“When are we going to travel again, Mom?”

“When are we going to travel again, Mom?” Davy asked as we drove home from Boy Scouts last night. “I really miss it.”

“You give us the word,” I replied, “and we’ll take off.”

campfire

Keeping warm around a campfire in the evenings was one of the simple joys of our time on the road.

It’s hard finding a balance when there are many good options. How does one go about figuring out whether doing Thing A or Thing B is better? What is better anyway?

We’ve been struggling with that issue lately. Reentry has been… conflicting. It’s now been nearly two years since we finished our journey and came back to Idaho. Two years off our bikes and in a more settled life.

And it’s been a wonderful two years. The boys love their advanced math and science classes. They’ve learned tons by being part of a FIRST Robotics team and a Boy Scouts club. Davy ran with cross country and Daryl is on the swim team. It’s been wonderful for them to put down roots and be part of a greater community.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed waking up every morning knowing I will have water. Running water. Even HOT running water. I love having a toilet to sit on and a real stove to cook on. The decadence of a washing machine in my own house still hasn’t worn off.

John has channeled his unending supply of energy into rebuilding our house, and he’s now planning how he’ll fix up the cottage we inherited last summer. He’s made a documentary film of our journey and chopped wood to heat our house.

All four of us have fallen head over heels in love with two adorable puppies.

It’s been a wonderful time here in Boise.

But sometimes, we long for a life on the road.

utah mesa

We enjoyed hanging out in the countryside, sitting around chatting.

There are times when I dream longingly for the simplicity we had for all those years. The time together as a family. Working together towards a common goal.

I miss being surrounded by Mother Nature’s handiwork. I miss the wind on my face and being one with nature. I miss being just another part of the food chain.

I miss the quiet solitude of those long, lonely nights spent curled up in our tents. Yes, even the LONG nights in the middle of winter when we were snuggled up like cocoons for fourteen long hours. I miss listening to the coyotes howl off in the distance.

And so we face a choice.

I’ve always said that whenever you make a choice TO DO something, you make a parallel choice NOT TO DO something else. It’s all about making that choice knowingly and deliberately. It’s about knowing both what you are choosing for and what you’re choosing against.

And we know both of the options. We are fully aware of what’s involved with both of them. They are both great options. There are wonderful parts to both. There are downsides to both.

And so I do the easiest thing I can – I leave the decision to my sons.

FIRST robotics

Davy and Daryl are really enjoying learning how to design and build robots. FIRST Robotics has been an incredible opportunity for them.

“Whenever you decide you want to leave Boise and head out traveling again,” I told them, “just let us know and we’ll do it. But remember to consider it all. It will mean leaving your classes and robotics behind. If you want to do that, then we’re game.”

Is that fair? I don’t know. Am I being a mean mother asking my 15-year-old sons to make lifestyle choices for our family? Maybe I am. Maybe I’m just empowering them to be mature in their thinking and to consider all options. I like to think that’s what I’m doing.

So far, they have decided to stay in Boise, but I know that might change. The day might come when they decide their needs would be better met by a life on the road. When that day comes, we’ll pack up and head out.

It’s a tough line to walk, having too many options. A tough line, indeed.

***************

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Back from the brink: One year after a journey to the end of the world

This was us one year ago today

cycling near ushuaia argentina in tierra del fuego

At that time we were cycling through our very last valley before rounding a corner to get our first glimpse of Ushuaia – our target, our goal, our destination.

It had been a long slog to get there. The most intense year of my life to plan and prepare for takeoff and then another three years steadily making our way south. For four long years we had been single-mindedly focused on that city; on the wooden sign by the town pier announcing we had reached the end of the world.

That day one year ago was amazing. It was the most incredibly phenomenal feeling to know we had reached our goal. We had dared to dream the impossible dream and had reached the unreachable star. It hadn’t always been easy, but had always been worthwhile.

cycling to ushuaia argentina

But that day also signified the conclusion of a dream; a dream we had been unwaveringly fixated upon for years. We reached the end of the road and had no idea what came next. The whole world was our oyster, there was nothing we couldn’t do. But when the whole world is an option, how does one go about narrowing it down?

floating in optionsFor months I wallowed in a tiny life raft in the middle of an ocean of possibilities. I drifted aimlessly, having no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. After being so focused for so long, my brain had no idea how to deal with directionless wandering.

It’s funny now as I look back upon those months with the benefit of hindsight, but when I was there it wasn’t funny. It was uncomfortable and unsettling. It was frustrating and I felt like I had taken my head and crammed it into a blender set on high. Confusion reigned unchecked.

Time really is the master healer and, with enough time under my belt, a new vision began to emerge.

Every single day I received emails from people asking for advice and support in making their own dreams come true. I spent hours each day responding to them, encouraging them, doing my part to get them launched into their own unique dream.  I guess I felt like I was finally able to give back just a tiny bit of the support we had received on the road.

a new chapter of my life begins nowOne day I was introducing myself to a new member of a Facebook group I’m in and typed this: Hi! I’m Nancy. I spent many years gallivanting around the world living and teaching in various countries. Most recently I spent three years cycling from Alaska to Argentina with my husband and children. Now I find I’m happiest in my little house in Boise, Idaho encouraging others to live their dreams.

