Can any travel be greener than traveling by bike? We hear a lot about various methods of “green” travel – eco-resorts working to preserve the environment or companies who strive to reduce their carbon footprint. But we don’t hear much about Green Travel Experience in such a way as to nearly eliminate that footprint altogether. Traveling on bicycle is one of the few methods of travel that allows a deep relationship with Mother Nature while, at the same time, treading lightly on our precious earth. Our bicycles use no fuel (other than the food we consume), and are easy on the ground we pass over. But the best part of traveling on bicycle is the opportunity to get to know the earth and her people in a much more intimate manner than any vehicle can allow.
The Vogel family of Family on Bikes. Photo credit: Nancy Sathre-Vogel.
Ultimate Green Travel Experience
As my family and I have traveled southward from Alaska, we’ve had the opportunity to see – really, truly see – our world. We’ve ground up mountains and plummeted back down the other side, we’ve sailed through valleys with tailwinds pushing us on, and we’ve woken up to snow blanketing our tent and the surrounding countryside. We’ve pedaled through deserts, along coasts, and through rain forests. Our children have climbed trees of every imaginable variety, swung on vines like Tarzan, and tasted exotic fruits they had never heard of. In short – the four of us have had to opportunity to get to know our world.
But we’ve also had the opportunity to get to know the world’s people. There is something about the bikes that draws people toward us; that encourages people to reach out to us in ways they never would if we were in our own car. It might be something simple like handing us a bag of apples or tomatoes, or it could be as complex as hiding caches of Gatorade along the highway, but people of all walks of life have reached out and added magic to our lives.
I can tell story after story about the people we’ve met. About the woman in Oregon who handed us the keys to her house and said, “Go on in and make yourselves at home. I’ll be there in a few hours.” And she didn’t even know our names. Or the ER doctor in California who pulled up alongside us and asked, “Would you like to stay at my house tonight?” Or the man who cycled up to where we were eating crackers and cheese in a park in Texas and invited us to his home for a warm dinner and soft bed for the night. One day in Mexico we ended up in a migrant workers’ camp and our boys played with some of the poorest kids in the country. Another day, we were invited to stay with an incredibly wealthy family where Davy and Daryl played video games while sitting on posh, luxurious furniture. Young couples and old. Rich and poor. White, black, and brown. All have reached out to add magic where none was expected, but was greatly appreciated.
I’m convinced traveling on bike is best way to see the world, and a truly Green Travel Experience. On bikes, we live the world. We experience the mountains by grinding up and plunging down. We understand the idea of valleys and coastlines. We see how life varies depending on altitude and longitude. In short – traveling on bike allows us to gain a much deeper respect for Mother Nature and the earth’s peoples than we could ever gain in any other manner.
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Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a modern-day nomad and vagabond who is currently traveling the length of the Americas with her husband and twin 11-year-old sons. The family left Prudhoe Bay, Alaska – at the northernmost terminus of the Pan American Highway – and have pedaled over 10,000 miles so far to Ecuador for the Ultimate Green Travel Experience. They plan to continue southward until they reach the southern terminus of the road in Ushuaia, Argentina near Tierra del Fuego. When they reach their destination, the boys will have earned the Guinness World Record as the youngest people to cycle the Pan American Highway. You can follow their travels at Family on Bikes.