“Sometimes you reach a crossroads in your life,” Michael said as we sat around the dinner table that evening, “and you have to choose which way to turn.” – Changing Gears (pg. 236)
No matter the path you choose, people who share pieces of your worldview will start to pop out of the woodwork. Every once in a while you will come across an individual, family, group, or organization that really inspires you to take your vision even further. Such was the case when I was given a copy of Nancy Sathre-Vogel’s ebook, Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World.
“What would you do if you were not afraid?”
This question is a running theme through all of Nancy’s work. She asks it of others and she asks it of herself. The answer for Nancy and her family? An epic journey from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and twin 10-year old boys….. on bikes.
Changing Gears is an honest account of the incredible highs and the difficult lows of undertaking such a journey. Beginning in Alaska, Nancy and family head south and learn about trust, fearlessness, and our world as they work their way steadily south. Like any mother, Nancy had fears. Could they do it? Was it a good decision for her boys? What would happen if something went wrong? But eventually Nancy realized something very important about fear….
As I cycled away, I started thinking about something I had read earlier. Researchers had found that about 40% of the things we worry about never happen, 30% are in the past and can’t be helped, 12% involve the affairs of others and are not our business, 10% percent relate to sickness, real or imagined. That meant only 8% percent of the things we tend to worry about are even likely to happen. (pg. 77)
When I started to think about my own fears in the context that Nancy provided, none of it seemed all that scary anymore.
Perhaps my favorite part of this book was the clarity with which both boys seemed to see the world. After crossing one more border Nancy congratulated her son, Daryl, to which he replied “What difference does it make, Mom? Crossing a border doesn’t change anything. A border is just a line on a map.” (pg. 127) The simplicity with which a young person can recognize the uselessness of political lines when it comes to people and places never ceases to amaze and inspire me.
Through the three years it took to complete this amazing journey, Nancy and her family faced intense scrutiny from critics. People who had never met this family accused Nancy and her husband of robbing their children of a childhood and taking them on a “forced march”. They could not conceive of any child having big goals or being able to make big decisions. The criticism must have been hard to bear and yet through it all, Nancy and her husband developed a deeper faith in their boys’ abilities rather than letting the naysayers dictate what these amazng boys could or could not do.
Changing Gears is one of those books that makes you want to re-evaluate what “success” means to you. Is “success” really defined by a certain type of job, a big house, and a nice car or does it look more like a really long, really hard, really rewarding journey from one tip of the world to the other with the people who matter most to you? Do children become “successful” through worksheets and a 9-3 school day or is a dose of adventure and experience needed to enhance that typical education? Are “successful” parents those who listen to their fears and doubts or those who listen to the dreams of their children and seek ways to make them happen?