A great deal of your time at university will be spent thinking; thinking about what people have said, what you have read, what you yourself are thinking and how your thinking has changed. It is generally believed that the thinking process involves two aspects: reflective thinking and critical thinking. They are not separate processes; rather, they are closely connected (Brookfield 1987).
Figure 1: The Thinking Process (adapted from Mezirow 1990, Schon 1987, Brookfield 1987)
- a form of personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information.
- a 'processing' phase where thinking and learning take place.
There is neither a right nor a wrong way of reflective thinking, there are just questions to explore.
Figure 1 shows that the reflective thinking process starts with you. Before you can begin to assess the words and ideas of others, you need to pause and identify and examine your own thoughts.
Doing this involves revisiting your prior experience and knowledge of the topic you are exploring. It also involves considering how and why you think the way you do. The examination of your beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions forms the foundation of your understanding.
Reflective thinking demands that you recognise that you bring valuable knowledge to every experience. It helps you therefore to recognise and clarify the important connections between what you already know and what you are learning. It is a way of helping you to become an active, aware and critical learner.
Reflective writing is:
- your response to experiences, opinions, events or new information
- your response to thoughts and feelings
- a way of thinking to explore your learning
- an opportunity to gain self-knowledge
- a way to achieve clarity and better understanding of what you are learning
- a chance to develop and reinforce writing skills
- a way of making meaning out of what you study
Reflective writing is not:
- just conveying information, instruction or argument
- pure description, though there may be descriptive elements
- straightforward decision or judgement (e.g. about whether something is right or wrong, good or bad)
- simple problem-solving
- a summary of course notes
- a standard university essay
See next: How do I write reflectively?
For all your referencing, writing and academic skills support
- 2700km (about 1700miles) cycling the length of New Zealand
- Cape Reinga (north of the north island) to Bluff (south of the south island)
- 29 days, including one rest day
- Terrain included beach, single track, gravel roads, sealed road
- I used a hardtail mountain bike (chain wheel 40-30-22)
- Gear setup was a frame bag, handlebar bag, and backpack tied to a rear rack.
- I slept in my tent, in cabins, and hostels
- I was a self-supported rider meaning I carried all of my gear and food with me.
- I followed a detailed guidebook and Google maps
I gave a pretty decent overview of my trip prep here. So I will suffice it to say I was happy with my set up. My gears worked like a charm and my saddle was great! The only real issue worth mentioning was my back tire. It had the weight of most of my supplies and water as well as the weight of yours truly. The wheel distorted and bent a bit over the course of the ride, particularly after 84 km (52 miles) of bumpy single track. Solidly built wheels are worth the investment if you are bikepacking, especially over rougher terrain.
Refections on the Ride:
Since finishing the TA in March, I have thought often about the journey and honestly, it’s kind of hard to wrap my head around completing such a massive undertaking. However, my thoughts generally congregate around the following themes/ideas:
Our Bodies are Incredible
If I was in a relationship with my body on Facebook, the tag would say “it’s complicated.” I can be pretty hard on myself and resent all of the ways I see my body as “defective.” But on the other hand, I have experiences like this that provide hard evidence that my body is a marvelous example of nature’s engineering. Our bodies are designed to endure. It’s incredible how much of a difference I felt in fitness from beginning to end. I don’t think I lost any weight, but at the beginning, I was doing about 70km (43 miles)/day and it was taking all day with tons of rest stops. I walked a LOT. By the end, I only rested because I wanted to rest, was hungry, or needed the bathroom. I was riding over 100km (62 miles) per day and most of the time made it to camp before dark. I could ride nearly every hill to completion. I felt strong and in awe of how resilient my body is. It was a different kind of appreciation than I’ve felt before.
Haters Gonna Hate
If you set out to do something that is a little out of the box, you find a lot of people will support and encourage you. However, you will absolutely run into people who will question your ability to succeed and project their fears on you. After finishing the north island, there was a couple I met at a hostel and they went on and on about how tough the hills are in NZ and how dangerous the roads were. They weren’t even from NZ but they needed to tell me just how much I didn’t know…because obviously, completing the first 900 miles wasn’t education enough. I had another guy, as I was riding up a REALLY steep climb, smirk at me and make a point to tell me the hill was steep. It was such a stupidly obvious comment on so many levels, I couldn’t even formulate a response. I just rode up the rest of the climb and maturely gave him the middle finger when I reached the top. I am a chubby, non-athletic looking woman. I wish this didn’t mean people automatically assume I’m incapable, but it often did. Even at a bike shop, one of the employees kept trying to sell me what looked like a shower cap the color of dead mustard. He also questioned my bike set up and kept trying to alter my handlebar grips and my saddle. I was like, “Sir I will cut you if you touch that saddle.” Ok, so I didn’t really say that but man did I think that really loudly in my head!
Basically, the point is, haters gonna hate and it’s not about you. It’s about them feeling uncomfortable because here you are defying all of the excuses they make for not doing what it is your doing. Don’t let other people’s stuff deter you from following your dream.
Ride Your Own Ride
This ride was excellent practice in mindfulness, twenty nine days of practice to be exact. And here’s what I took from that practice. I noticed that any time I felt anxious or worried or frustrated or discouraged, it came down to 1) comparing myself to what other people were doing or 2) falling short of my own expectations of what I should be. By the way, both 1 and 2 are wonderful strategies to adopt if you want to undermine your own success in virtually any arena of life. Over the course of this tour, I ran the gamut of probably every emotion, from elation to apathy. But the main thing that got me through was reminding myself to ride my own ride. Are the other cyclists faster than me? Yes, but I don’t need to be them or to catch up with them to meet my goal. It is ok to just be me and do what I can do. Do I really need to be to destination X by a certain time? Not really. What’s the worst that could happen if I fall behind? I sleep in my tent on the side of the road and get really wet. That happened. I survived. I continually repeated this mantra to myself when I felt that tension in my body and despair setting in. I thought, “Whoa, what is happening?” And inevitably it came back to expecting circumstances to be different and getting mad that they weren’t. It was a powerful thing to give myself space to just be where I was without willfully wishing I was something different.
If you are interested in the daily ups and downs of my journey, I kept a blog [www.CatEyeGypsy.com]. But to sum it up, this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Let me rephrase that–this is literally the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It was mentally and physically challenging but I wanted to prove to myself that I can do hard things. I wanted to look my brothers and sister, my cousins, my nieces and nephews, my friends in the eye and tell them that they are capable of achieving what may at present seem impossible. Perhaps the idea of riding across a country does not appeal to you at all. Maybe you have dreams of entering a triathlon or trying a bikepacking overnight. Maybe your dreams have nothing at all to do with cycling. Whatever it is that ignites excitement in you, you are capable of making it happen. Because on paper, I am the least likely candidate to complete a 1700 mile cross-country tour. But I did it. And if I can do that, so can you.
Written by Tiffany Larson