The Ethics Of Parenting

Not long ago I engaged in a limited debate on Twitter with a guy named Jack Marshall who fancies himself an “ethics expert.”  He has a web site called “Pro-Ethics”   I was critical of a piece he had written about “The Biking Vogels”.  The Vogels who are biking enthusiasts, decided to take their children on what can only be described as a bike trek of anyone’s lifetime.  It was not all fun and games however.  Here is how Marshall described it:

……..the Vogels set out in June on an even longer journey, from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the tip of Argentina. This 20,000 mile trek will take about thirty months, two and a half years. To read the Vogel’s breezy and cheerful accounts of their endless travels, one would think this is recreation—but it is, in fact, a business. The Vogels accept direct on-line contributions to their “educational quest,” have corporate sponsors, and frequently persuade those they meet on their journey to give them money and food. The only differences between the Vogels’ lifestyle and the Gypsies portrayed in old movies and operettas are that the Vogels have a website, don’t play tambourines, and use bicycles instead of a wagon.

His position seems to be that the trek was not motivated by anything as lofty as the parents wanting to  “better their children”  but by the reality show, profit mentality which in my opinion is “dumbing down” this country significantly.  They were in effect, pimping out their kids to danger for their personal profit and fame at the cost of physical danger to their children and risking their mental futures.  He came down hard on the parents.  I was critical of his opinion.  Adventure is a great. It is a character builder.  I was irritated.  Who was he, who had never met the children or parents to cast judgment on the bike trek of a lifetime.  Something that would probably shape their view of the world and give them a perspective that would better them in all aspects of their lives.

Then I paused. The more I thought about it, the more I kept hearing myself referring to it in the context of what I might want for my children.  Would I put them though that?  How would that fit into my hopes and dreams?  Is that an appropriate question when deciding whats best for my kids?  Would it make me any better than the “John and Kates” and the Falcon Heene’s of the world?  Pushing my children into danger and reality show recognition based my dreams and desires.  The children would have little choice.

Now we have 16 year old  Abby Sutherland and her failed and dangerous attempt to be the youngest person to  sail around the world.  There is a lot of chatter out there that the parents pushed her into it without regard for her safety and again, with a reality show mentality.  The father of Sutherland , admitting he was broke,  told the The New York Post that he had a deal for a reality TV show based on the lives of his daughter and other 6 kids.  The cost to rescue her will approach $300,000.

There is no buffer in the parent child relationship where these extreme events are concerned. No one to tells the children it’s ok to not want what their parents want. Or we may tell them with the subtext that our dreams are really theirs.   Bike around the world?  Lets do it Dad!   Sail around the world at 16?  Who wouldn’t!  Children do not like to disappoint.  Where is the real choice?  Whose dreams are they really following? At what cost?  Maybe Marshall’s criticism is warranted.

36 Comments For This Post

  1. bcuban Says:

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel
    MessageHi Brian! I tried to post this comment to your post about us again this morning, but it wouldn't post. Would you post it for me? thanks! Nancy

    While I certainly understand the concern over forcing children to live their parents' dreams, I seriously don't think there is anything to worry about in these "extreme" cases. To put it simply: there is NO WAY any parent could force a c hild to do something of this magnitude.

    In order for a child to accomplish something big like biking the length of the Americas, climbing Mt. Everest, or sailing solo around the world, that child has to love what he/she is doing. That child must be self-motivated and have a true passion for what he's doing. If he doesn't, there is no way in hell it would happen.

    How do I know this? Because I am the mother of the two boys you talked about – the very parent Mr. Marshall accused of being "self-absorbed" and "selfish". To date, we have cycled 13,000 miles from Alaska to southern Peru and have around 4000 miles to go to reach our goal.

    I say "our goal" because it is, indeed, the goal of my entire family to reach Tierra del Fuego. It's not the goal of just me and my husband – our boys are even more committed than we are. They are determined. They are focused. They are motivated beyond anything I've ever seen.

    I will give you an example that occurred just last week. At that time, we were climbing our highest (and biggest) climb ever – from the coast to a whopping 14,586 feet. Daryl, who rides on the back of a tandem behind his father, has walked up many hills in the past two years as it is much easier for my husband to take the heavy tandem up solo.

    On that particular day, we stood at the base of a massive 7-mile climb in front of us – and were nearly out of water. John stayed below with the bikes while the boys and I hitched a ride to the top to buy water.

    "Why don't you just stay up there," my husband said to Daryl. "That way you won't have to walk this hill – it's a long climb and there is no way I can do it with you on the tandem. We'll meet you when we get up."

    And what do you think that response from that tiny 12-year-old kid was?

