Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing

Peru Lake Titicaca

We cycled through the high Peruvian Andes in the middle of the worst winter on record.

We were cycling in southern Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca at about 12,000 feet in the Andes. It was smack dab in the middle of the coldest winter on record and I was bundled up with wool tights, wool sweater, wool hat and gloves. My face, the only part of body not covered against the frigid wind blowing over the waters of Lake Titicaca, was glowing red in protest.

I was pedaling my heavily loaded bicycle toward Bolivia when I noticed my knees lifting just a tad bit higher than they should have. “That’s odd,” I thought as I climbed off my bike to check the clamp that held my seat at the proper height.

In that moment I learned to never underestimate the importance of the little things.

A seat post clamp is a little thing. It’s a tiny ring that, as I found out when it fell off my bike into my hand, is very important.

Peruvian village in high Andes

Small villages in Peru are picturesque, but with very limited services.

For the next ten miles into town I pedaled with my seat all the way down. ALL the way down and, with each pedal stroke, my knees hit my chin.

My automatic reaction was to complain. Isn’t that what we all do in moments like that? We bitch, moan, and complain as if that is going to change something. As I cycled into town with my seat six inches too low, I remembered the words of my son. “Complaining isn’t going to change anything, Mom.”

It was a few months earlier that we had arrived into Trujillo, Peru’s 2nd largest city in the northern part of the country. For three weeks we had struggled to get there. We had endured high equatorial temperatures as we cycled through the stark, barren coastal desert. Mother Nature sent every single one of her wind warriors to greet us.

Many tons of sand blow across that desert highway every day, and every single grain of it found our legs. For the record, blowing sand feels like BBs.

cycling the peruvian desert

The Peruvian desert, while beautiful in its own way, is very stark and barren. And windy.

It had been a horrible three weeks. All four of us got sick one day, and the bugs were atrocious. Hotels were dismal when we could find them, our tent was buried in sand when we couldn’t.

By the time we reached Trujillo, I was done. I had had it with Peru.

Peru was, in my mind, a terrible horrible no good very bad country. And I let that be known. Loudly.

I complained about the desert. I complained about the wind. As my mind continued its downward spiral, I complained about the people and hotels and food. There was nothing – absolutely nothing – positive about Peru.

“You won’t change anything by complaining, Mom,” my 12-year-old son said as we walked through the city one day. “Complaining won’t change anything.”

That stopped me in my tracks.

“All you can do is keep going and things will get better,” he continued.

Peru push bikes through sand

Pushing bikes through sand is hard work.

Why don’t we adults have the wisdom of kids?

He was right, of course.  Complaining wouldn’t change a gosh-darn thing. All I could do was keep going and things would turn around.

The desert wasn’t any less bleak, or the wind was less severe. Hotels were still dismal and food was inedible. What I can say is that when I stopped complaining, they somehow didn’t seem quite so bad.

As I pedaled into town with my knees banging on my chin months later, I thought about Daryl’s words. “Complaining won’t change anything, Mom.”

All I could do was carry on and things would get better. He was right. Complaining wouldn’t change a gosh-darn thing.

Cycling in the Peruvian Andes

This post is part of a collaborative effort from families living and traveling around the world about lessons we’ve learned from travel. Check out these other posts as well:

Bohemian Travelers: Travel Lessons: Can You Embrace the Unknown

The Nomadic Family: I Know Nothing (and 99 Other Things The Road Has Taught Me)

Pearce On Earth: 5 Life Lessons Learned from Traveling

Living Outside of the Box – 6 Life Lessons From the Road

A King’s Life:  Two things I know for sure

Flashpacker Family – Lessons from the road of life

Family Travel Bucket List – 3 Things We’ve Learned While Living Outside of the USA

RambleCrunch – 15 lessons I’ve learned traveling the world

Grow in Grace Life –  By Any Road..Lessons from the Journey

Our Travel Lifestyle – Travel: Teaching us about ourselves

Travel with Bender – You won’t believe what we have learnt!

