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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Changing Gears

"'Living your dream won't always be easy or fun,' I told the kids, 'but it will always be wonderful.  When you truly make the decision to live your dream and do your big thing, you'll forge ahead even in the hard times" (p. 266).
Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World is Nancy Sathre-Vogel's memoir of her family's three year journey from one end of the earth to the other, literally. The family of four set out on their Pan American excursion when their twin boys were ten years old, traveling from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. One thousand eighteen days and 17,285 miles! To grasp the scope of this, I looked at our globe, and it is startling to see that they really did cross the curve of the globe. Seeing their path on a flat map does not do it justice. Downsizing in every sense of the word from a large house in the suburbs, two cars, two jobs, to a few bicycles with trailers and saddle bags, the Vogel family stored, sold, and packed their former lives and began their journey of a lifetime.

This book is written like a journal, and the author includes small map insets to track their progress as each segment of the family's travels is documented. Her candid style reveals that the Vogels, while extraordinary in this feat, are really just an ordinary family. As a mom, I could relate to many of her worries and fears and her ability to overcome these hurdles and press on. Talk about the ultimate homeschooling experience! The Vogel boys learned from the world at its extremes first-hand, and I am sure they will never look at it the same again -- immersed in nature and different cultures, overcoming bears and biting flies, becoming self-sufficient, solving problems, learning to communicate in a different language, and growing into their teen years:
"We had all been taught in school that it was hot at the equator, but our experience was different.  As we neared the equator I wondered what other 'facts' about our world were wrong.  How many times do we try and generalize something that can't be generalized?  I was glad my sons were learning first-hand rather than relying upon school books" (p. 158).

Changing Gears contains many photographs and recounts both the harrowing and defeating situations and the joyous times the Vogel family lived. My kids have enjoyed flipping through and looking at the pictures of the Vogel boys and the places they visited. This book is a great resource to have for our homeschool, and we will pull it out frequently to read about the places and cultures we study. It is an interesting, thought-provoking, honest account, and I learned things about the world I didn't know from this travel-log. Changing Gears is more than just a cycling adventure story, however, and Nancy Sathre-Vogel showed me that the journey is the reward.

They made it!

{The author provided a review copy of this book.}