And then I stopped and reread what I had just posted.

Did I really just type that? Did that really come out of my fingers? Had I really identified my new passion? I think I did.

*******

It’s been a long year since we arrived at the end of the world in Ushuaia. All four of us have redesigned our lives into something completely different from what we had before we left.

Davy & Daryl have long enjoyed math and science and they’ve continued that passion with taking advanced courses through a special program here in Boise. They’ve also discovered a new hobby in robotics and just came back from the FIRST Robotics competition in Salt Lake City. Their team designed, built, and programmed a basketball-shooting robot. They’ve also gotten involved in Boy Scouts and enjoy their monthly campouts.

Bots of Prey FIRST Robotics team

In addition to remodeling our new house, John has been working on creating a documentary film about our journey from Alaska to Argentina. It’s been a steep learning curve and I’m sure he’ll run into quite a few more obstacles before he’s done. At this point, he’s hoping not to return to the classroom.

I‘m also hoping not to return to teacher and have been working on writing a book about our PanAm experiences. I’ve morphed my blog into a tool to empower and encourage other to chase their dreams. My most recent major leap has been to start up a small business with a friend to do that more formally. I’ve also jumped back into the bead world and have been teaching some beadwork classes here in Boise.

*******

I’ve learned a few things from this whole reentry process in the meantime.

Follow your own particular dreams1) There’s no place like home

       2) You have to leave home to understand that.

            3) If you choose wisely what you’ll do with the next 24 hours,  you’ll live a very happy life.

 

*******

Here are what I consider to be some of my best blog entries from this year:

March 2011

On Reaching the End of the Road

What’s Exotic?

April 2011

Brain in a Blender

Why I Cycled to the Ends of World

Which Age is Best for Travel?

May 2011

Strangers in Our Own Country

How Do You Define a Traveler?

Falling Love with Boise

Risk Assessment: A Personal Decision

June 2011

Jumping Back in the Box

Inspired by a Simple Woman

The Real Price of Quality of Life

July 2011

What We Learned in Three Years on the Road

Why Do Some People Live Their Dreams and Others Don’t?

Guinness World Record DENIED

August 2011

Baby Banning: What the No Kids Allowed Movement is Doing to Society

Response from Guinness World Records

What To Do When You Need to Go But There is No Toilet

September 2011

8 Tips for Living  Your Dream

Enjoying Life with Less

On Carrying Food and Water for Four Hungry Cyclists

An Up Close and Personal Look at the American Medical System

Reentry: A Mental Conundrum

October 2011

5 Things to Remember if You Want to Reach the Unreachable Star

Bike Touring: Do You Really Need Waterproof Panniers?

Raising Kids in a Fear-Based Society

One Moment in Time; A Lifetime of Adventure

November 2011

Living the Dream: Making it Happen

Living with Less: What Can You Ditch?

50 Lessons I Wish I Had Learned Earlier

December 2011

Can Only the Wealthy Live Their Dream?

3 Attitudes You Need to Make Your Dream Come True

Living the Dream Won’t Come Easily

January 2012

You Get to Choose How You’ll Live Today: Take Advantage of It 

Top Fears Holding You Back from Pursuing Your Passion

If Sailing Around the World Doesn’t Count as Education, What Does?

Dealing with Burnout During Long Term Travel

19 Tips to Help You Discover Your Passion and Live Your Dreams

February 2012

You Can Live the Extraordinary. Yes, You.

The Making of an Adventure Mom: A Look Back at 28 Years of Marching to a Different Drummer

French fries and chicken nuggets are travel essentials: The world’s worst family travel advice ever

You might be a traveler if…

March 2012

How to Finance Long-Term Travels (with advice from many bloggers)

7 Tips to Overcome Fear

I think I’ve discovered the key to long-term happiness. Yes, indeedy, I have.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Do you have an exit strategy from your long term travels?

There are many wonderful aspects of being a long term perpetual traveler. There are dozens of names for them – digital nomad, lifestyle design, location independent, world wanderer – but they are all basically names for the same thing: a person who travels the world with no plans to ever settle down in one place. It’s a wonderful lifestyle with many benefits.

It’s also extremely difficult to break out of when it’s no longer meeting your needs.

Many of us head out to travel long term without considering an exit strategy. As we plan our world travels it’s all pie in the sky, glamor, and sheer exoticism every night. It’s fun, fun, fun in new and exciting places. Our thoughts are filled with dreams of the wonderful adventures we’ll have in remote, far-flung corners of the world.

Once we hit the road, we quickly discover the reality of travel isn’t glamorous at all. It’s long hours battling headwinds on hot, dusty roads or being crammed in a bus built for little people. It’s sleeping on uncomfortable mattresses in noisy hostels. It’s craving Grandma’s Cranberry Salad, but not being able to find the ingredients to make it.

Even so, we’re willing to endure the distinctly un-glamorous for the intoxicating excitement of the bits in between.

But we rarely think about how to stop.

A friend of mine recently said, “I’m tired of travel, but I’ve been on the road so long I don’t know how to stop.”

There is no set path. Just follow your heart.It’s important that we take time to think about when it’s time to call it quits; to develop an exit strategy for our travels. When has the travel fulfilled our needs and we would be better served by another lifestyle? How do we know when it’s time to move on, so to speak – to leave the traveling behind and explore other avenues in life?