    "But if I hitch up, then I don't get the record. I'll come back down."

    In the end, we hitched up, bought water, hitched back down, then all four of us climbed that mountain under our own power.

    If any of these kids – the Davys & Daryls, the Jessicas, Abbys, or Jordans, wanted to quit what they are doing, they could quit in a heartbeat – and there isn't a blame thing we parents could do about it. You simply cannot force a kid to climb on a bicycle day after day after day – for three years.

    As a longtime teacher I've seen my share of football dads and cheerleader moms forcing their children to do things the children don't want to do. But never, ever something big. The big stuff has to come from within.

    I've written a response to Mr. Marshall's preposterous allegations in my blog. YOu can read it here:

  2. Helen Tucker Says:

    It is one thing to put eight kids on a reality TV show. It is another to allow one's children to participate in experiences that are challenging and character-building. There is no difference between the danger in biking around the world or sailing around the globe and training for any number of more mundane sports events. There is risk involved in anything that is difficult and physical. Some kids, to be sure, are pushed by parents. But there is no way to judge simply by looking at the activity itself. You have to talk to the kids in person to get a sense of whether they are reluctant participants.

    It is erroneous to assume that just because you wouldn't want to do it, or your child doesn't want to do it, that no child would have a genuine eagerness to tackle extraordinary challenges.

  3. Amie W. Says:

    I do not know the Vogels personally. I knew almost nothing about them when I began following their blog. But having read what the boys themselves have written, I can tell you that they are having the time of their lives! Just last week, one of the boys made a comment that no one can deny: he said that it was hard to believe that they had experienced any bad times on the trip. He knew they had, but the good times had so overshadowed them that, looking back, he could barely remember them. His words, not mom or dad's. Now, if that's not a kid having the time of his life, I don't know what is.

    Unless you've read what the boys have written, you can't possibly understand this. I look at my young children and can't imagine "putting them through" a bike treck of this magnitute. But Davy and Daryl aren't "being put through" anything. They are eager participants… even after thousands of miles.

  4. Amie W. Says:

    Oh, and I would also point out, that unlike the young lady sailing around the world solo, these boys are under the constant supervision of their parents. I dare say that sending your children away to Summer camp poses more risk than being with them 24/7, 365 days a year on a bike trip. And really, how dangerous is Summer camp?

  5. Karen Says:

    I've been following the Family on Bikes since the beginning of their first trip. I'm sure Nancy just hasn't been able to post from her remote locations every single answer to the objections raised, but one thing does stand out for me. When they started, they were not asking anyone for money. I seem to recall that they rented out their house and did other financial things to make the trip possible. As time went on, they began to receive offers of sponsorships and other kinds of opportunities, like the writing she does. I seem to remember their first joint venture was with an educational outlet that let them tell their story in schools via electronic means. As teachers, I see that as an extension of their professions, not as a business.

    There is nothing in the world wrong with making a profiting from doing something you love. In fact, I believe that this is the most important lesson these children can learn. Rather than slave away at something you hate, just for the money, it is far more ethical to do what you love, and let the money follow.

    Kudos to the Vogels! Can't wait to hear where they go next.

  6. catspiracy Says:

    Gee, maybe we should all just bow our heads into the yoke of wage slavery and let video games and the internet raise our kids instead. It's so much less dangerous that way!

  7. Michael Verhage (1 comments.) Says:

    To undertake an adventure like the Vogels, is only possible if the family is united.
    Otherwise it fails within a few months.
    We know so well!!
    We are an Dutch/Australian family of four on two tandems, cycling since September 2008 from LA to South-America.
    "Vogels" continue your travels, enjoy the special moments you share together as a family.
    Life is too short to worry about this.
    Michael Verhage.

  8. ivana Says:

    I just wan to add that I wish that I could have done something like that with my parents when I was a teenager ! I am doing it now , also from Alaska to Ushuaia , and can´t wait to do some cycling trips for when I have my own kids like the Vogels, if they agree and like it ! All my support for the Vogel Family !

  9. bcuban Says:

    You clearly have a lot of supporters. Best of luck to you and your children in your journey..:o)

  10. Jerry Wills (1 comments.) Says:

    From what I have read concerning the criticism it sounds like those speaking harshly are folks who find it easier to fit into the mold. What the Vogel family has done, and continues to do, is venture beyond the boundaries of what most feel is normal. 100 years ago, and even further back in time, children were raised to become self sufficient and productive. Of course things are different now. We have technology, and the world is a smaller place. It's easy to see the entire picture. Sadly, it's more convenient to watch the world through your TV or monitor. Less chance of blisters that way.

