Meet the Nomads – Family on Bikes

Through wanderings of Twitterland I came upon @familyonbikes and was intrigued by their bi-contintental cycling adventure with two young sons.  The Vogel family has literally been “on the road” for two years now.  Beginning in Alaska they have slowly biked their way to Costa Rica and will continue until they reach the tip of Argentina.  In doing so, their youngest son, Davy, will be the youngest person in world history to make this biking trek.  Read on to hear from Nancy Sathre-Vogel about their life on bikes.

I see on your site that the two of you were biking long before you had children.  How many bike trips had you done before this adventure and what countries did you see?

John has been cycling much longer than me, but together we cycled through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Yemen, Mali, and Israel.  He has also cycled in Australia, Zimbabwe, Norway, Taiwan, and Malaysia.  Of course, we’ve also cycled quite a bit in the USA and Mexico as well.

Taking your children on such a long and physically demanding journey must have been a huge decision.  How did you make the choice that this would be your way to travel and how did your children’s ages factor into the decision?

John and I had always dreamed of taking off for a year-long journey with our kids, but we figured it would always remain just a dream like most people’s dreams do.  But one day John came home after a particularly rough day in the classroom and told me he wanted to take off on a bike trip.  I thought he was crazy ? I mean, parents just don\’t do that!!

For the next three weeks John kept talking about the bike trip and he managed to convince me that we only live once, and we had to take advantage of this time with the kids if we were ever to do it.  Four weeks after John first raised the idea, we ordered our bicycle built for three.  Two months after that, we were on the road.

Our biggest concern at that point was that the kids wouldn’t like touring by bicycle.  We had quit our jobs, spent $6000 on a bike, and taken off.  And if the boys didn’t enjoy it?  We were terrified.

It became evident immediately that our concerns were unfounded ? the boys loved their life on the road!  They took to cycle touring like a duck to water.

And so it is that we are still on the road ? this time riding from Alaska to Argentina.  The boys learn way more on the road than they ever could in a classroom, and they love what they are doing.  For me and John, this is our one and only chance to spend this time with our boys ? soon they will be grown and have lives of their own.  Right now, they are enjoying being with their parents ? and their parents enjoy being with them!

Do you cycle every day or take days of rest on a regular schedule?

We take lots of days off.  LOTS!!  In fact, we cycle less than 50% of the days.

How do you decide how long you will stay in a location?

That depends on a lot of factors ? what there is to do in that place, how tired we are, what the weather is like, etc?  Basically, when we are ready to move on, we do.

I see you have many sponsors both corporate and individual.  Have you been able to sustain your life on the road through sponsorships and donations? If not, are you also deriving income from other means while on the road?

We do have a few corporate sponsors who are providing gear, and a few individuals who donate a small amount of cast each month.  However, the vast majority of our expenses are coming from our retirement account.

John and I decided that life is too short to not take advantage of it.  Our boys will only be boys once.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we decided to go for it.  We will be poorer when we retire, but we?ll have loads of memories!!

How do you fit homeschooling into your life?

For the most part, our journey is the boys? teacher.  They learn so much simply by traveling around the world!  Mother Nature is also an awesome teacher and the boys learn tons from her.

That being said, there are a few areas where the learning can’t come so naturally.  For those areas, we supplement their education with actual lessons.  We have math books with us, and the boys work on that in the tent or hotel rooms.  They also write journals or essays occasionally and are learning to make video documentaries.  They are both avid readers, so our biggest challenge in that area is finding English books!

Can you describe the Reach the World program you are participating in?  How does it work for you and the kids in NYC who watch?

Reach the World is an exciting program!  We are connected with classrooms in NYC via the internet, and we become the eyes and ears of the kids in those classes.  Each week we post online about our experiences ? writing, photos, and videos.  The kids call that up and learn about the world through our experiences.  It is a neat way for disadvantaged kids to have a chance to experience the world.

Do you have any advice for nomadic families based on your experiences so far?

The main piece of advice I have is to never, ever, not even for one nanosecond doubt your children!!  Children have an amazing ability to do way more than we give them credit for!

To learn more about the Vogel family, please visit their website Family on Bikes

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing about us! We’re really enjoying our life on the road.
    Nancy

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  2. We leave in 3 days to bike the Lewis & Clark Trail, going for only 2 months. It is reasuring that it is do able. Thanks for that. Or kids are 17 & 16. We will see how the trip goes and the wind blows, hopefully to our backs. DFB

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