Life Changing Year – Life Lessons From The Road – A Little Bit Of Planning Goes A Loooong Way!



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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28 Responses to Complaining won’t change a gosh-darn thing

  1. Mary November 20, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    So true!! One of the best lessons and I think one of the most important things to model for our children. Still working on it though:)

  2. Val in Real Life November 20, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    Ah do very true! Doesn’t change or fix a speck does it? Although, admittedly I’ll complain in my head just to mentally vent a bit and get it out of my system so I can focus on solutions…

  3. Jennifer Pearce November 20, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    So true! Even though it can be tempting to do so, the one sure way to make a bad situation even worse is to complain about it. Thanks for the great reminder to skip the complaints just carry on. 🙂

  4. Renee D'Antoni November 20, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    “Mother Nature sent every single one of her wind warriors to greet us.” I love that!

    Nancy, you are so right. Complaining is easy and makes us feel good for a moment, but it accomplishes absolutely nothing and squanders our mental energy. Plus it breeds a bad attitude.

    Next time I catch myself complaining about something, I’m going to think about you and your knocking knees in Peru and then shut my mouth!

  5. Susan November 20, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    Funny how some of the most important lessons in life can be learned from our children! What a great insight he had. Complaining may feel good at the moment, but can be quite infectious and toxic. It usually doesn’t accomplish what you want (change in your situation) and does keep you from seeing the good! Great post!

  6. Living Outside of the Box November 20, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Isn’t that the truth?! And so much of our journey through life is dependent on that one factor–a positive outlook! Isn’t it amazing how people could have terrible life experiences, and come out with a “life is peachy” outlook, and seem untainted by their fates? While others have truly wonderfully “peachy” lives, and find fault in everything? It always astonishes me…and yes…I have to remind myself often (not often enough, though!) to skip the complaining, and allow myself to enjoy it all, more!

  7. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family November 20, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    True words – complaining doesn’t change a thing. Sometimes it just feels good to get it out, have a whine or a cry, vent and move on!

  8. Travel with Bender (Erin) November 20, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    I am going to aim this week to stop complaints in me and my kids… cause it’s true. But i like Bethaney’s comment – can I still cry? 🙂

  9. Tracey - Life Changing Year November 21, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    You’re so right. It doesn’t help at all. But it sure makes me feel better! So my complaining usually takes on the form of making people laugh. If I can’t make it funny, I grumble on the inside!! Poor Peru got a bad rap by the sounds!

  10. Kerry (Goodtrippers) November 25, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    The image of you cycling with your knees hitting your chin, did make me laugh! I sympathise – we all have those moments during a trip when everything is irritating you (or worse). Best to allow yourself a ’10 minute moan window’ to let it all out – then you’re ready to see the good side again (and laugh about these irritations later!)

  11. 30Traveler November 27, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    This is always a good reminder to get.

  12. Susan November 29, 2012 at 7:05 am #

    After some of the things you had to endure, I too would be complaining! As I have stated to you before, you are brave! Don’t think I could travel by bicycle 8 miles from my home, let alone from the top of the world to the bottom!
    For the most part, in all of my travels, I do not complain. It really does not change anything but to actually make things worse. The attitude you keep makes all of the difference. Love it that your 12 year old reminded you of the fact. Shows that you have raised him right and that he will continue to have that mentality through out his life.
    Thanks for sharing the lessons you learned.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel December 1, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      @Susan, I am always amazed at the wisdom my kids have. They’ve learned lessons that I can only hope I might learn someday.

  13. Andy December 3, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Great post, and it is amazing sometimes how kids can remember lessons we’ve probably taught them ourselves, and bring them back to us when they’re needed most.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel December 6, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

      @Andy, They really do. If we teach them well, they’ll remind us of what we taught them.

  14. sabretoothed chickens July 30, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

    Yes, he is so right! 🙂

  15. Erin Bender November 29, 2017 at 6:02 am #

    Re-reading this and still think it’s just fabulous!

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