Day 902 – NEW ZEALAND: Who am I?

“There is a guy I know who has a skate ramp in his garage.”

This was a comment from a friend recently about me trying to find new friends.

It got me to thinking that when you’re involved in the long-distance skateboarding scene, and only involved in the long distance skateboarding scene, then other forms of skateboarding don’t really have much appeal.

But then again, when I had a go on a friend of a friend’s shortboard the other day, I quite enjoyed playing about on it, and even thought that I should get myself one.

So does that make me a skater?

Identity, or lack of a sense of identity, or a new-found identity that one has not yet come to grips with, is tough work.

Who am I?

What are the moral and ethical implications of pursuing a life of adventure (which costs money and time) when there are people without even the basic life essentials?

“How we can justify all the expensive gear, travel resources, impact on environment, and so on, for the human pleasure of a high-end adventure trip?”Outdoor Education, Ethics, and Moral Development

Am I not just another priveliged western developed-world-class citizen splurging money and time for my own pleasure?
I’d be interested to hear your take on this. Through my choice to spend NZ$15,000 and 2.5 years of precious time on this journey (that could have been spent on…I don’t know…random choice…volunteering to build school-houses in Ethiopia), what have you, the blog reader, gotten out of my journey? Has it influenced your life for the better? Are there any ehtical dilemas in journeys like mine?

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14 thoughts on “Day 902 – NEW ZEALAND: Who am I?

  • Lee

    Good question, Rob.

    One exercise at Swahili language school was to choose, from a list of 10 people (given their professions etc), which six should live. The scenario was post-nuclear-war, with ten survivors but only enough food etc for six to live, and restart life on earth. (The exercise was to get us reasoning and explaining in Swahili, but was excellent food for thought.)

    Over the olympic athlete, the university academic and the language expert, I chose the artist. Yes, others had valuable skills and contributions, but without someone to help people see and celebrate beauty, the group could easily lose their drive, enjoyment, vision, enthusiasm, etc in a bleak and difficult world.

    I reckon that, more than the Guiness world record stuff, or the A to B (and then hey, why don't I go to C, and D) stuff, the worth of your journey has been in that: In pointing us, sitting at our desks in our winters, our marriage breakups, our disappointments, our frustrations, our lethargy – pointing us up, to beauty and inspiration and celebration and thankfulness and hope.

    The artist could be said to waste paint, time, energy, money, (shoe soles, skateboards, whatever), but I say: Pour it out (ethically, with discretion, as I know you did), use it up, for the sake of pointing people up.

    And that's what you did.

    And I say, good on ya.


  • daisy

    In the last 2.5 years, I've spent a lot more than $15000, most of it on things I probably don't remember I ever bought, and have basically nothing to show for it.

    I don't think you can really look at the way you choose to live and compare it to other people's in better/worse terms. We're fortunate to have the choice, but accident of birth doesn't make our lifestyles any better or worse than anyone else's either. I can understand the guilty feeling of having seen so many people who don't have the opportunities we do, but that doesn't make it more moral for us to pass up those opportunities.

    For me it's… what's the word I'm looking for… heartening, I suppose, to see someone willing to go out into the world and experience it right up close, just as it is, and be so accepting of the places you found yourself in and the people you found yourself with.

    I think everything we do is insignificant to a large extent, and it's not what you do so much as your attitude to doing it and what you learn from it that matters.

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    Just as my brother said…

    "It's not what you do that makes you who you are. It's what you think and why you do it that makes you who you are."

    Excellent insights.

  • Andy Solaini

    It's journeys like yours and the reports from them that will perhaps shape the views of some that read them. If especially the younger generation see these people in far off lands through the eyes of the people who have met them first hand, as you have done and written about in this blog, then maybe they will accept that they are just like you and me and not terrorists or bad people as many in the media and politics would like us to believe.

    Far from being self-indulgent etc, I think it's journeys like this and people like you who are willing to go out and explore this earth who are vital to those who don't have the will, money or opportunity to see for themselves.

    You have certainly inspired me!

  • Anonymous

    Maybe that person mentioned the skateboard ramp because two days earlier you had been talking about how it would be nice to start making some extra cash so you could add a few more boards to your collection to play around with…

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    Anonymous, I remember making that comment. The fact that I found the skateboard ramp comment from my friend so surprising just shows very clearly my head-space right now.

    That is, struggling with this 'new' (improved in some ways, grossly and painfully unimproved in others) Rob. An identity that I presently don't relate to and are finding it difficult to come to terms with.

    The toughest thing is when someone makes a heart-felt suggestion as to how I might make friends (based on what they rightfully see as my identity), and I just end up rejecting the idea outright (and essentially snapping at them for suggesting the idea at all). And *then* I look back on my response to them and realise how presumptuous and rude I was to their honest and reaching-out suggestion.

    What have I learned over the last few weeks?

    Ask questions. Don't assume.

  • harydial

    G'day Rob….