One way to define that is to think about what you hope to gain through your travels – whether you are just starting out or have been on the road for years. What do you want to learn from traveling and how will you know you’ve learned it? If you aren’t sure where you’re going, how will you know you’ve gotten there?

I am a strong proponent of setting a particular goal, and when you reach that goal, take time to reevaluate. For us, it was a physical goal – reaching Ushuaia. When we ushuaia sign el fin del mundoreached that goal after three years on the road, it forced us to take a good long look at what we wanted to do next. Would continued travel on bikes be of the most benefit to all four of us? Or should we travel another way? Or should we stay in one place?

The goal, however, doesn’t have to be a physical goal. It can be a certain amount of time or when you’ve reached a certain level of comfort in your new lifestyle. The goal can be anything you want it to be – but define the goal carefully so you will know when you’ve reached it. Once you are at your goal, take a good hard look at your lifestyle and see if it is still meeting your needs and wants.

Give yourself permission to change gears if it isn’t.

go out there and do amazing thingsAs we travel through life on this planet, our needs, wants, and desires change and develop. It’s important that we are receptive to those changes and willing to respond to them. Don’t fall into the trap of just another rat race – albeit a rat race around the world.

Just as you can spin on the hamster wheel in your hometown, you can quite easily take the hamster wheel with you.

Don’t be afraid to jump off.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Seven months on – and still living (more or less) simply

Seven months. In some ways it seems like it’s been seven years since we arrived back in the USA; in other ways seven days. Tomorrow, on our seven month anniversary of arriving in our home country, we’ll be moving into our house.

john grouting tile floor

The bathroom floor has been tiled and grouted - now we need to get the toilet in!

We’ve been working frantically trying to get the house ready, but it’s not anywhere close. We finally decided we would move in as soon as we had a toilet. Everything else was a luxury. Including a shower.

So it is that we’ll soon leave our little casa de nada (house of nothing) and move into a real house, albeit one without a shower. We’ll unpack the barn and have real chairs to sit in and real beds to sleep in. I’ll have a real kitchen to cook in and we’ll have real dishes to eat out of rather than the recycled yogurt containers we’ve been using for seven months.

And I’ll have a washing machine.

I’m cracking up over my excitement about a washing machine. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was amazed when I found a laundromat. It was magical to walk in, throw my clothes in a machine, push a button, and *poof* just like that, my clothes were clean. Each and every time I load our dirty clothes in the car and drive to the laundromat I’m reminded anew of that magic. And to think I’ll soon have a washing machine in my own little house.

I’m trying hard to maintain my sense of wonder and amazement at the simple things that add so much to my life.

Sometimes I find myself slipping into the commercialism so rampant in my society, but then I reach down, grab myself by the bootstraps, and yank myself back out.

The other day as I drove the boys to Boy Scouts, the road was closed. We were running late and were in a hurry to get to their meeting and, as I turned off the main road onto some small lane running through a residential neighborhood, I found myself getting frustrated. “Why now?” I fumed. “Why couldn’t they close the road somewhere else or sometime else when it doesn’t matter?”

But then I took a deep breath and thought back to our 400-mile detour in Bolivia. On bikes. FOUR HUNDRED MILES!

The road we had planned to take through the center of the country was closed due to a strike. Our options were limited, but the best included climbing up and over the Andes Mountains before dropping down into the Amazon basin. From there we turned right and headed into Argentina. Our detour took us a couple weeks of cycling.

And I got upset about a mile? In a car? What’s wrong with me? Have I changed that much in seven months?

My friend Justin from The Great Family Escape was talking the other day about how hard it is to escape the corporate influence in the USA.

“I want to live without the influence of all this stuff and be able to see the world as it’s meant to be seen – AD FREE! For me, the only way to find out what I can live without is to obviously live without it. And the only way I think I can do that successfully or fully, is to get myself and my family away from all this crap. To move our lives away from the maddening crowd and relearn life.”

Do we really need to get away from the ads and corporate influence? Or can we simply make conscious decisions to live life more simply?

be yourself in a world trying to change youI admit I’m struggling with that idea. I walk into K-Mart to buy dish soap and see the gorgeous crystal bracelet sitting there and immediately fall into that “must have” trap. Or I go to the bead store to buy a simple finding for something I’m making and fall in love with sparkly Czech beads.

I’m trying to keep my life simple. I don’t necessarily want it as simple as it was on the road, but I don’t need the excesses that most Americans consider essential.

I love having a frying pan in addition to my pot and a chair to sit on rather than hoping for a stump. I love having more than two sets of clothing and more than one pair of shoes. It’s really nice to have a lamp to use while reading in bed rather than having to hold a tiny little penlight. I like having a consistent source of hot water. Heck – I enjoy having water!

I think the answer to dealing with American consumerism comes down to making conscious decisions and living intentionally.

Whatever I buy now I truly evaluate: will this item add value to my life or am I buying it simply to spend money. If it’s something that will truly make me happy for whatever reason, then I have no problem buying it. If not, I pass it by.

attitude changes everythingAs I look around my casa de nada, I’m surprised to see how full it is. When we arrived here seven months ago we arrived with only the contents of our panniers. Now, we’ve got significantly more than that. I like to think we’ve got enough.

