Day 675 – CHINA (XINJIANG): Some thoughts


I received an email from a guy today. He is 17 years old, and his email stated that he wishes to ‘break the world record for longboarding’. I’m not sure what record that is, but he asked about my training, and about my board, and any wisdom that I might care to share.

My email response soon became a bit of an epic. After typing it all out, I hit the send button, but the message was returned to me as undeliverable. I hope he is reading this, as I was intending to post my reply here anyway, just to share my thoughts on what I have been doing for the last two years…

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Hi there,

Great to hear from you. I am happy to hear that you have a big dream ahead of you.

In answer to your questions:

Training:
You asked about training…I would recommend that you spend as much time as possible reading distance human powered travel blogs in order to prepare (train) your mind. On my links page on my website there is a big list of such blogs (not only skating blogs). You can access that page here: http://www.14degrees.org/en/?page_id=47

Within their pages you will begin to get an idea of what to expect on your own journey. The ups, the downs, the joys, the struggles, the pain, the wonder. Be especially aware that for every exciting, inspirational photo of someone screaming downhill, beaming with joy and pride, there is another photo that was never taken because the traveler was so incredibly depressed and tired that they could not even bring themselves to think about opening their camera case.

I do not travel by skateboard because of some love of skateboarding. I travel the way I do because I love human powered travel. I love the way my body feels when I am fit and strong. I love pushing up long, steep uphill stretches. I love being out in the open, swallowed up by the massiveness of the surroundings. Lungs full of breath, legs full of life. It just so happens that longboarding is an exciting new way to travel long distances, and I am keen to explore and discover this mode of transport. Therefore, read cylce touring blogs as well as distance skating blogs. There are many more of those than distance skating blogs. The cycling blogs will give you much inspiration for the mental challenges ahead.

As for physical training, I have been on the road on my skateboard for a year now. When the prospect of this length of time is ahead of you, there is no need to worry about physical training much at all. For the first month of my journey, I just took it really easy, only doing about 15 to 20 miles a day, taking very long breaks and resting often. But then again, before switching to the longboard, I had already cycled 7,500 miles across Asia and Europe. I guess you could call that my ‘training’!

In the end, for an ultra long distance journey by human power (any kind of human powered transport, not just skating) it does not come down to physical fitness. It is 90% mental, and 10% physical. Your body follows whatever your mind tells it. If your mind tells you you can do it, your body will follow. The greatest thing is that you can influence right now is your mind. Speak only positive things to yourself. This is difficult at times, and many times I fail at this. But I do notice the difference when I do keep things positive.

Furthermore, once your body adapts to the physical side of the challenge, much of your energy will be taken up by everyday things like finding a place to sleep, finding food, planning how much water you will carry, planning distances between towns, communicating with strangers that have vastly different ways of seeing the world, staying in contact with family etc etc. These everyday things should not be overlooked – they are part of the journey, and take a lot of mental energy.

A comment about rest:
One of the most important things you will do for your body when you are on a long journey, is rest. That is, lie on the ground/bed/hammock/rock and do nothing kind of rest. A friend whose opinion I value much regarding physical exercise/training told me to listen to my heart – quite literally. If my resting heart rate is faster than normal in the morning, then it is time to take a rest. Rest allows you to think clearly about what is going on, and of course gives your body and muscles a chance to rebuild themselves stronger than before.

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.”
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Italian painter, sculptor and architect

My Board:
I skated 7,500 miles on a Rollsrolls deck (through Europe and across the US) before switching to a Longboard Larry deck, custom made for me by Larry himself. Larry was excited about my proposal for skating across China with a trailer, so he gave me the board out of his faith in my desire to continue to push the boundaries of long distance skating.

The World Record:
As for the world record, I encourage you to forget about it. Or at least, do not let that be your sole motivation. I am still on the road, and apparently I am still extending the world record for the longest journey by skateboard. But really, I don’t care. It is a nice icing on the cake, but in the end, the thing that motivates me the most is discovering the unknown. Discovering how my body will react to this extremely difficult mode of transport. Discovering the ways to make long distance longboard travel a practical way to travel. Discovering the people I meet along the way on the road. Discovering the limits of my own mind and motivation. Discovering what is up the road, around the corner, beyond the crest of the hill. My main motivation does not come from a desire to break a world record. If that was my only desire, I am sure that I would have given up by now.

