Peacefully minding my own business, living my life, and pursuing my dream, I'm cruising along in my veggie powered truck, on the road-trip of a life time, driving from Alaska to Argentina with my husband and five children.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a rock shatters through the windshield, hitting me in the chest. Looking in the direction it came, I see it - reaching toward me with outstretched arms, finely coifed hair, manicured nails and designer jeans.

It stiffly teeters over to the shiny, clean mini-van parked in front of the finely trimmed lawn adorning it's HOA-managed, cookie-cutter house.

Rigidly bending at the waist, it picks up another rock to hurl toward our grossly unconventional abode, and it's quickly joined by fellow zombies, each with their own rock to let fly.

As a shower of stones surrounds us, I read the words etched there on - "vagrant", "derelict", "bad parent", "unstable", "irresponsible", "beggar".

Each impact causes pain, hurts my heart, not because of the label that won't stick. I don't live my life by labels anyway.

It hurts because the zombies are familial.

I realize now that they've been all around me, watching my every move, construing every action to confirm their own warped opinion about us.

After the attack, and aware of this infiltration, I'm self-conscious and wary of every action. I'm reflective and self-examining.

Are we crazy? Am I a bad parent? Is our 'homelessness' hurting our children? I look  for evidence throughout the day.

Each cry from my child, every protest, every complaint, every act of sibling rivalry, might be used against me as evidence of the imprudence of my lifestyle choices.

(Because as everyone knows, people who are 'stable' and live in a house and have a career, don't have children that fight, or whine or complain - it's a natural cure for childish behavior.)

The greatest zombie concern seems to be for the welfare of my children - can my kids even read or write? Won't they grow up to be beggars? What about college or 'holding down a job'? Our instability and lack of 'real' education is the culprit.

Oh no, you've uncovered my secret plot, to disregard the well-being of my children and permanently inflict emotional, mental and psychological scars.

I'm sorry, but if you believe I'm ruining my children and destroying any chances for their future; if you think my lifestyle is insane, immoral, unstable or capricious; if you think I'm an inconsiderate mendicant, well, your opinion of me is none of my business.

I'm not looking for validation, approval or even acceptance. All I ask for is respect. The same respect I try to give to all others who live in a manner that I find ridiculous, hypocritical, unhealthy or just plain dumb.

It's your God-given right to live the life you choose to live. And it's my right as well, so please keep your opinions to yourself.

As the sun always shines following the darkness of night, my self-doubt is followed an outflow of truth.

No, we're not crazy. We just listen to a different beat.

As the Sumi Proverb states, "To those who do not hear the music, the dancers seem crazy."

Some people just can't handle the uber-non-conformity of unorthodox lifestyle choices. It just doesn't jive well with them. "You mean you aren't strapped to an anchor with a thirty year mortgage plus interest? Your kids don't go to government school? Huh?"

They don't see it as an alternative, but equally respectable lifestyle choice, but instead as an offense, a grotesque and repugnant slap in the face of all they know to be holy. Its the killing of sacred cows.

But for us, our unusual life is an experiment in simplicity, in purposeful living. It helps us strip away the excess until all that's left is the core of life - the real essence of why we're here on this planet - our relationships and our experiences.

Our unconventional lifestyle helps us to focus on the things that matter most.

Imagining for a moment the alternative - 'settling' down to a 'normal', 'stable' lifestyle - seems absolutely dreadful.

So we'll keep on this path less traveled.

In hopes of validating my re-decision, I ask my children:

"Would you rather live in a house instead of traveling all over in our truck?"

"No. Then we wouldn't be able to see South America, and I wouldn't get to eat spicy food."

"Do you like driving around in our truck?"

"No. It's boring to drive a long time."

Would you rather not travel around and stay in one place?

"No way, I like seeing new places and meeting our friends."


Have you slayed any zombies today?

Photo by Adam Crowe



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25 Responses

  1. julie

    I can see why you would get this type of reaction. Not because I don’t agree with what you are doing. What you are doing is none of my business! But for the record I would totally do this too if my husband would agree. Unfortunately, I would have to divorce him and find someone else with the same dreams/goals. And that is not going to happen. Anyway, I not sure what you are doing is much different than military families. Perhaps the lenght of time you are in one place would be the only difference I can see. Lots of military families homeschool. What better education, than to learn as you travel around the world. For me personally, I have always said that it is easier for me to learn (especially geography) if I have been there. I’m not sure why people are so hung up on how we school our children. We homeschool and haven’t got the best or nicest responses, the worse being from family! But then some of the most praise filled responses were from a few family member who are teachers.
    You have a job/career what every you want to call it. You making a living…you write, you free lance. You can support your family and the best part… you found a way you can do it and travel too. The truth is most people are jealous of you because you found a way to “afford” to do what they could only dream of doing. They are too afraid to take the risk. I say…more(veggie) power to ya!!! I can’t see how your kids won’t benefit from this. I’m jealous and want to be one of your kids!! Have fun on your lifetime adventure!!

  2. Denise Fortner

    Just finished getting my “fix” this morning of Discover. Share. Inspire. And, once again, you’ve made my day, Rachel! Those that have apparently criticized you and your family are just envious and jealous that you and your husband decided to raise your children in a non-traditional setting. I applaud both of you for making the unselfish decision to give your children the best education possible…to learn about different countries, cultures and people. With all that your children experience along your amazing travels and journey, they will truly have more education than someone from an Ivy League school. All because they have two parents that love them so much that they decided to give their children a real, hand-on education, instead of going along with what society tells them is right. Way to go Dennings! You keep on keeping on and give your children (and yourselves) the education of a lifetime! I only wish I would have done the same thing for my children.

