Our world traveller's interview series brings us today to Nancy: a full-time traveler on her journey for more than 25 years. But more amazing than that, Nancy is a wife, and a mom of 2 children experiencing the world with her family on bicycles and sharing with us the most important lesson learned on the road: beneath all illusionary differences we are all the same.
I am Nancy Sathre-Vogel, and I've traveled about every possible way. I started traveling years ago as a young, solo female, then became half of a married pair of travelers. Eventually, I moved on to being a traveling mom. I've backpacked, I've bike toured, and lived as an expat. Most recently, I rode my bike from Alaska to Argentina with my husband and children.
When you started travelling and why?
I was 16 when I made the decision that my life would revolve around travel. That year, my parents took us kids to Mexico and I was blown away at the idea that there was this whole other culture out there. When we arrived back home, I turned on the television and there was a commercial for the Peace Corps. I made the decision right then and there that I would join the Peace Corps as soon as I was able. I was fascinated by the idea of living amongst those of a different culture, learning their customs and traditions.
What's your travel style? (backpacking, couchsurfing, volunteeering, hotels, hostel-hopping, hitchhiking, train, plane etc.)
HA! How do I even begin to answer this one? Let's try this:
1980's - budget backpacker all the way. I spent seven months traveling in Central and South America with a grand total of $3200 in my pocket.
early 1990's - my bike touring days were in full swing. My (now) husband and I spent a year biking around Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Then, as school teachers, we had long-ish vacations, which were spent biking in various countries - including Israel, Yemen, Mali, Baja California.
late 1990's/early 2000's - we were living the full-fledged expat life. We had a house in Ethiopia, complete with full-time maid and guards. Our schools paid to fly us back to the USA every summer. Every Christmas break was spent in a different country.
late 2000's - we made the decision to ditch the high-pressure teaching jobs in favor of a simple life on 2 wheels. By now, our kids were school age, so we took them out of school, and hopped on bikes. We spent one year biking around the USA and Mexico, then another three years pedaling from Alaska to Argentina.
How many continents and countries have you visited so far and what are your favourites?
Who's counting? I know that we've cycled through 15 countries with our children. And probably another 15-ish without them. Traveled without the bikes? I don't know.
My favorites... Hmmm... that's a hard one. Each region has things I adore and other aspects that I would happily leave behind. Ethiopia will always be really special. India is amazing. And, of course, my Peace Corps country of Honduras holds a special place in my heart.
What's the aim of your travels? What are you looking for while travelling?
After so many years on the road, I've come full circle. Whereas I used to be fascinated by the differences - different clothes, different language, different houses, different food - now I see the similarities. We all build houses with what is available locally. Our traditional foods are all based on what grows in our region. Now, I see beyond the differences and realize that we're all basically the same.
What's the best memory you keep from your travels?
I can't identify one single best memory - there are too many. I will say, however, that overall the best memories are of the people we've met, not the sights we saw.
And the worst one?
The night I was stranded all alone. On a remote Pakistani road. In the dark. And I was terrified to ask for help. Definitely a tough night. Here's the whole story.
Tell us a funny situation you experienced.
Ummm... how 'bout the night we ended up being unwilling participants in a sex orgy? In India. I really need to write about that night...
What was the most important lesson you've learned while travelling?
That if we can strip away all the wrappers we tend to cloak people in, beneath it all, we are all the same.
What’s the item in your luggage that you couldn't live without?
A Kindle. Wow. It wasn't all that long ago that we had an entire saddle bag on our bikes dedicated to books. Now, we only need a few Kindles and we've got more reading material than we ever would have dreamed of.
What's your average monthly budget and how do you fund your travels?
Traveling on bikes is cheap. We typically set our budget at about $1500/month for regular day-to-day expenses. In more expensive countries, that means we camp a lot and cook over our tiny campstove. In cheaper countries, we can afford cheap hotels.
In addition to that $1500, we set aside an additional $500/month for other one-off expenses. That might be for a special trip to the Galapagos or Machu Picchu, or maybe it will go for rebuilding the bikes. We might not spend it for many months, and then blow it all in a week.
Do you have any idea to make money for travelling that you could share with us?
I think the best way is to stop and work along the way. Teach English for a year or two - and immerse yourself in that culture while you're there. Get work at a hostel. Sure, your travels will be slower, but perhaps even more meaningful.
Of all the places you have been to, where would you like to live the most?
Boise, Idaho. After our Pan American journey, we could have moved anywhere. We had an income stream that was location independent, so we could have moved anywhere. We toyed with living in Argentina or Spain, Thailand or Mexico, but in the end decided that there is no better place than Boise, Idaho.
If you think of yourself in 10 years, how do you imagine your life?
In ten years, I hope to be still living happily in Idaho. We've talked about the idea of moving down to Mexico or Central America after our kids are on their own, so that's a possibility as well.
A valuable advice for a long-term traveller at the beggining of his journey?
Take it one step at a time. The world is a big place and you'll never see it all. See what you do see well.
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a long-time school teacher who made the decision to grab life by the horns and steer it in a direction that was more meaningful and rewarding. After spending many years living as an expat, she spent a total of four years exploring the Americas on bicycle with her husband and children, including a 17,285-mile jaunt from Alaska to Argentina. Now she lives in Idaho with her family and three dogs. Find out more about their trips on their website, Twitter or Facebook page.