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Worldwide Wantrepreneur

Why I’m Going to Malaysia to Work With Orangutans

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

In just a couple months, I’ll be living in a 10,000 acre rainforest in Malaysia, where I’ll get to work with orangutans and help them rehabilitate and survive in the wild.

Most of these orangutans were orphaned due to logging, plantation management, or illegal hunting.

I can picture it now… holding a baby orangutan around my neck, cleaning their nursery, doing forestry work, feeding them huge bunches of bananas.

Mmm, potassium.

I’ll be there for two straight months, working 6 days a week at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, which is inside the Kabili-Sepilok Forest (virgin rainforest) approximately 16 miles west of Sandakan, in the Sabah region of Malaysia.

This is a huge change from my day-to-day living in Boston, Massachusetts.

The temperature right now in Boston? 38° F with 57% humidity

Sandakan weather? 81° F with 84% humidity (and it’s not even summer yet)

That’ll take some getting used to.

Besides the climate change, there’s the ever-present threat of malaria and of course the commonly reported “traveler’s diarrhea.”

But that’s all old news. I expect this when traveling to Asia.

So with all that in mind and an excited but somewhat nervous girlfriend coming with me, we booked our flights and prepared for adventure.

And then – as luck would have it – this happened…

Terrorist warning for Sandakan

“There is a threat to foreigners of kidnapping and criminality on the eastern coast of Sabah and in particular the islands close to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines.”  From DailyMail

And this…

Terrorism in Malaysia

“The statement also highlighted the danger of visiting the coastal region of Sabah, especially in the towns of Sandakan and Tawau which are near the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines.” From AsiaOne News

Unhappy orangutan

Cool guys…

The U.S. Department of State notes risks associated with kidnappings-for-ransom and violence from both terrorist and criminal groups in eastern Sabah (Eastern Malaysia).


Now, all this hubbub and threat of violence isn’t new to the region — terrorism and criminal acts have been going on for years.

But with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the UK raising the terror alert just in the past few days to “High” and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs warning that “attacks could be indiscriminate and may target Western interests or locations frequented by Westerners…”

…as a temporary visitor I hereby dub all of this unfortunate.

It’s sad for the people in the region and it’s worth noting as a traveler heading in that direction.

But I’m not going to stop this adventure.

Here’s why:

1. Life is short and unpredictable.

I can’t control when I’m going to die, and I do want to mitigate risk, but I also want to live life to the fullest and have lots of happy memories to recall on my deathbed.

2. Terrorism happens, but it’s not as common as mainstream media makes it sound.

In 2014, 32,658 people were reported as killed by acts of terrorism worldwide (with a huge percentage of deaths attributed to the Middle East.)

To keep things in perspective, nearly 1.3 million people died from road crashes worldwide the same year.

Terrorism is horrible, and it happens, but I’m more likely to die in traffic.

3. As long as there are homo sapiens there will be conflict.

Terrorism has been happening in one way or another all around the world since the beginning of our existence.

It’s in the Middle East, it’s in Asia, and it’s even in the U.S.

This isn’t a reason to stay curled up on the couch safely binge watching Netflix.

So yes, there are dangers. And yes, there are risks.

But as an aspiring entrepreneur I take calculated risks and weigh the pros and cons.

I’m not going to show up in Sandakan sporting an American flag jumpsuit while flashing wads of cash and talking about where I’m sleeping at night, but I’m also not going to cancel the trip and for the rest of my life think about that time I almost went to Malaysia.

I’m going.

And while I’m there, I might just be able to help some orphaned orangutans (who are endangered by the way).

I’ll learn about our not-so-distant orangutan brethren (they share 97% of our DNA), I’ll learn about Malaysian culture, and I’ll get outside my comfort zone while continuing to work on my online business in my free time.

I have just under 2 months to work as hard as I can on my online business and then I’ll be off to Sandakan.

Let’s do this.

Also, if the idea of getting to work with orangutans intrigues you, check out the Travellers Worldwide program.

1 comment… add one
  • Your Mother March 10, 2016, 7:01 pm

    I was a fan of this adventure until I read this post. There’s calculated, everyday danger and then there’s government-warning danger. What’s so terrible about curling up at home w/Netflix again?

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