushed) work they did to get me on the expedition.

I was super nervous as much as I was excited, and to add to the nerves, because I’d joined the team so late, I’d missed all the meetings they’d had and all the further information they’d received. As the presentation at school had been over a year ago I’d forgotten most of it, so I had practically no idea of what was ahead or what to expect. But Camps brought me up to speed quickly.

What surprised me most about my expedition was how close everyone in my team became, and how well everyone got along. No one really knew each other at the start, as we had two schools make up our team. Being thrown into living in pretty close quarters straight away was a massive step but it didn’t take long for conversations to spark and friendships to form. For me this was challenging because I’m a pretty shy person, but putting yourself out there is the best thing you can do on these expeditions I quickly learnt, because sitting by yourself and having no one to talk to for the duration of your expedition wouldn’t be fun. There was also a rather large mix of personalities which worried me at first, but there was always something that brought everyone together and the volunteers and leaders are amazing at making sure everyone is involved in everything.

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Choosing a favourite moment for me is probably the hardest because all the activities we did varied so much. However the 45 km, 5 day jungle trek was a highlight. Now I’m not the fittest person out there, and it was challenging for sure, but do-able. The porters were beyond amazing and were always helping you out where and when you needed it to make things as easy as possible for you. My team was great at keeping morale high and motivating and pushing each other to keep going.  I believe that was why every single one of us made it to the end, and something other teams should do, support one another. There were injuries and people got sick, but overall we came out on a high. It was the most rewarding feeling completing it, and definitely worth slipping over in the mud numerous times, and having my hammock fall out of the tree with me in it (p.s I tied it up myself).

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I took a lot out of the experience I gained from the expedition but if I had to choose the major things it would be to push yourself out of your comfort zone and be grateful for what you have.

My expedition wouldn’t have started without me pushing myself out of my comfort zone. After declining the offer to go on the expedition the first time I had a very in-the-moment thought of ‘if not now, when?’. For me, staying at home where I knew the people, the surroundings and the agenda was the ‘safe’ option but after reflection I realised you don’t grow from that and there was going be multiple times in my future when I would have to interact with new people of different ethnicities, be thrown into new surroundings I’m unfamiliar with, and not know what was going to happen and when. Then we get back to the question ‘if not now, when?’ I decided it would be beneficial to me if I did this sooner rather than later. I thought that this expedition would be a great opportunity for self growth despite how nervous I was, thinking positive is the best thing you can do. All of these thought happened before I even stepped onto the plane, but more continued to happen during my expedition. A tip I would give to future travellers would be to put yourself out there no matter how hard it might seem, as once you get going it’s easy. Talk to the volunteers, your leader, the people on your team, the locals, because you never know what stories you’ll hear, the lessons you’ll learn, the friendships that will form, and what opportunity’s may arise.

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The other major thing I learnt from my expedition is to be grateful for what you have. Living in the communities we volunteered in has shown me how lucky we are back home, both economically and technologically wise. The majority of the locals have only ever been exposed to their current way of living and therefore don’t see the disadvantage they have. They’re all so happy and humble in what they have and do, and appreciate even the smallest acts of kindness. This really made me rethink my morals and realise that what you have is what you make it.