The Vogel family after biking from Alaska to Argentina!

The Vogel family after biking from Alaska to Argentina!

Teaching Traveling: Today we chat with Nancy from the extremely famous and inspirational traveling Vogel family. If you haven’t heard what they’ve done, get ready to be shocked!

Nancy, tell us about your background.

Nancy: I grew up in Boise, Idaho and, after six long years in university, graduated with a degree in teaching. Immediately upon graduation, I headed off to Honduras to work as a Peace Corps Volunteer establishing resource room for handicapped children. It was an exciting program as prior to that, handicapped kids had no opportunity to attend classes and were simply locked away in the homes. When I came back to the USA, I moved to the Navajo reservation and taught Special Ed there. It was wonderful to learn about the Native American cultures in my own country.

John and Nancy on top of Khunjerab Pass between China and Pakistan in 1990. (15397 feet)

John and Nancy on top of Khunjerab Pass between China and Pakistan in 1990. (15397 feet)

After that I taught Special Ed for a few years in Albuquerque, then switched over to elementary education and moved overseas. For the next twelve years I taught in international schools in Egypt, Ethiopia, Taiwan and Malaysia.

In 2006, my husband and I decided we were tired of spending all our time with other people’s kids and not enough with our own, so we quit our jobs and set out to see the world from the seat of a bicycle. Together as a family, we’ve now cycled 27,000 miles through fifteen countries.

TT: Amazing!!! Tell us more about your epic travels.

N: From 2008 – 2011, we rode our bikes from Alaska to Argentina. It was a journey that spanned nearly three years, 15 countries, and 17,300 miles. It was a remarkable experience for all four of us and we learned many life lessons that will help us tremendously in wherever life leads.

TT: How did you find this travel opportunity?

N: How did we find it? We made it. We met some other cyclists riding the length of the Americas and thought, “If they can do it, surely we can do it too.” So we did. No, it wasn’t easy. No, it wasn’t handed to us on a silver platter, but we made it happen.

TT: Love it!!! How did you find the money to fund this travel?

Nancy explains: "At the border between Pakistan and China, we were very nervous to approach the border as independent tourism on bikes wasn't allowed in China. We had no idea what the guards might do. In the end, they were wonderful and even allowed us to spend the night in their barracks."

Nancy explains: "At the border between Pakistan and China, we were very nervous to approach the border as independent tourism on bikes wasn't allowed in China. We had no idea what the guards might do. In the end, they were wonderful and even allowed us to spend the night in their barracks."

N: We are fortunate to own our house outright so we were able to rent the house and that paid for about half of our expenses. The rest we took out of our retirement account. The way we figured it, we would rather than the time with our children now, than to have a more comfortable retirement.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.

N: I’ve been traveling for most of 28 years, so have LOTS of those moments. I think the most rewarding was the day I was walking through the market in Ecuador with my 11-year-old son. Davy looked at me and said, “Mom, why are Americans so afraid to travel? They think that as soon as they leave the USA, they’ll be robbed, hurt, or killed, but when I look around all I see are nice people. These people here aren’t hurting or robbing us – I don’t understand why so many people are afraid of them.”

John cycling past a mud brick mosque in Mali in 1996.

John cycling past a mud brick mosque in Mali in 1996.

I so wish more people understood the truth of his words. If we could overcome all the fears and prejudices and look at people as simply fellow inhabitants of our planet, I think the world would be a better place.

TT: Amen! Wise son! How have your travels impacted you as a teacher, and in your current career?

N: My travels impacted my teaching for 19 years! Whenever I traveled to a new place I always made a point of working what I saw and learned into my classes. Sometimes I had my kids do extensive units where we learned about other countries; sometimes it was just stories interjected here and there. But always, always, I tried to get my kids to look beyond the USA and understand we’re part of a great big connected world.

Nancy Explains: "Me cycling in Mali. We had the brilliant idea of taking off across a dirt road the map showed cutting through the desert. As we progressed farther, the road condition deteriorated and eventually the road turned into nothing more than a small trail. People assured us that Djenne was "that way" so we kept going - for about 80 miles along the little trail going through the desert. We were thrilled when we finally emerged from the desert!"

Nancy Explains: "Me cycling in Mali. We had the brilliant idea of taking off across a dirt road the map showed cutting through the desert. As we progressed farther, the road condition deteriorated and eventually the road turned into nothing more than a small trail. People assured us that Djenne was "that way" so we kept going - for about 80 miles along the little trail going through the desert. We were thrilled when we finally emerged from the desert!"

TT: Beautiful, and so important. How have your travels impacted you as a person?

N: They’ve defined me in more ways than one. Because I’ve been around so much, I understand that I am just a very, very small part of the whole. I see how all continents and countries fit together and how we’re all so interconnected. I can’t consider only America without seeing how my own country affects all the others.

TT: What advice do you have for other teachers who are dreaming of travel?

N: I don’t know anything about teaching English, but any professional certified teachers who are looking to teach in international schools should check out International School Services and Search Associates. There are some others, but these two will give you a good idea on how to get started.

The boys were 10 when the Vogel family set off from Alaska to cycle south to the tip of Argentina.

The boys were 10 when the Vogel family set off from Alaska to cycle south to the tip of Argentina: 17,300 miles through 15 countries!

And “Road-schooling” is another option.

Our boys were 10 when we set off from Alaska to cycle south.

They were 13 when we arrived in Ushuaia, at the southern tip of South America. We had spent three years cycling 17,300 miles through 15 countries.

TT: Thanks so much, Nancy!

What I LOVE about the story of the Vogel family is that it shows that anyone who puts their mind to travel can make it happen.

It IS possible to travel with young kids.

It IS possible to travel on a teacher’s salary.

The Vogel family flew to Ethiopia when their twin sons were a mere six weeks of age.

The Vogel family flew to Ethiopia when their twin sons were 6 weeks.

It IS possible to have a wonderful, safe time in parts of the world that many people deem “too dangerous”, from Yemen to Mexico!

It IS possible to bicycle over 27,000 miles… with a family of four!

Thanks, Nancy and the Vogel family, for being such an inspiration to us.

Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this amazing world biker and teacher?

For more on the wonderful exploits of the Vogel family, check out their website, Familyonbikes.org, follow them on Twitter at @FamilyOnBikes, or “Like” them on Facebook at their Family on Bikes Fan Page!

When their boys were in third grade, the Vogel family spent that year cycling around the USA and Mexico.

When their boys were in third grade, the Vogel family spent that year cycling around the USA and Mexico.

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Posted by Lillie

Lillie started TeachingTraveling.com in 2010 to share the infinite ways to combine education and world exploration. Lillie has been a Boston teacher since 2003, and chronicles her own travels at AroundTheWorldL.com.

2 Comments

  1. How wonderful. Great to read the Vogel’s family travel story. As to help teachers travel on a budget, please check the Teachers Travel Web website! Hospitality among colleagues!
    Great opportuity for all teachers!
    All the best,
    Chris

    Reply

  2. Thank you so much! I loved my many years teaching abroad and am thrilled that I had the opportunity to do it. I sincerely hope others can figure out a way to make it happen too!

    Reply

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