Daily life for a biking family

Routine. It seems like everyone I know tries so hard to establish a routine. They want their days to be comfortable and predictable. They want to wake up in the morning and know what time they need to leave for work, who they will meet during the day, and exactly where they’ll lay their head at night. Routine. Predictable, Comfortable.

And so the thought of any vacation longer than a couple of weeks is daunting – it’s too far out there, too unknown, too un-routine. The idea of taking off and living life on the road is, well… unthinkable. To wake up in the morning and have no idea where you might sleep that night is frightening and unpredictable and unnerving. It’s simply too far from the routine.

snack shop in PeruAt first glance, it seems as though our lives as we pedal from Alaska to Argentina are the epitome of un-routine. Unpredictability extraordinaire. In many ways that glance is accurate. We travel every day through unknown territory, we meet strangers who quickly become friends, and our heads rest in some unique places on occasion. We never know what or where we’ll eat lunch. Unknown treasures await each and every day for us to stumble upon them.

But in the midst of the chaos, there is routine – perhaps even more of a routine than we had back home. Our lives have been reduced to simplest terms and there is a very comfortable, predictable nature hidden in there. Now that was unexpected!

touring bikeOur lives begin with the standard ritual of packing our bikes every morning. Each and every item we carry has its place, and we know exactly where that place is. Our cooking pot is strapped on my front rack, shampoo gets stashed in the outside pocket of my rear left pannier. Winter clothes are lashed on my rear rack, sandals on my son’s. Our tent is rolled up and packed away, then strapped on to the tandem’s rack behind my other son. Packing is now – after thousands of miles and many months on the road – automatic and easy. No thought required, simply stash, pack, and squirrel away our stuff.

Then comes the riding. We ride. We eat. We take breaks on the side of the road. The kids climb trees or use guard rails as balance beams or start a pinecone war. We talk to people we meet.

Every once in a while we stumble upon an unexpected treasure, so we stop to enjoy it. It might be an old horse-powered sugar cane press or a gorgeous hidden beach or a lovely little church in a tiny pueblo.

By early afternoon, we’re looking for a place to sleep. Depending on where we are, that may be a campsite in the woods, an established campground, or a cheap motel. In the early stages of my touring career, I used to start to panic if night was falling and we still hadn’t found a spot to sleep. But now, after we’ve managed to find a safe place every single night for nearly a thousand nights, I can relax and know something will turn up. It may not be perfect, but I know we’ll be safe.

During our time on the road, we’ve slept in a wide variety of places.

Our routine continues as we settle into a hotel or set up camp. We know exactly what items we need and which can stay on the bikes. We know what order to get them out. Each person has their jobs, and we know exactly what the drill is.

John and the boys set up the tent; I get out the stove and get dinner started. We write in our journals. We read. We climb into bed.

Life is predictable. Life is routine. Even if we are riding our bikes from one end of the earth to the other.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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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.

6 thoughts on “Daily life for a biking family

  1. It’s funny how we settle into a routine, even when trying to escape the routines we’ve developed at home! I have never set off on an around the world tour like you, but I can relate to this from my 7 weeks of backpacking around Europe in college. The routine of rolling up my clothes to re-pack my backpack, eating breakfast in the youth hostel, checking train schedules, reading my “Let’s Go Europe” on the way, exchanging money (back before the Euro), finding the tourism center to snag a free city map, etc.

    Thanks for a great post, as usual!

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  2. I am unable to establish a routine even if I want too ;-) But I realize that it’s a scary thought for most of my friends. They kind of admire my wanderings, but the security-questions always follow. What if you need a hospital; what if you run out of money; what if you get mugged, and on they go. Like you said, it’s too far from their routine and they don’t even realize that the ‘security’ they have is delusional.

    I wish you all a travelicious 2010 and many more road adventures!

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  3. Our family settles into a wonderful “routine” when traveling too. Traveling light makes us strip away most of the excess material things in our daily life. We are then left the bare bones, which remain the same each day. Then, each day’s “unpredictable” experiences shape themselves around that skeletal framework. It’s a wonderful balance for us–the small (but important) consistency combined with the large and exciting unknown.

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  4. Hey, I’m so excited, I was watching CNN news on TV this morning and there you were! on international television. I yelled to my husband, “come see, here’s my family that I travel with”. I live on Vancouver Island, Canada and travelling along with you is the highlight of my days.
    You and your family are awesome. What a wonderful gift you are giving your lovely boys.
    Safe travels for 2010.

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