14degrees off the beaten track
home | about | route | blog | photo gallery | vids | gear | FAQ | links | contact | PRESS | 14degrees off the beaten track in Japanese

April 22nd, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

Change to longboard

Once I arrived in Switzerland, after just under 12,000km and 9 months on the road on my bicycle, I decided to up the ante of the journey and sample a vastly different mode of transport. The longboard. The idea had been spawned long before I actually made the switch in Switzerland. Five months earlier I was walking impatiently around Tashkent, the capital of the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan, running to and from embassies as I juggled visa applications for onward travel – such was the rigmarole of the bureaucracy of those Central Asian countries. At the time I remember thinking to myself how much more convenient it would be to have a skateboard on which to scoot around town with more efficiency. From this came the dream of being free from the bulky bicycle and taking on the challenge of ultra-light travel.

Long-lost photo - Near Murghab, Tajikistan

The idea percolated in my mind for those five months from Uzbekistan to Switzerland. In Switzerland the roads at last started becoming smoother. If ever I was going to capitalise on the opportunity to try out the insane idea of travelling on my own by skateboard, this would be it. I had done my homework; previous prominent cross-country longboard journeys, although still very rare, had all been highly organised and supported. The skater skated ahead of a support vehicle carrying all the supplies. Such journeys included a crossing of Australia by skateboard and numerous trans-USA journeys. I was excited in my belief in a story of an exciting adventure, living free and on the edge, travelling by skateboard carrying all my equipment on my back.

Long-lost photo - Near Naryn, Kyrgyzstan

When I announced my goal to complete the remaining 1,500km from Switzerland to England by skateboard, the response was varied. The Brit who had skated across Australia was supportive, but warned me that skating with up to 15kg on my back would be tough work. Friends who had cycled in Europe warned me that it would be next to impossible to skate the roads in Europe. A concerned blog reader suggested that I hitch-hike entire sections of my route so as ‘not to die’. But this was my opportunity to explore the idea, and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

Long-lost photo - Murghab, Tajikistan

I am glad that I didn’t believe in those stories I heard from people, especially those who could only try to imagine what obstcles I would face in pursuing my idea. After only a few day on the board skating through Switzerland, I was certain that I would be able to achieve the goal of skating to England. I was doing between 60km and 80km a day, sometimes up to 100km a day on the board. It was tougher going than the bike, but not impossible.

I realised that so often, we compose our assumptions on what we percieve to be reality, or are told by other people “this is the reality”. But often these assumptions are just composed based on fearful intrepidation. So often our fear creeps into our life story and composes lines of belief that will hold us back from pursuing opportunity. The philosophy behind the skateboard journey was, to borrow arctic adventurer Ben Saunders’ line, “questioning accepted practice, exploring new possibilities, and asking why and, more importantly, why not?

Smooth dirt roads near McDade, Texas, USA

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (4)

April 20th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

It has been a long hard road since I arrived back home five months ago. Time has gone at times too slowly, and at times too quickly. In any case, I am now at a stage where I am feeling comfortable about the prospect of speaking to audiences about my journey. It is an exciting prospect speaking to groups about the journey; the transferrable principles that I learned on the road about having clear goals, a supportive community, being open to change, creating opportunities, and having the courage to take steps towards one’s dreams are exciting topics that I really enjoy talking about.

If you or anyone you know would be keen for me to visit your group for an inspiring multi-media presentation, get a hold of me or my agent. Below is a brochure I have put together to give a better idea of what I can offer, and agent contact details.

>> click here to download in pdf format <<

Speaking Promo Brochure Page 1 Speaking Promo Brochure Page 2

It’s no secret that I am offering these talks at a small cost; I have debts to pay from the trip and am now a student again. But by all means, even if you are involved in an organisation that is not used to paying for guest speakers, do get a hold of me; I’m happy to work to your circumstances.


I am now offering some of my visual art from around the world for display and  purchase. If you own a cafe or corporate office that would benefit from some high quality photography from my collection hanging on its walls, then please email me your interest. I am finalising the photos to be available, and a browse-able online gallery will be available soon.

Very basically it would work something like this:

  1. You select which work(s) you would like to display.
  2. I send the requested works to you at no cost to you, along with a requested sale price.
  3. You display the work in your cafe/reception area/public place for free.
  4. If the work sells, the sale funds are transferred to me.

Mosaic 2

I’m putting this out there to guage interest, so do get a hold of me if you are even mildly interested.