    When our son was 14 my wife and I walked 85 miles into the eastern Andes with him along to search for a lost city. This trip lasted only a month or so and was very difficult. Afterward, we lived in a remote Andean village for many months. From there we lived in the Amazon jungle for more months. The experience our son had could not be equalled.

    To think living your life in comfort, seemingly "safe", offers you it's own rewards. But to find issue with anyone who yearns for adventure – for themselves and their children – only speaks of the fears and insecurities of the writer. Finding fault with this family illustrates how narrow a view, how conservative and unrealistic a few folks are.

    We as a family admire the Vogel's, and cheer them on. The experiences they have had as a family only serve to bring them closer. The negative comments you and others have made only serve to make them closer as well. Until you have experienced such an adventure you cannot even begin to address their journey, or the circumstances propelling them onward.

    I wish I had ventured out when I was young. There is so much to see, to do, and to experience. The Vogel children have stories to tell that will capture the imagination of young and old alike for decades to come. Like life, there were good and bad times. But overall, there was living a life unconventional and free. Something few can comment on from experience.

    As for money… I offered to send them funds because I believe in what they are doing. It wasn't requested! I wanted to! Do you have any idea how wonderful it is to be offered financial help simply because someone thinks what you're doing is worthy? To make a "gypsy" comment is an insult, and a terrible sour thing to say. I have an opinion about the guy who wrote that but will save it for my next conversation with an Amazon monkey.

    Keep going Vogel Family! We cheer you and the kid's onward and upward!

    Jerry Wills
    executive producer
    Xpeditions TV

  11. Mapper Says:

    I recently saw a quote that is close to "A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for!"

    Humans have a remarkable ability, sustained by family, faith and purpose, to endure things that not all could achieve. Only a few years ago, women were told that they shouldn't participate in sports, go into business, etc. because it was too "dangerous"…before that women, built planes that won a war, walked across continents to settle the west and endured many things worse alone with their children. Men have also endured much to create lives for their family and their community.

    I would worry too if I sensed that the Vogels were somehow forcing participation or exploiting their children to meeting some self aggrandizing challenge. I have followed their story for a long time and that clearly does not appear to be such a case. I am more concerned about the 7 year old forced to take care of his/her siblings while mom/dad are gone for the day (or week), the parent that buys their child non-age appropriate "toys", or the parent that hovers over a child and will not let them experience the risks and rewards of life…then I am of this family and their effort to meet a goal that is unobtainable …but by few.

    The comparison between their journey and scripted and reality shows or solo journeys is inaccurate. This is a family working as a team. They are reporting on their journey not to create sound bites and/or dramatic moments to improve ratings. (If I understand it correctly, a requirement of the record is that the journey is documented; however, even if not, I appreciate the family's willingness to share the challenge with its high points and victories as well as its low points and frustrations.)

    I see the following: They are not telling their children that they have to be in the starting line-up or they have no value. They are not heading on their journey unprepared and inexperienced. They do experience the culture and environment they encounter – they do not simply rack up the distance to reach the end. They are aware of the immensity of the challenge and willing to take each day as it comes…to enjoy, to overcome, or to simply move on towards accomplishing the bigger goal.

    I will probably never make such a commitment and my children when that age would not choose nor could they have been forced to do so (sometimes it was difficult to get them to take the trash out). However, I do recognize that what positive attributes they possess as adults were developed by working as a family and experiencing risk and its rewards and failures more than any time that we "protected them" from all but the truly unsafe things they could experience. I have no illusions that this trip,or any experience in itself, will make the boys anything. What will is the family effort to create goals, overcome obstacles, and understand that their is a cost/benefit to thinking big – with benefits achieved when the backed up by the hard work required to DO big.

    I am glad that people are willing to be concerned for our youth, but let's just make sure that the concern is properly placed and represents a perception true risk and those instances where parents do put their children at risk through active effort or neglectful indifference. Please look for examples somewhere besides the Vogels who recognize that while their may be "easier" ways to live, that that might not be living for their family. Just because someone can't, or won't accept a similar challenge doesn't make their choice wrong, nor does someone saying "That's not right for my family" makes their choice to not undertake such a journey wrong. In life we all have to get from here to there….isn't it wonderful that not everyone is on the same exact road?

  12. Teresa McKinsey Says:

    Knowing Miss Nancy (as her students call her) I know that there are no selfish reasons that she is doing this. If you want her to be called selfish it is because she wants to spend more time with her children the other children. I admire John and Nancy for doing this WITH the boys. The boys are getting an education that they would never be able to get by being in school in the states. If you know anything about the Vogels you would know that the parents met on a bike ride many years ago. Both parents have taught outside of the US as well as in the US. I think Daryl and Davy are getting an education that others would love.