It’s been seven months – 210 days. In many ways I’m scared to see how much “stuff” I will have amassed by one year. How much of an impact will the American corporate influence have on me?

I truly hope I will come back here in five months and report that we’re still living simply. And I hope I still marvel at my washing machine each and every time I put a load of clothes in it.

***Are you making conscious decisions and living intentionally?***

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Reentry – A mental conundrum

I am seriously hoping we are nearly to the end of this whole reentry process. I just want to feel settled.

In many ways, we are now comfortably entrenched into a normal American lifestyle. The boys are doing well in their math and science classes taken through the public schools, they’re loving being a part of Boy Scouts, and they’re finally part of a soccer team. The soccer team was the hardest part of our journey – they missed it tremendously.


I’ve turned into the quintessential soccer mom ferrying my boys back and forth every day. John is busy formatting books and creating websites.

Life is comfortable. It’s predictable. Sort of.

In just as many ways as life is comfortable and predictable, it’s not that at all. We are still camped on the floor of our “case de nada” (house of nothing) while we work on remodeling our new home so we can move in. We’ve got mattresses on the floor (at least we’ve got that!), three pots to cook in (better than only one!), and a big pile of clothes in the corner of the living room. We have no dressers or desks or kitchen table.

It’s like we’re caught in the middle of LimboLand. We want to settle in and, in many aspects of life, we’ve done exactly that. Yet we’re still very much unsettled in others. It’s a crazy feeling and one I’m not sure what to do with.

But the biggest transition I’ve been noticing lately is a mental one. I’ve noticed a huge mental shift in the past month or so. When we first arrived in Boise I wanted absolutely nothing more than to leave my tourist life behind and just live. When others mentioned that there was plenty to see and do in Boise, I wanted to shout, “I DON’T WANT TO SEE OR DO ANYTHING! I JUST WANT TO CURL UP WITH A GOOD BOOK OR PLENTY OF BEADS AND DO NOTHING! ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!”

I had no desire to visit museums or learn about the history of this area.

My brain was on overload and I couldn’t cope with more intellectual stimulation.

Now, 5.5 months after arriving in Boise, my mental outlook is way different. All of a sudden I’ve discovered this burning desire to explore the Boise valley. I want to go to museums and historical sites. I want to attend cultural events and learn, learn, learn. It’s like my brain finally processed what it needed to process and is now (finally!) open and receptive to more.

And so I find myself frustrated with the normal day-to-day life that I so looked forward to just a few short months ago. Today, when the boys had a soccer game an hour away I was frustrated that I couldn’t spend the day at the Living History exhibit at the local Natural History Museum. I felt fortunate that I was able to squeeze an hour in – although I wanted all day.

I’m finding myself getting antsy as I strip, sand, and repaint kitchen cabinets – I could be using that time to go visit state parks around the valley.

This is a very unexpected place to be in – but I suppose it’s just a normal part of the reentry process. My brain is dealing with so many different stimuli and trying to process it all.

I want to be back out on the road and I want to be right here in Boise, Idaho. I want to put down roots and haul all my beads out of the barn but I also want to pack up my bike and head out for parts unknown.

It’s a conundrum, that’s for sure.

edited to add: Many thanks to Clark Vandeventer for posting the comment below about “THE DOUBLE LIFE” by Donald Blanding. It sums up my thoughts and feelings perfectly – and makes me realize I’m not the only one facing this!

How very simple life would be
If only there were two of me
A Restless Me to drift and roam
A Quiet Me to stay at home.
A Searching One to find his fill
Of varied skies and newfound thrill
While sane and homely things are done
By the domestic Other One.

 

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Jumping back in the box

Dear reader,

Before you read this post I need you to promise not to laugh at me. I know that you could have told me what I’m about to say years ago, but I didn’t get it until yesterday morning. I know… I know… But still, I need you to promise you won’t laugh at me.  I really do.

So – raise your right hand and repeat after me: I (fill in your name) do hereby solemnly swear that I won’t laugh at Nancy no matter how utterly ridiculous this post is.  Amen.

I had an epiphany moment yesterday morning. It was one of those moments when the heavens opened up and I was bathed in a ray of clear white light and suddenly – just like that – everything was made clear. (Well, maybe not everything, but if I’m going with clichés, I might as well take them and run.)

For the past few months I’ve had this internal struggle going on. I wanted to go back and live in a tiny little house in Boise, Idaho and write a book and write blog posts and live happily ever after, but there was this Little Niggling Voice in the back of my mind who wouldn’t let me do it.

A real traveler wouldn’t want to settle down in Boise,” it said.

“You’re right,” I replied, “and since I want to do it, then I must not be a real traveler.”

Somehow I just couldn’t wrap my brain around the idea that I could stay in one place for a while. After 27 years of continual travel, I… I don’t know… I wouldn’t be true to myself? I wouldn’t be true to who I was? I would somehow betray myself by settling down?

As hard as I tried to shut the little voice up, it just kept popping up.

Little Niggling Voice (LNV): You can’t settle down and be in one place. You’ll become boring.

Me: Maybe boring is OK.

LNV: No it’s not.

Me: Yes, it is.

LNV: You’ve worked too hard to get out of that box to go back in.

