Mwahahahaha!! ๐Ÿ˜€

The book is ALMOST finished... and the course re-release is not far behind! We are totally EXCITED about it!!


"I happen to think it is a bit irresponsible of you to put your kids' futures in jeopardy to satisfy your need for travel.ย  What [you are doing] is just risky,"

was the response one commenter made on an article I recently wrote for BootsnAll about letting travel transform your life.

It's not the first time we've received comments like this regarding our family lifestyle choices. We've been attacked before by the 'zombie-dream slayers'. We've been accused of not providing our children with a 'stable' life; of not preparing them for their future; of being beggars; vagrants; irresponsible.

We've been 'advised' to buy a house, get a job and put our kids into school : it's what's best for us. We all need some stability.

One of my favorites was from Dan who said,

"I think this is insane. Fast forward 20 years. You are going to have 5 messed up kids. You canโ€™t comprehend this. Most people can. Stop this insanity and give your kids some stability, friends and a life. Boxed up in a truck โ€œtraveling N.A.โ€ is selfish, irresponsible and idiotic. Grow up."

I mean, traveling with our kids; being nomadic, on the go and not having a permanent home; regular change, exposure to new things and experiences; 'informal' learning, lack of testing and grades; no 'regular' job; no after school activities; no neighborhood friends; no sleepovers or play dates; no video games or t.v.; it's all a recipe for instability, right?

Most certainly, our kids our doomed. How will they ever go to college, find a job and fit in to society?

Lake Atitlan, the morning we left for Quetzaltenango (aka Xela)

Well, I've got something to say about that.

  1. First of all, stability is not created by location dependence.

  2. Second, fitting in is not our goal.

For some reason, there's a large majority of people who believe that in order to have a 'stable' family, you have to stay in one place. Let me tell you a secret:

Stability and location dependence are not the same thing.ย 

Now think about it for a minute. If staying in one place was the answer for creating stable homes, families and communities, then why is most of the world so messed up?

Most people - whether you're in Guatemala, India or the United States - stay in one place for the majority of their lives. They don't stray farther than the home town where they were born. You would think this would create a lot of 'stability', wouldn't you?

Yet, look around, and you'll see broken homes; divorce; teen pregnancy and suicide; porn addictions; drug addictions; technology addictions; eating disorders; I could go on, but I'll spare you from telling you what you already know.

Sorry, but that tells me that the formula of stay-in-one-place = stability doesn't add up.
In fact, maybe it's actually adding to the problem.

I would go as far as to argue that point. Perhaps staying in one place actually adds to instability. We've seen first hand young adults who can't handle going to college because they'll have to sleep in a different bed. Or adults who 'lose it' when their 'schedule' is thrown off. We've seen families fall apart over a change in circumstances.

People become so accustomed to their normal, 'stable', same-old-same-old routine, that any deviation is a major catastrophe. That sounds a little unstable to me.

They go to restaurants and order the exact same item, afraid that they 'won't like it' if they try something new. Parents feed their kids only macaroni-and-cheese because 'it's all they will eat'.

They don't change jobs; they don't change houses; they don't change schools. They don't change. It's too uncomfortable, or scary.

That's not stability. That's evasion of the inevitable.

Change is the only constant, and teaching your children (and yourself) to learn to effectively cope with and adapt to change, is probably one of the most responsible, stable things you can do.

That's because stability has nothing to do with location. Stability is a mental state. Want a stable family? Then become a stable parent.

Your mental stability will have more of an impact on the stability of your children than whether or not they grow up in the same house their entire lives.

That being said, being nomadic and initiating change are not equal to inconstancy and volatility. You can be a vagabond and still have a regular routine; you can be 'incapable of holding down a job', and still make a worthwhile (profitable) contribution to society. You can also have a career and a mortgage and be stable - but they don't create the stability. That comes from within you.

Atlas and Daddy in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

On our recent trip from our current home in Panajachel to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (a.k.a. Xela - pronounced Shay-la), we explored the town center, and then visited a park on the top of a peak that overlooked the entire city.

