What if the critics are right?

What if the critics are right?All dreamers talk about critics. We complain about how they bring us down. We complain about how they just don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that they are speaking out of fear, or jealousy, or lack of knowledge.

But what if they are right?

What if we are wrong and they are right? Then what?

The trouble with this whole dream stuff is that it’s unknown. We have our own little visions for what we think it’ll be like. We have our hopes. We think *this* is what we’ll learn from it all. But truthfully, we don’t really know.

As John Higham, author of 360 Degrees Longitude said, “The proof will be in the pudding.” He spent a year traveling around the world with his two children and doesn’t assume to know the long-term effects of those travels. Was the journey beneficial? Harmful? No difference at all? Ultimately, who knows? And how can we know?

bike touring in argentinaI often say, in regards to my children’s experiences and takeaway, that there is no control group. There is no “Davy and Daryl who did not ride their bikes to the end of the world.” We have no way of knowing what effect our travels did or did not have on our sons. We have only conjecture.

But let’s pretend, for purposes of argument, that they’re right. Let’s say that all their concerns are accurate and that, ultimately, what they fear actually happens. Let’s assume that Grandma and Grandpa were right when they said we should have stayed home. That our friends were right when they said we were crazy. That those strangers were right when they told us we were hurting our kids.

You know what? They might be. How can we know?

Maybe there is a reason more people haven’t done it? Maybe it shouldn’t be done?

Way back in 2008 when I was packing my bike to head out on the PanAm, I remember thinking about that very idea. My sons would be the very first kids to cycle the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay on the shores of the Arctic Ocean to Fairbanks 500 miles away. They would be the very first kids to ride bikes from there to Argentina.

Was that because nobody had thought of it? Or because there was a very good reason? How do I know?

This is what I wrote in Changing Gears, “Even after so many months of planning, preparing, stewing, fretting, and organizing, I wondered if we would actually make it. Could we actually make it? The odds were against us – how many ten-year-old kids had ever cycled the Dalton? None. The Alaska Highway? None. The Pan American? None. We were drawing blanks as far as examples to lean on. We would have to be our own example.”

In the end, I had no choice but to go with my gut. Did I know it would turn out okay? Nope. Did I know my kids would enjoy the experience? Nope. Did I know at the time that all four of us would look back on our experiences and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was a good thing? Nope, not at all.

It could have been different. We could have hated it. We could have been injured (or worse) in an accident. We could have been kidnapped or gotten very ill. There are a million things that could have gone wrong.

They didn’t, but they could have. We’ve talked before about the what-ifs. Ultimately, we can choose to what-if ourselves out of our dream, or we can choose to do it anyway.

In the end, we don’t have the benefit of hindsight. We don’t have the benefit of that 20/20 vision before we leap off the cliff. All we have is what we know right now – and that’s where that gut feeling comes in.

How do we deal with critics? We do everything we can to prepare. We cross every t and dot every i that we know about, and then we bound off into the unknown.

Are they right? Maybe. But we’ll never know unless we try. You owe it to yourself to try.

In the end, we made it to the end of the world, and all was well. Of course, we didn't know that would happen before we started.

In the end, we made it to the end of the world, and all was well. Of course, we didn’t know that would happen before we started.

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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5 Responses to What if the critics are right?

  1. David Hawke October 13, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    I remember your trip well as at the time I was preparing for a 6 month solo trip through Central America during the winter of 2008, followed by a year long RTW from Aug 2009-July 2010.

    I followed your blog during my trips.

    Mine were great and resulted in my retiring to El Salvador. Some of my critics still think I am crazy.

    All I can say is, it may not on been right for them but it was for me and even if there had been problems and there had been a different ending.

    The experience still would have been worthwhile!

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel October 19, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

      So true. We all make our own choices, and we live with the consequences. We don’t always make the right choices, but just because somebody else doesn’t want to do the same things we do doesn’t make them wrong.

  2. Lisa November 23, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    I so agree. Sometimes, overthinking can be counterproductive as well. Experience will always be the best teacher – whether it be bad or good. But I guess we have people like you to thank for, because your experience teaches us, your readers, as well!

  3. Selma November 29, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Taking the journey you took requires an amount of bravery that isn’t common in most people. You did something that forever changed your sons for the better … proud of you!

  4. Izy Berry December 1, 2015 at 11:02 am #

    You inspired me a lot !!! not all the people can do this

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