What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
We were on a seven hour train ride from Banyuwangi to Surabaya, and just about every imaginable Indonesian product was being hawked on this train. Fried rice, hot soup, live music, live animals…I was thisclose to buying a bird with a 6 inch beak protruding from it’s cage, and for only $5. My friend pointed out that it would probably attack me before flying away forever, so I reluctantly passed. (more…)
That is the question I asked myself a few years ago when my husband and children wanted to ride their bicycles from Alaska to Argentina.
And when I got really honest with myself, I had to admit that, if I wasn’t afraid, I would go with them.
I was afraid that the mountains would be too high, or the headwinds too strong. The cold would be too cold and the hot would be too hot.
But when I was really, really honest with myself, I realized that it wasn’t the high mountains or headwinds that I feared. I was afraid of failure.
In order to avoid the agony of defeat and humiliation of admitting I couldn’t do it, I had convinced myself that it was better not to try at all. If I never set out in the first place, I would never have to crawl back home, defeated.
But then one night I had one of those eureka moments – a moment when I realized just how silly I was being. That night, as I lay in my bed trying to sleep, I realized that if I tried – if I started pedaling – I did face the possibility of defeat. In fact, I figured there was probably a 50/50 chance I would fail.
When I looked at it from that perspective, I realized it made no sense not to try. I might fail – in fact, I had a very good chance of failing. But I might not fail. I might possibly succeed.
The rest, as they say, is history. Together with my husband and children, I flew to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and we spent the next three years pedaling south.
In the end, I didn’t fail. In the end, I did it. I pedaled 17,000 miles through fifteen countries. But it never would have happened if I wasn’t willing to risk failure.
After spending 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel made the decision to quit her job and live a life less ordinary. Together with her husband and children, she cycled from Alaska to Argentina – a journey of over 17,000 miles through 15 countries. Now, she lives in Idaho, inspiring others to chase their dreams. You can find her at www.familyonbikes.org.
There seems to be an interesting trend starting in the theatre world, one which has history lovers and travel addicts like me very, very intrigued.
Theatrical companies are facing declining audiences as many now flock to the more realistic experiences of the modern digitally-enhanced blockbuster, and they have been forced to get creative in their choice of staging. This has prompted some to do away with the stage altogether; catering to people’s interest in a more, shall we say, “immersive” theatre experience. As a result, some highly respected British drama companies are beginning to hold performances of historically-based plays on the very sites where those stories actually took place.
The latest—and largest—to follow this new trend is none other than Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The revered drama company recently announced plans to spend its new season performing the Bard’s three Henry VI plays, which cover the tumultuous and violent reign of Henry VI and the medieval War of the Roses, on the sites where the plays’ historic battles took place. The drenched-in-history surroundings of Tewkesbury, St Albans, Barnet, and Towton (no, NOT Downton) will see productions of the classic works set where the fifteenth-century king and his knights duked it out with his rivals for the crown.
A similar performance was also held at the Bosworth battlefield in a production of Shakespeare’s epic Richard III, the main character of which has recently gained new fame after his remains were unearthed in a car park near the site of his death in combat. Across the Channel, a performance of Henry V—famous for his victory over the French and his “Band of Brothers” speech riling up his hopelessly outnumbered troops—will take place in Agincourt, the site of his unlikely triumph.
So, if you find yourself near any of these historic and serene locales this year, you might just be able to experience a world-class performance of a classic play—on the soil upon which it all happened.
Suddenly, a night at the theatre doesn’t sound so boring, does it?
If you want to achieve your dream, you will need to stop making excuses and start marching. Excuses are your worst enemy.
It’s easy to sit around, blaming others or your circumstances. It’s easy to wallow in that pity party, thinking that “they” are preventing you from living your dream life. But really – will blaming “them” help at all?
If you want to live your dreams, you need to start making changes – starting with yourself and your attitude. Do you have the dreaded “I can’t do it because I don’t have…” kind of thinking? Why accept failure when you can go out and make changes that can lead you to success?