Furthermore, I am excited by what my journey means to the distance longboarding community, and the long distance human powered community as a whole. I view my achievements to date as a small but significant contribution to an emerging niche of human powered travel. I encourage you to connect with other people involved in this community:

The Skatefurther Team: www.skatefurther.com
The Boardfree Team: www.boardfree.co.uk
The Skate New Zealand Team: www.skatenewzealand.com

These are just a few examples of what this community has to offer. I am part of this community, and it gives me massive support. Without it, I may have given up already. As an individual solo distance human powered traveler, I am nothing. With the support of others (albeit through the web) I am managing to push on.

A friend recently told me that “You deserve to keep the record for years after this effort…” I actually quite disagree with that. I fully expect someone to skate around the world one day. Indeed, I believe it is possible. Across the Eurasian continent, across the Northern American contient, and across Australia. Four contients, 16,000km (10,000 miles). It will be done some day (I hope soon), and I look forward to supporting whoever takes on that challenge.

If you really want to embark on a long distance longboard tour, ask yourself the following questions and answer them honestly:

What is my internal intent? That is, why do I want to achieve this goal? What do I love about it? How will my life change once I achieve my goal?

What is my esternal intent? How will achieving my goal help other people? How will it benefit those closest to me? How will is benefit the community I belong to?

(Taken from Kick Start Your Success by Romanus Wolter, ISBN-10 0-471-77346-8)

I hope this helps, and I wish you all the best in realising your dreams.

If I can help out with anything else, then let me know!

All the best,
Rob

“Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it. Begin it now!”
Johann Wolfgang von Geothe 1749-1832

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So that was the email response to the guy. His email was about five lines long. I hope me response doesn’t overwhelm him too much…

Changing the topic somewhat, I would also like to take this opportunity to share something that I thought about a lot recently, and that is my faith in Jesus; you know, the guy from the New Testament in the Christian bible that supposedly has blue eyes and long blonde hair…you know the guy.

I am wary of sharing this on my blog here, as I am sure that not everyone will agree. But I am not looking for everyone to agree. I am simply doing what I always do on this blog – trying to honestly share the struggles and joys of being on the road, share the inner turmoil and the personal discovery that I exeprience on a daily basis.

Anyway, I was brought up in a Christian home, and for all my life I have tried as hard as possible to live a life according to the guildelines set out in the bible. I never found these guildelines limiting, and I always saw them as having meaning and purpose if one was to live as stable and balanced a personal and social life as possible.

However over the course of my time living in Japan, and over the course of this journey, I began wondering what all the point was. I still believed that the bible was a solid foundation for life, despite the fact that the institition that is the church often screwed up and got (gets) all high and powerful, often to the extent of causing great harm to humanity.

But I was successful, I was on an adventure, I was (and still am) content. Why bother with religion? Below are some thoughts I jotted down on the train from Shanghai to Urumqi, on the way to begninning this longboard journey across China:

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I asked myself “Why do I still call myself a Christian?” After seeing all the different ways of life in all the different countries, and after realising all the pathetic, terrible stuff that the Church has done opressing people and being such hypocrytes, why? Why do I still call myself a Christian?

Why not just forget this whole spiritual part of life? Why not live life, enjoy life, don’t complicate it with such controversial stuff.

Is it because I don’t want to disappoint my parents? That is, if I did not pursue my faith, my parents would be sad. Is that my motivation for calling myself a Christian? For a while, I think that this has been the reason.

But that is such a stupid reason. That is just being what I call a ‘cultural Christian’. A cultural Christian just goes along with what they have been taught since a child, and never question it. It’s kind of like people I met in Georgia who tell me that to be Georgian is to be Catholic. Or the Uzbeks telling me that to be Uzbek is to be Muslim. There is no questioning what they believe. It is culture and family and state and nation and religion all mixed up as one. I do not want to be like that. I want to make my own decisions on what I believe.

Do I want to call myself a Christian because when I listen to church songs on my MP3 player I feel peace and joy? No, that is not a good enough reason. Perhaps the feelings I once had when singing those happy songs return to me when I listen to them. That’s just emotions. Emotion is not a good enough reason for me.

