Mixed and Painful Emotions

Seven months on from arriving back home…

  • Watching video clips from the journey, I am filled with wonder at the audacity of what I set out to do. I watch amazed at the perserverance with which I stuck at it, even over rough roads on the longboard and through snow on the bike. Such a dogged commitment. What an amazing journey that was. Just epic.
  • Watching video clips from the journey, I am filled with loneliness. Realising that right here right now, there is no one to share the memories of the last few years of my life with. Sure, there are some that would be able to reminice with me to a certain degree, but the pain, the wonder, the awe, the tears, the joy…I never knew travelling on my own would be this hard…and I only realise the pain of it now that I look back at the memories and realise that I am alone in them. I didn’t even consider it at the time, but now I realise the value in an experience shared.
Hiking in the sand dunes near Shanshan, Xinjiang Province, China

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8 thoughts on “Mixed and Painful Emotions

  • Hayley

    Hey Rob,

    Thought I'd relieve you of your loneliness, by posting you a comment 🙂

    What an amazing journey & you've got such great photos of the countries you travelled through. Very inspiring. Makes me want to do it too!

  • Finn

    Hey rob,

    Im quite suprised to read that loneliness is the emotion you feel looking back on your trip. Are you not proud of the challenges you overcame and that you made it home???? I think its harder on your own but it feels like more of an experience and more to remember

  • Rob Thomson Post author

    Hi Finn,

    Thanks for the comment. I love your website and photos by the way (http://finn20.blogspot.com/)!

    Like the post title suggests, I have mixed emotions about the trip. There is a tension between feeling stoked that I did something absolutely epic (indeed very proud of the challenges I overcame), and the feeling of loss at what could have been had I been more focussed on community during those two and a half years I was away.

    I still find that when I am on my own, I do have a sharper sense of what is going on around me. That is, when I am with others, part of my mind is occupied with the task of considering others' needs. When I am on my own, every part of my mind is soley focussed only on the present experience of my surroundings and the task at hand. That is the great part of travelling on one's own; there is a vibrancy.

    But that said, I now think that there is a depth of human experience that can only be attained through community. This is a depth that I am rediscovering through making a conscious effort to spending time with other people. This is a more difficult existence (for me) than being on my own (in terms of effort required), but I think it is a much more holistic experience.

    Of course there is a danger in becoming so comfortable in community that a person can start to become afriad of stepping outside the normal status quo and challenging one's ways of thinking.

    So I think there is a very fine balance between pushing one's individual boundaries (self-discovery on an individual level), and being a submissive, serving element of community (self-discovery in relation to others in a steady committed community).

    Balance is key.


  • ChrisJ

    Hi Rob,

    I see that your readjustment continues on slowly and sometimes painfully.

    I will be feeling a bit of the same in my turn, I am sure, as I am heading back to the states tomorrow.

    If you have some time shoot me off an e-mail and lets talk!

    I met up with Junko and Emi a couple of weeks back. They are both doing well and wondered if you were ok.

    Still up for our grand reunion in Hawaii in 2011? Take care,


  • Kirk


    I too have some similar emotions when considering my own trip around the world. And I can see how your thoughts can lead to a bit of loneliness since you did yours solo. Mine was with my wife, and Lord willing, I will always have her to share the memories with. But in a sense I do feel that there is this great big chunk of experience that only she and I know about. I can tell others about the stories, which is nice, but there is no one except her to reminisce over the experiences. Which is kind of weird sometimes. Take heart my friend, you are making new memories now in community with others. Focus on the present and plan for the future and get out there and make new adventures!

  • Scott Wayland

    Yeah, mixed emotions, I hear you. Of course, had you been with one or more people, you would have had a different journey. I value my experiences with others, but I value my solo efforts as well. So balance them out and have no regrets. Those two and half years are but a slice of a much longer life.


  • Neil Pallaver

    Hi Rob!

    Just checking in finally after a long time of wondering what you've been up to.

    As somebody who did some long distance (though not as long as you) biking, and much of it solo, I understand where you're coming from. I bought a voice recorder to keep track of thougths which came up on my bike, and a very common theme brought up on long solo rides was how would I share the pure joy and pain of 9 hours a day on a bike for multiple days in a row with friends, how would they understand.

    I don't know the answer to that.

    I do know that many of us are in awe and wish we had the brazen fortitude to throw caution into the wind, head out to somewhere on bike, and just keep going until we're ready to stop. Sometimes that's earlier than we expect, sometimes it's many more miles later than we expect.

    Hope you're doing well, and until we meet again – Neil