    Miss Nancy I just want you to know how much you are missed here by your students and some of us parents. AJ and I are so excited to be following you and can't wait until you come home and have all the stories and pictures. She still talks about you being her teacher and the beading class you did after school for the kids that wanted to learn.

    Go John, Nancy, Daryl and Davy…. You are doing awesome.

    Tracy McKinsey

  13. Marie Says:

    While I think that the Vogels are responsible and not forcing their kids into something, I do think that Brian raises some good points. I think that it can be argued that sometimes kids are pushed to do things that they are not completely ready for – not because they are being pushed into doing something that they don't want to do but because someone young does not always have sufficient life experience to make an objective decision. In the Vogels case they had spent years traveling and biking in different parts of the world. They are accompanying their children and going at a very slow pace. The ride is more about experiencing life on the road than it is about setting a record. In Abby's case she was very much alone – her parents hadn't traveled around the world on a sailboat. Better judgment should have been used in how Abby was to travel alone. It took a long time to reach her. Her wanting to do it and having the life experience to plan for contingencies are two different things. That is where I think her parents failed her and where a discussion on the ethics of parenting would be interesting – i.e. at what point should a parent respect a child's dream for a tremendous experience and at what point should a parent step in and put in boundaries?

  14. Rene Rosechild Says:

    The Vogels are outstanding parents. Unlike most American parents, they are spending all day, every day, raising their children, giving them a chance to learn about the world and to work together as a family to solve problems and meet challenges. Finally, they are using the experience to help other children learn at the same time. Other American kids should be so lucky as to have parents like the Vogels.

  15. Anissa Says:

    I find it very strange that people continually expect so little of children. One hundred years ago, 12 year- old boys would have worked all summer on the family farm and no one would have raised an eybrow. Children are capable of so much more than society expects. They are bored because they are given so little to do. Nothing in their lives has any real meaning so they turn to video games, movies and TV to fill the hours. What the Vogels are doing has real meaning and their boys will always be glad that their parents gave them the opportunity to do something significant.

    My kids wanted to know why we didn't do something wonderful like this.

  16. Thomas Arbs (1 comments.) Says:

    Having only followed the Vogels for a couple of weeks, and knowing them only in the virtual world, I can only make assumptions on their motives and their bonds as a family. But I can form my own opinion based on what I hope they are really like. I have two children, four and six years old, and the biggest challenges we demand of them are three-weeks camping trips by bike, trailer, and tent in summery Sweden or Switzerland. And even there, on a rainy day, people would look at us with "look-what-these-parents-are-making-their-poor-kids-go-through" eyes. Every kid has a day where all is not sunshine, and every parent feels there is always someone to throw a suspicious look in that very moment.

    I envy the Vogels for their courage to challenge their kids, and for what they, the family as a whole, are offered in return. Sure, the kids pay a price, I see that as well, back at home, their friends will have moved on, and they'll find it hard to settle back in their normal lives. But they are paid a reward, they'll have seen the world, and will have grown by mastering the challenges.

    And did nobody tell Mr Marshall that it is rude to call Roma and Sinti gypsies in the 21st century and point fingers at them?

    And what an absurd claim it is: "Eating one's bread by the sweat of one's brow" is everybody's fate, also that of families as a whole. Yes, every family member is part of that inevitable effort, Davy and Daryl riding their bikes across their very personal mountains are not different from little Kevin-Prince or Chantal sitting in front of the telly all night munching chocolates and chips and waiting for Mom to come home from the late shift. And who'll be better off in the morning?

  17. Kevin F. Says:

    I'm certainly grateful to my parents for letting me become an experienced cyclist with over 3,000 miles of commuting while still in my grade school and middle school years, and to my older brother for teaching me how to ride safely with traffic, even when alone. I've been driving since 1972, but just like when I was 10, if the weather is good, I'll bike-commute! And I'll pray a lot. I really like to ride.
    After years of riding with a local cycling club, I went on a 3 month cross-USA bike tour as a guest of a family from that club, and the kids in that family, now adults, are very grateful to their parents for that experience. I'm still so thankful myself! We all did our share of the teamwork involved, using our skills and talents carefully.
    So, I believe strongly in what the Vogels are doing. I think they will reach their goal, and years from now, I'm sure the brothers will be good, strong men, and they will still be very grateful to their parents for their journey and for the other adventures they have completed.

