Mark and Toni’s 2019 Learning Odyssey. A Final Reflection, Future Planning and a Greater Purpose.

We all have a story to tell, but whether we chose at any time to tell it is an entirely different matter. Each of us continue on journeys, in life, with families and friends, in our work and at our play. Finding its meaning and learning the messages from what happened, what we felt, how we would do things differently as a consequence of those experiences. Most times we do these things tacitly, tweaking a recipe, choosing a different route to drive to avoid traffic or ending a negative relationship. The time occasionally arises when more thought and process may be required. Also testing this process, the new knowledge gained through learning and research, rather than taking things at face value from others without knowing the evidence or truth.

So, how to tell my story? How do I put it into logical sense, describe and discuss the process, its importance to us and the affect it has upon our practice and ways you’ve changed to move it forward. Finally, the claim to new knowledge, what you’ve learned and how you tried, maybe even be unsuccessfully, needs to be disseminated in the written word or spoken voice, even both. This is the world of action research or inquiry learning and the journey I’ve chosen to undertake.

The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. Robert Burns, To a mouse.

This quote from Robbie Burns clearly sums up the lessons learned whilst on our odyssey. Expect the unexpected also rings an accord. The plan was hatched nearly a year ago, it’s embryonic nature began with just a single flight back to UK with the possibility of working back in the UK in mind. The thought of re registration and working in a Brexit uncertain UK rapidly made us think twice as to the wisdom of such a venture. We extended the trip and decided to make in multiple weeks. The home and job move from Blenheim to Nelson made the opportunity even more logical and the hiatus between them both, ideal.

We traveled from Nelson, via LA to the UK, from there onward to the Mediterranean, Central France and Champagne. The UK leg saw us visit Brighton, Fareham, Shepton Mallet, Wells, Scotland and High Wycombe. The US leg saw us in Portland, Colorado and San Francisco.  Along the way we drove, flew, trained and bused to varying locations that marked our path of discovery and learning. We were very fortunate to have the assistance and collaborative support of so many amazing friends along the way. Our gratitude and thanks go to Deb, Pat and Isa, Hanna and Ralph, Dave and Rachel, Lynne and Philippe, Anni-France, Andy, Sue and Chris, Audrey, Sally, Tracey and Neil, Mike and Pauline, Mark and Rose, Dan and Carola and Jack and Peggy. Their kindness and time afforded to us made it all possible.

The trip went as planned, not much to this point, has gone wrong. The strongest, most lasting impression I have of venture is that of climate change and sustainability. Ironic and a tad dark of me considering the carbon footprint that trails behind us. “That Humbleman” Ollie Langridge we found in the early days of his 100 day climate change protest outside the Bee Hive Parliament Building as we made our way from Wellington to Auckland. His message through social media has been following us along the way. His determination to persist and engage with the public and politicians for a cause greater than himself is inspiring. His demonstration continues.

The link to the environment, sustainability, food waste, climate change is becoming more apparent to many around the World. Talking to bee keepers, wine makers, healthcare professionals and farmers on this trip has made me consider my own position. It may not affect me in my lifetime significantly but for my children and their children I am deeply concerned. Can we affect change in our professional lives to undo, halt and prevent further environmental catastrophe? Our plan is to join the Green Party of New Zealand and become more active within it, look intently at our work and home place behaviours and encourage change. We have downsized to one car, walking and cycling will very much continue to be part of our life, if not more and we will look at our use of single use plastics and the use of clinical gloves at work.

With environmental considerations comes the question of what nutritional behaviours we adopt. In the 8 weeks of this trip has come the news that we allegedly need to eat less red meat, the Brazilian Rain forests are being destroyed by fire to clear land for grazing and pasture to feed animals as our global dietary change. Do we need to eat less? Do we need to eat to need rather than feed or greed? Do we need to eat less meat and more plant based foods? What evidence is there for such a dietary changes? Is saturated fat bad? The best way forward I feel is to gain more knowledge on these matters.

We both had the intention to be more socialable. We have spent many years really just getting on with our lives without association to a greater cause or community. The search for community, for a more meaningful use of our time, we hope has been joined with the need to support the worlds struggling bee colonies and those supporting food education and growing food. I’m hoping it will keep us rooted to the land, make us think more than once or twice about going away frequently to find purpose away from where we live.

Clinically things are about to change for both of us, more so for me I suspect. Working for Gerry at Quinn Dental, Nelson is going to be a professional journey into a greater professional purpose. The need to determine how I fit into this dynamic and progression clinical scene will be a challenge. My initial thoughts were to follow the oral myofacial therapy and buteyko breathing study route. The practice however, already has clinicians working in these fields so I feel a working knowledge is essential only presently. I’m more inclined to feel a greater knowledge of lifestyle and nutritional change regarding dental and metabolic health improvement are essential. My learning journey begins there.

Our website,, needs some tuning I agree. I need to add more posts related to the dental and metabolic health research I’ve undertaken on this long odyssey. Prof. Tim Noakes, a nutritional expert from South Africa and of nutritional controversy fame has written a two part position paper on Insulin Resistance Syndrome (IRS) that I feel is entirely appropriate to dental and systemic health. More on this intriguing subject when I eventually post it. I will also add reflections on crucial nutritional related dental subjects over the course of the next few months. I’m going to change me of the landing pages as week, to reflect the changes and lessons learnt from the odyssey and the first few days of clinical practice in Nelson on my return, some very significant to the remaining eleven or so clinical years I have left before I retire clinically. I will also add a page about my embryonic journey into bee keeping and another about an eBook I intend to write about alternative professional continuing learning.

So, my plan is thus;

  • Have greater awareness of the environment, sustainability and climate change improvement. Travel less and settle permanently in Nelson.
  • Investigate bee keeping and join the local community that promote and support it. Find an allotment or lease a bit of land to grow vegetables. Align with people who similar views and causes.
  • Be more sustainable in my clinical practice.
  • Undertake an Action Research Project entitled ” The future of Dental Hygiene, alternative learning and Dental Health, a more functional, sustainable and whole approach?” and continue to post related research @, especially regarding recent nutritional dental research.
  • Publish this research into an eBook eventually.

Finally, and more immediately, is the time needed to adapt, acclimatise and relax into my new clinical role, learn the new ropes and develop my practice. Mouths tend to be the same but practice dynamics, personalities and cultures are all to often unique. Hope I settle in quickly and comfortably. TTFN.


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