So far here in my thoughts, I did not find a good enough reason to continue in my faith as a Christian. The next few thoughts however made me reaslise what I find so attractive in the Christian faith:

My role model, my father, is not a cultrual Christian. I remember him getting up early every day to study the bible and pray. Why? Is it because he thinks that that’s what is the ‘good’ and ‘holy’ thing to do? No. From what I understand, it is because he sees value and hope in the Christian faith, and he wants to be as knowledgeable and close to the faith as possible. He is not content with unanswered questions. How can this not drive me to at least pursue some deeper understanding of the Christian faith?

Also, I have always been aware that everything of this world fades away eventually. I need something EVERLASTING. Family, friends, health, energy, passion, life itself on this earth will not last. These are trasient. How about a hope of life, security and most of all love, that goes beyond life on this earth?

The bible tells me that Jesus offers this hope.

Is this truely the way to everlasting peace? I don’t know for sure. There is no way of knowing for sure. But it comes down to this: Do I have anything to lose? The bible verse in Matthew 10:39 is a strong one for me: Whoever seeks life will lose it. Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Jesus speaking).

By following Jesus, there is nothing I will lose. This is not like Buddhism where if you are committed to the way, you lose everthing. With Jesus, we gain life in the fullest.

Is there freedom in being fit?
Freedom in biking?
Freedom in the Pamirs?
Freedom in skating?

Yes, but it is only temporary freedom. The freedom I feel in submitting my life and goals and dreams to God is everlasting and amazing, even when I am suffering. I can thank God in all things.

I am not perfect. I have my flaws. But thanks to Jesus, I find undonditional love despite these flaws.

At this stage, I’m pretty sure this is why I am a Christian, and am committed to knowing more and seeking more knowledge and closeness to my friend and saviour Jesus Christ.

The great thing about being a Christian is that there is no seeking. No searching. No ‘you must do good in order to gain God’s favour’. We are already saved. Already loved. We have already gained forgiveness and grace from God. For me, this truth gives me so much freedom and motivation to be all I can be. There is nothing I can do to make God love me more, there’s nothing I can do to make God love me less.
What does the bible say a Christian is? It is someone who has accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

I want my faith in Jesus is above all things. Over and over again I have committed myself to striving to follow Jesus in all I do. He is above family, friends, my dreams, my personal hopes. This doesn’t mean that life is going to be miserable with God always pulling me away from things I love. Rather, God makes use of the relationships I have and the dreams I have in order to extend his kingdom; to make his amazing awesomeness known, and to give life in the fullest.

This is a tough thing to write. After travelling as much as I have, I pride myself in being open minded. However this one thing I cannot give up for anything. After thinking about it on the train from Urumqi the last three days, I realise that it means too much to me.

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And so on other matters, I am hoping to get a video compilation together of the footage I have taken so far in China, but I am having troubles with slow computers and/or lack of video editing software. Rob sent me a link of a good basic editor the other day (Video Edit Magic), but the computer I’m on doesn’t have the oompf to allow me to put the video together…


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17 thoughts on “Day 675 – CHINA (XINJIANG): Some thoughts

  • Lee

    Rob, I'm so so so so glad to hear it – the Jesus bit. One huge gamble (potentially – i.e. for any person doing this) is faith, in all of this, and I'm really wholeheartedly glad to hear that Jesus is still the cornerstone. (Though we perceive/hold him there for different reasons as the faith journey progresses, as you say.)

    As the lovely Ailsa once wrote, "Hooray for Jesus in you!"

  • Patrick

    quick question for you Rob, what response has Guinness given you on declaring you the long distance record holder? I hope all is well, glad to hear you are taking a mini break, you deserve it.

    cheers,

    Patrick

  • Jean

    "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep

    to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliot

    "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God."

    1 Cor 10:31

  • wim harwig

    Hey Rob,

    Being an atheist, I had to laugh when reading the Jesus part. I respect your faith in any way though ! You have travelled a long way all over the world and could have lost your faith in many occasions. But it seems you didn't.

    take care,

    Wim.

  • rob

    What ever drives one to learn, improve, love, respect, understand….is a good thing. I am not a religious person, but I am very in touch with my spiritual side. It works for me, Jesus works for you…. hindi works for others…. buddha for another… Some have faith, other have belief. There are so many cross overs, so many teachers, so many stories, so much wisdom in the world… You just have to open up to it. filter out what feels wrong and go for the stuff that feels right in your heart.

