The Jigsaw Puzzle Called Life

How?  How did I end up here?

I’ve been pondering that thought for a while now.  I mean, how did I – a normal, ordinary, everyday wife, mother, and schoolteacher – end up pedaling 20,000 miles with my children on a quest for a world record?

The short answer to that question is easy.  We spent all last year diligently planning and preparing to put our “normal” life on hold for a while.  We quit our jobs. We fixed up the house so we could rent it out.  We organized our finances so we could access our money from anywhere in the world. We bought new bikes and put a mountain of gear together.  Yes – it was a frantic, hectic dash to the airport, but that’s the easy part to answer.

The bigger question is how did I truly end up at the northern edge of the world with my husband and kids – about to pedal my way to the southern end?  I think the answer to that question lies in every moment of my life, every experience I’ve lived, and every decision I’ve made.

Two years ago, I never would have dreamed that I would end up doing this.  And yet – all those things I’ve done during my 48 years on this planet all contributed to who I am and what I’ve become.  They all worked together in some mysterious way to create the puzzle of my life – the final picture of which is still emerging.

My mom used to always talk about “entering a new chapter of my life”.  I like to think of them all as being pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle.  My trip to Mexico with my parents when I was sixteen was a piece.  A mission trip to India during my college days became another.  Being caught in a blizzard on the Platte River in Colorado…  Peace Corps…  Teaching on the Navajo Reservation… Biking in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh…  Marrying John…  Moving to Egypt…  Then on to Ethiopia…  Parenthood…  Each new life experience added another piece to the puzzle and the picture started to emerge.

And so it was that I found myself up there on the Arctic Ocean with the skills and experiences I needed to pull this one off.  It’s like each time I got lost in yet another country provided me with another piece.  Each hill I managed to climb filled in another part of the puzzle.

Don’t get me wrong – my puzzle is far from complete.  This journey, itself, is yet another piece in the puzzle of my life.  I won’t know the final picture until my life is complete, and even then it may not be truly completed.  But as I look back on all the various adventures and misadventures I’ve lived through so far, I can see how each one contributed to who I am today.  For better or worse, every single one of those experiences has contributed to this journey.

So – what are you doing these days?  What pieces are you adding to your puzzle?  Are the pieces you are creating today the pieces you want to add?

I’ve been following along with Jack, a highly-paid attorney, as he makes the transition to a life more simple.  He finally realized the pieces he was adding to his puzzle were not the pieces he wanted to add – and made a conscious decision to change that.  Yes – all those pieces he’s created are a part of his overall picture, but it’s exciting to watch him make an effort to carve out a different set of pieces to set in motion a different picture.

I look back on my life and the picture that’s emerging and am happy with what I’m seeing.  Are you?  If not – what are you doing to change that?

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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6 Responses to The Jigsaw Puzzle Called Life

  1. Gene Royal November 4, 2008 at 7:01 pm #

    If I have another 15 years in my life that will be a blessing (or the opposite depending on how you look eagerly to after “graduation.” However, I’ve had a great life with many adventures – a cat has nine lives? I’ve counted 14 in mine already. You, Nancy & family and several others I am following are my inspirations to add a chapter of trike touring – no matter how brief. Thank you. Just found on Craigslist a used ICE trike that will be the perfect one for touring along with a Burley trailor I will have to purchase. Sometime next spring – Fall, I will be ready.

  2. nancy November 5, 2008 at 11:48 am #

    Go, Gene, Go!!! I hope you love touring as much as we do! Glad you found a bike that will work for you – that’s a huge part of the battle!

  3. Wendy November 6, 2008 at 7:50 pm #

    I love your comments about adding pieces to the jigsaw puzzle of life. What a fabulous way to view life! It really hits home right now for me, because my husband and I have been discussing the very same things lately — focus on what’s truly important, spend more time with our kids, experience adventures together, get rid of all the things we have but don’t use or need…

    I love reading your blog, Nancy — I have to get my daily fix!!

  4. Amanda November 7, 2008 at 12:26 am #

    I have been following your blog for some time now and marvelling at your adventures. I love your thoughts about the jigsaw puzzle of life and feel the same way. We asked ourselves the same questions when packing up our life in New Zealand and heading to England. Of course it isn’t always easy and the kids don’t always appreciate it but we want to make the most of this amazing world and the life God gave us!
    Keep on biking.

  5. Mike Vermeulen November 7, 2008 at 6:49 am #

    I like this post.

    One of the things I enjoy about bicycle touring is that it is a good mixture of planning things out vs. simply taking life as it comes.

    On the one hand, it feels empowering to plot out a route, travel under your own power and bring yourself and your family to new places and adventures. In that way, it is like having some choice in picking out little jigsaw pieces of what you do next.

    On the other hand, there is simply stuff that you can’t fully predict in advance. Whether it is snow in Utah, a bad set of rims or shifting sands of New Mexico. Some of those little jigsaw pieces are given to you. What you can do however, is build up your knowledge, skills and abilities to cope with such things.

    In the same way, when I look at my own sequence of bicycle tours, I’ve also seen that they build on each other and also on other experiences in my life. My ability or ambition to bicycle across Eurasia in 2007 didn’t start with the planning (in 2004) but instead built on a sequence of experiences and abilities I built over time as well as my perspectives on them.

    At the same time, having had that set of bike tour experiences (so far), my outlook of what I will do next and how I think of the world has also evolved. I am making explicit choices to be able to add additional extended bicycle tour jigsaw pieces in the future. Back through a sequence of dreaming, scheming and planning right now…


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