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Interview: The Nomad Family on Bikes

Posted March 6, 2012 No comments

The first time I heard about what the Vogel family was up to… I wasn’t very sure what to think of it. I thought they were brave and adventurous. That they were very rich to be able to afford travelling the world by bike. That it was a one summer thing they were doing. Turns out it wasn’t. Not only that they are not rich, but they are sharing their story and their solution on their blog, Family on Bikes.

I soon discovered they were no newbies. They’ve been travelling the world for more than 20 years. As I am reading through one of their books, “What Were We Thinking?”, I realize how brave they really are. How much they’ve been through and what wonderful and inspiring people they are.

It’s impossible to capture all of that in one short interview. (Luckily they blog). But here’s a glimpse into Nancy Sathre-Vogel’s far from ordinary life.

eDreams: Nancy, can you tell our readers who don’t know you yet a little bit about you and about this strange family on bikes? Who are they? Why are they on bikes?

the Vogel family in the Andes

Nancy Sathre-Vogel: Strange? Who us? Couldn’t be! We are really a very normal American family who decided to follow our dreams. We figured life was too short to let it passing us by living a life others expected us to live rather than the life WE wanted.

We are Mom, Dad, and twin sons – the boys are now 14 years old. Our home base is Boise, Idaho, but we’ve spent the vast majority of the past three decades gallivanting around the planet in various capacities – backpacking, biking, volunteering, living the expat life…

You’ve recently biked more than 27 841km, travelling by bike from Alaska to Argentina. Is that really possible? How long did it take you?

Well, yes, it is possible. And more possible that many people think. We spent nearly three years on the road, but only cycled around 40% of the days. The other days we spent getting to know the people and cultures of the areas we passed through.

My sons don’t know anything else – they’ve traveled their whole lives. For them, it’s incomprehensible that people wouldn’t have traveled and gotten to see other cultures.

Camping in Peru

That sounds good. It sounds like you’re making time to… well… live! How important is it for you to get to know people and other cultures? What do the boys think?

In today’s interconnected world, I think it’s crucial. The world is becoming smaller by the day and people who do not have an understanding of other cultures will be at a disadvantage in the workforce. My sons don’t know anything else – they’ve traveled their whole lives. For them, it’s incomprehensible that people wouldn’t have traveled and gotten to see other cultures.

I think the first thing people tend to think about when envisioning a trip like ours are the tremendous challenges – the mountain passes that are higher than the highest peaks of Colorado, the headwinds, the heat and cold – and all those were there. However, there were many more moments of glorious spring days when we had the pleasure of spending our time out in Mother Nature’s delightful world, meeting people of all walks of life.

We travel self-contained – which means we carry everything we need on our bikes. We don’t have any kind of support vehicle carrying our gear.

What is your travel routine? Do you bike everyday? Do you integrate other means of transportation in your daily travelling?


There are many ways of bike touring and there is no right or wrong. We travel self-contained – which means we carry everything we need on our bikes. We don’t have any kind of support vehicle carrying our gear. We also pedaled every inch of the way; our sons wanted to break the world record as the youngest people to cycle the length of the Americas which meant they needed to pedal it all.

Did they break it?

They did break it. Guinness World Records, unfortunately, is no longer recognizing the “youngest” category of records, so they were not awarded the official award by GWR. That said, the fact that they are the youngest to do the ride is not in dispute.

As for our routine – we tend to take a long time to go a very little distance :) We pack up in the morning and set off cycling. Throughout the day we take a lot of breaks where we sit and chat and play. It can easily take us all day to make thirty miles! We traveled in a very relaxed manner.

reaching the Arctic Circle

Sounds like a lot of fun!

It is! We’re always puzzled when we ride with other people who just get on their bikes and ride like mad only to spend the rest of the day sitting in a hotel. We would rather spend the time out on the road!

There was no end to the kindness and generosity people displayed toward us.

Is there an emergency van or another person helping you along the way or is it just the four of you, all the time?

The amazing thing is all the Road Angels that come out of the woodwork to help us out. We don’t travel with them, but they find us – a lot. It varies tremendously what they do – maybe it’s a couple of kids who run over to us while we’re taking a break and hand us a bag of apples. Or a man who stops in his car and offers to guide us to a hotel – and then stops by three times a day to make sure we have everything we need. Or a restaurant owner flagging us over and serving us lunch. Or a woman handing us a gallon of water in the middle of a long stretch of nothing. Or a family inviting us to stay with them.

There was no end to the kindness and generosity people displayed toward us.

The Vogel Family reaching Ushuaia on bike

You need to keep your eyes and ears open, but in general traveling on bike is one of the safest ways to travel.

That’s amazing. Do these angels read the blog?

Some of them do. Many of them have read what I’ve written about them. Others we’ll never know who they are.

Is it safe to travel by bike nowadays?

Yes! Absolutely, positively YES! There are way more kind people in this world than there are bad. Drivers don’t want to hit you any more than you want to be hit. You need to keep your eyes and ears open, but in general traveling on bike is one of the safest ways to travel.

Thank you very much Nancy!

You can follow Nancy and her family on Twitter @familyonbikes. I am sure you have a lot of questions to ask.