I can be contacted by:

Email: rob.thomson@14degrees.org
Phone: +64 (0)21 0223 0655 (New Zealand number)

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (1)

April 19th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

A bit of a brain dump for you…


The significance of goals during my journey cannot be understated. They were both the life and the death of my journey. They served me as faithful coaches leading me to achieve what I set out to do, but at times they also took on the role as merciless, oppressive task-masters. These contrasting characteristics of goals has led me to now to rewrite what the story I believe in says about ambition. It was a difficult place to be in, during the last 3 months of the journey. Physical exhaustion and the accompanying symptoms haunted me the entire 5.5 months it took to skate across China. I was a shell of a human, operating on the fumes of the singular vision of being the first human to skate across China. Over-exertion and exhaustion would not allow me to sleep at night. I couldn’t digest food. I was losing weight. I knew that what I was doing was adding to a corporate understanding and exploration of the world (I had over 5,000 people following my journey online). I’m sure that this sense of communal participation in something bigger than my individual goal was certainly the only thing that kept me going across China.  I am sure my achievements meant much much more to the emerging global long distance skateboarding community than perhaps the average blog reader, and in the end my achievements meant nothing to me.


Arrival in Shanghai, the terminus of my world record breaking journey, was more of an anti-climax than I care to recall. There was no one to greet me at People’s Square in Shanghai, and I felt nothing. I just felt empty. No sense of achievement. Looking back now, I realise a big mistake that I made was that I lost sight of what my end goals were there for. I ended up serving my goals rather than my goals serving me. Until the China leg of the journey, my goals were not ends in and of themselves. They were a means to an end. They were a means to discovery. A means to adventure. In China however, my goal of skating to Shanghai became the end in itself. I had unwittingly bought into a story that told me that ambition for ambition’s sake was fulfilling and worthwhile. At the time I still wanted to beleive that story. I wanted it to be true. But the reality was that my daily existence was hollow and unfulfilling.

Social sicence experiement

In retrospect, I consider my journey, especially the China leg, to be a social-science experiment of intensely personal degrees. I pushed my body to the absolute limit of my own strength. In the last 1,000km approaching Shanghai, I struggled to cover more than 50km a day. I had chronic indigestion, I slept less than 4 hours a day, my feet ached. I was exhausted. Like I said, my non-negotiable goal of getting to Shanghai on my longboard was the only thing that kept me going. It was not only physical exhaustion that ailed me however. Surrounded by millions of Chinese, I felt the most alone I ever had. There was a cultural and linguistic divide between me and the hundreds of people I would come in contact with every day. Compound intense physical exertion, immense disconnectedness from people and nothing more than a shallow surface level communication with humans, and I got a hellish experience. My only outlet was my blog – an impersonal detached replacement for real human contact.

Piha Beach, New Zealand


I am confident the blog, as impersonal and detached as it was, was the second thing that kept me going on the China leg. In 2006, when I left Japan, I still believed in the story that is prevalent in our culture today that us humans can be fulfilled and successful on our own. I believed the story that told me that I didn’t need anyone’s help. But I now believe in a different story. I believe in a story that says that us humans need each other. I believe in a story that says that with support, we can achieve awesome things. I believe in a story that says that any successful endeavour is an endeavour that involves teamwork and sharing of experiences.

Living a story

I really do think that every human on the planet is living according to some kind of story. We all believe in some kind of story. In life, to improve and to move on, we have to ask questions about those stories.

I know that is true for me. When I got home to Christchurch, suddenly finding myself without a clear goal, I was lost. The great thing was that it gave me a massive amount of time to think.

John Cleese, who most of us know as one of the most hilarious comedians alive but who is also one of the most intelligent characters alive today, recently said this in an interview:

I think we basically build up our beliefs (we could call them stories) without really examining them, when we are really quite young. We think that we’re…Conservatives or Socialists…we’re Republicans or we’re Democrats. Or we decide we believe in God or we don’t believe in God. And then for the rest of our lives, we tend to filter all the information that’s coming back to us, all the feedback, so that we only take in the bits that confirm this view that we already have, and we carefully get rid of all the bits that contradict the view that we already have.

What story do you believe in? Are you filtering information and being selective, not really giving much attention to other ways of doing things, in order to support your own story? For most of us, our stories are positive. They are pushing us on to do great things and be effective people. But I guarantee there are parts of each of our stories that need re-thinking and be influenced by new ways of thinking.

What does your story tell you about your ability to pursue your dreams? The story I believe in tells me that if I put my mind to it, I can achieve almost anything. What does your story tell you about human interraction? The story I believe in tells me that irregardless of culture, status, or opinion, people are people. Everyone’s approachable. What does your story tell you about ambition? Does your story tell you that ambition is a purely individual thing? My story tells me that goals and dreams are effective and fulfilling only when pursued in community.

