Meet the travel bloggers: Family on Bikes

This week, our Meet the Travel Bloggers’ spotlight is on travel blogger Nancy Sathre-Vogel, aka “Mom” of Family on Bikes, a popular travel blog that chronicled the family’s three year bike journey from Alaska to the tip of Argentina.

When, why and how did you start your travel blog?
I never set out to start a blog. In fact, I had never heard the word “blog”. I created an “online journal” because the word “diary” sounded too teenager-ish. In 2006, we were getting ready to head out with our 8-year-old twins to ride bikes around America and I wanted some way to let my mom know where we were and what we were doing. An online journal sounded like the perfect way to do that.

travel blogger The Vogel family entering Oregon Entering Oregon, photo Family on Bikes

The Vogel family entering Oregon on their first bike trip  in 2006 photo/Family on Bikes

Imagine my surprise when, all of a sudden, random strangers from all parts of the world started sending me messages! I had no idea that strangers could or would read someone’s personal diary. In fact, after two months on the road, we were getting about 500 page views per day and I was very, very curious about those people. “Who are you and why are you reading my journal?” I asked.

Once I got over the hurdle of feeling like “they” were invading my personal space, I realized I enjoyed writing for a greater audience. When I got my first email saying we had inspired someone else to take THEIR children on a bike trip across the USA, I was hooked. In the fall of 2007 we migrated to our own site and have been there ever since.

travel blogger biking through snow photo Family on Bikes

Biking through the snow in Montana, September 2008, photo/Family on Bikes

How did you get the name Family on Bikes and what does the name mean to you?
We are a family and we travel on bikes. We needed to get both of those words in the name and there weren’t a lot of options to do that. Although we are no longer traveling on bikes, we will forever be known as the family who took that outrageous trip on bikes, so we’re sticking with the name.

What is the thing that keeps you the most jazzed about blogging?
I absolutely love it when I hear that we, in some small way, inspired others to chase their dreams. I used to be baffled when I got emails saying we had inspired them to sail around the world or ride a horse across France, but I finally realized it’s all about pursuing your passion and following your dream – wherever that leads you. For us, it meant riding bicycles the length of the Americas; for others it’s something different. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the dream is, just that you chase it.

travel blogger On Alaska's Dalton Highway, photo Family on Bikes

On Alaska’s Dalton Highway at the beginning of the journey photo/ Family on Bikes

What excites you about travel?
I’ve come full circle on that one. When I first started traveling back in the 80’s, I was in awe of how different everything was. I had thought that everybody lived the same way I did in Boise, Idaho and was stunned to find that wasn’t the case. I loved the different way of speaking and dressing. I loved the variety in foods and the way houses were built. It was all so different and exciting and exotic.

Over time, I’ve come to see how much we are all the same. All those things that used to be so huge in my eyes are now trivial differences. If we can strip all those things away, underneath them, we are all the same. It’s exciting to see that – and to see how my children have already learned that lesson at such a young age.

travel blogger Entering Honduras photo Family on Bikes

Arriving in Honduras, photo/Family on Bikes

How has traveling with kids changed the way you travel?
I think it’s natural for our traveling style to evolve through time. Before I met my husband, I traveled fairly extensively on my own. Once I started traveling with him, it changed in many ways. When our twins were born, it changed again. When our twins were a bit bigger, it changed yet again. I think the major difference for us has been that we travel much more slowly with kids. When they were tiny babies, we continued to travel but took our time and spent more time on the beach. That’s not to say we didn’t continue to do adventurous things – our boys climbed Mt. Sinai just before their first birthday – but we did those things more slowly and cautiously.

My husband and I had traveled quite extensively on bicycles before our boys were born and we gave up bike touring for seven years once they entered our lives. When the boys were 8, we decided we could head back out on the bikes with the boys in tow.

How did you come up with the idea of your epic bike journey?
It never started out as an epic journey. It was going to be a one-year career break and one year only. We would take the boys out of third grade and cycle around the USA in order for our sons to get to know their country. The plan was that we would, after that year, return to work and the boys would return to school and we would carry on with life as we knew it. That obviously didn’t happen.