The big attraction was the GIGANTIC cement slides built into the hillside. They were incredibly 'dangerous', and violated all sorts of U.S. safety codes, I'm sure.

Life is kind of like those slides. They can be fast, and scary and threatening to the health and safety of your family. You might think the responsible thing would just be to avoid them altogether. Certainly you'd be more 'stable' standing firmly on the ground than careening out of control down a slippery surface, right?

Out of focus, but look at that face ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you dare send your kids down something like that? Do you dare remove them from the 'stability' of home?

The answer to creating 'stability' for your family (and yourself) doesn't come from avoiding life's ups and downs. It comes from learning to successfully navigate them. You don't have to avoid change and stay in one place to create a strong family unit.

You have to become better parents, more stable individuals. You can do that anywhere. In fact, change and uncertainty force you into it.

Learning to work together and take care of each other is more crucial to family 'stability' than location.

And the result of learning to embrace change, accept the unpredictable, and work with it? Usually it's personal growth, and a lot of FUN!

So if our kids future is dependent on our stability as parents (which may be in question ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), and not on 'staying in one place, what about their future? What hope will they have without formal education; standardized testing; report cards; diplomas? How will they go to college? How will they get a job?

Truthfully? We don't want our children to go to college and get a job. We hope they grow up to be a little more creative than that.

But I'll have to expound on that topic in the next blog post.

For now, enjoy the video of 'unstability':




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67 Responses

  1. Dianne Schenk

    Love the article. Just one comment: those slides are really made of concrete??

      • ShadBarden

        I read your article and thought about it as I was eating breakfast. I think if you have people around you who love each other and you are able to provide financially….ย isn’tย that what really matters? Its nice to read about a family doing what you are doing. Best wishes. Shad

  2. Mary Norman

    I agree with absolutely everything you write in this article. But it does really freak me out to see all those little kids flying down the highway with no seatbelts on. Habit I’m sure.

    • Rachel

      We have grown accustom to it… there weren’t even seatbelts in the van (except in the front seats) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Karen

        @Rachel: I found it a bit disconcerting when we traveled Belize years ago, and all the people traveling in the back of pick-up trucks, too. Sometimes I’m afraid that in our society we have so much ‘safety’ regulated we aren’t teaching ppl to use common sense (which doesn’t seem to exist in our society) and be able to choose for themselves what is a suitable safety level. We just expect regulations (ie gov’t) to do the thinking for us, and we learn to be good at following the rules. Ugh!

  3. Susan

    Our family went through a very “unstable” time before we started traveling and our pastor shared something VERY powerful. We were worried about how an extremely stressful extended family situation was affecting our kids (which, incidentally, would NOT have been an issue if we’d been traveling at that point). He said that as long as our own marriage and family were strong and secure, we could handle it. And I agree!

    I think the same thing applies to being “stable” by the world’s standards or being traveling nomads. As long as our core family stays strong, it doesn’t matter where we live, where we go, where our kids go to school or NOT go to school, or how we earn a living. Most “messed up” adults come from crazy homes with unstable (mentally) parents…not necessarily those that move around. Otherwise, the same (as the commenter on your blog said) could be said for military families, families who move every 2 yrs for a corporate job, etc.

    Nah, I’d rather be nomads and live where we want on OUR terms instead of being stationary and have to deal with the stress of “normal” live on a daily basis and produce children who aren’t ethnocentric, who speak multiple languages and have a genuine love for people who aren’t like themselves!

    …stepping off my soap box…

  4. Living Outside of the Box

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Stability comes from within the family, not within the “house”. Striving to have unity and consistency within our “home” (wherever that may be) is the big goal. I’ve found that in many ways when we are traveling my kids have more stability–they have more focused attention from us, and we are closer as a family unit. I’m so happy to keep my kids from becoming “normal”, unsatisfied children and adults. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Keli

    Stability is a state of mind. ย Life is about change and learning to cope with it ( travel being one very good way to do so) is essential to becoming a stable adult. ย Life is also about dealing with those unpleasant constants, which lessons can be learned on the road as well as “at home.” ย Staying in one place does absolutely not teach stability. ย Having dedicated, fully committed parents and strong family relationships is a far better foundation than always living in one house, as a growing number of unstable families/individuals will attest. That said, it is the strength of the family unit, not whether the family is stationary or nomadic that really matters. Either setting can produce stable, well-adjusted, capable adults.