Subcounsciously and thankfully, my story about the world was being constantly re-written and edited as I travelled. Bits got added. Bits like the chapter about how the world is a safe place. And somewhere in the appendix it got added that you don’t need lots of stuff to be content. And another chapter was padded out with a simple truth such as “a little perserverance and a keen will to achieve a goal will pave the way to more learning experiences than you could ever imagine.”

After the journey, and over the last few months back home, bits have been scrubbed out from the story that shapes my life. No longer does the story I believe in have anything about achievement for achievement’s sake. My story about the world now reminds me constantly that you’ve gotta appreciate the journey. As a good friend once told me, “If we end up serving our plans, instead of them serving us, we’ve kinda lost the plot”. That line is in my story there somewhere now.

I believe that everyone and every group has a spark of adventure within them. I am convinced of this. A comforting yet disquieting spark of an idea that when dwelled upon, compels us to dream. A dream that fills our minds with images. Images that take us away from the present and promise progress. Progress that enriches our lives and draws others into a more vibrant and purposeful existance together in community.

Let’s have the courage to rewrite our stories together.

Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (6)

April 15th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

Emma's birthday bash, Auckland, New Zealand

I really should be updating more often…what a ride it has been over the last two months. Here is a little bit more of what has been at times a painful debrief, but overall is leading me (I think) to a much healthier place than when I was on the road…

In regards to whether I enjoyed my journey or not:

This was written about a month ago…much has been processed since then, and I’ll be posting that as time goes by.

I enjoyed some of it. Perhaps about 20% of it. The rest was just a heck of a lot of hard work. And overall, I did enjoy the interraction with people and grappling with language and communication (in retrospect). But gosh…it was hard work (the physical side of things). The freedom I thought I would find in the open road was a lie (at least for me). I can only recall one time when I felt totally free. It was when I crossed the China border into Kazakhstan. For about 20 glorious minutes I felt totally free. Total euphoria. And then the potholes started. And the headwinds. And the heavy loads. And the sandy roads.

So that’s about 20 minutes in 2.5 years.

The rest of the time I felt hemmed in. I felt a sense of purpose in that I was moving towards a goal and doing something hardcore, but my focus was so much on the goal, rather than on where I was at that very time. Always being pulled forward.

And then I achieved the goal. And it was a let-down. I left Japan alone. I arrived in Christchurch alone.

My journey, I believe, was based on a lie our western society feeds us that there is freedom in autonomy and non-committment. That there is freedom in aiming higher and higher and never allowing oneself a moment to relax and smell the roses.

Or something like that…

Perhaps there is some form of post-traumatic stress going on in my head at the moment. Perhaps this is the time where I look at my experiences harshly and critique them in a negative light. Perhaps I will soon come around and see the beauty in my experience…

But in any case, as someone who only experienced my journey through my blog, you need to be aware of one very very important thing: For every photo of me beaming with pride and joy and excitement, there were 50 photos that were never taken simply because I was too exhausted and shattered to even consider taking my camera out of the camera pouch.

I was given some interesting insights from a man who has travelled much…he had two comments about travel being like:

  • Just sniffing the cork of a good wine, whereas living in one place is like experiencing the whole bottle
  •  Just watching TV, whereas paid employment is like being an actor in the TV show

While these could be rather contentious comments, I guess you could say that I too have come to the conclusion that travel by itself can be an empty experience.

I’m sure that no matter where one is, it is how one chooses to percieve one’s circumstances that dictates how one will feel about one’s circumstances. I think I’m still in a stage of reconstructing a healthy perception of what it means to be human within community (living for others rather than for myself) rather than within an unhealthy state of autonomy. So far it is hard work, but I’m already sensing a better sense of wholeness…

Piha Beach, New Zealand

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (5)

March 13th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

With all these internal musings that I am posting lately, I guess it’s about time to post a wee bit about where I am and what shape life is taking for me at the moment…

I am now living and studying in Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand. The Auckland area in the North Island of New Zealand is home to 1.3 million-odd people. The population of New Zealand is around 4 million, and only 800,000 live in the South Island, the island I grew up on. So committing to live in a city like this for at least this year is quite a big step.

