Families — Parents — Kids

Trip of A Lifetime: Vogel Family Completes 17,000-Mile Bike Ride from Alaska to Argentina

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Almost three years ago, in June of 2008, the Vogel four hopped on their bikes in Alaska and pedaled south, getting to know the nuances of a bicycle seat with, well, that part of your body you can't see. When they left, the twin boys were 10 years old. This week they're all finishing their trip at Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. To put that in lucid reality, that's a 17,000-mile bike ride. No wonder it took them over two years. We had to catch up with the Vogels to allow them a moment to reflect on what this meant to their family, how they've changed, and what they intend to do next.

Not too crazy about words? Skip to the 10 photos at the bottom.

Why do this on bikes? Did you consider another mode of travel?

There are so many reasons - but mostly we never even considered any other way. I've written about the advantages of travel on bikes here: Why I Prefer Traveling on a Bike (from editor: recommended reading)

So after a 17,000-mile bike ride, what's everyone's cholesterol level now?

No clue, but I hope it's OK!

Seriously, are you looking forward to re-entering the rat race?

I'm not sure we will ever truly be able to enter the rat race again . . . We plan to take at least 6 months in a rented house in Boise while we think about what we want to do now - it's hard to narrow it down when you quite literally can do anything. We do know that whatever we end up doing will be something we want to do - not something we feel we should do.

Best memory from the trip?

The best memories are simply of times we've had together - whether lying in the tent chatting at night or cycling along the road. It's been such a special time together and we feel so blessed that we've had this opportunity. We've had so many moments that have been memorable - many of them due to kind people who reached out to us to add magic to our journey. It may have been a family who handed us a bag of apples in Mexico, a man who offered us the use of his vacant home for the night in Colombia, or the kind soul who took us out to dinner last night. We've met wonderful people every time we've turned around and we're so glad our sons have learned that the vast majority of people in our world are wonderful people - not the ones you hear about on the nightly news!

Was there a point on the trip in which you thought, "I want to go home, now." Go ahead, spill it.

I'm the only one who ever reached that point - so I'll tell this one from my perspective. I wrote about it here: In a Funk. It was northern Peru and I felt like everything that could wrong was going wrong. I was tired. We battled headwinds. It was the pits. Daryll was the one who pulled me out of that funk. As we walked along the streets of Trujillo, Peru I was moaning and groaning and bitching about how horrible Peru was and how miserable I was... Daryl turned to me and said, "Mom, there's no sense in complaining - you won't change anything by complaining. All you can do is keep going and things will get better." I wish I had his wisdom.

Many people think Latin America is a dangerous place. Did you ever have a moment in which you thought your lives were at stake?

No. Never. There is one town in northern Peru (Paijan, just north of Trujillo) that is known for thieves targeting bicycle tourists. They see you enter town, then wait until you are about 10K out before getting in the moto-taxi and robbing cyclists at gunpoint. We had heard the stories so were pretty nervous, but ddin't have a problem at all. We cycled in on our own - looking for the police, but didn't find any. That night we got a hotel in town, then asked for a police escort out of town. It all worked fine and there was no problem at all.

Do your sons understand how unusual their achievement is? Do they feel like they missed out on anything by being "away" for so long?

On one level, they do understand how unusual this is, but mostly it's just normal life for them. We took off on our first long bike trip in 2006 when the boys were 8, so they've grown up on the bikes. This is just "life" - perfectly normal to them. I don't think they'll truly understand the specialnessness of it all until they are adults. Because this is normal life for the boys, they don't feel they've missed out on anything. Kids have this tendency to just accept life for what it is and don't feel they've missed what they don't know.

boy surfing in costa rica

boy scuba diving in the ocean

boy bungee jumping in central america or guatemala or costa rica or some place

boy with monkey in central america

family watches tortise at Galapagos Islands on an adventure trip on bikes

fixing flat tires on bikes

family rides bikes in South America, lake titicaca peru and bolivia

family riding bikes in Peru

family at Nazca, Nasca desert peru


Stephen Burton
0 / 0
# Stephen Burton 2011-03-01 09:45
This is a trio that I feel would be amazing. It is something that I would love to strive towards, but maybe not on a bike ;-). How did you plan for an adventure like this to afford life as you go? Cost of food, camp grounds, supplys. Any estinmate of a ball park figure of how much money was spent in this two year period?
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2011-03-01 14:37
Stephen, Nancy discusses how they funded the trip in this blog: How Do We Pay for our Extended Family Trip?