Me: You’re right, I have. I can’t go back in.

LNV: Yes you can.

Me: No I can’t. I can’t live in the box.

LNV: You can.

Me: I can’t.

Somehow I couldn’t allow myself to settle down. Boise wasn’t exciting enough. It wasn’t exotic enough. It wasn’t good enough. I deserved better.

Me: There’s no place I would rather live than Boise. There’s no place better.

LNV: Yes there is.

Me: Where?

LNV: Lots of places.

Me: Like where?

LNV: Lots of places.

Me: Boise is a great place.

LNV: You can’t settle down. You keep saying it’s OK to jump out of the box and live your dreams.

Me: I did live my dream. I lived all 17,300 miles of it. Now I can go back to Boise

LNV: No you can’t.

Me: Yes I can.

LNV: No you can’t.

The conversation has gone on for the past few months. I wanted to move to Boise and settle down, but I couldn’t accept it. That might work for others, but not for me.

Until yesterday.

I was wandering around and it suddenly hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. The bricks fell down and smashed my head wide open and I realized my story has never been about the cycling. It’s never been about the travel.

It’s been about pursuing your passion and following your dreams. It’s been about chasing rainbows and finding your pot of gold at the end and shaking hands with the leprechaun. It’s been about the idea that it’s okay to leap out of the box and grab life by the horns and live it on your own terms. You don’t have to live the way anybody expects you to live – you can live the way you want to live!

LNV: But that doesn’t pertain to you.

Me: Yes it does.

LNV: No it doesn’t.

Me (yelling and shouting and stamping my feet): It does too pertain to me! I can live life the way I want to also! I jumped out of the box and rode my bike to the ends of the world with my children – that’s about as far out of the box as you can get.

LNV: You’re right. That’s pretty far out. That’s way out.

Me: I’m glad we agree on something. But it also means that I can jump back in the box if I want to! I don’t have to stay out if I don’t want to – I can chase my rainbow and find my pot of gold in that box if I want. If I want to settle down in Boise and live happily ever after, I can. Right there in my own little box nestled next to my own little leprechaun.

LNV: You’re right.

Me: I know.

That was it – my EUREKA moment. My epiphany. The moment of clarity I’ve been chasing all these months. I can stay out of the box if I want; but I can jump back in too. It’s all about pursuing your passion and living your dreams. And I can do it too.

I don’t care if I’m a real traveler or not. I don’t care if I never set foot on another airplane or take another pedal stroke or pack up another pannier. I can live life on my own terms and do what makes me happy. I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations of me. I can jump right back in that box if I darn well please and build my nest and live my happily ever after.

And you know what?  That’s okay!!

LNV: You’re right.

Me: I know. It feels great.

LNV: Good night. Sleep well.

Me: I will. Thank you.

Does this mean the struggle is over? Absolutely not – we’ve still got a lot of details to hammer out and figure out how all the pieces will fit into the puzzle. What it does mean is that I’m okay with staying in Boise if that’s how the pieces fit. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out logistics – but that’s the easy part. Making the decision is the tough part, and that’s now behind me.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

The real price of quality of life

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately. Where do we go from here? What do I want out of life? What do I want to do when I grow up? But all I seem to end up with are more questions.

I’ve recently found myself in a bit of a quandary and am having to place a dollar value on things I never even considered had a dollar value. How much is setting my own schedule worth to me? Having my kids in the school we’ve chosen? Boy Scouts? Putting down ‘roots’ of some sort? The process of friendship? Health insurance? This is all very confusing.

We returned home to the USA two months ago after three years on the road cycling from Alaska to Argentina and decided we were ready to settle down for a while and live in the good ol’ US of A – something we hadn’t done for quite some time.

We came back to our hometown of Boise, Idaho and are buying a small house (attempting to anyway). The kids were enrolled part time in a great program through the local public schools. We homeschool the rest of the day. Our sons are enjoying Boy Scouts and are looking forward to playing on soccer teams in the fall.

John and I are enjoying life at home. We’re spending time improving our website and writing books about our adventures.

Life is grand, and we’d like to continue in this same vein. I think we would do exactly that if it weren’t for health insurance.

Before we left on our adventure we were covered through a plan from our teaching jobs. While on the road we picked up a health insurance policy designed for long-term travelers and expats. Now neither of them is an option.

Our traveler’s insurance stipulates that we be out of the USA for at least six months per year. That was no problem before, but now that we want to stay put it’s a big problem. Huge, massive, gigantic problem.

Because it means that we have basically three options:

  • Spend at least six months per year in other countries so we can keep our current insurance
  • Pay exorbitant amounts for independent health insurance – money we don’t have, by the way
  • Get teaching jobs or some other job that will provide insurance – which means we won’t have time to do the other things we want to do (including time with Davy and Daryl)

Which brings me to the point – how much are we willing to pay for quality of life? And what is quality of life?

At this point in time, John and I want to stay home and be “self-employed,” so to speak. We have some rental properties and, between the income from those houses and a bit from our website, we can live. Frugally, to be sure, but we can do it. Our current income is about half of what my teaching salary was, but we’re willing to deal with that in order to have the freedom to design our own schedule.

