Breaking Free: Following dreams with Nancy Sathre-Vogel

What is your, “Why Not?” What would you do if you were fearless? Maybe reckless, or financially unwise, or risky? What stops you? Kids, money, a career?

Well, today we are interviewing mom, Nancy Sathre-Vogel from Family On Bikes, about a time her husband and her decided to step out of their lives and into their dreams. They quit their jobs, took the kids out of school and spent the next three years traveling 17,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina together as a family… on their bikes.

biking the PanAM - dalton daryl look back 620

Nancy, how long did you dream of biking the Pan-American Hwy before actually doing it?

We heard of cycling the PanAm in September 2006, when we met some other cyclists on their way to Argentina.

“Let’s just go!” my husband urged.

“We need to be sensible,” I countered.

We were, at that time, in the midst of a one-year bike trip around the USA and Mexico. Our twin sons were 8 at the time, and they rode on a bicycle-built-for-three behind my husband. I, having traveled the Andes previously, knew that South America was not the place for a 14-foot circus train on two wheels.

We stuck with our North American plan and set our sights on another day. That day came nearly two years later.

family on bikes in bolivia

I’ve heard about how you just “up and left your jobs” but what things do you think actually moved you from simply dreaming to actually doing it?

Although my husband doesn’t agree, I think the death of his father had a lot to do with it. My father-in-law passed away in December, and the following March my husband wanted to quit our jobs and take off. At that point, it was to be a year-long adventure around the USA and Mexico only…

As I’ve talked with many people who head out to live their dream, it seems that some sort of major life-altering event is a fairly common thread. That could be the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a divorce, or any other major crisis that forces one to step back and look objectively at their lives and their mortality. Many of us come to the conclusion that we need to do those things we’ve always dreamed of.

biking in snow

How did bringing your kids complicate and enrich your experience?

I wouldn’t use the word complicate. I think, as parents, we just do what we need to do. It’s intuitive and natural. And honestly, I don’t know how it would have been without the kids, so I can’t even begin to compare!

As for enriching our experience, where do I even begin? They enriched our lives in terms of our family – the time my husband and I got to spend with our sons is priceless and we’ll never take that for granted. We also met a lot of people because of our kids – there’s something pretty non-threatening and intriguing about a family traveling on bikes. Doors opened that John and I would never have known existed because of our children.

welcome to honduras, family on bikes

Did you do bike trips with the kids prior to the PamAm adventure?

Our sons took their first (2-day) bike tour at the age of seven. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to us to take them out touring before that. Once my eyes were opened to the idea that kids could do more than I had given them credit for, the possibilities opened up! If I could get one message out, it would be that kids can do pretty much everything. It’s us, as adults, who limit them.

bike touring argentina walk hills

What fears did you have before/during this adventure and how did you combat them versus letting them immoblize you?

My fears were the same as mothers everywhere. Was I doing the right thing? Was this a good education? Was I putting them in harm’s way? Was I destroying their lives?

But, I didn’t have the comfort of saying, “Everybody else does this, so it must be okay,” and had to answer the questions for myself.

How did I get over them? I realized that there are dangers everywhere. Was I ruining their childhood? Only time will tell. 🙂

Nancy biking the PanAM Hwy

What would you say to women who want to attempt something similar in magnitude but don’t know where to start?

Starting is the hardest part. It all seems so big and overwhelming. The key is to break it down into tiny steps and pay attention to what you need to TODAY. If you do that, the big picture will take care of itself.

Also, surround yourself with like-minded people. When you’re around other people who are doing big things – steering their life where they want it to go rather than allowing society to drive their boat – it makes it all seem very doable.

A friend and I run a program designed to provide support for people trying to make big things happen at It’s been amazing to watch so many people grab hold of life and make it their own!

Thank you Nancy for sharing your life experience with us. May we all be a little more fearless this year. 🙂 For more on their travels visit their site: Family On Bikes. Nancy is the author of four books, you can find them here.

One comment on “Breaking Free: Following dreams with Nancy Sathre-Vogel
  1. This is so incredible inspiring! My husband and I were just talking last night about how we’ll want to pull our daughter out of school to do some adventuring with her. What an education. Thanks for setting such an amazing example, Nancy!

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