Thursday, February 16, 2012

WHAT WERE WE THINKING? by Nancy Sathre-Vogel and John Vogel


Two strangers bike through central Asia together and find love amidst the rock-throwing children, dusty roads, and rugged living conditions.


This travelogue chronicles the adventures of two American teachers determined to ride bikes through central Asia. They found each other through an ad for a biking partner and set off on a yearlong trek through some of the most rugged terrain in the world. They cycle from the deserts of India and Pakistan to the heights of the Himalayas and every lonely road in between. This is pure adventure travel in which John and Nancy are taxed beyond what they thought possible. They are forced to confront their own breaking points and discover that they can keep going after all.

John and Nancy split the narration of this tale, although the majority of the story is written by Nancy. They share their impressions of the locals, living conditions and food in the remote areas of Asia. The book is full of observations on the beautiful places they encounter and reflections on how they were treated as travelers in an area that was beyond the reach of modernization at the time. Nancy encountered regular harrassment from men, and she writes about the strains of being the only woman showing her face outside of the home in certain regions.

My only complaint with this story is that I really wanted to know more about what Nancy and John were thinking and feeling as they were falling in love. I felt that I didn't get enough insight into their initial impressions of each other, how their feelings developed, and what they thought about beginning a relationship in these extreme conditions. When they declared their love for each other it felt like it came out of the blue. The focus of this travelogue is definitely on the things they saw and experienced, rather than what it is like to fall in love on a spectacular adventure. Nevertheless, their adventures were fascinating and their story introduces the reader to an exotic, nearly inaccessible world.


Nancy and John are still traveling the world on bikes, now with their twin sons. They record their adventures at Family on Bikes.


I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.


Have you ever had a high-intensity adventure with one or two other people? How did it affect your relationship?


  1. Wow, those two are *way* more adventurous than I'd ever even think about being. Kind of taking your life into your own hands, isn't it?

    But then again, I guess that's how you get a good story, huh? Good for them, and thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Jonathan. They're way more adventurous than I'll ever be, too. They're very inspiring, but I think I'd rather read about it than actually ride a bike all the way across Asia!


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