Preface for What Were We Thinking? Bicycling the Backroads of Asia

I’m getting so excited! Our book is coming together nicely and I can’t wait until I can announce it’s ready to go! We are hoping it’ll be available in late July, but I think August is probably more realistic.  Here is the preface I wrote to place the story in time and space. Any suggestions on how I can improve this are greatly appreciated!

Cycling past prayer wheels in Sikkim, India

Cycling past prayer wheels in Sikkim, India


The year was 1990 and the world as we knew it was about to change. When John and I flew into Pakistan that day, we had never heard of Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. Al Qaeda and the Taliban were unknown entities and wouldn’t be introduced to the world for many years yet. Pakistan was a sleepy little country nestled between India, Iran and Afghanistan – and we had no reason to believe it would change anytime soon.

International headlines for years had centered around the cold war. Tensions between the USA and the Soviet Union had everyone on edge, but within a month of our arrival in Pakistan, the cold war ended. A month later, Saddam Hussein sent his troops to invade Kuwait. The world had just taken a radical turn – although we still didn’t know it.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, we were cycling through the Karakoram mountains, not far from where Osama bin Laden would eventually be killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan. It was a very traditional area and tribal factions were strong. As a female cycling through the conservative Muslim territories, I was very much an anomaly.

As you will read in the pages of this book, it wasn’t an easy time for me. The physical challenges of cycling over 16,000-foot passes on horrific dirt roads was tough. The mental and emotional challenges of dealing with a culture so very different from my own were even harder.

As I read through these pages now, twenty years later, I’m struck by how raw and jagged my thoughts were. I’m also struck by my own prejudices, presumptions, and criticism of cultures and religions I knew little about until I found myself immersed in them.

I’ve continued to travel throughout the world since those days and have come to a greater appreciation of the world and her peoples. I often wonder how I would look upon those same situations today with the knowledge and understanding I’ve gained through these twenty years of globetrotting.

Sadly, I’ll never know. I doubt the world tension, terrorism, and anti-American sentiment in Muslim countries will decline any time soon making it too dangerous to attempt the trip John and I took all those years ago.

Cycling past a traditional family in Pakistan

Cycling past a traditional family in Pakistan

Crossing a stream in the Pakistani mountains

Crossing a stream in the Pakistani mountains

Enjoying the Sunday market in Kashgar, China

Enjoying the Sunday market in Kashgar, China

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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4 Responses to Preface for What Were We Thinking? Bicycling the Backroads of Asia

  1. Amy @LivinOnTheRoad May 29, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    I sort of like it. The focus of it seems to be more on the political scenario and world events instead of on your experiences, which I presume is the focus of the book.

  2. Nancy May 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

    I’m just trying to give the reader a sense of time and place with this – help them understand the “big picture” of the world. The book itself will be the “little picture” but I make references to the Gulf War and such so feel I need to put it out there so people will know what was happening at that point in history.

  3. Debbie May 29, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Hi Nancy,

    I like the idea of putting your travel in context. The world was at an important crossroads and you were there. I think the book would have an extra edge if you could maintain a connection to the preface throughout the body of the book.

    Good luck and I look forward to reading it!

  4. Amy @LivinOnTheRoad May 30, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    Nancy, I’ve just re-read it and realised that I was thinking of it being the blurb. As the blurb, my comment still stands. As a preface, yes, I like the political and world event references and think that it’s very relevant.

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