Well guess who came to town the other week.

Markus Wagner from Cycling Without Borders fame. It was great to catch up with a fellow cyclist and swap stories from both of our long journeys on our own by bicycle. Markus cycled from his home near the Black Forest in Germany to Shanghai, China. Epic.

He was in Auckland as a guest lecturer at Auckland University and a university in Wellington.

With Markus from Cycling Without Borders fame in Auckland, New Zealand

Engaging Times

It is unsurprising that a journey such as the 14degrees Journey clarified what and who I want in life. Clarification of what is worth striving for, and clarification of who life is worth spending with. On both counts, this one year since the end of my skateboarding journey has been rather fruitful and worthwhile.

I am very pleased to announce (with a smile on my dial), that I am now engaged to the woman who is still, even after a full 7 years since we first met, the most engaging and beautiful woman I have ever met.

A challenger.

A clarifier.

A comforter.

Haidee is her name. More and more becoming the love of my life every day.


The wedding is set for the 5th of February 2010.


Jasmine Tea

I was drinking some Jasmine tea at a cheap little Asian* restaurant the other day and it reminded me of western China. I felt the aromas of that aromatic tea and closed my eyes. I was taken back to Turpan. Xinjiang Province. Back to the heat. The unforced rhythms of life in a place where the heat dictates pace and schedule.

Leaving smoggy Hami, Xinjiang Province, China

I recalled the precious cool hours of the morning. Rolling out of a sleepy town at dawn in the haze. Quiet. Free. Smooth.

I had my eyes closed for only a moment, but what seemed like a lifetime of images flashed before my eyes.

From the cool dawn I snapped over to an empty beef noodle shop. I am the only one there. A cool spring water fed air conditioning unit blows tepid air in my direction as I slurp up the salty broth. At once enjoying the saltiness, at once despising the hot liquid doing nothing for my already over-heated body.

I sip on the Jasmine tea.

In Hamilton.

I close my eyes once more.

In Turpan.

Near Shanghai. A great pile of noodles sits before me. Must eat. Can’t eat. Body too tired. To hang with the pain, I consume what my body craves. What my stomach will reject. What my mind despises.

I sip on the Jasmine tea. It soothes my stomach.

Near Shanghai.

In Hamilton.

I write this in a Starbucks café in Auckland, New Zealand. Beside me sits an empty Tall Tzuo Chai Latte. A paper cup with a plastic lid with my name scrawled on it.

Tastes nice. Sugar overload. Worlds away from Shanghai. From Turpan.

Peppermint walls, wooden trim, textured wallpaper, tiled floor. Round tables, stained chairs.

Paralyzing normality. Comforting conformity.

Everything is a commodity here. Even uniqueness is a commodity. It is normal to be unique. Give me necessity. Allow me the essentials. Nothing else. In my affluence I can afford the choice.

Given the choice, they would choose this. Anything to get out of that.

This is not how it has to be. Can we strike a balance between this and that? Can we have affluence and a down-to-earth necessity? Or must we always want more. Or must we know our place, never strive.

Contentment is a slippery creature to grasp.

Happy despite the circumstances: an elusive state of mind.

Thank you, Creator, for what I have.

Thank you, Creator, for where I am.

Give me perseverance.

Give me peace.

Grant us sight.

Let it be.

* By Asian I really do mean generic Southeast Asian restaurant. A mishmash of Thai, Indian, Eastern Chinese, Vietnamese. Locations were unimportant for this Asian restaurant. To the New Zealander it was just ‘Asian’, and that is fine.

World Record

Done and dusted - Guinness World Record

Despite receiving this certificate over a month ago, this post has been long overdue. Simply because doing justice to a post like this is hard work. It starts and ends with thanks:
Community is the most essential factor in any successful endeavour. Without the community, I wouldn’t have made it across China and to my goal at Shanghai. Period.
Dave Cornthwaite built upon Jack Smith’s success and launched a worldwide phenomenon; long distance travel by skateboard. Thank you for the inspiration, Dave.

To know that there were still yet many others pushing themselves to their limits on boards, or bucking the trend and choosing human power over oil-power to get themselves from A to B on a daily basis was a huge motivating factor. Thank you. Blog Readers
An especially big thank you to all those readers who made the effort and choice to type encouraging messages and comments during the journey. Some were faithful readers right from the start in 2006, some latched on towards the end. Whenever you did get on line with the trip, you were a huge boost to morale. This blog was for you.

