Why We Travel: Nancy Sathre-Vogel’s Story
This is part of a series of article in which travellers share what draws them to the road. If you enjoy Nancy’s article, subscribe to TravelBlogs and stay updated when new stories like it are posted.
What could possess an otherwise perfectly sane family to take off to pedal bicycles 20,000 miles from one end of the earth to the other? I wish I knew…
We were just your ordinary, everyday, American family one day. And the next we were anything but. In May 2008 the four of us were living in a typical American home in Boise, Idaho. The boys attended fourth grade at a local elementary school. I taught Special Ed at a local high school. John was serving as our stay-at-home dad, fixing up the house and doing other assorted chores. In short – life was typical and predictable.
I was living the American Dream – and doesn’t everybody want the American Dream?
But a month later, the four of us were living a life very few can imagine. We arose every morning in our tent, packed our sleeping bags, strapped all our earthly belongings onto our bicycles, and pedaled away to face the adventures of the day – of which there were plenty!
How did that transformation happen?
I suppose I could give some trite answer here– we woke up one day and decided we wanted more… blah, blah, blah… But the reality is that I honestly don’t know how it all came to be.
What I do know is that I’ve always been adventurous and independent and (perhaps) a little foolhardy. My mom always told me stories of when I was little – of how I scared the pants off her with my antics. And I know that my wanderlust began in earnest when my parents took me to Mexico when I was sixteen – my eyes were opened to the fact that there’s a whole new world out there!
I’m sure my time in the Peace Corps in Honduras helped push me along. As did the two years I taught in Egypt with my husband. During our seven years in Ethiopia our twin boys were born, and they moved with us to Taiwan and then on to Malaysia.
So by the time we moved to my hometown of Boise, Idaho when the boys were seven, we had been around the world a time or two. We had also learned to thrive on the unexpected nature of travel in third world nations.
But yet – there was another side of us. That side that believed – truly believed – that to be a “proper” parent, one must do what’s expected. One must drop the kids off at daycare, work all day, pick the kids up, fix a quick dinner, take the kids to soccer practice, and then collapse into bed utterly exhausted. After all – that’s what society raised us to believe is right. That’s what we should want.
And so it was that I went about my daily routine. I taught all day dealing with unruly teenagers. By the time I got home, I was too tired to truly enjoy my own boys. But I didn’t question it because…well, I was living the American Dream – and doesn’t everybody want the American Dream?
And then came the day – a beautiful spring day in March of 2006. That day, John slumped into our house after a particularly rough day in the classroom (he’s a teacher too) and collapsed into his favorite chair by the window. His eyes glazed over and I knew he wasn’t looking at the lawn which desperately needed mowing or the barn which needed fixing. He was farther away. Much farther away.
Was this the way I wanted it to be? Was the American Dream the be-all and end-all?
“Nancy,” he said, “I can’t do this. I need to get away. I want to buy a triple bike and take off. Just me and the kids – out exploring the world. We’ll be the three musketeers. We’ll be Mr. Incredible and his children saving the world from destruction and injustice! We’ll be Superman and Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk rolled into one! Oh yeah – and you can tag along too.”
I started thinking about our life in Boise, Idaho and the American Dream? And I started to wonder about the real question: Was this the way I wanted it to be? Was the American Dream the be-all and end-all? Was it the path to enlightenment and roadway to happiness? Would I, could I, be content with a big house in the suburbs and some cars? Was that really what life was all about?
Within a few weeks we had made the decision to go for it. Life was too short to not go and besides – our boys would never be eight years old again. Two months later we headed out to see our country with our boys.
We spent one year on the road that time. Twelve months of being together, growing together, learning together. 365 days of taking on challenges together as a family and triumphing over them. In short – it was one year of magic.
And so – the decision to take off again came easily. We knew the challenges we would face. We knew the rewards. We knew the magic.
Now, we are nine months into a 20,000-mile trek from Alaska to Argentina. We’ve pedaled 7000 miles, camped on the side of the road about 200 nights, and consumed more granola bars than I can count. But we’ve also grown together as a family and forged a bond that cannot be broken. And for us – that’s what keeps us going.