I’m curious about why people travel, but mostly, I’m curious about why people never return home. As someone who has hit the road and travelled for months and months at a time, I was quite intrigued when I came across Nomadic Lion’s blog. Nomadic Lion are two people, Yusep “Pesuy” Sukmana and David Atthowe, who are living as nomads: people who roam from place to place.
David, originally from Southeast England, left home left home at age 18 and has been travelling around the world for about six years. Along with Yusep, his friend from Java, Indonesia, they’ve been walking the distance of Peninsular Malaysia, which is 1100km.
Why the distance? To raise awareness and donations for The Borneo Project which works with local NGO’s and communities to promote the conservation of Borneo’s natural ecosystems and their indigenous communities. The walk started on 10 January 2014 from Tanjung Piai in Johor and they plan to finish 58 days later in Kaki Bukit.
I meet with the nomadic duo at a quiet mamak behind the Bangsar LRT during their walk through KL. As they cross the street, I see the classic traveller traits; hair bleached by the sun, wrinkles, and tan lines. David waves and flashes a nice, genuine smile, so does Yusep.
They just came from an interview with Astro Awani, and feel high with excitement. David tells me when they first arrived in Malaysia, the reception wasn’t great. People thought they were a bit crazy to be walking such a long distance, and not many people offered shelter or food, but it warmed up after they arrived in Batu Pahat.
Usually they walk from 4.30am to around 11am, and then rest for the hottest part of the day.
Usually they walk from 4.30am to around 11am, and then rest for the hottest part of the day. Most of the time, they’ve slept in palm fields or outside mosques. One day, while they were having lunch in KL, someone from Astro Awani recognised them from the earlier Poskod article we posted about their journey, and asked for an interview.
“What was the driving force to become a nomad?” I ask.
David thinks for a moment and says, “Nothing specific. The more I travelled, the more I enjoyed life. I took my first job in Indonesia, as a fish farmer, and that’s all it took. I just love to travel. I spent five months in Jamaica, six months in India, and a year in Malaysia. I even work in Australia sometimes. Anything to fund travel. But after a while, I wanted to change from a tourist to do something more progressive.”
For me, imagining life on the road for six years continuously is difficult. I know after a few months of travel, I get tired. I ask him, “Isn’t it hard to keep up the nomadic lifestyle? What about the challenges?”
“Not really,” he says calmly. “I’m living the life I love. As for challenges, there isn’t much. Just the normal stuff that’s a part of life.”
David is very chilled out about everything, and always has a big smile on his face. Yusep stays quiet for most of the interview. David says he’s much more talkative when he can speak Bahasa and tells me that they have their own street language, a mix of English and Bahasa to communicate, but Yusep speaks up when I ask how they met.
It happened while hiking in Bandung, West Java about four years ago. It was actually Yusep’s dad, who David met first; he’s a fish farmer. David was invited to their kampung and his friendship with Yusep continued. Even though, Yusep had never left Indonesia until last month, he loves to travel around and explore all of the wilderness of Indonesia. He reminds he it would take at least three years to travel the entirety of the archipelago.
The Borneo Project is David’s idea, he loves Malaysia and Indonesia and speaks Bahasa Malaysia. He had planned to walk solo, but later he invited Yusep to to join the Borneo Project. Yusep’s parents were reluctant to let him go. It’s not common for people to leave home, he tells me. His parents made David swear on his life that he would return their son in one piece and to call often.
“How did everyone in your kampung react?” I ask.
“Everyone kept asking me, Are you crazy, man? What about your job? What about your studies?” says Yusep. But he adds that he wasn’t so bothered by this. He’ll return to university after The Borneo Project is completed, and will keep on travelling. He would like see David’s home town. Mostly, he’d like to play football, eat an English breakfast, see the fields and ride horses.
Besides documenting their journey on their blog, the duo are keeping a video diary to make into a documentary. Yusep hopes to take the documentary back to his village, and share his
journey with his kampung. “I want to show everyone that they have a choice. They can leave. They can travel. They can do anything.”
I ask my final question, “Has The Borneo Project sparked any new ideas?” They both think for a minute. David says, “Well, it has been challenging. I have had this idea for a long time. But blogging, social media, funding, all of it is new and DIY. So, I hope to master those things, and move on to new projects.
“I want to walk Sabah and Sarawak in August, and Papua next year.” He pauses and gives a big smile. “I’d also like to house hunt there.”
Find out more about Nomadic Lion here.