I am studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Theology (biblical theology) this year at Laidlaw College. I have always been interested in studying at some kind of bible college, with the aim of getting a deeper understanding of this faith/worldview/story that I choose to believe in. We all believe in some kind of story, and we all have faith in some sort of view of the world. Whether that’s the generally undefined status quo of our generation/culture/time in history, or whether it’s something that is in someway seeking to separate itself from the status quo. For me, the story of the Bible, for all its mystery, makes a lot of sense so far. So that’s why I’m here. To see if it continues to make sense even under strong academic scrutiny…

The fact that a long time (long suffering) friend and now girlfriend Haidee is also here, is a rather lovely bonus. Poor girl…kudos to her for putting up with my re-entry lamentations. Haidee has also spent the last almost five years overseas mostly in Japan but also in central Asia, only getting back to New Zealand at the end of December last year. Being the well adjusted and stable being that she is, she is just swinging back into life in New Zealand…
I am living on campus, which means back to the good-old halls of residence. There is a large range of ages represented on campus however, so I am not feeling too out of place. It’s hard work though. Most of my last few blog posts have been, in a large part, influenced by the shock of being thrust into a living situation where I am surrounded 24/7 by people. Meeting people. Talking with people…

Fellow halls of resisdence resident - addicted to Bundaberg Ginger Beer (Liadlaw College, Auckland, New Zealand)

Laidlaw student addicted to Ginger Beer and Timtams…not the best recipe for good health
So…a quick update on the action so far.

I flew from Christchurch to Wellington and drove with Haidee up to Auckland in a free rental relocation. If you’re ever in New Zealand, then look into rental relocations (http://www.thrifty.co.nz/index.cfm/1,119,299,0,html). All you pay is the fuel and insurance. And you get the car for about three days (in the case of us driving from Wellington to Auckland). That saves you up to NZ$50 a day (which is about half a Euro at the current exchange rate).

It was a valuable time to catch up with Haidee and see some of the sights of the North Island including the Huka Falls…

With Haidee near Huka Falls, Taupo, New Zealand

In Auckland I have been quite busy with getting my head around the various changes to lifestyle, but we’ve managed to get out and about to explore the surrounding environs a little, including a great day out to Tiritiri Matangi Island (http://www.tiritirimatangi.org.nz/). This is a New Zealand native bird sanctuary in Auckland harbour, and is truely phenomenal. Takahe, pukeko, kokako…the island is alive with beautiful New Zealand native birdsong. To spend a night there and hear the morning chorus would be amazing. Along with new friends Pamela and Mutsumi, we had a great day.

On the way to Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland Harbour, New Zealand Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

A New Zealand Bellbird on Tiritiri Matangi Island, Auckland Harbour, New Zealand

On the same weekend, along with another ten or so fellow students, we went canyoning. With some massive 8m or so jumps, it was an exhilarating day out. Too bad I didn’t have a waterproof enclosure for my camera…

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (4)

March 8th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

I just want it all to go away.

This was a comment I made to my cousin Rach recently, regarding the last 2.5 years of my life.

I wish there would be key written delete on it for last 30 months.

This was a comment a fellow long distance cyclist who recently arrived home made to me in an email yesterday.

This made me think two thoughts…

1. At least I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

2. Why do we (some long distance travellers) think this way? Why is there such a strong desire to just ignore and distance ourselves from our experiences?

I think much of this desire to try to block out our experiences is just because we become tired of talking about it. When I tell someone the basic details of what I was up to for the last few years, the usual reaction is “Wow, that is amazing! You are amazing!”.

My inner reaction to the response of those I tell about the journey, is hard to describe. I get an inexplicable uncomfortable feeling.

Tainted with discomfort
Knowing the pain
Knowing the weakness
Sensing misunderstanding
Inner joy masked incurably with pain
Anyone could do this
Given the time and inclination

I’m not amazing. I am me. I did not travel around the world. I moved one day. And then moved some more the next. Just like you.

Just like you.
It is hard being back in ‘normal’ society. Everyday conversations are menial and uninspiring. Jokes are lost on me. I feel at a loss as to what to say. I don’t know how to make conversation. I miss the excitement of operating in a foriegn language. I feel trapped in this boring language of the West. I miss an environment where everyday conversations are made exciting by the joy of the exchange of a common humanity that bridges culture.

Every fibre of my being is resisting this period of change. Why is change so hard?

Single to two
Isolated to community
One to many
Movement to stillness
Mulit-vistas to mono-colour wallpaper
Multi-ideas to a common idea
Multi-thoughts to a common thought
Multi-culture to a common culture

My advice: Don’t travel.

Life is hard after travel.

Good, I think, but hard.

It is hard when those who you hope will understand cannot understand.

When will I feel comfortable again? I don’t know.
Do I want to feel comfortable? I don’t know.
Until then, in the words of my fellow cycle traveller:

I am this stranger ‘from the moon’….with too complex view.

