Why do some people live their dreams and others don’t?

pursue  your passionIn the end, the answer comes down to priorities. We will make time and money for the things that are highest on our priority list.How does one go about making the decision to drop out of everything that’s expected to go ride bicycles around the world? How is it possible for two middle-aged school teachers to take off for a year or four? Why do some people live their dreams and others don’t?

I love to read and can curl up in bed and read until the wee hours of the night. But I haven’t hardly read at all for the past few years. Yes, I could make excuses and say I’m too busy or my boys demand all my time. But the reality is that it isn’t high enough on my list. I choose to do my beadwork or surf the internet rather than read a good book.

The same is true about traveling the world. We will find a way to do what’s important to us. If new floors in our house is more important than a family vacation, we get new floors. If a new couch is higher on the priority list than bicycles, we get the couch. And if taking an extended family vacation is of the utmost importance, that’s exactly what we’ll get.

John and I made the decision that we would happily furnish our house with furniture from yard sales or thrift stores in order to save money. We bought a used car and shared it rather than being a two-car family. We added another sweater rather than turning up the heat when we were cold. We cooked meals at home rather than eating at restaurants.

But really – that’s the easy part of the “how.”

The harder part is the internal part – figuring out how to go against what everybody expects us to do in order to do what makes us happy. Our society has raised us so that we should want the standard American Dream. We are expected to want a big house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. We should be happy with a couple of brand new SUVs in the driveway. A big screen TV in the living room should take us to new levels of contentment.

And yet not all of us want that.

I’ve struggled with figuring out what it is that sets some of us apart from others. What is it about those of us who make the leap? Why did some of us actually jump from dreaming to doing? What pushes some of us to pursue our passions and live our dreams while others live their whole lives allowing those passions to reside in some untapped part of their brain?

Do I have the answers? Absolutely not. I have accepted that, for some of us, the dream becomes more important and we decide to make it happen. For some, it’s the death of a parent or a bitter divorce or some other life-altering event that pushes them over the edge. For others, it’s a slow, gradual process of coming to the realization that life is too short for regrets.

family new mexico small

Whatever path we choose to get there, the end destination is the same.

Life is more fulfilling when we opt to live it on our own terms. When we decide to chase butterflies and follow rainbows, we know we’ll have no regrets when we’re sitting in that rocker when we’re old and gray. We won’t sit there saying, “I wish I woulda…”

Take charge of your life. Step over that line from being a dreamer to being a doer. Pursue your passions and live your dreams – wherever they may take you. Is it scary? You bet! But it’ll be the most rewarding decision of your life.

In my search for answers, I’ve asked other traveling families for their thoughts on what prevents some people from living their dreams. Here’s what they said:

Theodora Sutcliffe (Escape Artistes)

I think it’s about fear. There’s an immense amount of fear to conquer when it comes to leaving behind the things we’ve worked so hard for – jobs, houses, routines – and take that step into the unknown. Sometimes you also have to cope with the criticisms of others, and their fears for you.

I think what sorts out the people who follow their dreams from the ones who don’t is the ability to see the fear of the status quo and staying put, put it alongside the fear of change. Everyone feels fear. But only some see the fear on both sides, and I think it’s that what helps us conquer it.

It’s a lot easier to stay with the status quo than to take the leap into an unknown future – and that’s why most dreams remain exactly that, dreams. Some of our dreams are meant to stay just that – dreams. And others we can easily transform into reality. Longterm travel, unlike winning Wimbledon or starring in a Hollywood blockbuster, is a dream that anyone can follow. So follow it.

Marilia Di Cesare (Tripping Mom)

Everyone doing what we are doing has fears too, but we feel the fear and do it anyway. With time, we get used to the fact that the fear can be just a transitory phase before the change and the amazing experiences. After a while we are like, “And to think I thought about not doing it.” I wrote about that idea a while ago. I also enjoyed this great article and video about fear.

Powell Berger (Family Vagabonding)

I totally agree on the fear issue, and would add to that intimidation. The daily routine of traditional stress is well known and documented; what we’re doing challenges that, and thus makes folks question themselves. I often think that what those folks miss is that we, too, have great role models from whom to learn and be inspired. We aren’t out there on our own; we have a tremendous support system when we look for it. It’s just not necessarily down the street.

Amy Page (Livin on the Road)

I follow my dreams because of fear. Fear that I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want. When I turn 30, my birthday present will be to start a lifelong trial of taking daily heart medicine. With that daily reminder of how short life is, why would I sit around not living life in the time I have?

Lainie Liberti (Raising Miro on the Road of Life)

It’s about overcoming fears and trusting your inner voice. I did a podcast about a man who listened to his inspiration, followed his vision, put his life on hold and decided to walk to Brazil from LA. Those of us who have made it happen have trusted that inner voice.