  18. Larry McKurtis (1 comments.) Says:

    As a bike tourer myself, I know what it takes to go the distance, and more importantly, I know the indescribable feelings and emotions associated with these endeavors. With that said, the Vogel's two boys are the luckiest boys on the planet. They've already experienced more than 99% of most American adults ever will. People will always misinterpret the motivations of things they don't understand. It's plain ignorance that drives the naysayer. Keep it up Nancy and John. You guys are nailing it!

  19. Stephanie Daigle Says:

    I have been watching the Voge'ls since the first trip, and I have never seen a happier, more fulfilled family. It is a wonderful adventure that those two boys are so lucky to be a part of, and they know it. Just think of the volumes of information and experience they are getting! Pooh on the naysayers. Ride on, Vogel's!

  20. Deanie G. Says:

    I too have been following the Vogels adventures since their earlier trip around the United States. I've read blogs that the boys have written and they seem very happy and fulfilled. They're getting a wonderful education and having unforgettable experiences. Just from reading their blogs, I can tell that they are well-read and intelligent. I wish that I could have given my daughters an experience like this. This is a remarkable family. I don't know them personally–only through their website, but I've read it long enough to know their motives, and it's not to make money but to give their boys an amazing childhood.

  21. Jacquie Kubin (1 comments.) Says:

    It seems all the comments I would have liked to have made have already been eloquently stated time and time again by fans of the Vogels.

    I started following Nancy and the boys when they first left Prudhoe Bay. Our first conversation was well before they even left Idaho. I worked with Nancy as they traveled through Alaska, Canada, North America and dropped into Mexico, helping them where I could, finding hotels in winter storms or just places to take a break from the rigors of the road. I helped set up their earliest interviews and cheered them on as they took off down that first muddy trail. I am a writer and editor and I have asked Nancy to share her journeys through my publications. As a home school parent, the education Daryl and Davy are receiving is far superior to anything they could find in a brick and mortar school.

    The propellant of this trip is not fame, nor money. It was, and still is I believe, that that boys set the goal to be the youngest to ride the Pan American Highway for the Guinness Book of World Records. They are a bike riding family, so to take off on bikes and live by the side of the road is a bit second nature, as has been alluded to. But make no mistake about it, this quest — it is the boys idea.

    Nancy and John worked hard to figure out how to make their goal attainable to them. And one must remember, John and Nancy are pretty amazing themselves, both being closer to 50 than 30!

    As a writer, Marshall should have done a little more research (there is plenty on the family and their quest on line to find), get his facts a little straighter and he should have tempered his quest to demean a family that has the guts to do something incredible. Had he reached out to the Vogels for an interview, he could have found the real story behind this trek.

    He mentions the quote about "Children have a way of worming their way into the hearts of others, and you will be richly rewarded for your efforts!” They are not speaking of financial rewards Mr. Marshall. If you upheld your quest for Ethics in Journalism you would have known this. The rewards are the rewards of children who have found something exciting to live for. Who have set a goal, and who are extremely pleasant, polite young men who leave thank you notes and shake adults hands, calling them Ms. or Mr. and looking them in the eye.

    I know this because I have had numerous adults, from politicians to folks that have offered a hand to the Vogels, who have told me how polite Davy and Daryl are; and how excited they are — the road angels that leaves them with picnic basket or the offer of a garage to shelter in during a storm; the hotel owner who invites them to use an empty room; the politician who comes out to great them; the television or newspaper reporters who have interviewed them. Every single person I have worked with has spoken of the kindness, openness, intelligence and pure joy of meeting such well mannered, polite children.

    Hardly a person, with children of their own, did not comment that Davy and Daryl are good role models for their children.

    Without the adventurers, the wanderers, the dreamers, the poets. Without those willing to do what we cannot, the world becomes a dry, arid and soulless place. Simple put, the Vogels have something Mr. Marshall will never have, nor find, sitting in the glare of his monitor writing about things he knows nothing about. Nor has the guts to do himself.

    Research – its a tool journalists need to employ before they engage their literary mouth.

    Ethical journalists that is.

    Jacquie Kubin – Writer/Editor Fan of Family on Bikes

  22. Robert H. Says:

    When I first heard of Nancy and John’s plans to bike with their boys from the top of the world to the bottom, my initial reaction was “my goodness, they’re going to end up dead in a ditch somewhere”. Of course that was based on my own prejudices and I’ve since changed my mind. Let’s fast forward a bit. I’d forgotten about their trek and was thinking about doing a small bike trip with my 11 year-old son. He’s a pretty strong rider and now accompanies me on any ride that I want to do. We’ll be doing a “Half Century” (50 miler) this weekend, and although it’ll be flat, we’ll do a hillier one later in the summer.