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (7)

February 13th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008,Random

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

This post is probably going to be heavy going for many readers. Not quite the ‘check out this awesome high pass that I just cycled across’ post that is so easy to skim over, just checking out the photos. No, this post is another existential, metaphysical pondering post. And to be honest, if you make it to the end of this post, you’re a legend. It is more for my records than anything esle.

Continue if you dare…
The more I spend here back home in New Zealand, the more I am able to reflect on the way I view the world. I am still to a very large extent finding each day rather surreal. Feeling quite detatched from my surroundings. I do not feel as though I have returned home. Rather, I have returned to the country where my family lives, and where many of my friends live. My parents house is not my home. It is where my parents live. I still feel like I am ‘in-between’. Still a ‘stranger’ in this environment (not only my parents’ home, but this city, the social groups etc).

I’m not at all concerned with this fact.

This is part of reverse culture shock.

When I think about it, it is actually great fun.

Being unsettled is unnerving, but at the same time I feel invigorated by the opportunity to explore my mind.

The only thing that bothers me, is the fact that most ‘normal’ people probably find me altogether mad and rather frustrating.

I do apologise, and I hope you will understand.

In any case, Wim Harwig, an great man I met and had the honour of staying with in The Netherlands (http://14degrees.org/en/?p=383) recently shared a link with me. It was a link to an interview of Counselling Psychologist Jill Mytton by Richard Dawkins. Mytton made the majority of her remarks about religion based on her experiences with the religious sect (cult?) that is the Exclusive Bretheren. Therefore I had to take the remarks with a grain of salt, considering the extreme cult-like attributes of this very exclusive religion. However, I found the interview to be thoroughly fascinating, with much of what was said resonating with me. It gave me much to consider and explore as I face a year of biblical theology training at Laidlaw College.

These days, whenever I am reading an interesting book or watching a poignat interview, I will type out quotes that resonate with me or so something to make me ponder. I did this with the interview with Jill Mytton, and here’s what I found to be particularly poignat…

Now before we begin, I realise that I am stepping out on a limb here. It may be that in a year’s time I will look back on these things that I felt moved to type out, and think, “What was I thinking?!”. But that’s probably just the religious Rob being cautious. The Rob who cycled and skateboarded around the world feels justified (as all humans should) to ask questions of this world he lives in. Hopefully God won’t mind.

Click on the image below to watch the interview in its entirety. My comments on various parts of the discussion are below in italics

Interview of Jill Mytton by Richard Dawkins

At 28:22
Mytton: My research again showed that if people were attending church regularly, they were actually experiencing less mental stress than people that weren’t. So there was a protective function to it. It didn’t depend on whether they believed it or not, it depended on their actualy attendance, which suggests it is the social group that is important; the network, the structure that it provides.

Rob: This is something that I have wondered ever since getting back to New Zealand and attending church services. How much of church culture is actually just something to give us identity, whether we actually resonate with the central message of Christ or not?

At 28:55
Dawkins: You mentioned earlier that religion can be healthy. Can you explain that?
Mytton: Religion can provide an explanation for people and provide an interpretive framework about why the world exists, where it came from, all the kind of existential questions that people ask.
Dawkins: From a psychological point of view, does it matter if that’s true, the explanation that they get?
Mytton: No. So long as the person is satisfied with it. If they believe in it, and a lot of people don’t even need evidence. They can have this faith in something, and it provides them with something with a structure, with a way of life, and with a belief system, that they are OK with, as long as they don’t start asking questions. And of course once they start doing that, then the whole edifice can crumble. It can also provide other things, I mean, the whole ritual of a religion provides a means by which you can express emotion for example. It helps you get through critical events in life like death, and in that sense it can offer hope, because most religions offer the idea of an after-life, or reincarnation for example. The whole process of prayer, I believe, has a lot of similarities to therapy. When you are praying, you are talking to somebody. That “person” is listening, or you believe he is listening. And it is a he. Ad the whole process of talking through something helps us to cognitively process whatever it is that is troubling us. So you’re having a relationship with some supernatural being. And it does actually help you work through some of your things that are troubling you.

At 31:07 about prayer
Mytton: As long as you believe. I mean, the point about God is, about the supernatural being, is that the people believe he does exist. So when they are talking to him in prayer, or even when walking down the street…they can ask for advice, they can ask him to help them make choices and decisions about life, and there’s somebody listening. And that’s what I do as a therapist; I listen. And that is the most valuable thing you can do for a human being is to listen. Of course I don’t only listen, I’m actually answering as well, or I am talking with them.