While cycling the Pacific coast, we met other cyclists on the Alaska-Argentina route and we immediately decided we wanted to do it. We were very tempted to just keep going south! As it happened, we realized we weren’t prepared for a journey of that scale – the bikes we had weren’t adequate, we hadn’t prepared our house for three years away, and our finances were in shambles. We stuck with our plan to explore our own country for the year and decided to cycle the Americas at a later date. A year later, we flew to Alaska and started cycling south.

travel blogger Panama canal photo Family on Bikes

The boys at the Panama canal, photo/Family on Bikes

What was the biggest challenge you encountered on the road from Alaska to Argentina?
Ummm… being chased by a bear? I’m not sure that qualifies as a challenge, per se, but it was probably the most terrifying moment I’ve ever dealt with. As far as challenges, I would have to say the biggest challenge was keeping all four of us fed and healthy. Finding food in large cities was easy, but we spent the majority of our time in small villages where healthy food that we could carry on our bikes was hard to find. By the end of our journey I was a master of piecing together meals out of nothing.

Knowing what you know now, would you have made the same choice then?
You bet. It was wonderful for all four of us and I am thrilled that we were able to do it.

On the road, do you seek out some experiences more than others?
We quickly discovered that the “tourist” activities were boring and trivial after spending all our time immersed in the real deal. Although there were a few tourist attractions we enjoyed (Galapagos, Nazca Lines, Panama Canal), we found the tourist attractions were very superficial and artificial. We preferred seeing real people do real things in real environments. Fortunately, traveling on bicycles put us right there.

travel blogger Fixing a flat tire in Argentina photo Family on Bikes

A beautiful place for a flat tire in Argentina, photo/Family on Bikes

What’s your most memorable travel experience or favorite trip ever and why?
I think the travel experience that has had the greatest impact on my life was a family trip to Mexico when I was 16. My parents took us to Mexico and I wandered the streets in wide-eyed amazement. A flame thrower on a random street in Mexico City changed my life forever. I wrote about that experience.

What’s your favorite place on earth? Why?
Boise, Idaho. When we finished our trip to the ends of the world, the whole world was our oyster. We could, quite literally, go anywhere. We could have moved to Argentina or Spain or Mexico or Thailand, but we opted to move back to Boise, Idaho. Although Boise isn’t perfect, I’ve realized that no place is and I can’t think of anywhere BETTER than Boise. I grew up in Boise and, although I no longer have any family here, it will always be home. It’s a nice place to live and explore, has wonderful educational programs for our sons, and is comfortable.

travel blogger On the road in Argentina photo Family on Bikes

Heading downhill in Argentina, photo/Family on Bikes

Where are you off to next?
We were recently gifted a small cottage on the Connecticut shore that we will fix up, so we’ll be spending summers there for the next few years. We will spend the school year in Idaho and summer at the cottage. Sounds like a dream life to me!

I’ve traveled pretty much full-time for 28 years and have finally reached a point where (I think) I’m done traveling. I accept that that might change in time and, if it does, I’m good with heading out to travel again. For now, I am loving being home.

What’s the biggest fantasy on your bucket list and why?
It’s funny; I don’t really have one. There are a lot of places that I would kinda, sorta like to go to, but it’s not high enough priority to pull me away from my beads at this point. I’ve traveled extensively, seen a lot (but by no means all!), and am content to move on to other things now. I love writing and beading and am spending my time doing that. I can’t think of a better life.

Is there anything we haven’t asked that you feel you’d like to share about your travels or your blog?
Although I no longer want to travel, I’ve realized it was never about the travel at all – it was about pursuing my passion and following my dream. My passion and dream for many years was travel, but now that has changed. I think it’s important that we allow ourselves the freedom to change as time passes by; what’s important to us one year may not be the following year. Pay attention to YOU and pursue YOUR passion at all times. It can be hard to change gears after chasing after one dream for many years, but it’s well worth it in the end.

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The end of the road, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost part of the journey, photo/Family on Bikes

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is otherwise known as Mom to readers of her blog, Family on Bikes, a family of four who rode their bikes from Alaska to Argentina. They are now working to encourage and inspire others to live their dream. Nancy is also a bead artist, making unique pieces from beads she’s collected during her travels throughout the world. You can see her beadwork here. You can follow her on Twitter and “like” Family on Bikes on Facebook.

Do you have a favorite travel blogger you want to see in a Meet the Travel Bloggers post. Let us know.






4 Responses to “Meet the travel bloggers: Family on Bikes”

  1. Claire
    September 4, 2019 at 7:09 am #

    Family on Bikes’ travels are inspiring. I’m going to check out their blog and read about their long ride.

    • Billie Frank
      September 4, 2019 at 7:10 am #

      We agree! We are awed by their accomplishments.

  2. payje
    September 4, 2019 at 4:29 pm #

    OH my gosh this is so amazing. I’ve heard of people doing the AK-Argentina trip on a motorcycle, and maybe on a bike, but on a bike with kids is just so incredible. This really inspired me in a way that nothing else has for a while, thank you sooo much for sharing it!
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