Although we have less money than we used to, we are enjoying the time and energy we have for our children. We’re enjoying working on our own timeline and, if we find ourselves awake at three in the morning, we can work then and take a nap during the day. We like the freedom we have to take off and head to Vancouver to a conference or to Connecticut to see Grandma. We like taking bike rides along the Boise River while everyone else is at work.

We are enjoying living in the USA and having opportunities for the boys. Not only are there great educational programs available, but there are plenty of extra-curricular activities too. The boys will be able to plug in to various volunteer organizations and be pushed in ways we can’t provide while we’re traveling.

But now we’re having to put a dollar value on that freedom. How much is it worth it to us to set our own schedule? To have the boys in their school and Boy Scouts? How much is it worth to live in the States? Can we afford it?

There is no question that it would be cheaper in terms of dollars to live overseas. We could move to Mexico or Argentina or Thailand or Spain and live there. We could continue traveling on our bicycles in Europe or Australia. As for the actual dollar amount spent, it would be cheaper to pursue one of those options.

But by doing that, we would give up a lot too. We would give up the boys’ school and their Boy Scouts. We would give up soccer team and bowling. Our sons would not be able to volunteer at the zoo or be a part of a stable circle of friends.

It’s a tough decision to be sure. We have to figure out exactly how much each of those items is worth to us and if we can afford it. There is no right and wrong answer – just a whole lot of shades of gray. What’s important to me may not be to you. Your essential items may not even be a consideration on my quality of life list.

There was a time in my life when I thought people who could live overseas but chose not to were crazy. I felt I had the best job in the world and was amazed that my employers actually paid me to do it. Heck – I would have volunteered just to have the chance to live in Ethiopia or Egypt! I never thought the day would come when I wanted to live in the USA and would be willing to sacrifice in order to make that happen.

As we go through life our needs and wants change. I want the best for my sons, but I’m not really sure what that best is. Is the best for us to go back to work in order to get health insurance, but not have time for Davy and Daryl? Or should we continue traveling and give up what the boys have here in Boise?

It’s a fine line to be sure – and one I’m not looking forward to navigating in the coming months.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Education plans

We’re making some decisions and moving on – it feels great!

One of our primary concerns (after finding a place to live – still working on that one) was figuring out what we would do about our boys’ education.  There were so many options available and we weren’t sure which option would serve their needs best: homeschool, public school, or a combination of the two.

We finally made the decision about what we’ll do and we’re thrilled with it!

Boise Public Schools have been great to work with in designing a program that is tailor made for our sons.  They’ve been totally flexible and will allow us to put the boys in classes of our choosing and homeschool the rest.  At this point it is too late in the school year for Davy and Daryl to get ‘credit’ for the classes, but that is not a concern at all.  They’ll be able to slide right in and take advantage of the best of the best!

Both of our sons are very advanced in comparison to their peers, so finding a good program could have been hard and it was a great relief to see that Boise offers options for kids like ours.  They will be able to attend classes at a special school designed for advanced kids – they’ll even have Daryl’s math level!!  We’re psyched!

It’s been interesting hearing from the homeschoolers – it’s like we’re abandoning ship.  But really, we aren’t.  We’re just taking advantage of opportunities, even if they happen to be part of the public school system.  Our sons will continue to be homeschooled for part of the day, and in public school classes for the rest.  The best of both worlds.

Having the boys take some classes through the school for these last two months of the school year will help us make more educated decisions about next year – if this goes well, we will continue in the same vein next year.  If not, we’ll change.  But we won’t know until we try.

The boys are excited! They’ve always enjoyed school and are looking forward to getting back into a more formal educational setting.  We know it’s possible (and most likely probable) that they’ll get tired of it quickly.  We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I’ve heard from some people that their local school districts won’t allow for the flexibility we’re seeing.  I would suggest actually talking with the schools – you may be surprised.  I had no idea we could do a half/half program until I heard from another parent that they were doing it – so I asked.  Schools have realized that kids are all unique and need unique programs – and are allowing parents to tailor make programs for their children.

I would love to hear about your experiences with the public school system – good or bad.  Please leave comments below so other parents can get an idea of what options are out there and what obstacles they may face.

Daryl doing math

I’ve written fairly extensively about our sons’ education. Here are a few of those blog posts in case you are interested in seeing what we’ve done.

Why go now? Take your children traveling

Education = Learning = School?

How can travel help kids learn?

Travel can help foster creativity in children

Roadschooling: What materials do you need to homeschool on the road?

Roadschooling

And here is our general resource page with lots of info on all aspects of travel

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Davy’s thoughts on being back

It’s great being back in America. I have gotten to know the kid living in our house and he has airsoft guns (BB guns)! We play with him whenever we go over there. He said that I could have his Legos because he never uses them but I haven’t taken them yet. Me and Daryl have BB wars while Caleb (the boy who is in our house) sits behind a tree and reloads guns.

We have gotten most of the stuff over to the apartment. Dad is sleeping there while the rest of us sleep at Rachel’s and Patrick’s. Dad got Civ 3 (I think) on his computer (not laptop) and is playing it a lot.

Our welcome back party was very good. We had a lot of cake and some pie and a bit of pizza. A decent amount of people showed up and we had too much cake and pie. We brought it back and ate it later.