Success lies within each and every individual. If you really want to move on but don’t know how to stop making excuses, here are some ways to help you.
The first thing you need to do is to accept that you have been using excuses as your defense. Are you too busy? Or don’t have enough money? Are you too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too old, or too young? Are you scared of failure? Or the unknown? What is it that is preventing you from moving forward? Identify it. Be honest with yourself – it’s not easy, but essential.
It’s possible that those reasons – those excuses, if you will – were valid reasons at some point in the past. Are they still? Were they ever? Evaluate them honestly and you’ll find most of them never were valid reasons. Excuses are powerful things.
Look ahead to the opportunities in front of you. Don’t focus on the excuses you made in the past.
After identifying your opportunities, sit down and try to state your expectations. Be ready to accept any blame that may arise due to failure and not direct it onto others. Let people advise you but don’t let them make decisions for you. Stop lying and be honest with yourself. Realistically, what do you expect to happen?
After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel decided life was too short to spend with other people’s kids, so she quit her job to spend time with her own. Together with her husband and twin sons, she spent a total of four years cycling the Americas, including a jaunt from Alaska to Argentina. She has written a book about her experiences – Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World.
Picture credit: Flickr/ubuntunewsru
When I get to know that such horrors still happen despite all of the effort we make to keep this world a fairer place, I feel very sad inside.
However, there is really no one to blame. And I want to be as far as I can from using this space to rant against the Chinese. A useless attempt to fortify a jaded stereotype.
I only want to look at events like Tubbataha’s smuggling of protected species’ meat with the critical eye of someone who loves this world, and is sickened by human attempts to make it a bad place for their cash hunger. We, as travelers, may be very far away from committing such deeds, but I believe we should reflect that it is also because of the influence of our own actions that places, cultures and once-called paradises continuously change. They change for worst, most often forever.
I have been living in Southeast Asia long enough to notice some of these changes. One example is the shifting attitude towards the foreigner in different countries and cultures. And no, I want to avoid the “walking wallet” stereotypes. But I can easily refer to episodes of extreme violence in Kuala Lumpur, for example. This was not happening a few years ago, at least, not to travelers. There used to be some kind of respect, some sort of value to human life that I find progressively fading away. Such events fuel the fire that burns our prospected tropical paradises into tiny pieces of scorching charcoal. It hurts when it flies into our naïve eyes. I believe that it is time to acknowledge that if we have the power to do something to change, we may as well start. Losing the pangolin is just another step towards losing ourselves, progressively, into oblivion.
Milton was right: the paradise is really lost.
About $80 per day (hostel, portion of car rental, food/drinks).
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
There are animals roaming free everywhere. Sheep hopping from rock to rock, horses walking out in front of your car, birds dive-bombing you when you’re walking. Of course, the entire landscape of Iceland is strange and other-worldly. You feel like you are planet hopping as you go from town to town.
I did not have a “normal” childhood.
I was born to parents who lived in an 11×22 ft. log cabin on the back side of a lake with no road, electricity or running water. My first meat, through a baby food grinder was black bear. My earliest memories are of trapping turtles with my Dad and hunting mushrooms with my Mom.
We skipped school to fish with our dad. My mom taught me to sew, and can everything we could grow. We built two log houses from scratch before I turned 14. I peeled most of the logs for the second one with a draw knife and my bare hands. My brother laid a good portion of the sub-floor of the first with a ball pean hammer and a stick on a chalk line: “Put one nail at either end of that stick,” my Dad told him. And so he did. He was four, almost.
They hauled me (and my brother) out of school two separate years and rolled us around the continent in the back of a van. We climbed pyramids, hunted our own food with spear-guns in the mar Caribe, and frittered away long afternoons in the great big world with few toys, but giant imaginations. This is what happens when you have nomads for parents and a van that your dad names “Vagabunda.” They are the coolest people I know.