Susan Whitehead

I think for us, it has been seeing others living similar dreams and knowing we can do it, too. For example, I started following Soul Travelers 3 some time ago and often thought, “Wow, that’s neat, but we have five kids, not just one. We could never do that.” Then I found Jennifer Miller’s Edventure Project blog and saw they had four kids and realized if they could do it with four, we can do it with five. The big family could have been an excuse. We’re choosing not to let it be.

Another thing has to do with personality. I would bet that most of us don’t really care too much about what others think. People who are wrapped up in their own culture, worried about their kids being “cool” or having the latest cars/clothing/techno-gadgets, etc. aren’t usually willing to do without, even if it means living a life with more meaning and happiness.

Having the support of an online community of travelers has been a HUGE blessing to help us get over some of the fears we’ve had. Once we meet others on a similar path, dreams become reality and within reach

Justin Mussler (The Great Family Escape)

Actually I think the “following the dream” thing has a lot to do with family and tradition. America and Canada being such new countries have such a variety of cultures represented. My family is so Irish/Italian, you kind of have to stay local and close to family. That’s just what people do. Sure that is fading now with new generations, but I do think some people can’t get past that.

I remember in China few had ever left the province because who would take care of the elderly. Many stifle dreams because of caring, guilt and respect for others. There seems to be a lot of history of “doing what you’re supposed to do” in America. Sometimes following your dreams is just too much of a sacrifice for people.

PS: I would love to hear your thoughts on what sets the doers apart from the dreamers. What is it that pushes some of us beyond our comfort zone and allows us to live our dreams while others never do? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s another post I wrote about our traveling lifestyle – the result of luck or wise choices?

family cycling in bolivia

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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75 Responses to Why do some people live their dreams and others don’t?

  1. Theodora July 6, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    Great post, Nancy. A bunch of interesting responses here — and I hope more people do follow their dreams. (Thanks for including me too — woot!)

  2. Old Fat Man July 6, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    From my blog header

    Don’t Wait Tomorrow Starts Now

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 9:21 am #

      That’s great! I’ve often said, “Take advantage of today – tomorrow may never come”

  3. Val Joiner July 6, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    Yes indeed, fear. And there’s lots of different kinds like you mentioned…fear of success, fear of failure, fear of regret, fear of judgement, fear of disappointment. It’s just that in your case the fear of regret trumped all of those other kinds of fears.

    And for those of us on the cusp of making the changes necessary to pursue our dreams, we need to always remember your line here: “Life is more fulfilling when we opt to live it on our own terms.” It’s taken me along time to even recognize that I wasn’t living on my terms but now that I do, there’s no getting those worms back in the can. It’s made me more confident in my decisions and I’m not making excuses for them. They’re mine, it’s my life. People can like it or not, that’s their decision. But they can’t make mine for me. End of story.

    (Thanks for a great post. You never fail to keep me fired up!)

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      OK Val – I seriously need you to come write my blog for me. You always say it better than I ever could.

      • Val Joiner July 7, 2011 at 7:13 am #

        Well I’m happy to help if you ever get stuck for words but you’re doing a great job on your own. Always look forward to your posts.

  4. Amy July 6, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    Lovely post, Nancy. It’s such a lovely idea to follow your dreams. Maybe it is some people who fear the unknown, dangers, or lack of stability and security more, and others fear missing out on doing xyz?

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 9:22 am #

      Good point – which is the worse of the two? Fear of leaving stability or fear of regrets?

      • Val Joiner July 7, 2011 at 7:22 am #

        My outlook is that our stability is not as certain as it may appear. When you really look at how easily you can lose what you’ve got, it levels the playing field dramatically. One lay-off, one major medical emergency, one natural disaster could be all it takes to separate you from the life you worked so hard to build. Instead of seeing that uncertainty as a Debbie Downer, I look at it as an opportunity to live freely, recognizing there are many paths we can take, all with their own risks and benefits.

  5. Yvette July 6, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Great read!

    I often get strange looks because I insist on following my dreams and not compromising them, meaning I am the only globetrotting astrophysicist I know of. What I think makes a difference is a combination of fear and complacency- people are afraid of the unknown, and it’s pretty easy to go about your life being happy enough (as overall humans really are creatures of habit). It’s certainly easier to just join the rat race after all!

    Second, I grew up in a family where travel was always important and as a first-generation it was just something we did. I first went to Europe at six months and proceeded to each summer to visit relatives, my brother and I first flew it alone when we were 14 years old and I did it solo at age 16, so with a history of experience like that I’m still not sure why my parents are so surprised I went off to travel. 😉

    Third, I think a lot of people dismiss dreams as just being “too hard” because a LOT of effort goes into doing the really good things in life- pinching pennies at home is a great example of this. One I always think of personally is I am not ACTUALLY good at math- I got straight Cs for most of high school in it, and failed exams even in undergrad- but I decided I love astronomy so much that I stuck with it. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to throw in the towel years ago, but not really when I realize I’ll be the only American astronomer in Amsterdam this fall!

