Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your dream.
My name is Nancy Sathre-Vogel. After spending 21 years as a classroom teacher, I decided life was too short to spend all my time with other people's kids and not enough with my own. My husband and I quit our teaching jobs and, together with our twin sons, headed out on bicycles to see the world. We spent a total of four years traveling the Americas, including a jaunt from Alaska to Argentina.
When did you decide to follow your dream? What pushed you to do it?
For us, the dream evolved - and is still evolving. It first started in 2006 with what we thought would be a one-year career break. Our intentions were to spend a year exploring America on our bicycles, then we would return to Idaho and go back to the same ol', same ol'. However, that year on the bikes led to us wanting more, so we set out again for a 3-year journey from Alaska to Argentina.
Again, our plan had been to return to teaching and the kids would return to school upon our return, but... well, things changed. Now we are self-employed and our sons are still homeschooled. At this point, the dream is to continue living consciously, making deliberate choices about how we will live our lives. I am an author and motivational speaker, in addition to doing my beadwork.
What made you choose riding from the northernmost road to the southernmost road, as opposed to the more common dream of riding across or around the US?
We started off with the "warm up" journey of cycling 9300 miles around the USA and Mexico. We did that when the kids were in 3rd grade. Then things kinda, sorta... well, they spiraled out of control :)
What was the hardest part of following your dream?
Making the decision. By far. Once the decision has been made and you are committed, it's pretty easy, but making that decision is hard!!
When you told people about your dream, what sort of reaction did you get? Did that affect your decision to do it anyway?
For us, that wasn't a big deal. We had lived overseas for many years, and my husband and I had spent a year traveling on bikes through Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh many years prior, so I think people expected it from us.
What did blow me away was the criticism I got from total strangers. People we had never met read my blog and decided to "read between the lines" (meaning - they completely made stuff up). It was crazy, and was definitely a challenge to deal with. I wrote an open letter as a response to one particular blogger here: http://familyonbikes.org/blog/
Yes. There were basically two times when I hit bottom. The first was in northern Peru. It had been an extraordinarily difficult 500 miles through the desert. We battled winds and blowing sand. Food was scarce, and what there was was horrible. Hotels were outrageously expensive and absolute dives. By the time we pulled into Trujillo, I was done.
As I walked along the streets of Trujillo, bitching, moaning, and complaining, little 12-year-old Daryl turned me and said, "You won't change anything by complaining, Mom. All you can do is keep going and things will get better." I so wish I had the wisdom that kid has.
Daryl was absolutely right and, as we continued south, I started to see a beauty in the desert that I hadn't seen before. The distances were just as long, the headwinds just a strong, and the blowing sand still hurt like BBs shooting into our legs, but once I made that attitude adjustment it didn't seem so bad.
The other time I hit bottom was in Zapala, Argentina, about 2100 miles from the end of the world. Once again, it had been a very difficult stretch that we had come through. We were paralleling the Andes mountains and climbing up enormous climbs into the foothills, then plummeting back down. There was no water whatsoever, so we frequently had to carry two or three days worth of water. Biting flies were overly aggressive, making it so that we couldn't take breaks at all.
When we finally pulled into the tiny town of Zapala, my husband somehow knew that another night in the tents would have broken me. We sought out a small hostel, parked our bikes, and hauled all our gear upstairs to our room. I remember standing in the shower with tears pouring down my face - I was exhausted beyond anything I knew possible. I was truly bone tired.
And yet I was conflicted. I wanted to get to Ushuaia with every bone in my body and every pore in my skin. I was determined to reach my goal - my goal that was so close, yet so very far away. At that point we 'only' had about 2100 miles to go, which compared to 15,000 wasn't much. And yet, by anybody's reckoning, 2100 miles is a long way to go on a bicycle.
When we set out from Zapala, I was determined that I would get to Ushuaia, but I also knew that I would hate each and every pedal stroke. I was totally convinced that I would hate it, yet I wasn't willing to give up the dream.
As it happened, Daryl's words from Peru were true once again. All I could do was keep going and things would get better. They did, and I enjoyed that last few months of our journey.
I know from following your adventure on Facebook that you and your family saw some amazing sights on your journey and met a lot of great people. Care to share a favorite memory from your trip?
Oh gosh! Only one? There were truly some amazing moments when we were blessed to meet incredible people. There was the time when a family filled our panniers with oranges, freshly picked from the tree. Or when we pedaled away from a date farm with 25 pounds of dates strapped to my bike. But probably my favorite story was when two Mexican men hid caches of Gatorade for us alongside the road. For 200 kilometers, we had a treasure hunt searching for rock cairns indicating that four bottles of Gatorade would be hidden in the bushes. It was magical! I've written the whole story here: http://familyonbikes.org/blog/
Now that you've followed one amazing dream, do you have other dreams you'd like to pursue?
At this point, my goal is to simply live consciously and deliberately. I want to wake up every morning and truly say, "What I do with the next 24 hours is what *I* choose to do." If I can do that, rather than getting carried away by the hamster wheel, I will be happy.
If you were going to take another long-distance cycling trip with your family, what would you do differently?
I am glad that we cycled the length of the Americas, and wouldn't change that for anything. That said, if we were to take off again, I think it would be more of an open-ended trek rather than a quest. I would like to go explore the world, going wherever the wind blows us.
Are there places that you traveled through on your trip that you'd like to return to for another visit?
Honduras!! I was a Peace Corps Volunteer back in the 80's and it was so amazingly wonderful to get back to the country and to my village. I would love to return again. And Mexico and Colombia were real favorites as well. I could see living in any of those countries.
Any parting words of advice for those who are hesitating to follow their dreams?
Thank you so much Nancy for your wonderful interview! If you all would like to read more about her family's ride from Alaska to Argentina, you can purchase her book Changing Gears on Amazon.