All those who invited me in to stay
Many of those who invited me in to stay will never see this blog post. But to those with access to internet, thank you. Your trust is a beautiful testament to the goodness in this world.

All those who assisted financially
You know who you are. Thank you.

Why You Should Take News Stories With a Grain of Salt

I saw a news story on New Zealand national news the other week about an incident involving a British comedian interviewing a supposed ‘terrorist’ for a new film called Bruno. The gist was that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (of Ali G fame), playing the part of Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion presenter, was interviewing a supposed leader of a supposedly active terrorist group, al-Aqsa. The ‘leader’ of al-Aqsa however is a local business man, and the ‘active’ terorist group named al-Aqsa was disbanded years ago; the local man, Palestinian man Ayman Abu Aita, has never had anything to do with the now defunct terrorist group.

You can see the TV3 News story here: Controversial Cohen Targeted by Terrorist Group

Apart from the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen has manipulated the trust of Abu Aita, I am dismayed at how Channel 3 News in New Zealand could be so incredibly lax in their fact-finding. Their report about the interview stated that Cohen has now beefed up his personal security because the terrorist group has been sending threats to him. Where does 3 News get this information from? How can a defunct terrorist group send threats? As you can see in the following video clip, the interview footage has been purposefully edited to create a different story to what actually happened.

Sky News Story (

Of course, I should not rule out that this could just be all an elaborate haox, and perhaps Sky News are the ones being taken for a ride. Perhaps Ayman Abu Aita is in cohoots with Cohen and him sueing Cohen is just all part of the deal…

Which is why, we should all take news stories with a grain of salt.


I had dream last night
In it was the woman I love
For months we had been forced apart
For months I had longed to be with her

At last we reunited
At last she was there before me
At last we were together

But in my dream she would not let me near
In my dream as I approached she withdrew
“I am no longer beautiful” she cried

All I wanted was to be with her
All I wanted was to hold her
Not because I pitied her for her scarred face
Not because I wanted to comfort her pain of disfigurement

But because I wanted to celebrate
I wanted to celebrate the coming together again of two persons
Two lives, two beautifully crafted souls
And bodies and features that the Creator uses for his glory

However old and whatever shape and however marred by dysfunction
Shining his glory

How wonderful it would be
To not be bound by the fickleness of sight
To not be bound to judge by looks the worth of God’s creation
To not be bound to love and be loved, based on a time-limited outer

In my dream I remembered the words of a blind artist woman
Met on a long journey:

“The biggest handicap humanity has to endure, is the ability to see. I count myself lucky,” she said, “and I wish that people could see what I see. I wish that people could see that they are bound by the curse of sight; they are burdened by a confidence in the beauty that this world defines; a beauty that fades. If only they could see what I see. If only they could see the beauty that I see.”

As I wrote this poem, I was reminded of a thought I had recently. Isn’t it amazing how as a society we have come to place value on a certain body shape? We have been conditioned from the time we can capture images in our minds, and throughout our lives. We have been told that that is a beautiful body and it is to be adored. We have been told that that is not a beautiful body and is to be avoided.

The reality is that this tendency to assign value to a certain body shape is entirely subjective and is based on man-made values. Yes, that body is beautiful, but so is that body, and that body…we so often believe what we are told, without taking the time to appreciate the truth that beauty comes in all forms.

Just look at some ancient paintings of naked ladies and you’ll see that not only were people’s values back then very specific when it came to beauty, but their specificity was directed to a much different body shape than specificity is directed towards today.

My blind friend in Switzerland said that she does not consider her lack of sight as being a handicap, but rather a blessing. She said that people who can see spend so much time judging by what society tells them they should judge by, that they miss out on what is really important.

Something to think about and make changes in my thinking for, I think.

And just as an aside, my blind friend in Switzerland had the plant below growing in her garden. “My friend came around one day and asked if he could plant something in my garden,” she said. “I said yes go ahead, but what is it? He said it was weed. I didn’t have a problem with it, because if the police came around and asked me about it, I could just say I didn’t know it was growing there!”

