One moment in time: A lifetime of adventure

What was your moment – THE MOMENT? That is the question. What was the moment when you knew you wanted more out of life? When it suddenly became clear and you knew, deep down in your heart, that you weren’t cut out for the normal drill.

When you knew you wanted to live a life designed by you, not by someone else. What was your moment?

As I think back through my life I realize I’ve had a lot of those moments, but I’ll reach way back and consider the very first one.

typical american high schoolI was sixteen. I lived like all sixteen-year-old kids in Boise, Idaho did. I went to school in the morning and attended football games in the evenings. I helped at the local hospital as a candystriper. I was involved in Girl Scouts and our church youth group.

Everybody I knew lived much like me and, I figured, everybody around the world lived much like me. When I watched National Geographic shows about some far-flung island in Indonesia where people wore funny costumes and painted their faces, I figured that happened hundreds of years ago. That wasn’t today. Today, of course, everybody lived like I did.

Then my parents took us kids to Mexico for the Christmas holidays.

I remember walking down the street in wide-eyed amazement at how different things were. People in Mexico didn’t live like I did back in Boise, Idaho. They ate different food; they lived in different houses; they wore different clothes. It was new, exciting, and exotic.

firebreather flamerthrowerOne scene from that trip is forever etched in my mind. That day we were walking along the street in Mexico City when we saw a street performer. My eyes widened as I watched him shoot flames from his mouth. They were huge! Six-foot-long tongues of fire shot out in front of him! It was wild. Exciting. Exotic. Different. People didn’t stand on the street corner and shoot flames out of their mouths in Boise, Idaho.

As I watched him spit fire I drew nearer and nearer. It – HE – was fascinating beyond anything I’d ever experienced. I wanted to drink it all in – every aspect of this wonderful new thing I was seeing. I never wanted to forget the wonder of it all.

My flame thrower walked over to a small bottle he kept near him, took off the top, and took a big swig. And I saw him gag. He gamely forced it off and set fire to his mouth once again.

flamethrower firebreatherAll of a sudden, the flame thrower’s show took on a different light. The flames, I now understood, weren’t the mystical, magical things I had imagined them to be. They were work. A necessary evil to put food on the table for his children at home. The flame thrower – MY flame thrower – came out here to this street corner every single day and poured kerosene in his mouth. And he gagged. Over and over and over. He did it to survive.

Mexico no longer seemed quite so exotic. It didn’t seem so magical. It seemed poor and desperate. When I saw local artisans painstakingly cutting silver or potters churning out hundreds of clay figurines they sold for a pittance, I wondered if I could somehow make a difference. I was only one person; a child no less, but I was one.

The stage had been set.

A few weeks later I stumbled into our house in Boise after a long flight home. As sixteen-year-olds are wont to do, I flipped on the TV and relaxed into my favorite position on the floor. An advertisement for the Peace Corps came on.

Ethiopian childrenI watched those images flash before my eyes. Life in a small village in Africa; volunteers helping build water systems; teachers in classrooms filled with eager young eyes.

I made a decision that day. As soon as I could, I would enter the Peace Corps. I would be one of those people who made a difference in the world. I would do what I could to help others less fortunate than I.

Eight years later that decision came to fruition. I graduated from college and entered the Peace Corps. I lived in a small Honduran village and worked with local teachers setting up Special Education programs for handicapped children, and I knew I was making a difference. It was a small contribution, but it was MY contribution.

So that was it – my moment in time. The moment that changed my life. The moment I made the decision to live a life less ordinary and follow my heart. That decision has led me around the world a time or two since then, but I will be forever grateful to my parents for taking me to Mexico that year. My parents who opened my eyes to a great big world out there.

And I’m thankful for my flame thrower for teaching me that although we may be different on the surface, underneath it all we’re all the same.

What was YOUR moment? When did you decide to pursue your passion and follow your dream?