    So hey, if it was one thing it would be a lot easier to figure out and more would do it, hence I’d say it’s more multiple things. I’m just glad I’m stubborn enough to get through all the hard parts. 🙂

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 9:24 am #

      Maybe that’s the key! Those of us are stubborn are the ones who persevere – because it is hard work to live your dreams. I would be MUCH easier to stick with the normal, expected route through life.

  6. Sandra Foyt July 6, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately while pushing on, often against the current. And I’m finding that the biggest obstacle is fear of self – not having confidence in your own convictions.

    But, I’m working on it!

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      I think that confidence in yourself comes from doing it – each time we celebrate a tiny little victory we enable ourselves to push just a little bit farther.

  7. Nancy July 6, 2011 at 9:17 am #

    I agree that it isn’t about the travel dream – it’s important to follow our dreams WHEREVER they lead! I love how some people have such creative dreams – and the courage to pursue them.

    I think Val summed it up above: “fear of success, fear of failure, fear of regret, fear of judgement, fear of disappointment. It’s just that in your case the fear of regret trumped all of those other kinds of fears.”

  8. Nancy July 6, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    We are doing very much like you right now – our house is 1100 sq ft, so a bit bigger than yours, but still… We are very excited about the possibilities of staying in one place for a while – we’ll see where it leads!

  9. Heidi July 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    The daily grind of this “American dream” keeps us so busy we hardly have time to think of what we really want to be doing, let alone make concrete plans for it and make it happen. Then again, it’s just another excuse. If we want something badly enough, we’ll sacrifice sleep, hobbies, almost anything.

    I also think it helps that Justin and I (and our kids) have the same vision – that helps make us “doers”.

    Thanks for another thought-provoking article!

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      I think very often we use the little excuses as rationale for not taking the leap, but we pretend they are valid reasons. There are many valid reasons why people CAN’T make the leap, but a whole lot of excuses if you are looking for them!

  10. Justin July 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Making your dreams a priority is everything Nancy, you nailed it there. That was the first thing we did. We laid out the most important things to us and let all the other distractions in life go. It is hard. It takes dedication and work. Sacrifice. You can’t have it all. You have to decide.

    I think many find ways to make excuses. Legit excuses in many cases. Health, Family, Odds. The key to achieving a dream is take the excuses and find a way to make them fit the dream. Let your dream evolv and grow.

    Great post and great to see there are so many dreamers and doers out there. Thanks for including us.

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      This is perfect! “The key to achieving a dream is take the excuses and find a way to make them fit the dream. ” So true.

  11. Rebeca July 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    Great post! I totally agree that we make time for the things that are important to us. Sometimes I don’t like the truth in that when I look at how I spend my time.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Nancy July 6, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

      Oh gosh – I can relate to that! Seems I spend way too much time on the computer…

  12. Christina Pilkington July 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    I think it starts when we are kids and have big dreams. We have then and yet we are not given the time to pursue them, to spend hours and hours pursuing them. Everyone else has an agenda for us, from teachers to parents. Some people push those dreams down so far they never come back. They fall into the trap that media and big corporations want them to fall into- thinking consumerism IS the dream.

    My number one goal as a parent is to give my children the time to dream and to pursue dreams.

    • Nancy July 7, 2011 at 8:22 am #

      VERY good point – we’re taught from childhood that our dreams should be the big house in the suburbs and a white picket fence. If we want something else, it’s beaten out of us at an early age.

  13. Zoe July 7, 2011 at 2:50 am #

    I think many people don’t prioritise correctly. When I was trying to finish university (just this month actually) I intentionally decided what was most important to me, and put things in order of importance so I was able to decide which things should be done in order. Made it alot easier to work out my priorities and to do lists on a day to day basis!

    • Nancy July 7, 2011 at 8:21 am #

      University is a GREAT example of setting priorities! It’s so easy to get caught up with all the friends and parties, you really have to make a conscious decision to stick to what you really want.

  14. Will Hawkins July 7, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    Thank you for your thought provoking post. I followed my dream with my brother 20 years ago and cycled down Africa. Before that, I sailed the Mediterranean on a yacht as crew.

    I now long to do it again although it’s not so easy with my responsibilities of family. However, I do make time for micro-adventures which break the routine and remind you about what you are passionate about.

    Having done the journey, it does help put things into perspective at work. Life is good and nothing is that stressful.

    Thanks again


    • Nancy July 7, 2011 at 8:20 am #

      I think the important thing is to always see the perspective that we’re taking advantage of each day. Even though we are hoping to stay in Idaho for a while, I know it’s a conscious decision and it’s where I want to be. If I reach a point where it’s not meeting my needs/wants/desires anymore, then it’s time to head out!