    To lose heart is to lose hope…. Seems like yours is ticking nicely Rob….

  • Wally Steven

    Thanks for sharing your faith. It is good to have it tested even though we sometimes done like the process. Coming through stronger makes it all seem worthwhile.I hope it doesn't cause too much trouble with the authorities.

    We all need to be in the real world and not sitting in some rarefied atmosphere that keeps us away from people who don't know Jesus.

  • Marshall

    Rob! This was an awesome post! Just what I wanted to read when I checked you blog for updates this morning!

    My distance skate is only a couple of weeks away, and I am quite excited to get rolling! I'm picking up my board from Larry in 8-10 days!

    Reading your blog has been so so great; I hope you have a chance to look at mine on one of your rest days!

    All the best,

    Marshall

  • Mike C

    Awesome post Rob. We all need to go through these times of soul searching. Those of us who have been brought up with Christian parents need to have our beliefs challenged at a deep level at some stage in order for them to become our own.

    I find it hard when my atheist friends look down their nose at me because they think that I'm simple or uninformed or delusional or something. However, I know in my deepest inner being that there's a God. I've seen His fingerprints. In fact they surround me, they're in my DNA! The wonders of creation stretch from the extents of the Universe right down to sub-atomic particles. I will never be convinced that this world and everything in it just appeared here out of some great accident. It takes too much faith to believe such a thing.

    I've been thinking about suffering a lot recently. Why does a perfect God allow us to suffer? In a nutshell, here's my understanding of it. God created us to be the object of His love. But one cannot have true love without a choice. He has put us here on earth to make the choice whether we are going to follow Him (= love Him), or ignore Him. This is the meaning of life. The opposite of loving God, is going our own way or ignoring Him. This as sin. Sin is not doing the will of God. And the wages of sin is death (or suffering). Essentially, all of the pain in this world are a result of humans ignoring God. God allowed this world to be corrupted because he wanted us to have the ability to choose whether we would follow Him. He allowed imperfection to riddle His creation because we cannot have genuine freedom of choice in a truly perfect world.

    But what’s really been making me think recently is the concept of permitting (or even asking) God to test me. It’s a terrifying thought to say to God “I want to grow spiritually, but I know that the quickest way to grow is through suffering” (no pain, no gain). I find this terrifying because saying this to God requires total trust in Him. He could squash me like an ant if He wanted to.

  • harydial

    Hey Rob….I must say this…thanks for sharing I think you being proud of your faith In Jesus Christ makes all the difference……

    I know God had put this journey you are currently embarking on into your heart..thats your passion…thats what you are called to do this season……and you are fulfilling it..thats His revelation to you…..truly

    Its so true its not what we do but what He has done for us….we dont have to do it anymore…nothing to prove just receive

    I thank God that He has put this 'crazy' journey into your heart…..I have a similar sort of desire too..in my heart that cant wait to come out……

    Stay well brother and enjoy this journey in life!

  • Aunty Les

    I had been wondering what thoughts had been going through your mind out there in the wide open space. Great thinking and good answers to your questions. True freedom is only found in total submission to God through Jesus.

    Re rest: here's The Message translation of Matthew 11:29-30 "Are you tired? Worn out?" Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Great words, eh?

  • Nicolai Bangsgaard

    Really, really strong and emotional post, Rob. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The goosebumps won't disappear here in Auckland – and it's not even that cold…

    Be strong, my friend…

    Nicolai (Denmark)

  • Dave Monks

    Rob – Lincoln represent! I am still enjoying your travels and reading about the antics you get up to. Thanks for documenting it all.

    I'm heading to China in a couple of weeks – Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Mongolia proper, Beijing and then Tokyo. I hope to see some rubber skate wheel marks while I'm there.

  • Scott

    Good post, Rob. Keep digging. I submit, however, you don't "lose" everything through Buddhism. At least those I know practicing this religion have never given me that feeling. Like other religions, one gives up to gain, eh?

    I just finished another 500+ mile tandem trike ride with my wife and dog–great ride, that. Saw God bunches of times over 10 majors climbs in the Sierras.

    Keep on, Brother!

    Scott