I’m not the only world traveler with a moment! Read these others stories as well:

Bohemian Mom – First moment we decided to change our lives
Worldschool Adventures – The Moment of Inspiration In Hoi An Vietnam
Livin On The Road – Whose Idea Was It?
Tripping Mom – The moment I decided to live abroad for one year, just me and my girl
The Great Family Escape – Capturing The Moment
Family Trek: The moment we knew we were made for more
Raising Miro on the Road of Life – ‘The Moment’ is all there is
Carried on the Wind: My Moment
New Life on the Road: It Only Takes A Moment
Living Outside of the Box: The Moments that Added Up

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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19 Responses to One moment in time: A lifetime of adventure

  1. Justin October 26, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    So I just planned a trip to Mexico with my kids. We will be searching for street performers who play with fire. That should do the trick.

    Thanks so much Nancy!

    • Nancy October 26, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

      It’ll be interesting to see things your kids remember from their travels. It’s funny how little things can have such a big effect on our lives.

  2. Living Outside of the Box October 26, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Wow…if only that flamethrower knew the effect he had on a child? I have seen similar things on the streets of Mexico. I have seen a legless man do an acrobatic show among cars at a stoplight, hoping to earn some money to eat that day. Deep down…we still have the same needs. We need to eat, sleep, breathe, and we all want happiness. Certainly the “moment” is when we realize that there is a world beyond our own…life continues beyond our little boxes we’ve created!

    • Nancy October 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm #

      @Living Outside of the Box,
      I was talking with my mom a few years ago and told her about how that trip to Mexico changed my life forever. She was stunned – she had absolutely no idea I was so affected by it! I so wish I could find my flamethrower and talk with him now!

  3. Clark Vandeventer October 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I want my kids to have flamethrower experiences throughout the lives. Someone asked us recently why we’re traveling now with our kids–why not wait until they’re older. (As someone who loves to travel how do you even begin to answer this question!). But I know that the way our kids view the world and their ability to adapt and be flexible and accepting of other people is already well underway!

    • Nancy October 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      @Clark Vandeventer,
      No kidding! Getting kids out and about is the best gift you can ever give them. You’ll never know exactly what will make an impact on them – just trust that something will.

  4. Rebeca October 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    That’s great that you had the moment so young. It’s part of why we want to travel now, not wait until the kids are older. We want that awareness to be part of who they are.

    • Nancy October 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm #

      So many people feel they shouldn’t travel with kids until they’re older, but I say that’s hogwash! You never know what is going to spark that interest.

  5. Amy October 26, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Wow what a moment Nancy! But if it had not been the street performer, it would have been something else. You were destined to do great things! What an amazing gift travel is to our children, one trip inspired your life direction!

    • Nancy October 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

      When I look back on that experience now, I am amazed how that one experience changed my life. I know my parents never, ever dreamed that that trip to Mexico would have such far-reaching effects on me!

  6. Heidi October 26, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    It’s funny that you mention in your comments that you were talking to your parents and they were surprised it had that big an impact on you. I have similar experiences with my parents, where they saw certain moments so differently than I did (or didn’t take notice of them).

    That really hit me. It both excites/intrigues me and worries me, as a Mom. What WILL influence my children? Will I know it? Should I? But I wholeheartedly agree that my primary job as their Mom is to introduce them to as many potential “moments” as I can. The rest, it appears, is up to them! Great story.

    • Nancy October 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

      I know – it’s really scary to think that we have the power to influence our children’s moments. Did we take them to the “right” places? Offer them the “right” experiences? In the end, all we can do is give them the world and let them do with it as they please.

  7. Lisa Wood October 26, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Oh wow – that story of the flame thrower is so touching..never realised that it could make someone feel sick. I will remember this one for sometime – it sure is one moment in time a lifetime of adventure!!

    You were so young to be make decisions – the one where you wanted to make a life that was different!!! Amazing how you wanted to enter the peace corps – and more amazing that you did!

    Thank you for sharing that moment that made a difference to your life and way of living.


  8. Harry October 28, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    I also have a same interest with you…Adventure. Even I can’t do it yet, but one day, I wish I can make it real.

    • Nancy October 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

      You can make it real. You just have to want it badly enough.

  9. Spencer November 8, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    I had many great moments on my RTW. There isn’t really one that stands out but I did love the feeling of freedom travelling gives you.

    • Nancy November 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

      There are many moments that stand out for me, but so many!!!


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