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
Ten years ago this month, when I was touring around the United States promoting my then-recently released book Vagabonding, I handed out stickers that featured the letters “VGB” in a little white oval (not unlike the international license plate “country code” sticker one might see on cars in Europe). The purpose of the sticker, I told folks, was to help a person stay motivated as he or she planned and saved money for some future trip. Affixed to a car (or a dorm wall, or an office cubicle, or some other visible place), the VGB could be a reminder to oneself and one’s community that the person in question had made the decision — they were committing themselves to a vagabonding adventure, be it a few weeks or few years into the future.
I’ve since run out of VGB stickers, but — thanks to this blog’s friends at tshirtprinting.org — I’d like to give away VGB t-shirts to ten Vagablogging readers who are in the process of planning a vagabonding journey. To put yourself in the running, just reply to this post with an answer to the question: Where are you headed next, and why? Feel free to add details about your destination, your motivation, your fears/ambitions for the trip, and how you’re currently planning and saving for it. Be sure to include contact details — or follow the post in coming days — so that we’ll know how to reach you and send you a shirt if you’re one of the lucky ten. Happy vagabonding, everyone!
Hey guys, after writing over 200 blog posts in 5 years, I’ll be leaving vagablogging. It’s been an awesome ride. I still remember getting excited at seeing the “Call to Writers” back in 2008 and applying. Totally thought my “Marcus Goes Global” blog wouldn’t qualify me, so I was pleasantly surprised to get the e-mail that I would become a Vagablogging writer.
As a farewell gift, I wanted to share with you my best Japan budget travel tips. Japan is an incredibly cool place. It’s ultra high-tech, yet also wonderfully traditional. Japanese pop culture is a global export, with anime, manga comics, and cuisine.
However, the big drawback is that Japan is notoriously expensive. Luckily, there are ways to save hundreds, even thousands of dollars off your trip. Just scheduling the dates of your flight correctly and buying a little-known type of Japan rail pass can be worth a bundle. If you can’t see the video, here is the link: Japan Travel Guide – Budget Tips.
The video is for my newest project, Street Smart Traveler. Lately, I’ve become fascinated with the “travel hacking” community. These are people who are obsessed with earning frequent flyer miles, like the George Clooney character in the movie “Up in the Air.”
I started up Street Smart Traveler as a frequent flyer news website to help keep track of all the cool tricks people were sharing. Through my videos, I’ll talk about broader topics like travel tips, living abroad as an expat, and international business. If these sound interesting, you can join me there. Here’s the link again: Street Smart Traveler.
Cost/day: $50-70 a day
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen lately?
The collective depression of San Francisco’s denizens after their beloved 49’ers lost a thrilling Superbowl against the Baltimore Raven’s was a strange and unfortunate phenomenon to witness. Red-clad, boozed and bleary eyed folk sat in the few bars that bothered to stay open, mumbling incoherently to themselves and shaking their heads. It was a painful loss, given that the 9’ers had responded to a first half spanking and a 35 minute power outage by surging back and, very nearly, pulling off a preposterous comeback. But it wasn’t to be and, instead of partying in the delirium of a win, the city grumbled, cried, drank heavily and then went to bed early.
As I have been warmly received by many Couchsurfers in many countries during my past overland trip from Asia to Europe, I decided to re-list myself as “maybe available” on the website. I do not want to start arguing how the site has turned corporate and blah blah blah – and how its alternative, BeWelcome, really looks like it is taking off very slowly -, but I would like to share a few feelings I had after this newly “available” status has made a wreck of my inbox.
I had forgot how , basically, people can be utterly ANNOYING by sending a Couch request. One guy was so creative that he sent me his full 700 word itinerary, day per day, listed hour by hour, asking me to review it and correct it, and, in case, to find a proper allocation for my hosting responsibilities. Another person, more or less asking for information on Penang, tried invariably to push me to host him, saying that his schedule was open to MY availability. And when I answered that I was sorry, I could not, this person answered with something like, “so, tell me when would be the best time to stay at your house.”