    So one day we were looking through some biking videos on UTube and came across one of a man and his 11 year-old son riding from Montreal to Quebec City. It’s a three hour drive, making it about 150 miles, give or take. My son said, “I can do that”.

    So I said “why don’t we ride up to Vermont this summer?” The ride would be from Central Massachusetts.

    “Cool” was his response.

    I made plans and when trying to discuss them with him, he made it clear that he wasn’t interested in details. He had a goal and he was going to reach it. I also made it clear that we would have some major climbing on the route. He made it clear that he could handle it. We did a few hilly training rides and he was more concerned about me (age 51 and a good 50 lbs overweight, but a fairly experienced biker) than himself.

    So the appointed day came and we set off. The ride began with a 5-mile climb into the eastern slope of the Berkshire Mountains as an introduction. Later in the day there were more difficult climbs. We both did our share of complaining, but we were both determined to reach our goal. The day ended with a 5 mile climb at an 8% gradient to the top of the Green Mountain range. At 45 miles, it wasn’t the longest ride I’ve ever done, but it certainly was the most difficult.

    Later on in our tour we had another very hard climb of about 8 miles also at an 8% gradient. As soon as we began our ascent, it started to rain. Well, we rode on and tried to keep our spirits up as well as we could. However, at about 6 miles, we were both exhausted. We stopped for a rest and my son, who was almost in tears, was asking how much longer we had to climb. I felt like we’d made a big mistake and I’d put him in a bad position. Low and behold a passerby in a pickup truck pulled over and asked us where he could take us. I looked over at my son and asked, “Do you want a lift?”

    “NO!” was his only response. I assumed that he was relying on his early training to not accept rides from strangers. So we pushed on and finally made it to our destination for the day, a hotel at one of the ski resorts.

    Later in the evening, I asked him why he didn’t want to accept the ride in the truck that was offered. His response was “I started this ride and I was going to FINISH IT!” That was quite unexpected, but it made me as proud of my son as a man could possibly be.

    Our small adventure of 5 days is nothing compared to what this family is doing, but since I’ve begun reading their blog, it has opened my eyes to what children are capable of. My son is not capable of cleaning his room, but he is certainly capable of conquering mountains on his bicycle. He is the same age as Daryl and Davey. He’s also read about them and has figured that if they can do it, there’s no reason he can’t.

    Let your children experience life. If they want a superhuman challenge, let them try. If they fail, they’ll learn from failing. I agree with Nancy, that if they’re not up to the challenge, they’ll let you know pretty quickly. Her children aren’t about to bail out on this endeavor, and they are an inspiration to their parents.

  23. Fran Russum Says:

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Nancy for many many years now. We met back in college where we became roommates and great friends. Nancy has always had a love of adventure. She's lived all over the world, and she's ridden her bicycle over much of the world. I would venture to guess that it is the result of how she was raised as, what I know of Nancy's sibs, three of the four of them have chosen to travel and live "outside the box".

    All I can say is: Kudos to Nancy's parents for truly giving their children the gift of wings and kudos to Nancy for sharing that gift with her own children!

  24. Helen Tucker Says:

    Yes, the same thought crossed my mind. What about the ethics of accusing parents of abuse / exploitation (this is serious!) without thoroughly checking the facts, without interviewing the children and the parents at all? Too bad Jack Marshall does not allow the public to comment on that ridiculous piece of garbage he wrote.

  25. Toast (1 comments.) Says:

    Brian, You describe three types of families in this post: family adventurers, reality show aspirants, and parents with extraordinary children who possess extraordinary goals.

    The category of family adventurers is one in which the Vogels squarely land. An entire family decides to undertake a tremendous change of life together. As one of these families, I can only reiterate Nancy's message: the adventure is impossible without the willing, enthusiastic support of the children. While Nancy and I can describe many incidents where our children stepped up and "owned" the goal, I think it's also instructive to cite the counter-example. I have seen many cruising families forced to end their sailing adventure early and abruptly because one or more of the children failed to buy in to the dream. By definition, an adventure requires sacrifice and work from all the parties involved. If the kids do not want to be there, the family as a whole can not achieve its goals.

    The second category of reality show wanna-bes can and will place themselves and their children in harm's way for the sake of fame or fortune. Identifying these parents is a bit like pornography — never mind a definition, you know it when you see it. You cite several examples, and we've all met more subtle and local variations who are frankly just helicopter or "little-league" parents write large.

