Interview with Nancy Sathre-Vogel
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a 21-year classroom veteran who made the decision to leave her teaching career behind to travel the world on a bicycle. Together with her husband and twin sons, she cycled 27,000 miles throughout the Americas, including traveling from Alaska to Argentina. Now she lives in Boise, Idaho, pursuing her passions of writing and beadwork. In addition to her four books, she writes regular blog posts at Family on Bikes to inspire others “one adventure at a time”.
When did you first start traveling?
My eyes were opened to the wonders of the world when I was sixteen. That year, my parents took us to Mexico for a few weeks and I remember walking down the streets in wide-eyed amazement at the sights and sounds surrounding me. When we arrived back home, I turned on the TV and saw a commercial for the Peace Corps – and made the decision right then and there that I would become a Peace Corps Volunteer as soon as I could. Eight years later, upon graduation from university, I did exactly that and haven’t stopped traveling yet.
What kind of travel do you prefer (e.g. luxury, budget, backpacking, train travel, etc.) – and has that changed over time?
Bicycle!! I’ve experimented with it all over the years – backpacking, living the expat life, tours, cruises, etc… Overall, I find I prefer traveling slowly on a low budget. Bikes are perfect for that, but I could see myself traveling in buses/trains with a backpack again someday.
How do you like to travel – alone, with a spouse/partner, other family members, with friends or as part of a tour group?
With my family. I loved our four years traveling on bicycles together as a family. I’m sure the day will come when our sons no longer want to travel with Ma & Pa, so I’m treasuring each and every day I have with them. I generally don’t like tour groups, but will tolerate them if that’s the best/only way to see a place.
Besides travel, what are your passions?
Beads! I’ve been a beadwork artist for about 25 years now, and have collected beads from the many countries we’ve traveled.
Have your passions played a role in the choice of travel destination?
No, I don’t think so. When we’ve traveled to places that have awesome beads, I’ve made sure to schedule some time for bead shopping, but I don’t choose destinations specifically for the beads.
Do you consider travel a necessity or a luxury? What are you prepared to sacrifice so you can travel?
This is an interesting question. There was a time in my life when I lived to travel. My thoughts were filled with visions of exotic locations and I couldn’t wait until I could leave work to jump on a plane with my bike. Now, after many years of travel, I am content to stay still. I love my home where I’m surrounded by beads and feel no need to travel at all.
What are you prepared to pay extra for when you travel?
Food. We don’t eat in fancy, expensive restaurants at all, but don’t skimp on the food budget. Traveling on bicycle, we demand a lot of our bodies, and will pay what we need to in order to get healthy food.
What has been the most fascinating destination you have visited from a cultural perspective?
Probably Ethiopia. We were fortunate enough to live there for seven years while teaching at the international school in the capital city of Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is a fascinating country with wonderful traditions. We were able to be a part of the celebrations and get to know the people in a way most tourists can’t.
What place in the world surprised you? Was the experience better or worse than expected?
Colombia. The country has a very bad reputation, but has cleaned things up and is now very safe. It’s too bad more people don’t realize that, as it’s an incredible country. The people are very friendly and the scenery is stunning!
Is there somewhere you return to year after year? Why?
The Connecticut coast. I suppose this isn’t really a fair answer, since we go there to see Grandma. Still, it is a beautiful location and we love swimming in the Long Island Sound.
Tell us where your top three travel experiences occurred and what made them stand out.
Oh gosh! Only three? Okay then…
1) We were cycling in Baja, California when two men flagged us down and handed us bottles of Gatorade. They then told us they had purchased an entire case of Gatorade and would be leaving caches along the road for us!! It was such an unexpected surprise!
2) Just before our sons’ first birthday, we visited Egypt and climbed Mount Sinai. It was an incredible experience to sleep atop the historic mountain and watch the sun rise the next morning.
3) Renting a rowboat on the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. We spent a few days slowly making our way along the banks of the river, watching all the comings and goings. Surrounding each ghat (steps leading down to the river) was a particular activity. At one ghat, men washed clothes and spread them along the riverbank to dry. At another ghat, bodies were being cremated. We enjoyed it all.
Where in your own hometown do you encourage people to visit?
Some of my favorite destinations in Boise include the capitol building, the Basque Museum, and the old Idaho State Penitentiary.
Final Question: Do you have a favorite movie (or song, television program, book) that inspires travel?
The book that initially inspired me to travel the world on bicycle was Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage.
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Photos courtesy of Nancy Sathre-Vogel