What should I reply? I made a point after having hosted many people, and by being hosted and having respected and interacted with many others on different levels: Couchsurfing needs to have a PERSONALIZIED touch of RESPECT. People are not very respectful , apparently, as any Couch request I receive lacks BOTH. At first, I had compiled a neat series of contact and hosting rules on my profile. Invariably, when I realized nobody was reading those rules, and that they just contributed to open the flood of pretentious email communication over my head, I just deleted the rules and got myself out of the hosting chore.
The best request came in a week ago: this couple had apparently traveled on the cheap for a while, found my profile, noted a deep connection with my experiences, and decided they definitely HAD TO meet me. The timing was unfortunately not right, but I still took time to answer their numerous questions, and politely replied telling them to contact me once on the island, so that we may have hung out and I would have found them a very cheap accommodation to stay at.
When they replied, I was amazed by the utter disrespect of my personal situation: the couple in question, again, blatantly asked that ok, THEY NEEDED TO CRASH AT MY HOUSE. When I answered pointing out that my own profile states that I CANNOT host couples as I do not have space, the guy answered with a one line note, saying “ah ok, thanks”. Do you think I have received a phone call, met this people and helped them out? Of course not, because as soon as my couch was not available… they DISAPPEARED. Do you know that a double room in Penang can cost as low as 6$ for two persons per night? I do not want to comment any further.
Another person I met somewhere around the world – and never hosted me, actually – arrived in Penang: not only he was welcomed, sheltered, offered a home cooked dinner, a warm shower, movie time, a clean bed and a lift the next day. No, this was not enough. As I was expecting my partner to get up and prepare breakfast for everyone, he was in a rush to go. And he asked, quite scornfully, where was his damn breakfast. In that case, I politely answered: “In the shop downstairs. Wait or get out.” When it’s enough, it’s enough.
This last Couchsurfing exchange particularly left me highly disappointed: so, am I interesting only when you come in and stink my house with the dirty laundry you expect me to do for you? Maybe you even want to hump my leg, for a change?
I just want to conclude by saying that more than once, after I met my initially reluctant hosts and I showed I was a decent, interesting guy, most of them changed their minds and decided to offer me a place to stay, regardless of their initial decision. Hopefully the readers of Vagabonding may find this rant helpful, and will spread the word about a dire need to change the Couchsurfing etiquette, as having traveled 100 countries by hitch-hike or on horseback is not enough to qualify you as better human beings. I think human interactions should still be dominated by politeness, and RESPECT: we may all want to help out and LEARN something from you. Therefore, I say it: screw your aggressive, irresponsible and blatantly selfish Couchsurfing “etiquette”. Get off my couch!!
The Vagabonding Field Reports series has been going strong! We’ve seen dispatches from all over the world! Such places as Guyana, Tokyo, Sydney, St. Vincent, Croatia, Dubai, Cape Town, Guatemala, Thailand, and New Orleans. Columbia, Champagne, Peru, Ireland, La Paz, Bosnia, and the Galapagos. And with some stunning photographs to boot! The series is even better than we hoped it would be.
Whether it’s traveling with children, starting off on a first adventure, or learning how to make a living with a guitar, we’re showing that anyone can break the mold.
Our currently traveling vagabonders share their current experiences out and about in the world. Through their Field Reports, you’ll find out what the cost of living is in Argentina, the weirdest thing seen in Paris, or what a typical day in Thailand might be like.
Are you on a long term trip right now, traveling through new countries? Living out of hostels for a few weeks, and then volunteering on a farm for a few more? We’d love to hear from you! We are always on the lookout for new Field Reporters.
Drop us a line at email@example.com and tell us a little about yourself.
I’m sure you’ve heard the excuses. I know I’ve heard more of ‘em than I ever thought existed.
In the end there are a million reasons not to live your dream, but all you really need are a small handful of reasons to do it. It all comes down to priorities.
If you are happy with your life at the moment, then there’s nothing you need to change. If, however, there is something you’re not happy with, it’s up to you to change it.
You have a choice. You can continue doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll get the same things you’ve been getting. If you want something different, you need to do something different. You know the saying: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. It’s true.
Set your priorities in life and then take steps to get there. It won’t be easy. It won’t come without work. Your dream won’t fall in your lap. YOU make that dream happen.