    The third type of family with a goal-oriented, extraordinary child is the most difficult for many of us to get our heads around. These are the parents of Olympic athletes, virtuoso musicians, and extreme sports enthusiasts. Those of us who do not have a child with the extreme focus and passion to attempt such extraordinary goals can find it impossible to believe that the family is not merely part of the reality show driven crowd. However, each case has to be looked at individually, each family is different. For every child pushed by a parent, you meet a Matt Sunderland. Never mind Abby, Brian, look at Matt. Read his blog from beginning to end. Interview him. Read the profile of the young man who just made an attempt to hike the North Pole to raise awareness regarding loss of polar ice. Study carefully the backgrounds of many of the world's star athletes, computer programmers, or young entrepreneurs.

    If there is one thing our trip has taught my husband and I, it is that you should never underestimate children. You should in particular never underestimate your own children. Whether it is standing night watch while crossing the Sea of Cortez in high seas or riding up an incredibly steep grade, the children in our lives prove astonishingly strong, capable, and driven. It is not very hard to see how a child like D or D Vogel might just willy nilly develop a mind of his own in the next few years and decide to set his own solo record riding his bike around the world. And if he does, I suspect Nancy and John will find a way to enable that dream, not because it benefits them by basking in reflected glory, but because they know what it feels like to have big ideas, big goals, and a lot of stubborn passion and will to achieve them.

  26. lapazfarm Says:

    I have met Nancy Vogel and I can tell you she is one of the most beautiful women to ever have graced my doorstep. What she does, she does out of love for her children and her desire to share an adventure of a lifetime with them. If only every parent expressed their love in such a tangible way, day after day. Those children are truly blessed (and I have to admit mine are a bit jealous. They'd LOVE to have such an adventure!). Ride on, Vogels!

  27. Debra Speakes Says:

    The primary difference I see between the Vogels and the neigh-sayers who would criticize them is that the neigh-sayers think the Vogels should be raising CHILDREN and the Vogels instead are raising competent, confident, well-educated ADULTS who know that great rewards come from hard work and determination.

    Those boys — Davy and Daryl — will be more "men" by the age of thirteen than most men are by the age of 50. They already have a more mature outlook on life and adversity than most of us will ever have.

    The only purpose of childhood is to prepare the child to be an adult. The mother tiger doesn't suckle the cub until it is old enough to mate — she teaches it to hunt as a cub so it can be self-reliant before it has to go make its own family. She doesn't wait until the cub is grown to teach it adult skills.

    Humans (especially American humans) are the only creatures who think children should be allowed to remain immature and supported and protected until legal adulthood. As a result, we have a nation of people who think they are "entitled" to sit on their butts and be taken care of by the government.

    I think it is refreshing to see someone who has confidence in their sons and is willing to let the boys prove themselves in this extraordinary and inspiring way.

    Contrast the message being sent to the boys . . . "You can do it!" versus "No, you're too young to try."

    Yes, it's true some people do exploit their children for personal gain or vicarious glory. But the Vogels don't. Nobody who has been reading the boy's entries in the journal could ever come away thinking they were pressured into this against their will. They love what they're doing and are an inspiration to people of ALL ages. What they are doing is real, and personal, and meaningful. And, quite apparently, FUN. Most of the time.

    Jack Marshall should go sit in his easy chair with a beer in his hand and his feet up and live his safe, insulated life, and put his kids in a rubber room and MIND HIS OWN BUSINESS.

  28. bree Says:

    There are a lot of things that you could say parents 'force" their kids to do: speak the language they grow up with, go to school, wear seatbelts. When the kids are young, the parents SHOULD make certain choices! As others have said, we can usually tell the difference between the parents pushing their kids to do something for fame or money, and those that are a real part of a family who loves adventure.

    But, that doesn't matter anyway, because that's totally different from the Vogel's scenario! Two parents willing to spend 24/7 with their children to give them an adventure of a lifetime! These boys have, are and will learn sooo much from this adventure. It's complete "hands-on" learning. They are and will be wiser in MANY ways when this is done! The family is knitting a bond that will be hard-pressed to ever be severed………unlike many kids whose parents are gone all day, etc.

    I too, support the Vogels in this trek, and wish them well!

  29. Harry & Ivana (4 comments.) Says:

    I have climbed to the summit of the highest peak of every continent (including Mt Everest, Denali etc), most of them twice. The wonderful thing about that is not stepping to the summit, but meeting people, learning about culture and yourself and seeing the world.
    Now I am cycling the Americas as well. This is not a step down, but up. Is is more intense and I am feeling I am back in school often: the constant stream of input sometimes makes me feel I know nothing still, but more often just makes me happy.

    Actually I have worked behind the scenes of one of the first 'adventure reality shows' and know that it is not adventure, nor reality. Cycling the Americas is, but it i so much more.

