I admit I was surprised when I was asked to review Nancy Sathre-Vogel’s current book “Changing Gears: A Family’s Odyssey to the End of the World” that chronicles her family‘s biking journey.
By any standard, I am not the outdoorsy type—I can’t even ride a bike. Nevertheless, I have to say I’m happy I agreed since the book is a definite ‘must read.’
Nancy is a natural-born storyteller who created quite the page-turner. She engages her readers from the start, and even the skeptics find themselves rooting for this family by the end of the first chapter.
She does not shy away from describing feeling beaten and wanting to give up—“…Sometimes you’ve had enough…you reach the end of your rope and can fight no longer…”— And portrays her adventure with brutal honesty that most parents with special-needs children will find refreshing.
Similarly, her stories of people writing disparaging remarks on her blog to criticize her parenting skills leaving her feeling hurt and second guessing her decisions will strike a cord with many exasperated parents.
Her recollections reminded me of the times I have had to endure school officials’ and family members’ criticism when making decisions concerning my child.
Changing Gears’ message to parents
Changing Gears is one of these books that once you start you just can’t put down. At first glance, the book seems to be a story of a riveting adventure; after all, very few of us have biked halfway around the world, let alone with two elementary school kids.
The trip they plan is so complicated that any incident carried the potential of derailing them from small events like a missing helmet or rainy days to more defining ones like bike thefts and severe sickness.
Nevertheless, as the story unfolds the readers start to understand the extent to which this fraught-filled journey helped shape and bond the Vogel family.
In the book’s finale, Nancy’s recollection of how she reaches her destination is an extraordinarily touching moment that should resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to complete their goals.
As a parent to a special needs child, I can identify with her ‘ completion fatigue’ – the feeling of fighting for a goal for so long that you cannot thoroughly enjoy it when the moment finally happens.
However, the book’s deeper message is about encouraging families to pursue their dreams despite seemingly major setbacks: “…Living your dream won’t always be easy or fun…you’ll forge ahead even in the hard times…”
In many ways, the Vogel family’s completion of their mission is a milestone worthy of celebration for all of us parents.
It signifies how important it is for parents not only to “grab life by the horns,” and to live life to the fullest but to set an example for their kids to follow!
That simple but powerful message should inspire many families, especially those struggling with medical or mental issues, and remind them that sticking to their dreams together as a family should be their top priority.
After 21 years of classroom teaching, Nancy Sathre-Vogel made the decision to leave her teaching career behind to travel the world on a bicycle.
Together with her husband and twin sons, she cycled 27,000 miles throughout the Americas, including traveling from Alaska to Argentina. She currently lives in Idaho, with her family and pursues her passions of writing and bead work.