Are “they” to be feared? Who are “they” anyway?

cycling the dalton highway“I was driving down the road the other day and saw some cyclists ahead.  I braked and waited until I could get by safely, but I’m concerned about them – the other motorists who won’t do that.”

“I saw a cyclist riding through my town last week, so I invited him over to my house for the night.  I took care of him, but they won’t.”

“I stopped and gave some cyclists Gatorade on a hot day, but they wouldn’t even consider doing something like that.”

I hear stuff like this all the time – isn’t it dangerous to bike around the world with all those bad people out there?  All those people who would never help a cyclist or go out of their way to avoid hitting them – they’re everywhere.

What I want to know is this:  who are they?  Who are those people?  They certainly aren’t the people we’ve met.

In our 45 months of full-time bicycle touring as a family, we never encountered them.  Instead, we met countless people who invited us to their homes, shared a meal with us, filled our panniers with oranges, and hauled stuff halfway around the world for us.  The people we met were of the kind, generous variety of human rather than the ones we see on the nightly news.

Traveling on bicycle made us vulnerable – to both the good and the bad.  People could have taken advantage of our vulnerability to rob us or run us off the road – there wasn’t a gosh darn thing we could do if someone wanted to do that.  But our experience showed that our vulnerability on the bikes made people want to help us, to take care of us, to reach out and make our journey just a little bit better.

The people we encountered stopped on the side of the road to hand over Coke and chocolate in the middle of a long stretch of nothing.  They pulled out a bag of fresh pineapple after we had gone too many days without fresh fruit. They leaned out their car window and shouted, “Would you like to spend the night in my house tonight?”

People handed us the keys to their houses, spent hours helping us solve one problem or another, and sent us emails to cheer us up when we were down. They sent packages of goodies through the mail and brought other packages to us when they went on vacation.  They hid Gatorade alongside the road, and rescued us from pouring rain.

In short, the people we met were just ordinary people who were willing to lend a helping hand when they saw the need.  The people we met were just like you and me.  And still – after 45 months and 27,000 miles – we haven’t met them.

Why are we all so afraid of them anyway?

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a long-time schoolteacher  and world wandering mother of twins. She and her husband taught in international schools in various countries for 12 years, and then – together with their sons – they spent four years traveling on bicycles, including a 17,000-mile jaunt  from Alaska to Argentina. She blogs at

Posted by | Comments (4)  | September 18, 2012
Category: Travel Safety

4 Responses to “Are “they” to be feared? Who are “they” anyway?”

  1. DEK Says:

    I think you can travel too much when you see more than you have prepared for and more than you can digest. I am wary of the idea of RTW travel, for example, because I don’t think you can do even remotely adequate preparation for all the places and cultures you will see and you will be left with as confused a recollection of the places you have been as the package tourists of the ’60s parodied in “If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium”, and probably not much at all of an understanding.

    You need a home and a room with a view where you can surround yourself with the things you brought back and go though your journals and make sense of the swirl of images and experiences you passed through.

  2. Weekly Roundup – September 19, 2012 | Vagabondette Says:

    […] Read it here […]

  3. vagabondette mandy Says:

    Great post! It is so true that people I meet who don’t travel are very concerned about the ‘dangers’ of the ‘others’ while almost every traveler I know has a wonderful story about how the ‘others’ saved them at some point on their trip.

    I have included this post in the weekly roundup here:

  4. Weekly Roundup – September 19, 2012 Says:

    […] Read it here […]