    Following is the comment I left on the Family on Bikes website after Nancy mentioned the article from Jack Marshall. I would rather have left it on Marshall's site, but alas: even while he call's himself 'ethic', he is just an insecure backstabber whos is afraid of offering rebuttal, no comments can be made on his own site.

    Hahaha, that was a funny article, thanks for enlightening our day! That Jack whatever guy truly is a gifted comedian. I love the bit where he attacks people online, gives them no opion to comment on the article and calls that ‘ethic’. Brilliant! At least he is open enough to call himself a ‘con’, though it is rather ‘major’, not ‘minor’.

    But seriously, he is right: you are using your children as ‘a means to an end’, to pursue your ‘own personal desires and goals’. Fortunately for your kids your personal desire is clearly to give your kids the best education possible and yes, you are involving your kids in it. I don’t see how you can educate your kids without involving them?
    You let them experience goals, culture, nature, physics, math, languages, sharing, geography, sports, challenges, love, success, creativity and all other aspects of real life. Meanwile their ethically-raised friends at home are fat, lazy, xenophobic couchpotatoes who don’t even speak one language well and consider the stripmalls the coolest place to be.

    Imagine if every politician in the world would have cycled and/or travelled abroad with their parents, there would be no wars and likely -as a very wise man once sang- no religion too, as people would learn to respect and depend on eachother instead of on invisible things.

    Sometimes it seems that the Interwebs would be a better place if rambling morons like this ‘ethic’ would be banned and censored. But we live in a world where everybody has a right to an opinion and to share it, even if it is a waste of electrons and just reading it seriously endangers your IQ.
    That’s ok, just as in order to coast downhill you need to climb up first, you need thoughtless maniacs like this Jack guy in order to appreciate real writers, ethics and other thoughtful prose.

    No need to defend yourself from an attack from behind, with a virtual sword that is as sharp & witty as a worn-out cobblestone in Ecuador. Just step back and join the 50 people above and the countless others that you have inspired, while they are watching this sad and life-deprived guy make a complete and utter fool of himself. Enjoy & see you in March :) !

    Un abrazo desde Quito, Harry & Ivana,

  30. bcuban Says:

    Harry And Ivana-out of all the comments including the Vogel's, yours is the ONLY one that was disrespectful to the author. Forget the biking issue, THAT says a lot about who YOU are as people

  31. Harry & Ivana (4 comments.) Says:

    Hello Brian,

    I give respect to those who deserve it and disrespect those who deserve it as well. I am European and have not been taught to soften my words for sensitive ears, I have been taught to speak truthfully and clear.
    Marshal is completely disrespectful and is hiding behind his desk without offering the defendants a chance to defend themselves. That makes me sick and yes, angry.

    Good for you, Brian, that you let this comment be posted even if you don't like it. But I think you could have reacted more to the content than to the tone of it. Thanks for offering a chance to react.

  32. Harry & Ivana (4 comments.) Says:

    Hello Brian,

    I give respect to those who deserve it and disrespect those who deserve it as well. I am European and have not been taught to soften my words for sensitive ears, I have been taught to speak truthfully and clear.

    Marshal is completely disrespectful to people who deserve respect and is hiding behind his desk without offering the defendants a chance to defend themselves. That makes me sick and yes, angry and I won't hide it. I value honesty and fairness above al else and THAT should say a lot about me.

    Good for you, Brian, that you let this comment be posted even if you don't like it. But I think you should not 'forget the biking issue'; you could have reacted more to the content than to the tone of it, which is the easy way out.
    Thanks for offering a chance to react anyway, it shows you deserve more respect than Mr Marshal.

  33. bcuban Says:


    Sent from my iPhone

  34. bcuban Says:

    Actually -as I am the author of this blog I thought you were attacking me. Using your same logic however you don't give him much of a chance to defend himself by attacking him in the 3rd person here

    Sent from my iPhone

  35. Harry & Ivana (4 comments.) Says:

    Hello Brian, please remove the first reply to yours, the website said connection lost, so I submitted again (with some extra lines), hence the double post.

    No I was not attacking you, apologies if that appeared so, by copying my original post here. Marshal is free to reply to me or anybody else here if he feels bad about our comments, something that the Vogels cannot do on his website, and that's a big difference.

  36. mat Says:

    I think they rock, and you should keep your nose out of it, someone might actually take you seriously. You are ruining America not vice versa. Speaking of safety issues don't get your tie stuck in the door. I'd say "have a nice day" but…… by worrying about others…. you never will. Don't rain on their parade, it's not nice.

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