Rob: I found this section about prayer very interesting indeed. Just the other day I was mulling this out aloud with a cousin, wondering about what, if any, psychological research there was into the reasons people pray. I mean, for those who don’t believe in God, there surely must be an explanation for why people would spend so much time praying. This is an interesting take on it. I wondered to myself, “Can I name a specific time when I can categorically claim that a prayer was answered? That is, was there a time where there was no doubt that had God not intervened, that something would or would not have happened?” The answer for me is of course no. At no time in my life can I say categorically that “God did for absolute certain answer my prayers”.

At 31:50
Mytton: (Religion is) consoling, it can be comforting. The problem is of course, is when you have all that, it’s very easy to get sucked into something that is more pathogenic. A bit more further down towards the other end of the continum. And that’s the danger.

At 32:58
Mytton: (Being ‘born again’) is a strange phenomena.

At 33:32
Dawkins: It’s notorious, for the first week of a freshman’s arriving at university, they are descended upon by the Christian this and the Christian that and the Christian the other, and they don’t leave them alone.
Mytton: …(the students) are vulnerable, and it’s perhaps the first time they have been away from home, so they haven’t got that structure behind them anymore.
Dawkins: And they’re offered friendship…
Mytton: Love-bombing, as it is called, offered a lot of things they have perhaps been deprived of in the past.

At 34:05
Dawkins: And coming back to the people doing the lovebombing, do you think they really believe in what they are promoting?
Mytton: That’s a good question. It’s the million-dollar question, really. I think a lot of them do really believe in it….and it does make it all the more dangerous. I think maybe the people at the top, some of them don’t believe in it. They’ve built this kind of empire almost, and they are the earthly god sitting at the top, and they are the only ones that are in touch with the supernatural god sometimes. You know, everything is a conduit through them; the man of god.

Rob: While this might be the case in many cults, it is not so in the faithful-to-the-text message of Christ (and how do you actually determine that – read the Bible yourself); that is the priesthood of all believers. Mind you, I did see this in a certain extent at the church in Hita City (Japan); the pastor being the top of the pile; the ultimate teacher who had to oversee everything.

At 34:41
Mytton: The whole euphoria that comes with born-again Christians, I mean we know about the, that the brain produces its own natural opiates, the endorphines, and I think that there is a physiological background to all of this as well. I mean rituals, there is a link between rituals and prayer and meditation and intense religious experiences and the production of endorphines…all the church singing is improving the people’s sense of well-being.

Rob: I saw this often in church, and I believe that I was caught up in this at one stage, and now wonder about my emotional reaction to hearing ‘praise and worship’ songs. Am I feeling emotion because of a true understanding of the ‘Person of God’ or just because I have associations in the past that connect Christian ‘praise and worship’ songs with an emotional sense of wellbeing simply because of the melody etc? Since I have not read the entire Bible for myself yet, I am sure that I do not understand fully the nature of the God that I claim to believe in. So perhaps it is the latter…

At 36:20
On the downside to religion (as opposed to the health benefits previously stated)…
Mytton: What I would call the more unhealthy type of religion for a start tends to diminish the self, diminish the identity of the person. So instead of the person being valued for their strengths and their potential, they’re seen as wicked, sinners, shapen in iniquity as I said earlier, and even when they do do good works, it’s not really them who is doing it; it is God working through them. So there’s this sense of helplessness really; there’s nothing that I can do to save myself. And sin is not seen as something that is inevitible, which perhaps is a more positive way of looking at it, but sin is seen as something that is to be judged, and that forgiveness is extremely difficult and shame and guilt and fear, everything is controlled by those three emotions. So if you transgress you feel shame, you feel guilt, you feel fear because of the consequences of that. There is a tendency for unhealthy religions to have a very absoluteist way of thinking about things. So everything is seen as either or. Either you’re a sinner or you’re saved. They think it’s either truth or it’s not truth. There’s absolutely no room for ambiguity or uncertainty in the middle, and life isn’t actually like that. Life is not in all or nothing. There is this huge area in the middle, where most of us live.

Rob: There is something about this statement that really rings true. I’m not sure what to think of it all.

At 43:30
Mytton: Unhealthy religion would not encourage children to ask questions.

Rob: Mytton discussed the need for children to be able to develop their own path. Children in most Christian families, when they ask ‘How did the world come about?’ will still be told ‘God made it’. Why are they not told that nobody knows for absolute certainty. We can only make preliminary conclusions based on scientific evidence, so even that is not an absolute certainty. The bible tells us that God had a lot to do with it. But does God exist? Well I think so. Why do I think so? Because something must have started it all.