I am now on the computer at Rachel and Patrick’s house doing my journal on their computer with two monitors (AWESOME).

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Brain in a Blender

I expected our return to be hectic.  I expected to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off as we frantically tried to line up a place to stay and get stuff out of storage and arrange for the kids to go back to school and do all those other things I knew would pop up.  But dang! I did NOT expect to feel like I’ve taken my head and crammed it into a blender turned on high.  Brain puree.

Our plan had been so reasonable.  Because we didn’t know what our long-term plans were, we would rent a house with a 6-month lease while we figured things out.  At that point, we would either hit the road again or kick the tenants out of our house.  It sounded so…  I dunno – easy, perhaps?

But once we got here reality struck.  Finding a 6-month lease on a house is impossible and we aren’t willing to sign for a year.  And we started feeling really badly about kicking out the tenants – they’ve made the house their home, after all.  All of a sudden, our world had turned upside down and sideways all at once.

Fortunately, our property manager had a small apartment sitting empty, so she’s offered to let us use it for the time we need.  We can be there two weeks or two months or however long we need.  What a godsend!  We will be moving a few mattresses and a couple pots and pans in there and will basically camp out until we find something a bit more permanent.

But still – that’s only a band-aid.  A temporary fix to get us out of the tents.  The real problem still remains.

We’ve also come to the realization that we don’t need a 2000 sq ft house.  I mean – we’re only four people!  What would we do with that much space?  We had two empty rooms before we left on our adventure, and would most likely have four empty now.  Our house is just too big.

Wednesday afternoon as we batted around options with our property manager, the idea of a new house came up.  “I know someone who just bought a house two weeks ago for $50K,” she told us.  “It sold in 2005 for $169K.”  Hmmm….

Thursday our real estate agent headed out to check out houses; Friday she took us to three; Friday afternoon we put in a bid.  How’s that for moving fast???

I seriously doubt we will get the house we bid on as we put in a real lowball offer.  But still – just the very idea that we’ve only been in Idaho four days and have already put a bid on a house is blowing me away.  We typically aren’t quite THAT spontaneous!

And so – our reentry into American life has been a whirlwind and we’re still caught up in it big time.  We have to sort out the housing thing and talk to the schools and get some new clothes for the boys and go through all our junk in the barn and figure out what we will throw away and…  It doesn’t seem like it will ever end.

But it will.  And then we’ll be wishing it hadn’t.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Welcome Home!!!

We made it to Boise last night – after three flight delays and one flight cancellation.  Even  so – *poof* and we’re magically 10,000 miles north.  Wow – what a concept!

Boise came out to greet us in style last night.  We were THRILLED by all the welcome signs – what a special way to end one adventure and start another.  Thanks Boise, for the warm welcome!

Welcome to Boise!

Welcome to Boise

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

On the Edge (Again)

I’ve been feeling nervous lately.  Really nervous.  As in, thinking about going back to Idaho and my brain goes haywire thinking about all the things that can go wrong.  Thinking about how I have no idea how to function in American society and yet I have to navigate the whole tricky process of renting a house and getting electricity and a phone and internet and all that other stuff one needs to do when moving into a new house.  I need to register my car and get all our stuff out of storage.  Our To-Do List is growing longer by the minute.

But I couldn’t figure out why I was so nervous.  I’m just going back to Boise, how hard can that be?

This morning as I stood in the shower and warm water trickled down my body, I realized I’m feeling the exact same way I felt three years ago as I stared at those eight boxes stacked in my driveway.

I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a cliff – about to throw myself off into the abyss below. No safety net, no idea how far down, no nothing. Just jump, and hope like hell that someone reaches out His hand and catches us.

boxes in driveway

And that’s when it hit me – what I’m feeling is nothing more than your normal ol’ pre-adventure jitters.

So that confirms it – I’m moving on to another adventure.  Just like three years ago, I have no idea where I’m going. I have no safety net.  No idea where I’ll land.  I’m just going to jump and we’ll figure it out as we go.

I’m sitting here in our hostel staring at those six boxes stacked in our room and I wonder what adventures are to come.  It’ll be different from what we’ve been doing, that I know.  But I’m excited about the possibilities and wonder where this next adventure will take us.

And you know what?  Now that I’ve realized I’m heading off on a brand new adventure, I’m not nearly as scared.

all packed up

PS: John got the video of northern Argentina done!  I forgot how windy it was up there – way worse than Patagonia.  And we hadn’t expected it there…

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Finding the Exotic in the Mundane

I’ve been thinking about the future a lot these days, seeing as how I’m lost in a sea of options. Every day for the past three years we knew what we were doing; where we were going.  We woke up and knew we would be getting back on the bikes and pedaling south. We may take a day or 30 off and we may take a detour here or there, but we knew where we were headed.  Now, we’re lost.  Directionless.  Adrift in a whole sea of options.

It’s a bit confusing to think about all the options in this great big world of ours.  We could, quite literally, go anywhere and do anything. How does one go about narrowing it down to doing just one thing?

But one of the biggest obstacles I’m facing right now is that whole “perception” thing.

We’ve been living the dream for so long, we expect nothing less from ourselves.  We lived and taught in foreign countries for fourteen years.  We’ve traveled the world on our bikes for five.  We’re out there, doing it.  Doing what so many Americans dream of doing.  We’re living the dream big time.