You know what’s funny? I was in university before I realized how “weird” all of that was. Of course I knew not everyone did those things, but when you’re a kid, life just is what it is. I didn’t realize that most families don’t eat three meals a day together, that most dads don’t read the entire Mark Twain anthology, or Josephus to their kids to while away long nights when tropical bugs are seeping through the screens. I didn’t know that it was in the least abnormal to have your backpacking parents throw you in a bag and go on a walkabout, towing the glass bottomed sailboat you helped your Dad build in the unfinished upstairs of your house (you know, instead of finishing the house!)
People ask me with fair regularity whether or not I worry about how our kids will turn out, having had such an “unconventional” childhood. Of course I worry about how my kids will turn out! Every mother does! But I don’t worry about the effect of a nomadic childhood on their longterm success or happiness. My brother and I don’t always agree, but we do agree, whole-heartedly, that the best thing our parents did for us was yank us out of school to travel. The outside-the-box childhood that my parents so nonchalantly delivered to my open hands has made all of the difference to me.
If you’re considering taking off for an extended walkabout with your kids and you’re worried about the social and longterm implications for them, may I encourage you to take the plunge? Having been that child, I am confident that they’ll thank you later, even for the things they hate and that go badly. The tough things make us into tough people and the perspective and perseverance that develop as a result are priceless gifts that are hard to develop any other way. I’m so glad that my parents were more concerned with living passion driven lives and fulfilling their dreams, fully including their children, and for our express benefit, than they were with giving me a “normal childhood.”
There are many wonderful aspects of being a long term perpetual traveler. There are dozens of names for them – digital nomad, lifestyle design, location independent, world wanderer – but they are all basically names for the same thing: a person who travels the world with no plans to ever settle down in one place. It’s a wonderful lifestyle with many benefits. It’s also extremely difficult to break out of when it’s no longer meeting your needs.
Many of us head out to travel long term without considering an exit strategy. As we plan our world travels it’s all pie in the sky, glamour, and exotic every night. It’s fun, fun, fun in new and exciting places. Our thoughts are filled dreams of the wonderful adventures we’ll have in remote corners of the world.
Once we hit the road, we quickly discover the reality of travel isn’t glamorous at all. It’s long hours battling headwinds on hot, dusty roads or being crammed in a bus built for little people. It’s sleeping on uncomfortable mattresses in noisy hostels. It’s craving Grandma’s Cranberry Salad, but not being able to find the ingredients to make it. Even so, we’re willing to endure the distinctly un-glamorous for the intoxicating excitement of the bits in between.
But we rarely think about how to stop.
A friend of mine recently said, “I’m tired of travel, but I’ve been on the road so long I don’t know how to stop.”
It’s important that we take time to think about when it’s time to call it quits; to develop an exit strategy for our travels. When has the travel fulfilled our needs and we would be better served by another lifestyle? How do we know when it’s time to move on, so to speak – to leave the traveling behind and explore other avenues in life?
One way to define that is to think about what you hope to gain through your travels – whether you are just starting out or have been on the road for years. What do you want to learn from traveling and how will you know you’ve learned it? If you aren’t sure where you’re going, how will you know you’ve gotten there?
I am a strong proponent of setting a particular goal – and when you reach that goal, take time to reevaluate. For us, it was a physical goal – reaching Ushuaia. When we reached that goal after three years on the road, it forced us to take a good long look at what we wanted to do next. Would continued travel on bikes be of the most benefit to all four of us? Or should we travel another way? Or should we stay in one place?
The goal, however, doesn’t have to be a physical goal. It can be a certain amount of time or when you’ve reached a certain level of comfort in your new lifestyle. The goal can be anything you want it to be – but define the goal carefully so you will know when you’ve reached it. Once you are at your goal, take a good hard look at your lifestyle and see if it is still meeting your needs and wants. Give yourself permission to change gears if it isn’t.
As we travel through life on this planet, our needs, wants, and desires change and develop. It’s important that we are receptive to those changes and willing to respond to them. Don’t fall into the trap of just another rat race – albeit a rat race around the world. Just as you can spin on the hamster wheel in your hometown, you can quite easily take the hamster wheel with you.
