(Post by NANCY SATHRE-VOGEL)
What was your moment – THE MOMENT? That is the question. What was the moment when you knew you wanted more out of life? When it suddenly became clear and you knew, deep down in your heart, that you weren’t cut out for the normal drill.
When you knew you wanted to live a life designed by you, not by someone else. What was your moment?
That is the question a whole group of family travelers are answering today.
As I think back through my life I realize I’ve had a lot of those moments, but I’ll reach way back and consider the very first one.
I was sixteen. I lived like all sixteen-year-old kids in Boise, Idaho did. I went to school in the morning and attended football games in the evenings. I helped at the local hospital as a candystriper. I was involved in Girl Scouts and our church youth group.
Everybody I knew lived much like me and, I figured, everybody around the world lived much like me. When I watched National Geographic shows about some far-flung island in Indonesia where people wore funny costumes and painted their faces, I figured that happened hundreds of years ago. That wasn’t today. Today, of course, everybody lived like I did.
Then my parents took us kids to Mexico for the Christmas holidays.
I remember walking down the street in wide-eyed amazement at how different things were. People in Mexico didn’t live like I did back in Boise, Idaho. They ate different food; they lived indifferent houses; they wore different clothes. It was new, exciting, and exotic.
One scene from that trip is forever etched in my mind. That day we were walking along the street in Mexico City when we saw a street performer. My eyes widened as I watched him shoot flames from his mouth. They were huge! Six-foot-long tongues of fire shot out in front of him! It was wild. Exciting. Exotic. Different. People didn’t stand on the street corner and shoot flames out of their mouths in Boise, Idaho.
As I watched him spit fire I drew nearer and nearer. It – HE – was fascinating beyond anything I’d ever experienced. I wanted to drink it all in –every aspect of this wonderful new thing I was seeing. I never wanted to forget the wonder of it all.
My flame thrower walked over to a small bottle he kept near him, took off the top, and took a big swig. And I saw him gag. He gamely forced it off and set fire to his mouth once again.
All of a sudden, the flame thrower’s show took on a different light. The flames, I now understood, weren’t the mystical, magical things I had imagined them to be. They were work. A necessary evil to put food on the table for his children at home. The flame thrower – MY flame thrower – came out here to this street corner every single day and poured kerosene in his mouth. And he gagged. Over and over and over. He did it to survive.
Mexico no longer seemed quite so exotic. It didn’t seem so magical. It seemed poor and desperate. When I saw local artisans painstakingly cutting silver or potters churning out hundreds of clay figurines they sold for a pittance, I wondered if I could somehow make a difference. I was only one person; a child no less, but I was one.
The stage had been set.
A few weeks later I stumbled into our house in Boise after a long flight home. As sixteen-year-olds are wont to do, I flipped on the TV and relaxed into my favorite position on the floor. An advertisement for the Peace Corps came on.
I watched those images flash before my eyes. Life in a small village in Africa; volunteers helping build water systems; teachers in classrooms filled with eager young eyes.
I made a decision that day. As soon as I could, I would enter the Peace Corps. I would be one of those people who made a difference in the world. I would do what I could to help others less fortunate than I.
Eight years later that decision came to fruition. I graduated from college and entered the Peace Corps. I lived in a small Honduran village and worked with local teachers setting up Special Education programs for handicapped children, and I knew I was making a difference. It was a small contribution, but it was MY contribution.
So that was it – my moment in time. The moment that changed my life. The moment I made the decision to live a life less ordinary and follow my heart. That decision has led me around the world a time or two since then, but I will be forever grateful to my parents for taking me to Mexico that year. My parents who opened my eyes to a great big world out there.
And I’m thankful for my flame thrower for teaching me that although we may be different on the surface, underneath it all we’re all the same. What was YOUR moment?
Nancy Sathre Vogel, Between North and South Poles
Teachers John Vogel and Nancy Sathre Vogel describe themselves as a normal, everyday, American family who happens to follow their dreams and chase rainbows. John, Nancy and their two children (Daryl and Davy) are modern-day explorers who learned early to live life to the fullest, to grab life by the horns and enjoy the ride. Together, they have pedaled bicycles 20,000 miles through fifteen countries. John and Nancy have published three books documenting their exciting adventures: Twenty Miles Per Cookie; What Were We Thinking? and Bicycle Touring with Children. Check out their Blog or follow them on Twitter.Tweet