A Different way of Traveling: Family on Bikes

Travel. It’s an interesting word. T-r-a-v-e-l. Six letters, and yet that simple little word means so many things to so many different people.

Family on Bikes

My concept of travel has changed throughout the years. When I was little, travel meant cramming all five of us kids into Mom and Dad’s station wagon and heading out to explore the nation. As a teenager, my definition suddenly changed to include hopping on an airplane to explore lands far and wide when my parents took my siblings and me to Mexico for the holidays.

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, travel meant traipsing along rough cow paths to remote villages to give a presentation, or jumping on a bus to a friend’s village eight hours away for a weekend with a buddy.

When I was in my late-20´s, travel changed yet again – this time into the concept of long-term travel. During my seven months vagabonding through Central and South America, I felt more alive than ever. Is this what travel is all about, I wondered?

Shortly thereafter I discovered bicycle touring – in both the USA and the Indian subcontinent – and was sure I had found nirvana. Now this is travel!

Life was good. I was traveling. Could I ask for anything more?

Once I got married, my husband and I continued to travel. We taught in international schools in countries across the globe and went out for bike tours on vacations. Yes, indeed, life was good.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, something was missing. Yes, hubby and I were out exploring the far corners of the globe. Yes, we were riding our bikes and seeing all the tiny little villages most travelers miss. Yes, we were enjoying life. It wasn’t until our twin boys came along that I realized what that missing piece of the puzzle was – seeing the world through the eyes of others.

Now, our boys are nearly 12 years old and they have traveled more than most people do in a lifetime. By the time they were two, they had crossed the Atlantic five times and been to six countries. They climbed Mount Sinai in backpacks on hubby and my backs. They played hide and seek in Buddhist stupas in Burma. They went to school with kids who spoke Chinese and Korean and Spanish and German. In short – the world has been their backyard.

Family on Bikes

And so my definition of travel has changed once again. Now, I see the world through the eyes of my boys. Travel is the norm. Travel is what we do. It’s not exotic and exciting and thrilling and mind-boggling. It’s just our life.

My boys were 8 when we first loaded them onto a fully loaded triple bike behind their father and took off to show them their country. We spent the next 12 months pedaling 9300 miles through 19 US states and 4 Mexican states. At first, the journey was exciting. The excitement of making it over our first pass or crossing a state line or pedaling 10 miles without a break pushed us on.

But it wasn’t long before that initial love affair was over and we settled in for the long run. We learned to manage our food so we weren’t famished. We learned to find camp sites that were comfortable. We learned what things we needed to carry in order to enjoy life on the road.

Now, our boys are nearly 12 and we are still on the road. We left the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska 18 months ago and have, so far, pedaled over 10,000 miles to Ecuador. We plan to keep going south until our wheels can go no farther.

Family on Bikes

And then? Only time will tell. I know we will continue to travel, and I know our travels will continue to evolve. We may end up putting down roots in our hometown in Idaho and travel through the adventures of middle America. We may up swapping bikes for backpacks. We may end up pedaling some more.

What I do know is that travel is a mindset. Travel is a way of looking at life. We are all on this journey called life, and we only have one chance to do it right. The key is to figure out what kind of travel makes you happy – and do it.

More on this Guest Blogger

The Vogel family aka @familyonbikes left June 8, 2008 for a 2 1/2 year bicycle trip traversing the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. About thirty months and 20,000 miles later they plan to arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina. This time they will be traveling with two single bikes and a tandem. The kids will be able to switch back and forth between the single and tandem. Read more on this great adventure on their blog: Family On Bikes.

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