Don’t be afraid to jump off.
There is a common trait among us travelers regarding the seasons: With the onset of spring, thoughts turn to traveling. It’s in our DNA. This can pose a conundrum for us, since another trait of the inveterate traveler is difficulty with deciding where to go next with limited resources (and they are always limited).This can provoke a lot of angst and indecision for us. For the next few posts, I’ll be examining the different ways travelers approach the big decision of the Next Destination in hopes that it will help some globe trotters who are hung up on the issue.
Things to think about are finite things such as time and money. Where is affordable? How far can my dollars stretch? Can I spend enough time there to really get a feel for the place, and still eat decently and sleep in a clean place? What’s the exchange rate? Dollars to pesos or pounds (Greece is a good deal these days)? Is a bed and meal cheap where you’re going? Are there budget options like hostels and humble, family-run B&B’s? As Americans, we’re the most time-poor people in the industrialized world, so will you be able to beg, steal, and borrow enough time to really get a feel for your destination?
If time is less of an issue than money (i.e. you’re an unemployed travel writer like myself) there are ways to get overseas and immersed in a culture while earning income, such as work-stays can be a good option; doing seasonal agricultural work on a family farm in exchange for room and board can lead to deep, rewarding cultural immersion (and a nice tan). If less labor-intensive jobs are to your liking, summer gigs at a resort or even a hostel can help pay the bills.
In the next post I’ll discuss some things you can do to help yourself pare your list down to a manageable level and really start planning an adventure to remember.
We, as humans, have this tendency to build up the unknown into some kind of great big monster out to slay us. We look ahead into the vast expanse of indefinite spread out before us and see it as something too big, too immense for us.
We look at ourselves and see a tiny inconsequential being lost in the enormity of the dream. We’re inadequate against the colossal hurdles we need to leap over to get to that dream.
And so we cower in the corner. We’re scared. We’re inadequate. We’re too small and unworthy of such a dream.
How do I overcome fear? I just start walking.
People tell me all the time that I’m brave for riding a bike to the ends of the world, but I disagree. I don’t think I’m brave at all. I just trust in providence and go.
What I’ve found is that the closer I get to what I feared the most, the more that fear vanishes. It’s like there’s some kind of massive mountain “out there” off in the distance and I’m terrified of climbing it. But when I get closer to it, I start to see that it’s not nearly as scary as I thought, and most often not nearly as big as I thought.
I wish I could say I’m brave. I wish I could look at a thing like riding my bike from one end of the world to the other and not be afraid. But, truth be told, I was terrified.
I was scared of the mountain passes higher than the highest peaks in Colorado. I was scared of the Patagonian winds so strong they would blow me off my bikes. I was scared of the searing heat of Central America and the bitter cold of the high Andes in winter. I was scared. More than scared – I was petrified.
Ride a BIKE the length of the Americas? That was crazy talk. That kind of journey was for real adventurers, not the likes of me. Only big strong men with muscles bulging from their calves could make such a journey. Not an ordinary wife, mother, and schoolteacher.
When I actually took time to dig deep and figure out exactly what I feared, I realized I wasn’t afraid of the mountain passes; I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get over them. I wasn’t afraid of the heat or cold, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. In other words, I was afraid of failure.
Once I had identified my fear, I was able to start working on it. You know what they say:
That’s exactly how it is with fear. Identify your fear and figure out exactly what it is that’s making you uncomfortable. Once you’ve given your fear a name, you can face it and overcome it.
You simply can’t defeat the unknown. Make it known and you’ll be able to stare it down. My basic plan of attack is to identify the fear, figure out exactly what it is about that fear that scares me, then head out anyway. It works.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel, a long-time schoolteacher, decided life was too short to cower in the corner. Together with her husband and children, she climbed on a bike and cycled from Alaska to Argentina – a journey of 17,285 miles through fifteen countries that took nearly three years. Her book, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World was released last week. You can buy it on her site, www.familyonbikes.org