In it, she says they're essentially living on $1500 a month (family of four, remember).

There's not much of a secret to how to pay for these trips. Save, dip into savings, sell your possessions, and/or secure some sponsorship. There might be some other ways to do it....
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jeanne @soultraveler
+5 / 0
# jeanne @soultraveler 2011-03-01 16:47
This is so great..congrats to the Vogels! We're on our own open ended world tour as a family ( non-stop since 2006 to 39 countries on 5 continents on 23 dollars a day per person) www.soultravelers3.com/

So we first heard about the Vogels when they began and we were in Spain. So fun to watch the boys grow as they roam and break this record! We love biking too, but have used every method of travel from cargo ships to camels.Having family time together, shared adventure and meeting wonderful people does rock!

Kudos to them all!
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Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2011-03-01 17:06
true that, m'lady.
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Laurie A. Couture
+1 / -3
# Laurie A. Couture 2011-03-01 17:10
"Missed out"???? Is the interviewer JOKING? These children have had an experience of paradise, an experience that most people never behold in an entire lifetime! Imagine how this beautiful experience has shaped these children- they will know that they can accomplish any dream now! I am always amazed at how mainstream people cannot seem to fathom the Utopian lifestyle that unschoolers and other life learners live. It is as if it overwhelms their ability to metabolize the concept of it, they may feel a twinge of envy, and therefore they have to bring the focus back to the mundane life of our culture, assuring themselves that there's actually something in our robotic, materialistic, apathetic culture to miss out on!

Wonderful job, family! You all rock! You are AMAZING!
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Family on Bikes
+3 / 0
# Family on Bikes 2011-03-01 17:55
I do think my sons have gotten an awesome education, but they have missed out on some things too. In a few years when everybody in college is sitting around talking about their favorite old TV shows, my boys won't know what they're talking about... They won't be able to relate to charging out onto the playground to get the tether ball first... There are a lot of things they will have missed that "most" kids experienced.

That being said, they WILL have a ton of other experiences - scuba diving with turtles, snorkeling with sea lions, climbing Mayan pyramids, flying over the Nazca Lines, drinking Argentinian mate, seeing penguins, etc...

We are thrilled that we've been able to provide this life for our sons and truly believe it'll serve them well - but there are downsides to it too. As I've said before, every time we make a decision to DO something, we make a decision NOT TO DO something else. There is no right and wrong, just different.
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Mark Stephens
+4 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2011-03-01 21:40
Admittedly, I was leading Nancy with that question and she answered it wonderfully.

Anyone who's done a trip of this magnitude knows that it's not always perfection in paradise. And you have to make sacrifices such as leaving behind friendships to make a trip like this happen. So, yes, I was genuinely curious if the boys did feel like there was anything they missed because they are, after all, human - and I stand by that as a reasonable question to ask. If it's one I thing I do with this website it's do what I can to show the honesty of family adventure travel. People have many dimensions beyond what's defined by their travels.

I'm disappointed it wasn't apparent to you that the whole reason for posting up their story and their pictures was to say, "Way to go Vogels. You're an inspiration."
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+5 / 0
# JANNA RICE 2011-03-01 17:39
Thanks for having the courage to live the life you want, instead of just doing what is "normal". Your story is an inspiration and I am so glad to know that you made it! Your children are truly blessed to have the world as their classroom and their parents by their side as they become adults. You are heroes!
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Birthday Quotes For
+1 / 0
# Birthday Quotes For 2011-08-23 01:06
i really like this post thanks
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