14degrees off the beaten track
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February 2nd, 2009 | categorizilation: all categories,Arrival Home,New Zealand,Post-2008,Random

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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…

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    Permanent Link     Comments (9)

Comment by Rob Thomson — February 2, 2009 @ 3:00 pm | post a comment

My cousin Rach suggested this:

Picture this… you are an outdoor ed instructor for secondary teenage japaneese youth, and you teach them by singing in an operatic style… adventuring all over place and writing your own musicals

about your adventures.

Thanks Rach. You may have solved the puzzle.

Comment by Rachel — February 2, 2009 @ 3:08 pm | post a comment

any time rob… don't mention it


Comment by Katey B — February 3, 2009 @ 1:07 am | post a comment

A plan Stan!

Sounds like you're settling in:)

All the best.


Comment by ChrisJ — February 4, 2009 @ 6:30 am | post a comment

Hi Rob,

Great to see the sight still up and running again!

Sometimes we can think about stuff TOO MUCH and become paralyzed as a result. Though I don't see anything wrong with taking your time and coming to a decision that you are personally satisfied with either. As in most things, balance is important. It sounds like you are well on your way to finding a direction you are happy with and striking a good balance.

Comment by Scott Wayland — February 4, 2009 @ 8:07 am | post a comment

Hey, Rob: Nice to have you back. Interesting choices, tough ones, too. This path you're on is pretty intense, but I wonder how much you need ANY courses, creative writing or otherwise? You're smart, educated, driven. Unless you desire a theological degree to gain access to some position or other, you have all the information you need at the closest church/temple/library–and, of course–within yourself.

As a teacher of English, I think the creative writing courses might be over-valued. Do a bunch of reading of books that inspire you, that do something of what you hope to achieve, and write, write, write. That's what will make the book possible. I've known so many people grinding away in one course or another who never really achieve anything. Simply getting down to the hard business of putting the words down is the best thing you can do.

Well, my 2 cents! You will find your own path, Grasshopper.

Be well.


PS: My path has led me to start a youth bike touring course. I've already met some lads who are keen on the idea. It's all got me nervous as hell, but we forge ahead, eh?

Comment by Kim Martin — February 5, 2009 @ 4:47 am | post a comment

"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."

Please read 'Only Fear Dies' by Barry Long and you will understand why you sense this. It will help you on your journey.

Here is a sample from another of his books:

Comment by Steve R — February 5, 2009 @ 9:18 am | post a comment

Wow, that sounds very interesting. Speaking of books, I highly recommend to pick up, "Streams of Living Water" by Brother Yun. He is a Chinese Christian believer who wrote the famous book, "The Heavenly Man" (also worth picking up).

A lot of the stuff he writes about challenges the norms of the institutionalized 'Western church' to the core which goes against what the New Testament church is about. Interestingly enough, the persecuted Chinese church is a much closer match to the biblical model

At any rate I found it a great read. I'm challenged to get involved in more short-term work and grassroots opportunities in Asian countries. What I'm aiming for now is to reapply for my old teaching job back in Dalian, which allows much time in the winter and summer breaks.

Whereas previously I'd use that time for extensive bike trips through SE Asia, similar to your skateboard adventures, I'm now looking more into different adventures, and more teamwork. Then again, I couldn't imagine myself saying this without having first gotten that independent travel thing out of my system :-)

For the time being, I've got to get out of Luxu. That place is mind-numbingly dull.

Anyways, just a few thoughts, I know what you mean by the pondering thing and going in circles!

Comment by stephanie C — February 20, 2009 @ 1:40 am | post a comment

Hi Rob, just to let you know we're still reading ya. I think Laidlaw College will be great, hope you find some fellow sojourners to 'chew the fat' with there. We're not too far away if you want to hitch down here sometime.

yes I think it is important people think for themselves, and yes I agree that there are some dumb/false things about religion like the lady on that vid clip said. But if you believe something is truth, then that's what you'll teach your children surely… I think it is great that currently there is a lot more humility among church people in terms of 'we really don't know' stuff than there has been historically. For me it's getting back to what I believe to be beauty, truth etc.. When you're looking at christianity in different cultures you really begin to see how lots of stuff is cultural, not necessarily of Christ. Papers I did at Laidlaw were 2/3rds world theology, cultural anthropology (guessing you probably did this at uni?), aid & development week, christian social work as well as the bible and spiritual formation courses. I would have to say that as I had a similar experience to others I have heard of – study didn't answer my questions really, but gave me some skills to learn and brought up a whole new heap of interesting and sometimes disturbing questions!

Comment by Peter — February 25, 2009 @ 9:38 am | post a comment

Hello Rob, I see a picture of you in my mind that was posted on your site; you were underneath the road in Asia sleeping in a dried out concrete cauldren with strangely long and oversized centipede-like creatures, and if my memory serves me correctly it was the morning of your birthday (only because I see you washing in that very small irrigation canal). The thoughts were running through your mind, why am I out here, all alone. I see Jesus was right there with you. He knew your most intimate needs and meet them, simply because of His fathers love for you. You are doing great Rob! Continue your pursuit. This all gets easier the closer your walk is with the Father in heaven. There is righteousness, peace and joy and it is all found in the person of the Holy Spirit. After all he is our comforter. I see you settling down in your heart as new relationships are formed at Laidlaw. You will have some very special relationships that will help you along with all of the middle-stuff in life. Continue forward Rob!

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