    I've just read through your thoughts on this post…..and I would like to share a few thoughts of mine in……return

    I believe…at times when you feel you are consuming too much all this adventure travel and I guess it can all feel a bit selfish at times…..(I do struggle with that myself)but if you have read this book….probably you have 'Purpose Driven Life'Rick says on a paragraph where different individuals are created differently….by God

    People express themselves through different channels for e.g music,leadership, nature….adventure(somewhere along those lines)and thats how we are created in His image… I truly believe you are wired that way to travel the hard way a way that many ppl would think its impossible, crazy (I like that one), impractical to bring glory to God. You are doing it so through your blog, thoughts ,photos, videos….all of your experience….It has made an impact on me anyway…..

    And I believe you do find peace and ultimate freedom when you travel the way you do…because you are worshipping Him, expressing the Gift He has given to you back to Him…..and you are enjoying His creation the landscapes and ppl you came across…

    Finally I guess because you have travel so extensively, you came across different groups of people….from the very needy to the very well to do….I know it will mess up ur head to some extent….but if we were to compare, we will always feel we are either not good enough or too good depending on which side we looked at….my thoughts are

    Comparing is unneccessary/irrelevant because we all are created under different circumstances by God and all of us have different talents and gifts….If we were to compare often not we will always feel inadequate and not happy…or find true Joy….

    I prefer to look at it in a different way….You are placed in a family, country or circumstances for a reason..and we are here to help each other….so If its God's will for you to encounter a needy person….and in your heart you feel compassionate, then we are able to give a helping hand….because God has enabled us to through the resources He has blessed us with…..

    So to summarize Rob…I dont think at all you are selfish travelling the way you do…God has created you this way and you are just using the desire, mental toughness and all this wonderful gifts He has blessed you with to full throttle!!! and it all comes back to inspiring and lifting the people around you higher than you are ultimately

    Amen….way to go brother….!

  • alice

    I had the same debate before I left… only my schoolchildren were in Cambodia or Tibet. Each purpose has it's time to be fulfilled. The key is to know what your purpose is at any given moment.

    A friend I hadn't seen in five years asked me today why I came home. And you know what – I forgot!! Hopefully that is a good sign.

    I can't think of anything more worthwhile than challenging yourself and others to see the world differently and expand our possibilities of life. How else will we develop?

    Give yourself time. No one may ever understand fully, but no one needs to.

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    Far out. So many awesome responses. Thank you all so much for the time to write. It's still hard to come to terms with what I've just completed…probably simply due to the fact that I don't presently have a vision for how to use my experiences. But hey…no hurry I guess! I'm enjoying (trying to) chilling out and savouring this time of processing.

  • Daniel N. Lang

    Hey Rob, thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences in this (for you) mentally challenging time. This is a very exceptional thing and I guess I'm in this with you to some extend as well. You have had good part in my tour starting and my anticipation to getting on the road myself got bigger and bigger the more rich experiences you had on your journey to Europe.

    Now on your identity concerns: I totally and wholeheartedly agree with Lee. You have been an inspiration while traveling and having these great adventures. And that's worth something!

    I not only from a religious point of view, everyone serves this planet and humanity best, if he does what he's good and interested in, if he uses the talent he has to make this whole place a nice place to be! If that be an artist who's works are enlightening for you, a sportsman, a scientist. But for me this can also be a very simple being. I remember this one man I recently met in Peru, Raul, a farmer of 60 years. He made my life better and happier already just by being there and talking to me – even if I didn't understand too much. His karma was amazing and the tranquilitas animi immediately captivated me. I only know one more being where I felt similarly gravitated towards.

    I recently watched a TED Talk online by Ken Robinson that confirmed my ideas that what I've done was right and gave me motivation for the future.

    Do what you like and you'll be wonderful at it. Don't convulsively try to find new friends but find them while you're doing what you like and where you like!

    Live the way you like, the way you are!

  • Steve R

    Hey Rob, I'm still checking in from Luxu and very inspired by these blogs. All the posts on reverse culture shock are very interesting. I may very well have to face this too after 7 years living in China and counting. It's actually gotten to the point that I get 'reverse culture shock' coming into China after hanging around SE Asia.

    In many ways, it has become like a 2nd home country to me. At the same time, I'm doing some future projections and know this can't go on indefinitely. Sooner or later I'll need to go back to Canada and then who knows what will happen. Your posts are helping me prepare in some way for that.

  • Peter

    Rob- when I first came across your site I too was considering travel by recumbent to help settle difficult questions that resounded within my own mind; with answers unseen. I was very close to going out and very inspired by your site! However, I had to come to grips with the insatiable appetite I personally had with my own independence. I thought, if I could just get out into the wilderness the answers from God would surely become easier to hear. I could take the passion within my heart to minister to the broken hearted, heal the sick through prayer along the way. The problem: I would have become further away from people I needed to become interdependent upon right here at home. Your site has been important for two reasons Rob: I believed God was directing me into travel and your site provided answers to the possibilities of extreme year-round travel,and so I prepared. The other reason, even Abraham was sent on a journey three days into the wilderness to sacrifice his one, and only son, and as He was ready to drop the knife into the one he loved a provision was made. A provision was made for me called interdependence and I discovered it as I was exploring your site and talking about it with others. Your site provided a platform that allowed the passions of my heart to open to others. Rob your labor has not been in vain, even more so as you continue your pursuit of the Holy One, Jesus Christ Himself. Remember, there are many who are right in front of you, beginning with family and friends. Be who you are, right where you are. You are awesome Rob!