Rediscovering the 6 Degrees of Freedom
Six degrees of freedom refers to the ability of a rigid body to move freely in three-dimensional space. Specifically, the body can move forwards and backwards, left and right, up and down, or rotate about each of these axes.
A timid seventeen year old, I was sitting up the back of a musty lecture theatre the first time I was introduced to this concept. I was more engrossed in the words gouged into my poor excuse for a desk, than the barely discernable drone of Indian accent coming from the lectern. We engineers knew our place early on – the nice lecture theatres were, after all, reserved for commerce and nursing students.
I feverishly copied down everything on the overhead – word for word. I might not have understood the detailed principles of the six degrees of freedom, but I’d study up on these notes later, I fooled myself. Then I’d understand.
A stranger, Colby sat in the front row, his blue flannelette shrouding a Metallica T-Shirt. He was equally engrossed in scrawling down the slide, even perhaps, slightly more enthusiastic.
Fast forward through fifteen years of weeks away from home, fourteen hour days, thirteen day fortnights, wharves, bridges, gas plants, iron ore facilities, high vis and red dust, and:
. . . the School of Engineering has finally refurbished a couple of lecture theatres, Colby no longer wears flannelette, and I’ve forgotten everything I ever learnt about the six degrees of freedom . . . in more ways than one.
The journey had taken us to magical places and absolute holes, with extraordinary people and arseholes. And I wouldn’t change it for the world. But one day, as I gasped for breath from somewhere up the corporate ladder, I caught sight of the view. I realised that I had become so focussed on ‘being successful’ (whatever that meant), that I’d forgotten to notice how peaceful the winter sun was, low in the sky. How abundant the wildflowers are in spring, even in the heart of my own beautiful city. How much of a relief it was to turn my phone off, for even just an hour.
About the same time, Colby came home from work one night, ran his fingers through his greying hair and together we contemplated. There must be something more than this. Something better than the unrelenting pressures of building stuff. Something bigger than selling our souls for some ideal of ‘success.’ And so our plan was born. We would pack up our stuff, rent out our house, and travel the world.
Although we’re very unspontaneous people, and gave ourselves a whole eighteen month cooling off period, making the decision to step away from the corporate world was not an easy one. Afterall, we’d put in years of hard work to get to where we were. We’d defined ourselves by how many proverbial fires we fought and how much we could squeeze into every day.
And as we move into the pointy end of our planning, and embark on our journey, we are under no illusions that our journey will always be easy, no matter how exotic it sounds. But we hope it is real. We hope it is fulfilling. And we hope you enjoy sharing it with us.