Nancy Sathre-Vogel is one of Family Adventure Summit’s keynote speakers. Nancy and her family have traveled all over the world together including undertaking an epic bike ride from Alaska to Argentina! You can find more learn more about her family travel adventures by visiting her website, Family On Bikes.
Tell us a bit about your family and what kind of traveling you have done.
Where do I even start?? I’ve been gallivanting around the planet since 1983 in various ways. From being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras to backpacking around South America to volunteering in India to a whirlwind train trip around Europe. In 1990, my (now) husband and I spent a year biking around Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
A few years later, we started living the expat life, first living in Egypt while teaching at an American school, then on to Ethiopia for seven years, Taiwan for a couple years, then Malaysia. We moved back to the USA in 2005 – but only lasted 18 months before…
…we quit our jobs, pulled the kids out of school, and headed out on bicycles again. By now, our twin sons were eight, and they spent the year on a bicycle built for three with my husband. We pedaled 9300 miles around the USA and Mexico before returning back home to Idaho. That time, we lasted a year before taking off again. In June of 2008, we flew to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. For the next 3 years, we pedaled south until we reached the tip of South America 17,285 miles later.
We have now been in Idaho since 2011.
How old were your children when you first started your traveling lifestyle?
Which lifestyle?? They crossed the Atlantic three times while still in utero, and five more times before their second birthday. The boys spent every Christmas in a different country until their first repeat at age 9. The boys were 8 when we took off for our first year on the bikes. They were ten when we flew to Alaska.
What was the catalyst that made you decide to live life differently and travel the world with your family?
Is there ever just one? Seems like, for most of us, there are lots of reasons. Each reason settles down like a gentle little snowflake until there are enough of them to start rolling. At some point, it gains momentum and turns into an avalanche. And so it was for us.
A few of the many snowflakes are: John’s dad dying, my mom getting cancer, being in Burma during the 2004 tsunami and in Malaysia during the aftermath, major transition back to teaching in the USA where we weren’t real happy, and mostly – not being with our own children because we were so busy teaching other people’s kids.
How have you chosen to educate your children while traveling? What are your educational philosophies?
Let me just say that I learned a lot from my 21 years as a classroom teacher, but the most important thing is that kids learn. They just learn. Their brains are designed to help them make sense of the world around them – and they’ll do that if we give them a chance.
To that end, I never worried about WHAT they learned – only THAT they learned. Their brains were growing and developing and making connections every time they learned. Period. I didn’t worry about them knowing the parts of a flower or the phases of the moon – I just wanted them to learn. Learn about Mayans or Incans. Learn about invasive species or arctic grasses. Learn about tectonic plates or about Gaucho Gil in Argentina. I didn’t care WHAT they learned, only THAT they learned.
Tell us one of your best worldschooling moments.
Only one? Seriously? My favorite moment was probably the day I was walking through a market in Ecuador with 10-year- old Davy. “Mom,” he said, “why are Americans so afraid to travel?”
“What do you mean, honey?” I replied.
“Well, Americans are so afraid to leave America. They think they’ll be attacked or robbed or killed – but when I look around me, I only see nice people.”
He was right, of course.
What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known before you started out on your traveling lifestyle?
That we’re more alike than we are different. Well, no… I take that back. If I had known that in the beginning, I wouldn’t have spent all those years traveling to discover it.
How do you find community on the road?
This is a challenge, and there are no easy answers. The reality is that you either follow the crowd and have community that way, or you take the road less traveled and are on your own.
How do you finance your travels?
We’ve done it all. We’ve worked abroad so we could kill two birds with one stone. We’ve traveled for a year on savings. And we traveled for several years on passive income generated by rental properties.
What is your favorite country so far? Why?
This is like asking me which is my favorite child. India will always be special because she’s my first love. Honduras was my first international “home.” My sons spent their first 4.5 years in Ethiopia. Mexico wins the Hospitality Award. Colombia is a close second.
What are some of the difficulties you have encountered in traveling and how have you overcome them?
I don’t really think about the difficulties – it just is. It’s a part of travel, and what makes it interesting. Each challenge requires a unique solution.
Tell us one thing that you have learned about yourself, your family, or the world through travel.
That we’re all the same. Trite answer, but it’s really true.
What are your future travel plans?
No clue. My sons are in their first year at uni now, so we are entering into a period of massive change. Will we stay in Boise the rest of our lives? Will we move elsewhere? Will we get back on our bikes? I couldn’t even begin to tell you right now.
What aspect of the Family Adventure Summit are you most excited about?
Hearing stories!! When travelers get together, the BEST stories come out!