  3. Janis Mayers

    Wow, there are some really small minded people out there. Good thing their comments won’t stick to you…Your living your dream and their just drowning in consumer debt wishing they could.

    Great blog I very much enjoy it.

  4. Marc W. Stauffer

    Personally, i think what you are giving your children is fantastic, an education of a lifetime! No school can give what you are giving and no film can give you the experiences you are giving. I recognize that what you are doing is not for everyone, but neither was climbing aboard a Conestoga wagon with your family and heading west for an uncertain future…or climbing aboard a ship with nothing more than a suitcase and a dream and steaming for a land filled with opportunity called America! You and your family are of that adventurous breed, the Lewis and Clark’s, the Pa Ingalls…. you say; “lets see whats over that next horizon”!

    • Rachel

      Thanks Marc! I appreciate it. We do resonate with the explorers and love to see what’s over the horizon! There seems to be a common misconception that we think others should live our lifestyle. NO WAY! It’s crazy 🙂 But we do want them to live THEIR dream.

  5. Nate

    You guys are inspiring! I love reading the stories. It’s intriguing really. It’s nice to see someone grab the bull by the horns and make things happen. Now days its hard to find people with real passion and a desire to “live life on purpose”. I agree with Marc. Where would we be if everyone was just a dreamer and there were no do’ers. Keep livin’ it!

  6. Jen Kelly

    I have to say “amen” to all the comments above! Some people really are scared to take that leap of faith and create their dreams. When we criticize others who are doing things “differently” than we are, it’s a reflection of who we are, our belief system in ourselves, and the inadequacy of how we feel for not living our dreams. I really liked your comments towards your zombies. You allow others to walk to the beat of their own drums because like you said, we all have a different purpose and different goals on this earth. We need to focus on what those are for ourselves in creating who we want to be, instead of criticizing others for being who they are meant to be. I love open-minded accepting people! It is so healthy for our souls to be that way! As long as we love the Lord, our family, and ourselves, it doesn’t matter if we live in a house or a truck!!! Your family continues to be an inspiration to us.

  7. Chris

    I draw lots of inspiration from your adventures and your point of view of what it is all about. If others worried as much about themselves as others, we would all be happier and society better off.

    Keep on moving forward!

    • Rachel

      Ha ha, so true. It reminds me of a Jack Johnson song:

      And I don’t pretend to know what you know, no no
      Now please don’t pretend to know what’s on my mind

      Nobody knows anything about themselves
      ‘Cause they’re all worried about everybody else, yea

  8. Eric

    This is Eric again who’s a teacher thinking about leaving my job to worldschool my children.
    I don’t watch many movies. We don’t have a TV in our household. But there are certain movies that I love because they’re about travel or have some philosophical value to me. I love The Matrix because I interpret it to say that we are all either “plugged in” to a lifestyle that is designed to appease us while serving the masses, or we can deliberately “unplug” and be at choice about how to experience life.
    Another movie I’d like to mention is The Doors because of the part where Jim Morrisson leaves during a concert, rejecting the expectation that he serve the masses by performing at that time. Outside, he climbs up a fence to try to escape the angry mob and looks down to deliver a more valuable message than the lyrics he was going to regurgitate in the concert. He asks the crowd “Are any of you ~really~ alive!?” His voice was echoed as if to emphasize his drug induced delirium but his words continue to echo through my mind now and then even though I don’t choose to use any drugs or alcohol.

  9. Lisa

    My heart broke when I read “destroying any chance of a future” for your children. You are giving them everything conventional families can’t in this crazy fast-paced American society-your hearts and your time. Too many kids will never really know their own families because they are busy investing in someone/something else to the extreme. What you’re doing is not easy and yet it is so full of meaning. You’ve got amazing, level heads on your shoulders (obvious even in how you wrote this post about zombies and labels.) Please continue to be at the forefront of how a real family should interact with each other on a daily basis when possible. Love and adventure surely will create children who are open to new possiblities and new ways of doing things and they may become the pioneers of their lifetime-creating a better world for all of us.
    Hugs and Friendship from my family to yours!

  10. Lisa

    I think you cause people to question whether the life they’ve worked so hard to achieve is actually the best thing or not and that really scares some people. Instead of showing their vulnerability in questioning themselves, they get defensive and/or offensive and lash out at you. Your existence threatens their security. For me, it makes me want to jump on board!

  11. Marie

    Have you really had people say things to you like this? I think Americans (being a dual US/NZ national myself)are more likely to say negative things to people out loud whereas Kiwis and British people (where I’ve also lived for a long time and my husband is from there)are less likely to say anything negative, although there are always exceptions. You can usually still feel disapproval even if it is not verbalised but I prefer the less confrontational approach as i never know how to deal with people who outright judge you. What do you say to people?
    Anyway, you can rest assured that the lovers are much higher in numbers than the haters! Keep on keeping on and we’ll keep reading about it:)

    • Rachel

      You would be surprised. We’ve had our fair share of confrontations. I’m like you though, I just want to live my life and let people live theirs 🙂

  12. Carla

    Wow, I just stumbled across your blog and I cannot stop reading. You guys are amazing and I am so excited to ‘meet’ you.
    We are planning on selling all our stuff and our house and business next year to travel and spend time with our children. Both our children and ourselves. We have been sucked into the vortex of consumerism that we wish to escape so as we can begin to live.
    It’s exciting to realise that many other families are on a similar journey and that we do not have three heads with sixteen eyeballs (which is how people look at us when we begin to explain our adventure).
    Off to read some more….


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