When we decided to ride our bikes from one end of the world to the other, we worked toward it with an undying sense of commitment and passion. Every action and thought was focused on making that dream come true. We woke up in the morning and thought about what steps we would take that day and in the evening we looked back on the progress we made. Baby steps to be sure, but they were steps in the right direction.
As I look back on that time period now, I realize there were three key attitudes and beliefs that were in place in order for us to make our dreams happen.
Believe in your dream and in your ability to do it
We knew we could do it. We knew it was possible for us to pedal from one end of the world to the other. We knew it wouldn’t be easy and we knew it would be a whole bunch of little bike rides, but we knew we could do it. If you don’t truly believe you can do it, you won’t even try.
Know that you want to do it
I think this is the biggest stumbling block around. Is your dream an all-consuming passion? Is it something you are willing to truly give your all to? If not, I’ll guarantee something else will come along that will distract you.
Be willing to sacrifice for it
Is your dream something that you’d kinda, sorta like to do but not something you’re willing to pay the price for? Whenever I walk around the store I see a whole lot of things I’d kinda, sorta like to have, but decide they aren’t worth the price. Dreams are like that too – they’ll cost, but are oh-so-worth-it when you’ve got the exact dream you want. Are you willing to dedicate years of your life to your dream?
The clock is ticking. You can never go back. Take advantage of every moment now – before it’s too late.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a long-time teacher who quit her job, jumped on a bike, and pedaled from Alaska to Argentina with her family. Now she lives in Boise, Idaho, and is about to release her book about their experiences. Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World will be available in March.
A young friend of mine is posting elated pictures from Amsterdam, and two days later, from Dubai. She’s just graduated from Berklee School of Music in Boston, no slouch accomplishment, and she’s treating herself to a couple of weeks of travel. The joy in her journey is palpable in the photos she’s posting. Of course she’s meeting people who are on a three month walk about and proud of that, and folks 9 months into their gap year who are smug, but I think her two week foray is wonderful.
For lots of people, long term travel is something that grows slowly. The idea of vagabonding is a gentle unfolding that begins with a new backpack, a solid RTW ticket paid for up front and hotels in safe districts booked weeks in advance. For some folks, getting out of their state for two weeks is seriously outside the box and a grand scale adventure. Taking that first two week trip after college, or making the most of that precious vacation time is the definition of their wildest dream. It is in the living out loud of those small bites of freedom that their dreams grow, they meet people who stretch their paradigm and the door to the great big world swings wide.
We shouldn’t discourage, or deride the two week travelers. In fact, they should be applauded and encouraged whole heartedly. A months long, RTW journey isn’t the only way to travel in a way that is valuable to the soul. If more people would take that two weeks and do something that mattered, to them personally, or to an organization they believe in, or to folks they’ve never met but have read about on a blog they follow, the world would be a better place.
It is in those two week chunks that eyes are opened, compassion is developed, dreams are kindled, boxes are stretched, glass houses are shattered and kids who’ve grown into adults with no sense of themselves in the bigger picture are brought to their knees at the abject joy and wonder of the world and the commonalities that run like threads between humanity on every corner of the planet.
If two weeks is all you’ve got, and a resort is the edge of your comfort zone, I say, “GO!” Do all you can do, and you’ll come back finding that you can actually do a little more. If you’re already vagabonding, come out in support of the “little guy” and celebrate every attempt to live in the world, every heart that dares to brave the unknown, and every adventure in the making. Two weeks matters, and it’s a hell of a lot better than nothing.
So – you’ve decided to take off for an extended tour. What now?
Most of us who have made the difficult decision to exchange what’s expected for a life on the road have visions of rainbows, gumdrops, and puppy dog tails. We may even expect grueling days, brutal weather, and everything going wrong. What we don’t expect to experience is culture shock.
Sure, if we travel internationally we expect a bit of culture shock as we adapt to the new culture surrounding us, but we don’t expect culture shock as it pertains to our journey itself. And yet, it’s real. Whether you are planning to tour the world by bicycle, sailboat, or train, you will go through the stages of culture shock as you adapt to your new lifestyle.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is an author, motivational speaker, and blogger at www.familyonbikes.org. She is a long-term teacher who left it all behind to ride her bike from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and children. Now she’s living in Idaho writing and playing with beads.