  15. Bluegreen Kirk July 7, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    This is a very good post! I was just talking to a friend and its amazing the excuses she comes up with for not doing something. No time no money, blah blah blah. Yet she spends countless dollars on clothing and going out or better yet hours in front of the television. Its just not important and sometimes I feel like people are afraid to be different.

    • Nancy July 7, 2011 at 8:18 am #

      I think the fear of being different and going your own way keeps a LOT of people making excuses!

  16. Ginger July 7, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    I read a great quote on a bike blog the other day that is applicable in so many way… “Minority status generates fear”… because you’re in the minority (at least in your social crowd) if you commute to work by bike or “risk” riding in traffic or take time off to travel… my friends think I’m crazy for riding a beautiful bike path along a canal for 8 miles to work… DUH! Much safer than travelling the same 8 miles on the busy interstate with wall-to-wall traffic to get to my office about 15 minutes earlier than if I go by bike.

    • Nancy July 7, 2011 at 8:32 am #

      That is very true! I never thought about the minority aspect of it – but you are absolutely right that people fear being in the minority.

  17. Odysseus Drifts July 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    It’s funny because I remember when I was younger, I was simply too afraid to explore the world on my own. One of my good friends told me about how she was planning on backpacking around the world and I really envied her. She read books about it, made plans — and then got married and stayed at home with her kids. There’s always a chance she could follow the same path that you and some other traveling families have taken — but I don’t think she will. She and her husband have invested a lot in their house and gorgeous new cars, etc. Meanwhile, I thought the idea of backpacking solo around the world was amazing but felt I’d never be brave enough to do it. And now I’m on the other side of the world doing exactly that. A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about it, about being afraid to travel but following the dream anyways:

    • Nancy July 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

      I think we’re all afraid! Good thing you didn’t let that stop you.

  18. Freddie and Guy July 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    Totally agree that it’s all about priorities. We were horrified when a friend spent $1000 on a new coat, just as she would have probably been horrified by how much money we spent on our bike trip…

    • Nancy July 18, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

      I remember talking with someone who spent $33,000 on her living room furniture!! I was floored – that would have funded a year of very luxurious travel! I think we all make decisions on what we would get more pleasure out of – as long we make conscious decisions it’s all good.

  19. Cyclingmasterseller July 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    Bottom line, for most of us it’s about the all mighty dollar, or the lack of it, that either allows or denies your dreams from becoming reality. It’s too easy to say you lack a dream — I believe everyone has dreams, and unfortunately they stay that way.

    Fact is, you must either inherit funds, or have had the opportunity to earn or win funds some way , some how. Either way, it’s money that’s freedom, and if you don’t have it, like it or not, one can dream all one wants to, but no dream will come true. I hate to be pessimistic-sounding, but I generally go by facts alone. I say, if you do all you can do in life, hence become educated as much as possible, then pursue the work you trained for — hopefully someone, or some body will “lift their finger” and allow you to work hard, and “allow you” to earn the dollar you’re worth. It does not happen often.

    Most folks in this country generate their income off the backs of tax payers, and that’s alright. It’s security, and great work if you can get it. But if you’re a white male you might as well go jump in a lake, it ain’t going to happen. Outside of an fat inheritance, you’re pretty much doomed to conceptual deceptions called dreams.

    Conversely, it has also been proven that if you are in the private sector and you earn big bucks you have also committed your life’s entirety to working, and again, have conciliated your dreams in lieu of the all mighty dollar, i.e., dreams down the drain.

    Moral of story, get a tax-paid jobs, quit before you get old, and live your dream(s). Either way, you’ll soon be pushing up daises seeking the dream of sunshine…..

    • Nikkos July 18, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

      To not have compelling dreams… or to fail to act upon them… is a waste of human potential.

      There are many who are simply motivated by a story that they’re severely attached to. If someone is conditioned to source from lack & limitation… and is thoroughly brainwashed by the popular media, then to expect outcomes different from the typical belly-aching rhetoric would be inconceivable. I find it interesting to observe these types (nearly ubiquitous)… as they are jangled around on puppet strings… as they believe there is actually a wizard behind the curtain in “OZ”.

      As I prepare for departure for an open-ended journey around the world, I’ve sold off all the “stuff” I owned after being unemployed for 3 years and flattened by the financial crisis. I’ll hit the road with enough $ for 1 year of travel and will generate whatever else I need along the way.

      It’s about belief in yourself.

      It’s NOT what other people tell you… or group-think ==> which is the downfall of the complacent.

      Sourcing from inspiration is much more rewarding than exhausting ones self at the gravel pit and then trying to find something inspiring about gravel.

      Ding, Ding… Koolaid for Pavlov’s dog – come and get it!

      “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford

      “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Elanor Roosevelt

    • John Higham July 18, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

      I get this comment a lot, too, but I beg to differ. Money does NOT equal freedom. Freedom is a state of mind.