Mytton talks about the need for people to think for themselves. I agree. We learn from our mistakes. But on the other hand, when one looks at human history as a whole, it appears that actually, you know what, we don’t. We don’t learn from our mistakes. There is a dysfunction that it seems we have not been able to shake, despite more than 5,000 years of humanity. There are still wars. There is more slavery today than every before. There is something wrong with us. We do need to ask why this is, and how can we cure it?
At 44:16
Mytton: Billy Graham said one thing once; “why do you all you’re gonna understand God? God is such of a higher being; why should you possibly even think you could understand him. You’re just have to accept and have faith.” And I thought ah yes, that’s the answer. And for a while, my spirit was quieted for a while, but it didn’t last for very long. I think the problem with many of these religions, is that they don’t allow children to ask questions; that naturally inquiring mind of a child is suppressed. And that is very detrimental because they never see any other prespective, they never see any other perspective. They don’t learn to criticise, they don’t learn to evaluate what they are hearing. They just have to blindly accept it, really. And that kind of religion is unhealthy.

At 45:32
Mytton: Religion is absolute…it tends to say this is the truth, and there is no other truth; this is it.

At 45:43
Mytton: If you don’t believe what they are saying to you, then somehow that is a shortcoming in you; it’s turned around. It’s you who has lost your faith. It’s not religion that’s wrong, it’s not the truth that’s wrong, or something is wrong with what they’re saying to you, it’s you. Somehow it’s a shortcoming in yourself. And again, you’re made to feel guilty for not believing in it totally.

Rob: Oh so true. Cultural understanding is based on questions. On observing, on accepting…

At 46:35
Speaking about Exclusive Brethren…
Mytton: Anything that is outside is evil and wicked and it mustn’t be heard and it mustn’t be listened to. And so discussion with the outside world is discouraged. Information coming in is very much controlled.

Rob: While this was said regarding Exclusive Bretheren, I can’t help but feel that honest questioning and consideration of truth outside of the Bible is somewhat suppressed in much of Western Evangelical Christian culture. That’s why I liked reading Donald Miller’s books so much. He is honest about his questions and worries about Christian culture. Honesty and transparency, and permission to voice what one is thinking or struggling with has to be present in all cultures, ways of life.

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (12)

February 2nd, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008,Random

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

A big apology for the lack of access to this website over the last two weeks. I am at a loss as to why access numbers should be so high now that I have finished the exciting part of the trip!
The problem with my journey is that is has given me this idea that whatever I put my mind to, I can achieve. It’s not so much a feeling of invincibility, but a feeling of self-confidence. An awareness of a truth that exists in every human being (not just those who cycle and skateboard around the world); that we are capable, we are naturally empowered with amazing talent and abilities.

With this awareness comes the challenge of choice. And it gets all very confusing. I have so many percolating ideas in my head at the moment. And they were quite quickly starting to do my head in…

  • Broadway musical singer
  • Outdoor ed instructor
  • Simultaneous interpreter
  • Primary school teacher
  • Secondary school teacher
  • Professional adventurer
  • Solver of Japanese society issues
  • Book writer

What brought me some semblance of sanity, was one hour of lying in bed in the morning three or four days ago. I woke up early, light not yet showing at the edges of the curtains. Like an unwelcome acquaintance arriving unnounced and never motioning to leave, my swirling thoughts quickly started their never ending circular rounds of the inside of my skull.

I always cherish sleep. But never as much as when I have something bothering me. Sleep brings a reprieve from the madness in my head at such times. The moment of clear consicousness between immediately after waking up and before the thoughts begin is like heaven.Perhaps it was because I had been praying the preceeding umpteen nights before for God to reveal direction to me, or perhaps it was just because of chance (it’s not like people who don’t pray to God never gain a sense of direction), but on that morning lying in bed, my circular thoughts started to unravel themselves, and straighten themselves into a clear line of thought.What am I doing, thinking of enrolling in a creative writing course?! One whole year devoted to writing a manuscript, when I 1) have no idea what I want to write about 2) have read about 2 travel books in my whole entire life and 3) feel nothing but a sinking feeling in my stomach every time I think about writing a book at this stage about my journey.

What am I truely passionate about?

So far, since arriving back to Christchurch, after completing the journey, life feels like a puzzle. The problem is that I’m trying to put the puzzle together in outer space. Bits of puzzle floating away from me. I can’t even keep the bits of the puzzle in the box while I try in vain to try to force unmatched pieces together with my clumpsy, space-suit gloved hands. I grab at pieces as they float around and above my head, trying to make sense of it all. And no sooner do I find a couple of pieces that fit nicely together, than they start floating away as I rummage around in the box for another matching piece, sending pieces flying again.

