by Cori Hilsgen
Nick Theisen completed a six-week cycling trip through the countries of Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom this year.
Theisen spent his last semester at college studying in Ireland. He says he studied history and life, something he says he’ll never stop learning about. After completing his academic responsibilities, he cycled around the three countries, a total distance of about 2,500 miles.
“I met many people with a great variety of stories,” Theisen said. “It’s an adventure I will continue to process in my thinking for a long time to come. The journey was much more difficult than I had imagined it to be. But, overall, with the big picture in mind, it was an incredible experience. Being on a bicycle put me in a position where it was very easy to meet people and experience the world around me in an intimate way.”
Theisen rode a Surly Long Haul Trucker and had his clothes, camping gear and a small rocket camp stove clipped on his bike.
“The mental aspect was the hardest part of the trip,” Theisen said. “Not meeting anyone I already knew for a month-and-a-half was a challenge. Just not having anyone with me to share things with was hard. Also, there were a few nights where finding a place to pitch my tent for the night was pretty difficult.”
Theisen is a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. He is the 21-year-old son of Sarah and Todd Theisen and has one sister, Amanda, 19, and two brothers, Alex, 16, and Andrew, 12.
This is Theisen’s second cycling trip. His first one was completed with his father from St. Cloud to St. Louis, Mo. last summer.
Fun Facts about Theisen:
Favorite subject: History
“It brings a realization the world is much greater than the small part of it I am familiar with,” Theisen said. “Knowing there is great diversity in the way people live their lives enables my understanding of those around me to be broadened and enhanced.”
Activities he is involved with:
“At Gustavus, I work as a photographer for the marketing and communications department,” he said. “I play alto saxophone in the wind orchestra. I’m on the leadership council with Prepare Ministries (one of the Christian organizations), and I attend meetings of other Christian organizations on campus. At home, I work for my dad’s business, TMT Integrity Flooring.”
Favorite thing to do in his free time: Cycling and experimenting with photography ideas
Favorite movies: Meet Joe Black, Miracle and Lord of the Rings
“All of these movies have a profound depth to them that really connects with me,” Theisen said.
Favorite music: Varies. Some of his favorite bands include Bellarive, Tenth Avenue North, The Beatles, Cat Stevens and Gaelic Storm.
“I enjoy film scores and movie soundtracks,” he said.
Favorite restaurant: Creekwood Acres family farm (aka his mother’s cooking)
“I live on a sustainable farm and much of the food we eat as a family is grown and raised here,” Theisen said. “I help to raise this food and being a part of that work makes eating the food even better. Furthermore, no pesticides, chemicals or hormones are used in making this food.”
Favorite food: Aebleskiver (traditional Danish pancakes in the shape of a sphere).
Favorite thing he likes to help other people do:
“I love to listen and I’m grateful if I can help people simply by listening to them,” he said.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
One of the hardest obstacles he has had to overcome in the school environment:
“It’s an inevitable occurrence in life that something one loves to do sometimes turns into unenjoyable work, but it’s not always easy,” Theisen said. “I love learning about history, but sometimes that learning turns exclusively into something that needs to be done rather than something I enjoy doing.”
Favorite technology device: His digital camera.
“It allows me to capture a scene in an intentional manner that is seldom brought to attention otherwise,” he said.
Does he like using technology at school?
“Certainly, if it works that is,” Theisen said. “Any technology user knows it can be frustrating, but the process of learning to use technology presents a good challenge that requires trial and error and once the technology is learned, it has potential to make tasks more efficient.”
The biggest challenge students face today: The pressure to be an academic student.
“There are countless ways of learning, but there is a tendency to narrow the act of learning into something that can only be done in the classroom,” he said. “The standardization of education essentially forces everyone to learn in the same manner, a manner that simply doesn’t work for many individuals. If students are expected to learn something in a way that doesn’t work for them and they fail, that failure can become a road block to creativity and the desire to learn more.”
How does college life differ from high school?
“It presents a greater opportunity to utilize self-drive,” Theisen said. “There are many chances to explore personal interests on a more in-depth level.”
What he wants to do when he graduates: Combine my passions of photography, history and travel.
“If you have heard of the Facebook page called Humans of New York, I’d like to do something like that on a more in-depth level,” he said. “I’d like to travel to a place, research the history of that place and understand how that history has created the ethos of that place and then capture that in photography. There is great importance in getting a glimpse of how others around the world live. The world is not confined to each individual person’s smaller world.”
Something he would change if he could: The complacency that is a major part of so many people’s lives.
“Achieving one’s dreams and goals doesn’t happen through non-action,” Theisen said.
What do you think will be one of your most important goals during your life after college?
“Instilling people with the knowledge there is a greater picture in which their lives are contextualized,” he said.
An interesting experience in St. Joseph:
“I live with my family on a sustainable farm in St. Joseph and there have been plenty of interesting experiences concerning the work done here,” Theisen said. “It’s not a usual industrial farm in that we use methods and ideas that run contrary to the way the mass-food-production system operates.”
The thing he likes best about St. Joseph:
“St. Joseph has a good small-town feel,” he said.
Nick Theisen completed a six-week cycling trip through the countries of Ireland, Iceland and the United Kingdom this year.