Making a difference, one step at a time

By Patricia Hului


Most of us who are in our 20s are busy people.

We are busy building up our careers, saving up money to buy that dream house we always wanted, busy planning our next vacation whenever Airasia has promotions…We are pretty much busy moving from one place to another.

Along comes three young men who are in their 20s busy raising awareness, literally one step at a time.

Nomadic Lion is made up of David Atthowe, 25, together with Yusep Sukmana, 25, and Gilang Yaksapurusa, 24, from Bandung.


THE LIONS: (From left to right) Gilang, Atthowe and Yusepe met years ago when Atthowe visited Indonesia. Their friendship and shared passion for environment led the success of Walking Borneo project.

THE LIONS: (From left) Gilang, Atthowe and Yusep met years ago when Atthowe visited Indonesia. Their friendship and shared passion for the environment led to the success of the Walking Borneo project.


Atthowe founded Nomadic Lion to walk the length of various countries to raise awareness about local positive environmental and humanitarian projects and solutions.

Earlier last year, Nomadic Lion started their first project ‘Walking Malaysia’ which took them 48 days walking the length of Peninsular Malaysia in aid of the Borneo Project, a total distance of 1110km.

They started the journey on Jan 11 from Tanjung Piai, Johor and reaching Wang Kelian, Perlis on Feb 27, 2014.

For their second ‘Walking Borneo’ journey, Nomadic Lion had already been making headlines across Borneo ever since they started the walk from Tawau on Aug 22, 2014.

They have left their footsteps all over the northern half of Borneo including Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu, Sandakan, Telupid, Ranau, Mount Kinabalu, Kota Kinabalu, Lawas, Brunei, Limbang, Miri, Bintulu, Sibu, Sri Aman and finally down to Kuching on Jan 4.

Their final two kilometres were from the Sarawak Tourism Office to Le’ Park accompanied by some 150 people.


The Power of Walking


The walk which took four and half months crossing the entire east Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak and Brunei is the first of its kind social project taking place here in Borneo.

They have covered 2,250 km solely by walking. Hey, they even climbed Southeast Asia’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu.

But why did they choose to walk?


FINALLY: It took 137 days and ‘Walking Borneo’ officially ended at Le’ Park at 10am on Jan 4.

FINALLY: It took 137 days and ‘Walking Borneo’ which officially ended at Le’ Park at 10am on Jan 4.


Atthowe explained, “In the walking lies the power and the purpose. By walking we travel slowly and that is intentional. We want to move slowly. By moving slowly, we can meet a lot of people along the way. We can learn everything about them. We can learn every ethnicity, culture and history.”

Surprisingly, the Nomadic Lion hardly faced any challenges. Scorching heat, heavy rains or even nasty blisters could not stop these guys in their tracks.

“The reality is there is only one challenge which is the mental aspect,” said Atthowe.

Once they’d overcome the mental challenge, everything else became possible as he said, “Almost everyone can get up and walk.”

Do not let their unruly hair and sunburnt skin fool you, for this trio, personal hygiene was essential and showering twice a day was a must for them.

From Tawau to Kuching, the longest period Nomadic Lion were not able to shower was two days. Other than that, they had no problem seeking for shelter, food, and of course, a shower.

“If you ask around,” Atthowe said, “You will find it. The key is to ask.”

Throughout the walk, the Nomadic Lion received help in forms of shelter, food and water from the local communities.

Only in Sabah did the Nomadic Lion find themselves stranded at a bus stop once or twice to spend the night.

Hailing from Norfolk, England, Atthowe shared: “In Sarawak, we got a lot of help from the Iban communities because along the road there is always a longhouse. And they are so helpful giving lunch, shower and place to sleep.”

Atthowe gave a brief rundown of their daily schedules which starts at 4.30am. By 5.30am, they start their walk and by 5pm they start looking for a place to stay. “By 6 o’clock we already find a place. It is dangerous to walk at night.”


KEEP US SAFE: Nomadic Lion taking a photo with policemen who helped in traffic that day.

KEEP US SAFE: Nomadic Lion taking a photo with policemen who helped direct traffic that day.


According to Atthowe, it is really important after walking for four or five days to take a rest as it revitalises the body.

Navigating around Borneo might be tricky even for local people and the Nomadic Lion admitted they depended on technology saying, “We do use our phone’s GPS, but at the end of the day the best GPS are the local people.”

Some gym-goers and sport enthusiasts spend hundreds on dietary supplements such as protein powders, energy bars and so on, but for these guys who actually spend all day walking, their energy are derived from the basics.

“We don’t believe in fancy supplements. Our supplements are rice, coconut water, mineral water, honey, fruit. We are not vegetarian but we eat majority vegetables and little meat. We try to find rice every day.”

Interestingly, Atthowe managed to gain one kg along his walk whereas Gilang lost two kg and Yusep lost from 10kg from this journey.


The Power of Social Media


With more than 10,000 likes on their Facebook page and 4,500 followers on Instagram, Nomadic Lion wanted to highlight humanitarian projects and raise environmental awareness about Borneo through their website and social media activities.

Atthowe pointed out, “Basically we run our project via social media so the power is on Facebook and Instagram. That is how we get so much support.”

They also shared their experiences along their journey through social networking sites.


WE MADE IT: Yusep (left) carrying the flag of Nomadic Lion while walking with members of the public.

WE MADE IT: Yusep (left) carrying the flag of Nomadic Lion while walking with members of the public.


“When we meet them, we stop and film for the documentary. We take the photos and stories then put it up social media,” he explained.

A perfect example of the wise use of social media, Atthowe stated “Basically we end up doing more like networking. We network with people for example, the tourism department and kampungs that wanted to develop.”

Besides relying on social media, this walking trio used the mainstream media in Malaysia and Brunei by doing newspaper interviews and radio shows, participating in events at schools along their route and a documentary.


The Power of Reaching Out


Along the journey, they have visited various conservation projects, education projects, community empowerment projects, national parks and met many individuals who are making Borneo a better place.

On Nomadic Lion’s aim, Atthowe said “We want to raise awareness about positive projects and stories here in Borneo, things people are doing to make Borneo a better place. It can be a community project, education project, conservation, all along the way”.

They visited Sabah Society for Underprivileged Children (PKPKM), Sabah Society for the deaf Lahad Datu Center, Danum Valley reforestation project, Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Center (BSBCC), Mescot community, Kampung Rumantai, Lambir National Park, Niah National Park and met many inspiring individuals.

On what’s next in store for the Nomadic Lion, Atthowe said that they would be heading back to Bandung to work on their documentary about their journey. He also informed that the documentary would be ready April this year and it would be released for free on YouTube.


WE ARE READY: Nomadic Lion taking a group photo participants before starting their final two kilometres walk at 9am on Jan 4.

WE ARE READY: Nomadic Lion taking a group photo participants before starting their final two kilometre walk at 9am on Jan 4.


Commenting on his experience in Sarawak, Atthowe stated “Sarawak in anyway is a developing country. It is advanced in some places. But even if you go to the village, the people there are very friendly. In a lot of ways actually I say it is more advance than other places, what I mean it is friendlier, people are more receptive, people are happier.

“To me that is more important than having the nicest road or the biggest cities. Of course these things are important, but what is more important at the end of the day – me, personally – is how happy your life is.”

Their next walking journey will be in 2016. Called ‘Walking Asia’, it will be a five-year journey spanning 19 countries from India to Indonesia and will be the biggest participatory walk ever in Asia.

For more updates on the Nomadic Lion, visit their website at

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