You get the picture?

So basically, even though there is still a clump of puzzle pieces all nicely fit together that show the image of a book, floating around in my outer-space of a head, I’ve let that lot go for now. I wasn’t finding other pieces of the puzzle that would fit at this stage, so I have decided to let that idea float for now, and move on to something that might help bring the whole situation down to earth to make better sense of what and where the puzzle pieces are.

So here’s the deal. This year I will be studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Laidlaw College. This decision was fuelled by the following considerations:

  • This two and a half year period of human powered travel has been a turning point and a catalyst for radical personal and spiritual growth for me. My faith in the Christian religion (all the rules and regulations and doctrines) was thoroughly deconstructed and demolished, and what remained was an insatiable drive to learn how my unmovable confidence in the Jesus message would fit into my now drastically expanded global perspective. I had an extremely narrow and judgemental world view before my journey. I find myself now back home still with a strong confidence in the potential of the Gospels to transform the human psyche (Jesus’s message of love, reconciliation and redemption seems to me to be a solid solution to much of the brokenness and ‘dysfunction of the human psyche – Ekhart Tolle’ that so many philosophers allude to in their musings), but a little uncertain of how that all fits in now with my radically expanded global perspective on humanity and the earth.
  • I’m not too keen to jump into anything blatantly ‘vocational’ at this stage, such as teaching or outdoor ed. “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.” This is a quote from Dean Karnazes’s book 50 Marathons in 50 Days. It resonates within me as a sort of warning not to rush into things too quickly at the stage I’m at right now.
  • When a friend of mine mentioned that she would be doing the same course (before I ever considered it as a possibility), I was extremely excited by how the course would challenge and shape and expand her understanding and view of the world. Experiences that force us to think outside our own bubble of comfort and understanding are what contribute to a wider, global awareness of the humanity and wonder of this rock we inhabit, and that wider awareness is what contributes to the big picture of love, tolerance, peace, and understanding. I had my awareness of things outside my bubble of knowledge and experience expanded to a huge extent during my journey. To spend a year this year in structured, directed thinking and discussion therefore seems an appropriate step in order to fully debrief my experiences.
  • I’m excited by how I might be able to incorporate my personal and spiritual journey into a book about my travels. If I wrote the book now, it would just be ‘another travel book’. But there was obviously something deeper going on, something sub-consicous, during my journey, that I need to fully explore and be able to articulate well in the book.

Obviously there is a considerable opportunity cost involved in doing this year of study. I could potentially head back to Japan this year and earn around NZ$50,000 quite easily. Plus there is the fact that I still have an outstanding NZ$10,000 student loan waiting to be paid off. Another NZ$4,000 for a course that has no obvious application in terms of vocation is a risky investment.

I hope that this year will be a worthwhile opportunity for equipping me with skills and knowledge. A very luxurious opportunity, I admit, but here’s to the future and all the mysteries it holds…

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (9)

January 12th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008,School Visits

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

A big thanks to Heather for bringing this guy to my attention – Nick Vujicic.

Born with no arms and no legs, among other things he does motivational speaking. Click on the image below to see him in action.

Nick Vujicic Motivational Speaker

His story of course is inspirational. It would be hard to dispute his authority and credentials for speaking and motivating on the topics he talks about in the preview above.

What I immediately noticed however, was how very well he presents his talk. There are many very good motivational speakers out there, with many many amazing stories. Vujicic however in the talk above had some great things that I’d like to incorporate into any future talks I do about my trip:

  • Vujicic gets his listeners to write keywords down. Right at the beginning of his talk he has them write own the three key things he will talk about and illustrate in his talk; Perspective, Vision, and Choices. He then had listeners write down key points during the talk also.
  • Passion. He is a passionate speaker and knows what he wants to get across. I spoke at a Boys Brigade camp yesterday, and while the presentation went well, I felt there was something missing. It didn’t really ram home any key points that the boys would be able to take away from it. It wasn’t clear what I wanted to convey.

And the link that Heather shared was the one below. A very hard-hitting, short and to the point message from Vujicic:

Nick Vujicic Motivational Speaker

By the way, I would just embed these videos in my blog if I could…but I can’t. My messy hack of the WordPress content management software (upon which this entire website balances) doesn’t allow it.

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (4)

January 9th, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

“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?

« Previous Day                                                                                                   Next Day »

    Permanent Link     Comments (14)