Stage 1: You will go through a honeymoon period the first few weeks of your journey. You look at the world through rose-colored glasses and everything is good. Life is as grand as it gets. You have left it all behind and are moving on to new adventures and experiences. Sure, you expected all those aches and pains as your body discovers muscles it never knew existed, and you expected to be exhausted in the evenings. But that’s all just part of the adventure!
Stage 2: A few weeks into your trip, reality hits. You’re tired. Your brain hasn’t quite figured out how to keep up with all the stimuli coming in and you’re mentally fried and physically exhausted. You’ve been pushing yourself hard, and now it all comes crashing down. The thought of setting up the tent one more time is nearly unbearable, and squatting around the stove to cook dinner is too much. Life is tough and the grass is greener back home. You long for the predictability of life back home – knowing you had a soft bed every night, a warm shower every morning, and a job to fill your days. Basically – life sucks.
Stage 3: You can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You aren’t there yet, but you can tell there is a little glimmer way down there somewhere. The overwhelming weight of the world has passed on and you are hopeful that maybe you can do this after all. You’ve figured out what kind of routine works for you, and your body adapts to the new demands placed upon it. Don’t get me wrong – life isn’t a bowl of cherries yet, but you begin to feel that it may be – someday.
Stage 4: You’ve finally realized the grass isn’t greener on either side of the fence – just a different shade of green. You’ve successfully adapted to life on the road and are happy with your decision. You know there are pros and cons of both lifestyles, and have chosen this one for now. The old way of life isn’t bad, and this new one isn’t perfect, but you can live with that. You’ve adapted.
Travel has very little to do with location. The reality is, that we are all traveling, all the time. Some of us just move around more than others. What we love about “travel” is the newness, the adventure, the heightening of our senses by exploring the unexpected and the freedom from our every day routine. When we’re “home” we’re desensitized by the familiar. We cease to really “see” our surroundings, the beauty of our culture and the adventure all around us.
As anyone who’s been on the road for a long time will tell you, “home” can be found anywhere, as can the excitement of “travel.” It’s all about perception. It happens inside your own head.
Instead of living for the next adventure, or spending the time you’re on it longing for home, strive, this year, to simply be where you are. Open your eyes and your heart, at home and abroad and you’ll find that life is one big trip of epic proportions.
2. Pack Less Stuff
You make that resolution every time you travel, and yet, you’re struggling with baggage at every turn. Forget a roller bag if you’re traveling anywhere outside the first world. What do you really need? Well, “need” is relative, but for us, on a long haul trip: 3 outfits, including the one you’re wearing, the pair of shoes on your feet, a jacket, your journal and a camera. Nada Mas. Put that in a bag and take a two mile walk. How do you feel? Add to it if you must, but make sure you can still comfortably carry it for several miles. I promise you that frustration on the road is in direct proportion to the amount of crap you’re trying to move from place to place.
Freedom is found in minimalism.
3. Quit Comparing
Just quit it. Opt out of the culture of “bigger, better, faster, or slower.” It’s not about who’s been to more places, ticked off the continents faster, has been on the road longer, or speaks more languages. It’s not about the number of flags you’ve collected, or mountains you’ve climbed, literally, or figuratively.
Of course it’s natural to talk about our journeys with other travelers, but we’ve all sat in the hostel common with the blow-hard who’s on about the number of places he’s kite surfed in his ten year career as beach bum and watched the crestfallen face of the girl who’s on her third week of twelve who really thought people would be excited to hear about her journey. Be excited to hear about her journey. Those first days, weeks, heck, from my perspective even years on the road are life changing in a way that we sometimes lose sight of later. If you’re that girl, your journey is no less than his, in fact, it may well be more.
Instead of fulfilling the burning desire to trump everyone in the room with your fantastic travel record, how ‘bout shutting up and listening more?
In my experience, there is much to learn from each person we meet, if we have the humility to submit ourselves to their tutelage.