      If you are saying that money is an enabler, I would agree, but only partially. It is all a matter of priority. Most middle-class folks don’t question the purchase of a minivan or a kitchen remodel; but the minivan will get old and the kitchen remodel will eventually look dated. But those same funds can keep a family on the road for many months and the memories last forever.

    • Nancy July 18, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

      While I certainly do think there is a bit of truth to what you said, I think it’s only part of the story. Many, many people are able to live their dreams without a lot of money – it comes down to priorities.

      But – there is certainly a lot of luck involved too. I wrote up a post a while ago about how we managed our travel lifestyle – was it the result of luck or wise choices? I think it was a bit of both. http://familyonbikes.org/blog/2011/02/a-traveling-lifestyle-the-result-of-wise-choices-or-luck/

    • Justin@GreatFamilyEscape July 19, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      I do understand what is being said here. But this viewpoint is so narrow. Why accept the system that has been handed to you. When I was 14 I had a clam rake and would walk out in the water for 6 hours each morning digging up clams and making 300 bucks a day. I used to mail baseball cards to players and get them autographed and sell them on a street corner to construction guys. I now work with a boy who spent the last 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in Somalia and he is now pursuing a career in music and art. Making money is not that hard if you get creative. Making money for someone else and expecting them to pay for your dreams, that is tough!

      The bottom line is this: Not everyone will find ways to make money and pursue their dreams. That is FACT! But not everyone is willing to sacrifice, look around, and seek out ways to make their dreams a reality. Banging your head against a wall over and over again in a job or system that doesn’t get you closer to your dream is as much your fault as the systems. People in North Korea can’t follow their dreams. People in America and most other places can do whatever they WANT, it ain’t easy, but it can be done. Taxes and corporate greed have nothing to do with one getting creative and blazing an alternative path. Dig yourself out of the hole and get living. And leave the excuses in the hole you worked so hard to crawl out of.

      • Nancy July 24, 2011 at 9:13 am #

        Wow Justin! I think I need to go get a clam rake and start digging!

  20. Liz Wilton July 18, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    I think the comment about funds and money is an interesting one. Although it may seem like a more negative comment, it is a real concern for many people and lack of money is perceived as a valid reason not to do the things you want to do in your life. This, I believe, stems from our western society’s belief that money and status are what matters, you are measured on how big your house is and how much you make. We are encouraged to indulge and be comfortable at all times. We are taught to equate success with money. The idea that you can achieve something without money undermines the very foundation of what we’ve been told our whole lives. So I think lack of money can be a real stumbling block for people to get over.

    Firstly, I guess it’s important to know that travelling outside of the first world countries is very accessible because it is a lot cheaper (on the whole) and therefore easier to live and eat. A plate of tasty, filling noodles for about 40 pence from a street stall for example. When you are on the road you don’t have all the bills to pay that you have at home. You don’t need to buy all the stuff you buy, clothes, gadgets, junk that everyone else is buying. There is no pressure to buy anything at all unless it’s essential to you and your journey. Get a tent and sleep in it, eat where the locals eat, walk instead of getting a taxi… there are many ways to save money as you travel. In short: you don’t need as much money as you think, to take to the road. And you will spend less money that you would living at home.

    We are travelling, living of 10 pounds a day (on average) between 2 of us. That may not sound like much, but it goes a surprisingly long way. At first the idea of not having very money as you travel may sound like hardship, or you may think it will spoil the trip, make it too hard or unenjoyable. Again this comes from our beliefs that money = pleasure and happiness. Stripping back and having less can be liberating and living more frugally doesn’t have to be miserable. It can be quite creative and fun to cook tasty meals that don’t have much meat or using just the few ingredients you can find. You really don’t need lots of shoes and clothes. You don’t need to buy lots of souvenirs, your memories and photos will be powerful enough. You don’t need to pay to visit the expensive tourist attractions – seeing, speaking to and visiting local people can be enough. Or choose the one you want to go to most and treat yourself. When you do decide to splash out on a nice meal or a hotel with a hot shower, or a new shirt, you will really appreciate it and enjoy the indulgence, probably a lot more than you would at home. Not being comfortable all the time, whether it’s being outside of your comfort zone emotionally or being too hot, too cold, too tired, is actually an amazing thing. You are challenging yourself, learning about yourself and get to understand that as humans we are way more resiliant and capable that we think. Overcoming challenges or short terms suffering can be very empowering and gives you the highs and lows that are difficult to experience in everyday life at home. It makes you feel alive.

    Saving up money can be tough, but save what you can and then go. If you wait until you have ‘enough’ money then you’ll never go. You really don’t need that much. Also there can be opportunities on the road, teaching English for a couple of weeks or months. Helping out with a local project or new business in return for food and lodgings. It’s amazing what can come along, just when you need it.