Growing freely in a garden in Fribourg, Switzerland

The Center of My Life

So, I got an email from a friend today, asking what I thought of the concept of ‘free will’. Basically I don’t know what I think about free will, other than I’ve heard some cliqe comments about free will in church in my past, and am no longer sure what to think about them. So here is my response to his email, which ended up being about something entirely different, but might be some interesting thought material…

I struggle with the concept of free will too. I mean, basically, us humans did not ask to be created. God apparently ‘gives’ us life. But apparently, in order to not die (that is, participate in the new perfect world that is to come), us humans have to have faith in Jesus (whatever that means). So in other words, according to the story of the Bible, you either follow Christ and live, or you don’t and you die. Where is the free will in that? If we want to live, it appears to me that there is no choice in the matter. Like you say, choose the ‘right’ way, or you’ll get a punch in the face. If that’s the case then no one will choose the punch in the face. Where’s the free will in that?

Dude, the more I learn about theology, the more I think that there are lots of ways of explaining our existence on earth, and explaining the messed-up bit within ourselves. And the reality is that for me, I cannot be absolutely sure about anything. I can be confident and content about certain things, but I cannot be absolutely sure.

What I am confident about is that so often we argue and discuss what we think is the truth about why we are the way we are, and in the end we lose sight of the fact that no matter how much we talk about it, it’s not going to change anything. What I’m confident will change things and affect the here and now is focussing on what is important – love, mercy, justice, peace, tolerance, patience, self-sacrifice…all the good stuff that everyone knows – whether they’ve got a book to tell them about it or not – makes life go smoothly.

At this point then, there’s not much to distinguish the Bible from other ways of life that promote the same things. The thing that gets me excited with the Bible story however is that according to that story apparently God is not only the big creator dude that is in total control of the whole situation, but he’s also involved. He also intervenes and guides and is interested in his creation being all that they were created to be, and is genuinely interested in helping us out. If this is true (and I do choose to believe it to be true, because it gives me strength), then I am happy to bypass my doubts and questions, and say “Thank you God for being involved! Help me to be a person who represents your love in the world”. Because God knows, I need help.

And as for God creating everything, I still believe he did create everything (how he did it is up to science to figure out), and as far as we understand the writer of Genesis, God called everything ‘good’. And we are still all intrinsically good. The problem is, I so often (more often that not) choose not to live up to what God created me to be. I look at the example of Jesus and see the epitome of true humanness, and realise that I don’t have the power within myself to be just like him. Mainly, I choose to be selfish. But from what I understand, giving the creator of the universe a place in my life will allow him to step in and guide me – to be involved. And that’s freaking awesome. It is so comforting, even when I’m not happy about life.

As for having to choose the right religion, far out…I struggled with this…all I can say is this: From what I understand, God is not a dickhead. He’s merciful, he’s fair, and his main motivation is not to take life away but to give it. He is the only one who knows each person’s heart. Surely there is no way that any human being can say that another human being is doomed. Seems to me that if we start doing that then we start acting like God.

I personally don’t like Einstein’s god (created the universe in the begining and set it in motion, and now he’s just a spectator with no contact, watching the chaos). I think God – the God we get to know in the Bible – is fully involved. He has shown us humans how to live, given us guidance, stepped in time after time (check out the stories of the Old Testament – humans do stuff outside of a perfect plan, life goes to poo, humans cry out to God to help, God helps by providing someone to lead people in the right direction, people forget about God’s goodness and go outside of the perfect plan again, life goes to poo, humans cry out to God for help…the cycle keeps repeating itself), but we just keep deciding that we know better than God. I know I do. And unfortunately we’ve all got to live with the consequences of our bad decisions. I see that Old Testament cycle repeating itself in me too. When I’m aligned with him (to me that means calling out to him and thanking him and acknowledging him) I find that I am much more able to be Rob as a true human – patient, kind, not proud, not self-seeking, chilled out, not vengeful, full of hope, perserverant (1 Corinthians 13)…

There are so many things that I still struggle with in terms of how messed up Western Evangelical Christianity is. I fully understand why some people are just so put off by it. Heck, I’m put off by it. I got hacked off in church today because the song leader, after the first song, said that he was disappointed in the congregation and that we should be more lively. To me this translated in my head that we weren’t hyped up enough. Like as if hype has anything to do with being close to God or something…But I stick with this church thing and Christianity thing because we’re all human and all trying to make sense of what it means to be fully human. We all approach life viewed through different lenses of culture and upbringing and tradition and expectations for life, and we’re all trying to get along despite those often blurry lenses.

