An Adventure

October 8, 2013 2 Comments

This was another speech I gave at my Toastmasters Club. It is one of the many speeches I made that were based on my experience with Pangaea. I guess when trying to find something in my life that is worthy enough to make the audience sit in silence for seven minutes, the Pangaea experience often comes to the top of my head. Besides, it is a great opportunity to share about the Young Explorers Programme. Hope you enjoy it!

In 2009 November, I was 16, and it was the holidays. I was in a crisis in my life. I was losing interest in school. Now, if you were reading a novel, this wouldn’t seem like very much of a crisis, at least nothing worthy of being the problem that the protagonist overcomes in any decent read. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t lose interest in school? Then again, this was very much unlike my usual self. I had always loved excelling in school, enjoying the many opportunities I had to develop myself. But it was as if I was pushing myself too hard and for too long, and I didn’t know why I was doing it anymore. A sort of quarterly-life crisis if you will.

So there I was, searching for something new in my life, something different to do to spice things up and give me the thirst to live life to the fullest; to truly live. And was I glad to find it.

It was an interview in the papers, with a man called Mike Horn. Sponsored by Mercedes Benz, he had embarked on a journey to distant lands across the world. And he was not doing it alone. He had built a boat, the Pangaea, and he was bringing youths from all over the globe with him, naming the journey the Young Explorer’s Programme. And the hook that got me; no one in Singapore had applied yet. I was sold, for this meant I would actually stand a chance.

The application consumed me and my holidays. It resurrected a focus and drive in me, and with a renewed vigour and zest, I put together the best application I could. Three months later, i received a momentous email inviting me to the next step of the application; a two week selection camp in the Swiss Alps.

Before long, I was in the town of Chateau-d’Oex, a quaint place situated a thousand five hundred metres above sea level, surrounded by rolling hills. There, I met the fellow young explorers. Notably, the Germans also faced conscription. There was Alex, a soccer player who did his national service looking after a wheelchair bound elderly man for six months; Daniel, who served as a foot soldier in the German mountains and who was also part of a world-beating choir. The others came from South Africa, France, Australia, America etc. Every continent was represented!

So the adventure begun. We spent a night atop the Klein Matterhorn, a majestic mountain towering 4000m high. It was the peak of a ski slope, so there was a cable car going up, which we took because there wasn’t time to climb it entirely. But this meant that we had no chance to acclimatise either. When we reached the summit, we encountered a fierce blizzard in which we were to pitch tents. The wind was howling at 40kmh and the thick fall of snow filled the noon time sky in a gloomy grey. It was such a physical ordeal simply pitching the tents that I succumbed to altitude sickness at the end of it. Nausea, headaches and exhaustion plagued me as I drifted to sleep.

I was eventually awoken to excited shouts informing that the storm had subsided. I stumbled out of the tent into… paradise. The chaotic flurry of snow just hours ago now lay still, layering a fluffy pristine white carpet as far as my eyes could see. Filled with wonderment, we watched as the warm glowing sun gradually descended behind a range of mountains in the distance.

It was not long before these fourteen days of escape went by. I was back in warm and humid Singapore. I had gained a profound appreciation of nature and environmental conservation, and my exposure to people across such varied cultures had opened my eyes to new perspectives. One of the young explorers, a South African boy, Kai, had been so impacted by the experience that he embarked on a quest to summit mountains all over the world. This was the kind of lives that they were going to lead and there was no reason why mine should be mundane. I made a determined resolution that my life would be a unique and purpose-driven one, and with that, I buckled down to conquer the looming obstacle ahead of me: my A levels examination. It was the first mountain of many that would come, and I will conquer them all.

Love for life, Love for nature, Mike Horn YEP, Toastmasters
2 Comments to “An Adventure”
  1. Moses says:

    This is a brilliant post, both in its content and tone. I can relate to your quarter life crisis, I think most of us go through it at some point, but its the outstanding few who dare to do something about it. It was inspirational to hear about your exploits, and it’s a lesson to all of us to take more risks and go further outside of our comfort zones. Would have loved to hear more about the selection camp.

  2. Leonard Chua says:

    Hey, thanks for the encouragement Moses! Yup, soon I will share more about the camp and post some pictures too!

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