    Finally to Cyclingmasterseller, it seems that you’ve obviously had a rough ride and been let down by people and perhaps your faith in ‘things will be ok’ has been tested once too often. However when you say that you hope ”somebody will “lift their finger” and allow you to work hard, and “allow you” to earn the dollar you’re worth” I can’t help thinking that you sound so dependent on other people, that you don’t feel you have any control over your own destiny, that you have no choice and are at the mercy of others. Is this true? Believing that you have no control or choice over your own life is not a great place to be and makes you feel hopeless. You do have choices and waiting for someone else to offer you something or make it all ok could leave you waiting a long time. Why is it up to someone else to make your life better? You can make your own opportunities, but you have to believe in yourself. Surely you know what you are worth and what you are capable of? Sorry to get so personal, but I hate the idea of someone from a first world country feeling so powerless and sad. This sounds really cliche, but only you can make your life better no one else can or will fix it for you. Yes you may need a bit of luck and support from those around you, but you have to take control and live your life. If life does really seem that gloomy surely there’s no better time to take off with whatever you have and go somewhere else, where you can make your own choices, escape the gloom, see how others live, learn about yourself and the world, feel alive again – what have you got to lose?!

    Sorry to write such a long comment Nancy, but it’s a big issue!

    • Nancy July 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

      This is so true – “you have to take control and live your life.” It’s easy to say others are in control – and it’s easy to allow others to be in control – but you need to decide what you want to do and take steps to get there.

      Will it come overnight? Absolutely not! We didn’t reach Ushuaia in a day – we got there one pedal stroke at a time. Over and over and over and over. But we didn’t give up.

  21. WanderMom July 18, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I hate to pile on Cyclingmasterseller – you do raise good points, and money is a great enabler but I have to disagree with the main point in your argument.
    My husband + I may be an interesting case for u to consider: we emigrated to the US in 1995, in our early 20s with our worldly possessions in a backpack each. We found work (we both have engineering degrees) within weeks. Lived, worked + saved for 15 years + then in 2010 decided to take a full year to travel – to realize a life dream.
    In September we go back to Seattle, find work + start again.
    You don’t need an inheritance to realize your dreams but you do need to work hard and make spending choices that will allow you to realize those dreams.
    One other point: As an outsider living in the US, I’ve observed that Americans work way too much. I know people who’ve postponed even their meagre 2 weeks vacation a year because of work. Since living in the US I’ve taken every day of vacation time allowed + I’ve been fine professionally. IMHO more people need to do the same to change the culture + improve work-life-balance in America generally.

    • Nancy July 24, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      I think a lot of people don’t make conscious decisions about how they are spending their money and then fall into the trap of “We don’t have enough money”. If they truly reevaluated where each penny goes, there are a lot more people who would be living their dream.

  22. Dave July 19, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    Life is to short NOT to chase your dreams.

    I don’t want to be sat in my rocking chair when i’m in my sunset years of my life sat there thinking what IF ?
    I want to be looking back thinking YES i did this and this and that but i chased those dreams some will have succeed and some will no doubt have failed, some are so big that you have to look at them in little steps to achieve them, but i would have at least tried which is much more important that failing by never taking that first step in chasing that dream.

    “The first step is the hardest.”
    – Marie De Vichy-Chamrond

    “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
    – Thomas Edison

    • Nancy July 24, 2011 at 9:14 am #

      That’s my way of thinking – I’ve only got one chance on this planet and I’d better make it good 🙂

  23. Luke July 24, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    It the internal believe of not being able to achieve the goal.

    It grows in us and stays keeping us in our “comfort zone” creating imaginary obstacles.

    Most of the time, our goals are perfectly achievable with a bit of effort, but we don’t even try.

    • Nancy July 24, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      That is very true – that internal belief that we can’t do it, so why try? It’s very strong and hard to overcome!

      • Lessa October 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

        So true, I have really changed the way I think abou things over the last 2 years but I think with most things in life people would rather have an excuse to not take action than to actually take some action! Live the dream!

        • Nancy October 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

          I think you are very right – people are looking for excuses so they don’t have to put themselves out there. And excuses aren’t hard to find.

  24. Nancy July 24, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    When we make the decision to do something other than what our parents and society raised us to want, it’s almost like we are spitting in their eye and saying, “I don’t care about you and your ideals – I want to go my own way!” It’s hard to face that.

  25. Harry & Ivana, WorldOnaBike September 12, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    I have more freedom and seem to have more money at the end of the month than many of my friends who make 5 times as much. Why is that? Why does everybody always need to spent as close (or over) the income line as possible?

    Hint: skip TV and unsolicited junk mail. You ignore spam in your inbox, why not the same with commercial TV and physical mail? You might be surprised of all the stuff you don’t need once it is not thrown in your face 10 times per day…

    In The Netherlands, by law you need to have 4 weeks of vacation, but most employers offer at least 6 weeks, else they will get not people. Still many people only work 4 days per week for a 20% pay cut so they can spend more time with family or outside.