Life for me is not about being happy. At the core, it’s about having a pillar of faith in something that does not change, i.e., God. Holding onto this faith is often hard, because I continuously want to use my mind to explain everything. But I know my mind. I know how much I don’t know. I know how much even the most intelligent person on earth doesn’t know. I know how much humans as a collective species don’t know, or more specifically don’t want to acknowledge (war, environment screw ups, injustice, etc etc are proof of this, surely). From this faith in something (God) that represents an unchanging and constant truth in the world, I am thankfully able to have joy (is this the same as happiness?) and comfort and peace at all times and through every part of my existence on earth.

Changing Lenses

Ever since I read this quote by Dean Karnazes, I think I have been afraid…
“It is so easy to live a life that has been scripted for you by others, to fall into the mire of conformity by following a path that society has laid before you, rather than heeding your own unique calling. Comfort, complacency, routine, the path of least resistance, the easy road – these things are the bane of humankind. It is a disquieting moment when you awaken to realise the trappings of conventiality have created a life for you that is entirely different from the one you wish to live.” – Dean Karnazes

This quote will mean different things to different people. To me, I read it as meaning that a life not spent charging overseas and discovering the world and having big adventures was a life not worth living. It meant not being content. It meant not being happy with one’s lot.

But is this helpful? Is this real life?
My personal reading of this quote made me afraid of ‘normal’ life. It made me afraid of letting my guard down and being content. I look at people who are (or seem to be) content with what they’ve got and where they are, and I am envious of their seemlingly intrinsic satisfaction with life.

You see, I think there is something flawed in my reading of that quote by Karnazes, or rather, my interpretation of it. I read it as extoling the virtues of an autonomous life free from outside influences, driven only by one’s individual goal of self-sufficiency and if-its-going-to-be-its-up-to-me attitude.

I repeat, I realise that this quote will mean different things to different people. But for me, this quote reads as a dangerous idolisation of a self-driven individualistic mindset that is focussed on what is best for my life, rather than what contribution I can make to others’ lives.

Funny, isn’t it, that we can read into things what we want them to mean. Karnazes is a dedicated man who has used his fame for awesome things in environmental concern, physical wellbeing. He has raised over US$1.2 million for charitable causes. His is not an individualistic endeavour. It is a vision that draws others into the fullness of life.

When, oh when, will I feel content again?

“Focus on others and things outside of yourself, rather than be caught in a downward spiral of inward self-pity” – a good piece of advice I received recently from a treasured friend.


It has been a long time coming, but today I got this email from Guinness World Records in New York:

Hi Rob!

All fine here and I have good news!

The record has been accepted and this is the text to appear in the certificate, but let me know if there is amendment to make (I just received an email from the RMT department):

“The longest journey by skateboard was 12,159 km (7,555miles) and was completed by Rob Thomson (New Zealand) starting in Lausanne, Switzerland on 28 June 2007 and finishing in Shanghai, China, on 28 September 2008.”

Check the dates and so…

Let me know! And congrats!


So there you have it.


Extremely stoked.


Just goes to proove that even every-day people can get world records too.

I’ll hold back any other comments until I have the actual certificate in my hands…but there you go.

Icing on the cake.

The Travelling Two

I have just arrived back to my trusty computer after having a wonderful meeting with Andrew and Friedel Grant from This wonderful married couple from Canada have been on the road 2.5 years on their bicycles, covering much of Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

With the 'Travelling Two' - Andrew and Friedel Grant in Auckland, New Zealand

The just finished cycling the length of New Zealand, and are in Auckland for a few days checking out the far north of the country before heading back to North America for the final 5,000km of their journey.

It was a delight to meet them and have the chance to talk about travelling. Just to be able to relive my experiences and through discussion confirm many of the feelings common to long distance human powered travellers, was a refreshing time of processing.

Friedel interviewed me for a podcast that they will be editing and putting up on their website soon, so be sure to check their website out. I think I may have freaked them out a little with my stories of disorientation and disconnection after I got back from my trip, but I’m sure they will be OK (they will be finishing up in about four months time after 3 whole years on the road).

A big thanks to Andrew and Friedel for a lovely time!