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Don't be afraid to dream big

Be comfortable outside your comfort zone
Be comfortable outside your comfort zone
Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Dreams. We’ve all got ‘em. Most of us even have BIG dreams. Trouble is, we tend to shove them way back into the deepest recesses of our brain. They’re safe there.

Is that what dreams are for? For keeping safe? Or are they for living?

I say dreams are meant to be lived. Pursue your passion and live your dream, wherever it may take you.

What’s that? You’re feeling overwhelmed by the bigness of it? Your dream is HUGE and you don’t know how to do it?

I know a thing or two about tackling big things, if biking 17,000 miles with kids can be considered a big thing.

Here’s how to do it. It really isn’t that hard.

Remember that big things don’t happen overnight. Sir Edmund Hilary didn’t climb Mt. Everest in a day. Neil Armstrong didn’t wake up one morning and decide he’d fly to the moon. Steve Jobs didn’t create Apple into a multi-million dollar empire overnight.

Living your dream means taking a million (or more) teeny tiny steps in the right direction. Many times you won’t even know which direction they’re leading, but if you make sure you’re doing what makes you happy, they’re going the right way.

When I made the decision 21 years ago to quit my job for a year to bike around India, I had no idea that my decision would ultimately lead to meeting my husband. I never dreamed at the time that a year biking in India would be a stepping-stone to a yearlong bike trip with my children 16 years later. And I certainly never dreamed at the time that it would all lead toward making the giant leap to pedal from Alaska to Argentina.

At the time, back in 1990, I just figured that what I wanted to do was spend a year cycling in Asia. That was just one step of many that led me to my Pan American adventure.

It’s also important to remember that you won’t achieve your dream in one fell swoop. If your dream is big enough, you’ll get there step by tiny step.

When we left Alaska, we rarely thought about Argentina. Sure, when someone asked us where we were going, we might say Tierra del Fuego, but mostly we said, “We’re going to Whitehorse,” or “We’re on our way to Albuquerque.”

We broke our journey into many manageable chunks and focused on each one of those chunks rather than the whole. The vastness, the enormity of it all was too much for our brains to deal with. We could, however, deal with 300 miles. We set our sights on the next manageable goal and when we achieved that we set another manageable goal.

As Mark Beaumont, world record holder as the fastest cyclist to circumnavigate the world says, “If I focus on today, the big picture will take care of itself.”

You won’t learn everything you need to know immediately either. Don’t expect to know everything you need to know right out the gate. Your knowledge base will grow with each new experience you manage to successfully navigate. Give yourself time to slowly build up that bag of tricks you’ll need to achieve your dream.

John and I had done a lot of bike touring before we set off with our children. Prior to our first tour as a family, John probably had a hundred thousand miles under his belt and I had many thousands. We knew what we were doing – or so we thought.

As it turned out, bike touring as a family was radically different than just the two of us. In those first few months on the road as a family, we repeatedly encountered situations we weren’t prepared for and had to muddle through the best we could. We used our previous experiences to base decisions upon and then we analyzed the outcome to figure out what we needed to change.

For example, we thought we had prepared for rain. We had a good, waterproof tent and waterproof jackets. We figured we were good. We could camp in the rain and not get wet and we could ride in the rain and stay relatively dry in our jackets. As it happened, we had neglected one critical aspect: we had no way to protect our bikes or gear from the rain. After our first major rainstorm, we went back to the drawing board and figured out how we could take care of that problem.

If you want to reach your unreachable star, you’ll have to persevere. Big time. There will be times when it’s tough going and you’ll question whether you can do it or not. There’ll be times when it seems fruitless and there’s absolutely no progress whatsoever. That’s when you take a deep breath, dig down deep, and persevere.

We went through some pretty challenging times on our journey, but nowhere as much as northern Peru. We had entered the desert after four months in lush green Ecuador, faced daily headwinds and blowing sand, and hotels and restaurants were pitiful at best. After a few weeks of very harsh conditions, I reached bottom.

I remember being in Trujillo, Peru and writing in my journal, “I just feel like crap right now. I feel like I’ve been dragged through the mud, spat upon, kicked viciously, and discarded for dead.” I was low, about as low as I could be.

My son Daryl uttered some wise words one day. As we walked along the street and I bitched, moaned and complained about how horrible everything was, Daryl turned to me and, with his 11-year-old wisdom, said, “Mom, it won’t do any good to complain. All you can do is keep going and things will get better.”

He was right. Complaining didn’t change anything. I simply had to persevere and keep going, and things eventually got easier.

If I have only one suggestion for living your dream, it’s to DO IT. Start walking. Enough of the planning. Enough preparation. Go. Now.

Over planning is the surest way to kill the dream. You need to plan enough so you don’t kill yourself, but that’s it. Don’t try to plan out the tiniest detail and contemplate every contingency. If you do that, you’ll soon be overwhelmed by the magnitude of what you’re doing.

It is possible to dream the impossible dream and reach the unreachable star. We’re living proof of that. You can pursue your passion and live your dream. It’s all up to you.


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