    I can’t see how working all the time that you could spend better, to earn money you don’t need to by stuff you don’t need is an American Dream?

    And by the way, travelling by bike is far cheaper than just sitting and living anywhere, even in Argentina 🙂

    Un abrazo H&I

  26. EmmaculateReflections September 19, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Wow, what an excellent post and so inspirational! I’m curious, of your travels so far, what has been your favorite destination?

  27. Thomas | Jus Getaway October 5, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    I think at lot has to do with fear, family, expectations of others, and the so called american dream (in the US). From an early age you are taught you can be anything you want but as you get older you are told to be MORE REALISTIC what a dream killer. Sometimes its as simple as you are afraid to do the unknown from fear of failure.

  28. Kendra Gray December 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Money does NOT equal freedom. Yes you may need a bit of luck and support from those around you, but you have to take control and live your life.

    • Nancy December 11, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      @Kendra Gray,
      Very true Kendra! Yes, a certain amount of money helps get things off the ground, but it stops there. You need to decide what you want to do and then make it happen.

  29. Evangelina Woods March 9, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I now work with a boy who spent the last 10 years of his life in a refugee camp in Somalia and he is now pursuing a career in music and art. There are many valid reasons why people CAN’T make the leap, but a whole lot of excuses if you are looking for them! Yet she spends countless dollars on clothing and going out or better yet hours in front of the television. You don’t need to pay to visit the expensive tourist attractions – seeing, speaking to and visiting local people can be enough.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel March 12, 2013 at 1:35 am #

      @Evangelina Woods, I agree that some people simply don’t have the luxury of being able to go chase their dreams. Those of us in the developed world are very fortunate and that’s not something we should take lightly.

  30. Krista Davis March 22, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Thank you for this! I just now found your blog and I am very inspired by your experiences. I feel like my husband and I get looked down on all the time because of how we live. I chose to drop out of Grad school so I can live and travel with him (after being married 1 1/2 yrs). I have a degree in education but besides roadschooling in the future and helping others with that dream (roadschoolparenting.com ) I don’t use it or get paid. We keep getting told that it is ridiculous to buy an RV and that we need to have a traditional house. But we love traveling and the work he does (natural gas pipeline construction) allows for that. I’m told I need to finish my degree or use my existing one to get a traditional job, but I’m fine being a stay at home wife and blogger. We manage our money very well with his income and we are even planning to update our RV to one that will allow us to fulfill our dream of having a child. We sale and trade items to get any “wants” and we do things like him using my economical car to go to work (we have to have a truck to pull the 5th wheel and I’m way to short to drive it safely), making our own laundry detergent, using toilet paper tubes and lent for fire starters, and using cloth napkins to cut down on expenses. I wish more people would look at what their real goals in life our. My marriage and health are priorities (so I left school to destress and live with my husband, also taking control of meals, since health isn’t a priority to him), and traveling and being able to focus on family are important (a career has never been a focus, just the knowledge I gained from my education and short term jobs I have taken, therefore we make due with one income when I can’t work while traveling).

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel March 25, 2013 at 12:24 am #

      @Krista Davis,

      == I wish more people would look at what their real goals in life our. ==

      Yes, Yes, YES!! I think way too many people slide through life never really thinking about what they really want out of life. They never question the status quo, but I don’t think it’s possible to be truly happy until you at least ask the question. You might decide you ARE happy with the traditional life and there is nothing wrong with that. But you owe it to yourself to at least ask.

      So glad you made the leap!

  31. Ginny June 30, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    People that live their dreams have an internal belief that they are special and that the rules and restrictions that apply to everyone else do not apply to them. Also, they are very selfish and put everything on the line for the dream. All in all something gets sacrificed and it’s usually their families that suffer for it. Sometimes it works out but most of the time it doesn’t and people give up and just stay in a job that is secure rather than risking it everything to pursue their passion. I wanted to be a singer and a record producer but life happened and now I’m just a piano and voice teacher and I’m really starting to hate it. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to work for myself and fix my own hours and I know that I do have blessings in my life but I am still not living the life of my dreams. I settled for what life offered so it’s totally my fault. My husband has not been able to keep a job since we got married and all the financial responsibility is on me so if I drop everything to pursue music as an artist we will lose everything. I am not that selfish and will not do that so goodbye dream nice knowing you. Do I have regrets? yes. can I live with it? yes. but I could not live with myself if I had my dream and sacrificed my family for it. Most of the people I know who have everything they want in life are selfish.The selfish people always seem to get what they want and they don’t care who they step on or hurt in the process of getting it. Only a small few get their dreams dumped right into their laps without sacrifice and it all works out. I am not one of those people and probably will never be.

