Life Doesn’t Come With a Money-Back Guarantee

“Aren’t you scared?” a friend asked me the other day.  “Aren’t you afraid something might happen on your trip?”

“Of course,” I replied.  “I’m afraid every day of my life.  I’m afraid I’ll fall down the stairs in the morning.  I’m afraid my boys’ bus driver will fall asleep at the wheel.  I’m afraid we will get one of those tainted burgers tomorrow.  Aren’t we all scared?”

I think each of us needs to have a healthy fear of the unknown – it keeps us safe.  But I also believe we can’t allow that fear to paralyze us into inaction.  Way back when I was in high school one of my teachers signed my yearbook, “Always  remember – if you smile at the world, the world will smile back.”  I truly believe that is true, and that is how I try to live my life.  I want my boys to have that same attitude.  I don’t want them to be scared of the unknown.  I don’t want them to be paralyzed by fear.  I want them to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that almost all people in this world are good, caring, kind, and giving people.  And that’s what I think we are showing them. 
I’m not so naive as to believe nothing can happen to us.  I know we could get in an accident or we could be attacked by some weirdo.  But you know what?  That could happen here in Boise, Idaho too.  I find it ironic that we cycled 9300 miles around the USA and Mexico without incident, and then within a few months of arriving “home”, two incidents happened that very well could have been life-threatening.  rattlesnakes We took our boys out hiking on an old extinct volcano just south of home.  As John and I walked back to the car on the dirt road, the kids took off across the desert.  A few minutes later we heard, “Daddy!!  Daddy!!  Daryl’s trapped by rattlesnakes!”  John bolted across the desert to find Daryl frozen in place with not one, but two, rattlesnakes a mere 24 inches from his feet.  Fortunately, Daryl knew to freeze in place rather than panic, and John was able to slowly pick him up and carry him to safety.  Then a few weeks later I was hit by a car while riding my bike home from work.  Fortunately, it wasn’t major, but I took the fall on my elbow which was pretty badly bruised and scraped up. 
So I guess my point here is that stuff happens.  But it can happen at home too.  Why should I (or anyone else) think we are more likely to run into problems in Portland or Bakersfield or Mazatlan?  Don’t get me wrong – I would be devastated if something were to happen to any of us – any parent would.  But I don’t feel like we are doing anything particularly dangerous.  I see families out cycling around here in Boise all the time, and people seem to think that’s a good wholesome family activity.  If we put panniers on our bikes and go ride around Boise, does that somehow make it more dangerous?
But it all comes back too the fact that we can’t truly protect our kids (or animals) from everything.  Life doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee.  One day when I was in high school a bunch of ambulances came screaming by my house and stopped at a house a block away.  A while later they left quietly.  I found out the following day a little 6-year-old boy had slipped in the bathtub, hit his head, and died.  So do I not allow my kids to take a bath?  At what point do we draw the line?
I think our journey is a great metaphor for life.  As we walk through our journey here on Earth, there are no guarantees that all will be smooth sailing.  We are faced with challenges every single day of our lives.  Some people will allow those challenges to overwhelm them, and some will choose to look them in the face, battle it out, and overcome.  My boys now know they can overcome adversity.  And they know life isn’t all smelling the roses.  They know they will pass through trials and tribulations just like us all.  But they also know that perseverance and determination can get them through.  They just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and not give up.  And that’s what life is all about.

*****This article is part of a series of articles on the dangers of travel.

How dangerous is family bike touring?

Life doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee

Risk Assessment – A personal decision

Isn’t bike touring dangerous?

Acceptable level of risk

Nancy Sathre-Vogel author

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world. Test

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15 Responses to Life Doesn’t Come With a Money-Back Guarantee

  1. Eric Tepner February 10, 2008 at 6:17 pm #

    Is it possible to be a fan of a family? We have certainly been fans of the Vogels since we started reading your online journal – I think it was around Big Sur. You have been real inspirations as my son and I will be embarking on a (mere) 500 mile tandem ride down the Pacific coast this summer. We’re glad to hear that you are doing your Alaska-Argentina trip sooner than later (I think I read somewhere that you were starting off in ’09 rather than ’08.) My wife grew-up in Argentina and we have been down many times – though not on bikes. Perhaps our paths will cross on our next trip down, which will be sometime in ’09. I wish you guys luck and can’t wait to start reading your journals again on a daily basis. By the way, when does the book come out?

    Eric and family


  2. nancy February 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm #

    Thank you so much Eric! How old is your son? I hope your journey is as magical as ours was!

    We had originally planned to take off in June ’09, but decided to move it up a year – YIKES! We’ve got a TON of stuff to do before we leave, but it’ll come together somehow – it always does.

    I’ve now finished a rough draft of my book and have distributed it to a few people to get their opinions on it – I need fresh eyes to let me know where I need to clean it up or elaborate or whatever. Once that’s done, I’ll start the process of trying to get it published – no idea how long that might take!!

    Thanks for following along with us!


  3. Julie Fletcher February 10, 2008 at 8:15 pm #

    I can’t believe I haven’t visited before. As often as I see your link on AW, too.

    You are so right. We cannot protect our children from every single thing that can hurt them, though we can teach them as many skills as possible.

    My nearly 6 year old is autistic, so I find my self worrying constantly. It is so hard to be a parent and not try to eliminate all that can hurt your child.

    I wish you a lot of luck with your upcoming adventure?


  4. nancy February 10, 2008 at 8:31 pm #

    Great to see you here, Julie! I think we, as parents, are constantly trying to protect our children from everything that can possibly harm them – and yet we have to let them live and experience too. It’s a fine line to walk.

    Give your son a hug from me, ‘kay??



  5. Amy Doodle February 11, 2008 at 7:52 pm #

    I don’t comment much, but I want you to know I check in to keep up with your progress toward your upcoming trip. You’re having adventures and learning lessons that your kids will remember for the rest of their lives. I’m inspired by your family!


  6. nancy February 11, 2008 at 8:07 pm #

    Thanks so much Amy! I totally agree that our kids are learning lessons they will take with them the rest of their lives. It’s fun to watch them learn!



  7. Rodney June 30, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    For the record, I too am a huge fan of the Vogels. I started reading the last journal when you were in Texas. I was so bummed that I didn’t find you sooner. I wanted to buy the boys some wet suits when you were in Oregon. I went to high school in Los Angeles and know all too well how cold the water can be.


  8. Stille February 15, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    I think that what these people mean is that when travelling, you have so much less resources on which you can rely if something goes pear-shaped. Not to mention that unfamiliar dangers always seem more frightening than the ones you know. I truly admire what you’re doing.


  9. Torre (@fearfulgirl) April 17, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    Beautiful words, gave me tingles.



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