Nancy in Colombia

For the past couple months, my inbox has been filled with people wondering what’s next.  How does one “top” an adventure like ours?  What kind of bigger and better event will come now?

I think there is a mindset in America and many other parts of the world that we always need to move on to bigger things.  We earned five million dollars this year, next year we’ll earn six!  Onward and upward! Bigger equals better.

And yet, I’m not sure there needs to be a bigger and better.  Maybe we’ve done the biggest and the best and there is no need to top it.  Maybe it can stand on its own.

I’ve learned a thing or two on this journey of ours, and one of them is that exotic is in the mind of the beholder. Living the dream can happen anywhere.

Once upon a time I used to look at all those “foreign” cultures and saw how different they were.  How unusual and interesting and mysterious and glamorous…  They dressed differently than I did, their houses were different, the food they ate was different.  I traveled because travel was… well, exotic.

But now, I’ve been around the block a time or two and my perceptions have changed.  I’ve seen that all humanity is more similar than different. We are more alike than unlike.  We all have the same basic needs and we all develop our cultures based on the world around us.  We eat foods that grow locally; we build houses with materials nature provides for us.

building a house

And after all this, I’ve come to the conclusion that the USA is a great place to live.  Not because we’re “rich” or because we have this, that, and the other.  It’s because we have everything – deserts, mountains, seasons, coasts…  It’s a lovely place with amazing vistas you can reach from your doorstep no matter where that doorstep happens to be.

And yet – the USA is not “exotic”.  It’s not unusual and interesting and mysterious and glamorous.  Or is it?

I feel so fortunate that I can live in the USA.  I can travel the USA for years and years and not need a visa stamp in a passport to do it.  My friends from other countries are limited to a short three-month visit, but I can stay as long as I want.  No paperwork, no visa applications, no bother.

And you know what?  The USA IS exotic! It’s beautiful and glamorous and striking and out of the ordinary.  It also happens to be home.

I keep hearing from others that we’ll be off again soon – and we very well might be.  But maybe we’ll stay in Boise, Idaho and enjoy the exotic right there.

We’ve toyed with all the options – staying in Boise, continuing to travel full time, living in another country, travel half time…  And all those options are still open, but I wonder about the “why”.

We could move to Argentina or Honduras or Thailand or Spain, but why?  Would our lives really be that different?  Better?  We would still have to wash our clothes and do the dishes.  We would need to clean the house and go grocery shopping and fix flat tires and pay the bills. We would just be doing the mundane in another place. Is that what exotic is all about?

I don’t know which option of many we’ll choose in the future, but I do know it’ll be exotic.  It will be out of the ordinary and exciting.  Even if it is Boise.

long road ahead

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Packing up

We’ve been busy packing bikes, trailer, and gear for our flight to Buenos Aires tonight.  We will be there for a few days before we head north to Idaho.

I’m getting excited.  Our bags are packed and we’ve now got a pile of boxes just like we did three years ago.  We have finished one adventure and are moving on to the next!  I can’t wait to get back to Boise and see what life will bring our way – it’s sure to be interesting, whatever it is!

Matador Network just posted a fabulous interview with the boys – please check it out and leave comments for them!  I’ll be sure to have them read it when we have time.

From Davy: Today I got up thinking that I was going to have to light a fire in the room that we were going to pack everything up in, but someone already did. I just got up and went over there with Mom’s BOB bag. Mom brought all the food she had over and we ate most of it by noon.

Dad thought that it wasn’t worth even trying to pack up because there was no way we could pack everything up by 10:00. Mom got him to start and we ended up getting most of the stuff done by 1:00. Me and Daryl had to help a lot but I ended up with three chores and Daryl two. I had to start a new fire because it went out and we both had to do a journal and take a shower.

From Daryl: Today is the day that we are going to go to Buenos Aires. We had to do a surprising amount of packing. There were the bikes which took a long time. We had to take the wheels, handlebars, and a bunch of other stuff. Then there was the B.O.B and a bunch of other stuff.

There was some food that we weren’t allowed to bring with us. I ate as much of it as I could but didn’t eat much. Davy and I had to take showers and do journals. Now pretty much all there is to do is wait till 10:00 pm for our plane.

——-

The bikes had not been taken apart for three years and we weren’t quite sure what we would find. There were a few rusted bolts that took a bit of persuasion, but in the end they all came apart with little hassle.

Packing up the bikes

It was very cold outside, but we the campground had a nice large room with a wood stove to keep us warm.  It got a bit smoky at times, though.

Packing up

I will admit it’s sad to see my bike all packed up.  Bikes are for riding, not to sit in a box!

my bike - all packed up

We couldn’t find boxes the right size for the bikes, so ended up having to make our own.

Making boxes for the bikes

The tandem was the last bike as that’s the hardest.  We weren’t quite sure how it would fit.

Packing up

We ended up putting the tandem in a “halfbox” and then wrapped the whole thing with layers and layers of plastic wrap.  Hope it holds!

Packing the tandem

While John and I were packing, the boys were working on their last math assignment of the trip.  Davy just finished Algebra 1 and Daryl had hoped to finish Algebra 2, but still has one more chapter to go.

Daryl doing final math assignment

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel