Jigsaw puzzle called life

Someone asked me the other day how it came to be that I was on this journey biking from Alaska to Argentina with my husband and 12-year-old twins. Indeed – how did I arrive at this point? One day I was just your ordinary, everyday wife to a wonderful man, mother to incredible twin boys, and Special Ed teacher at a local high school. The next day I was standing on the northernmost edge of the world, about to cycle south 18,000 miles on a quest for a world record.

Twenty years ago I never would have dreamed I’d be making this journey. It never occurred to me at that time that I would one day have two sons, and it certainly wouldn’t have occurred to me that I’d be out cycling the world with them. And yet, here I am – in Argentina after having been on the road for more than two years. We’ve cycled 14,000 miles, with only around 4000 more to go until we arrive at the southern tip of the world.

How did that happen? How did it come to be that I had the experience and knowledge I needed to embark upon this journey?

As I look back upon my life, I realize that each experience I’ve had and every decision I’ve made all pieced together to make who I am today. Being stranded in the Himalayas due to a blizzard… Figuring out how to live in a remote Honduran village… Cycling over my first pass… Getting lost in Kaohsiung, Taiwan… Each piece of the puzzle has ultimately led to my being right here, right now.

Life is like a great big jigsaw puzzle. Each experience we have contributes one piece to the puzzle – when we party at Carnival, join a throng of devotees climbing toward a shrine, witness a baptism in the ocean… When we get caught in freezing cold temperatures in Wyoming or sweat like fevered pigs in Central America… Each time we face a new situation, we add a piece to our knowledge base.

So I guess it’s fair to say that my whole life has been preparation for this journey. When my big sister took me backpacking in the mountains of Idaho when I was a teenager and everything that could go wrong went wrong, I learned a thing or two about coping with hardship. When my college buddies and I headed out for a canoe trip and woke up to a foot of snow the day after Thanksgiving and saw the white stuff still coming down by the bucketful, I learned to be resourceful and creative in looking for solutions. When I found myself in an operating room in Honduras, breathing for a patient while the anesthesiologist tried frantically to breathe some life into a stillborn baby in the next theatre, I learned sometimes you just have to step up to the plate and do it.

And so it was that the day came when John and I made the decision to take this trip – knowing we had the skills and experiences we would need. We knew how to choose gear for a journey of this magnitude. We knew how much and what kinds of food we needed. We knew how to plan our route and deal with traffic. We knew we had the mental strength to get us through long stretches of nothing and the physical strength to get us up and over the Andes Mountains.

And now – this journey, itself, is yet another piece in my jigsaw puzzle of life. I’m learning things about myself on this trip that will shape my life to come. I have no idea what the final picture on my puzzle will be by the time I take that final bike ride into the sky, but I know I’ll have a lot of pieces in it – interesting pieces at that!

Cycling the arctic tundracycling the arctic tundraLogan Passriding in snowEl TajinNancy with monkeyWelcome to HondurasClimbing the AndesCycling the Peruvian desert

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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9 Responses to Jigsaw puzzle called life

  1. DC October 20, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Well put 🙂

  2. Jim October 20, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Well said Nancy, but wouldn’t it be closer to “400 miles to go” rather than “4000”?

    Glad to see that you’re feeling better.


  3. Ellen October 20, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    There’s a book in there somewhere. Or the first of many.

  4. Richard Díaz-Cataldo October 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Nuff said! Great piece.

  5. Jim Spalding October 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    Hi Nancy! You never cease to amaze. I’m glad to see that you are recovering. I think maybe you need to edit your piece a little bit though. I don’t think you have “4000” miles to go, I think you have more like “400” miles to go.

    You and your family are my mainstays. Keep going..

  6. Kathy October 20, 2010 at 10:34 pm #

    Beautifully worded, and so true!

  7. Deb October 21, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    This is beautiful! Thank you 🙂

  8. Grand Canyon Harry October 21, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    Wonderful, Nancy. What a wonderful legacy to leave your boys and the world.

  9. Yvette October 21, 2010 at 11:03 am #

    Lovely piece!

    I do know what you mean though, as I think one of the silliest things is when people get all surprised that I don’t have my life plotted out more than a rough sketch of where I want to be in a year or few. So far it’s ended up FAR more interesting than it would have if I’d planned it, so why stop now?

    I was super-shy and nerdy even through my high school years so I sincerely doubt I would’ve believed I live the life I do now even ten years ago! Excited to hear it yes, but adventures always seemed like something you read about. How happy to learn I was wrong and didn’t plan out every step along the way. 🙂

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