By Leon Shi, VI Form
Keeping Up with the Komodos
For a whole month, I had no running water, no electricity, and no internet connection. I had to prepare for flooding, menacing reptiles, and even medical emergencies. Some days were truly difficult to persist through with only two meals to fuel over six hours of kayaking. A single wave could easily capsize my kayak and leave me helpless in the ocean. I constantly feared for supply shortage or, worse, being stranded. This is my life for a month on the Komodo Islands of Indonesia. Despite the numerous hardships, it was the best trip of my life. Away from the noise of the world, the Komodo Island wilderness allowed me to embark on a journey of growth and self-discovery about what is most important in life: living purposefully.
Growing up, I have always been eager to comprehend the natural world and was especially fascinated by that untouched by society. Komodo Island is one of the most biodiverse places on earth, home to the endemic Komodo dragons. These secluded islands were the ideal setting for the adventure I’ve always dreamt of. With my earnings from coaching swimmers, delivering newspapers, and selling modified fishing lures, I bought a ticket that routed me from New York to Flores, where I rode a rickety fishing boat that dropped me and my kayak onto the pink, sandy beach of North Komodo.
After roaming in the wilderness, I saw nature through a new lens. I watched blue marlins chasing after preys and Komodo dragons digging for turtle eggs. I noticed that everything has a purpose in nature. Species adapt and do what they must to survive. Just like the animals around me, my actions in the wilderness was about survival: aiming to eat and not be eaten. I followed a very simple routine: waking up before sunrise to stay clear of the cold-blooded, carnivorous Komodo dragons, catching fish for my next meal, and kayaking as far as possible. The circumstances allowed me to focus on living in the moment.
Living in the wild made me hyper-aware of the superfluous things in life. In nature, only humans acquire materials for comfort instead of need. My confrontation with survival challenged me to focus on what is essential. During this journey, I forgot about the trivial urges to post a status on Facebook or to peruse Amazon.com. I used to spend hours each day mindlessly scrolling through social media, but this trip made me question its necessity. Instead of watching TV shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, I hunted for my food, started fires from twigs and grass, stayed alert for any danger, and was constantly on the go. In contrast to the animal adaptations I saw on Komodo Island, humans seem to have evolved, in some ways, for the worse. The abundance of materials has made our actions less purposeful because while the resources of modern life grant us opportunities for creative pursuits and progress, they engender complacency and distract us from our true goals. This dream trip of mine would never have been possible without hundreds of hours of focused work, research, and preparation. I may never have survived this trip were it not for my extreme concentration on survival, shown by how I spent each second purposefully.
Although my experience on the Komodos taught me much, I feel fortunate to be back in society. Technological progress of today provides us the chance to move our goals beyond basic survival. After my return, though inundated with countless distractions again, I did not forget to lead a purposeful life. My time in survival mode made me much more deliberate about how I now spend my time. Whether it is in school, work, or the sports field, I am no longer satisfied with pursuits that simply “pass the time.”
Leon Shi is a VI Form boarding student from Malden, MA.