    • Rich Sasek June 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      @Ginny, Well, gosh Ginny, I am one of those dream chasers. To be honest I thought I was living MY life! Wait, I am. And “the rules and restrictions that apply to everyone else” that you are referring to, I believe, are self imposed. So, if I choose not to impose society’s “rules” on MY life that shouldn’t be a problem.
      I also chose to put everything on the line for MY dreams. I got rid of all the “chains and bindings” that were holding me in that so-called life. When my wife and I got together we realized our dreams were similar. We adjusted our dreams and meshed them. I have modified some of my dreams to fit hers and she is doing the same for me. Now we have OUR dreams, and together they are better than before.
      We have friends and family who think we are crazy. Then there are others who have expressed that they wish they had the guts to follow their dreams. Today they choose to stay chained to the life that they are living. Whether it is because of fear, comfort or priorities only they can say. Tomorrow, their choices may be different.
      If you choose to stay where you are that is fine. If you choose to follow your dreams, please realize you are already at the doorstep. You ARE a musician. You don’t have to “risk everything.” Don’t expect that your dreams will ever be exactly as you envision them. They won’t be. Nobody’s are. That is part of the joy; the journey.
      Following your dreams, living outside the box as it may be, are not without challenges; not without choices. They are not always easy choices, they are often ‘trade-offs’. Like Nancy said you pick your priorities. As is evident here, following our dreams is not without judgment from others. We choose to let everyone have the right to their own opinion of our choices and not allow the opinions of others to affect our choices as to what is best for us. As my wife “preaches to our boys” — “make the choices that you can live with the consequences.” Along with something her grandparents taught her: “don’t criticize your neighbor until you walk a mile in their moccasins.”
      Am I special? Yes. Am I selfish? I don’t think so. It is our life and we will live it in a way that brings us joy and fulfillment. We wish for you the same.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel July 2, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      @Ginny, I am so sorry you feel that way, Ginny! I suppose that, to an extent, you are correct – we do feel that we are special. No more special than anyone else, but I truly believe that each and every one of us can and should live a passion-filled life. We all have different passions so things will magically fall into place if we do that.

      I know it is hard to give up on all the expectations that society places upon us – for me it felt like I was slapping my parents and society in the face!! They had lovingly raised me in such a way that I should want the status quo (big house in the ‘burbs, white picket fence, etc…). When I realized that I didn’t want that, I felt like I was going against them. In the end, everybody embraced our passion and supported us.

      I would encourage you to start working toward your dream life. There will be some compromises in there and it probably won’t look exactly like how you envision it now, but you CAN live a life that is rewarding and fulfilling.

  32. vicky June 30, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    hi ginny, its worth remembering that our lives are long, at the moment you cannot pursue your dreams but every situation is always changing and maybe in 1 year or 5 years or even 15 years your situation will be different and you will feel like you are in a comfortable enough position that you can pursue being a singer and a record producer…..whenever i feel stuck i always remind myself that this too will pass and change and who knows what the future holds!

  33. Phyllis G. Edwards May 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi . I and two friends took a trip, not as extended as yours. but just as adventures. We Left July 7, 1952 and zig-zaged across the USA & Canada and Stopped in Yellowstone Park.

    We had a pup tent, gas stove and camping supplies, But at Yellowstone they were looking for help, and so for a month til they closed We were cabin maids . We had many adventures while there and had food and dorm rooms included.

    Wen the Park closed we were off again, visited people who were from back home, Our next adventure, coming back from Lake Louise we saw signs looking for Apple Pickers in Yackama Yep! we picked apples for a month. Theres more but.we kept sight seeing in our pup tent until back home Dec.20 . You are right do it now!! I am now 89 and so lad We did it!! _

  34. Mark Cheatwood July 9, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I can understand the idea of Fear as it relates to why people don’t “follow their dreams”, but I tend to think it is more of a “I’m being responsible” thing that cannot see beyond the Norm. My wife and I have six kids. I work for a living. I’ve set aside many of my own dreams for the purpose of raising these kids and providing a “good life” for my wife and children.

    But… much of that is because I’m in the American Rut. It’s more like, “Wait, what? There’s other ways we could live???”

    People like you and my friends the Lundy 5 give me something to consider….

    Thank you,


    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel July 27, 2014 at 10:12 am #

      @Mark Cheatwood, The fear comes in in so many ways and on so many levels. I do think the biggest is that our society has raised us to believe that there is only one responsible way to raise kids – and god knows we don’t want to be that irresponsible parent we all hear about! In the end, we only have one life to live and we have to live it wisely.

  35. Kathrin August 9, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    Bravo, Nancy. Well said. Our family did the same. Lived below our means and saved money so we could travel. We are at the end now of one year of travel and boy, it has been so full of magic, love, adventure…… wouldn’t trade it for ANY iphone out there. 😉

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel August 9, 2014 at 10:08 am #

      @Kathrin, No kidding. We Americans tend to get so caught up with “stuff” that we forget what really matters. Go for experiences and memories over stuff – in the long run, that’s what matters.


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