  6. Melissa

    You’re the only other parents I’ve ever heard echo our sentiments about not wanting our kid(s) to go to college and get a job-job…to be more creative than that. Amen! We’ve been living as nomads for the past year, both in Mexico and in Montana, and I’m sure many of our friends don’t ‘get it’. It’s so refreshing to hear from other families that DO get it! Thanks!

  7. Sara

    People are so silly in todays world. introducing anything new or a different way of life is horrible. and how dare you! I love what you guys are doing and i love looking at your pictures, and hearing of your adventures! Great Blog!

  8. Jen Kelly

    You hit the nail on the head, Rachel! Great comments from everyone else as well. As long as mom and dad are happy and loving each other, and loving their kids, everything works! I grew up very “stable”. Now as an adult, I’m out of the country for the first time in my life, and the first month my world was pretty rocked and shaken. I was stressed and freaking out on several occasions. It was hard! I’m so grateful that my kids are learning how to navigate the changes and cultural differences that come with travel at an early age. They are learning confidence, that they are strong, and can deal with so many things! Heck, I’m learning all that too! What better preparation for life than to learn to navigate change and differences without your world falling apart? I love the personal growth that comes with travel. This is the school of life. And man- those slides sure were fun!

    • Rachel

      I’m so glad we can be here with your family while you learn those things… it’s such a fun adventure! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Lana

    I guess I kind of thought that was the point. To ruin our kids from ever fitting in with the crowds. Most people hate their jobs and die saying their life was nothing that great (until your dead, then everyone says your great). When I die, I want to say its the best life ever, and I want my kids to say the same. So I want them to be ruined from ever fitting in the box. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. LIsa

    People were nomadic long before agriculture began to allow people to settle. I would argue that traveling is our most natural way of living. Similarly, spending time as a family and teaching our own children has been a way of life long before formal schools were invented.

    I would also suggest that these experiments are not proving as successful as we’d like. Public schools are failing miserably all over the US.

    I think you’re just ahead of your time, Rachel. Most people don’t realize yet that the future is changing so rapidly and that the best way they can educate their children is to provide them with resilient, confident characters!

  11. Rob

    Great post, we have recently been trying to deal with a lot of the zombie dream killers ourselves. We are grateful for you blog.
    PS, that slide looks awesome!

  12. chantal



  13. Lee

    Just FYI: There is a park in San Francisco that has slides just like the one you show in the pictures. Just not as long, but steep enough. Kids throw sand on the slides and use cardboard boxes to fly down even faster. In Puerto Rico there is also one -so maybe you guys are more mainstream than you think ๐Ÿ˜‰ Should we alert your naysayer?

  14. Paul

    I love the “evil” grin! I guess this is what happens when you become unstable. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Joy

    i agree with lisa. i think the format of current schooling is on it’s way out. it’s not working and with access to information everywhere schools on the cutting edge are teaching kids how to think and inquire and not teaching them facts. Google can do that. And so can parents. if i could figure out how to do this as a single parent i would, though i don’t think my daughter would like it as much without all those siblings!

    i have to say though that the no car-seat thing makes me nervous especially in areas where access to good medical care is scarce. we live overseas and i brought one with me.

    that was off-topic but i couldn’t comment on the lifestyle alone. anyways, the lifestyle is great for your kids in my opinion! being global citizens is the best thing for them. perhaps you can stay somewhere long enough so they can all become bilingual as well.

    • Rachel

      Thanks for the input Joy!

      P.S. The kids already have a great foundation in Spanish. We lived in Costa Rica for a year, and the Dominican Republic for six months before this adventure.

  16. Sid

    I was just telling my cousin that when I have kids I still want to travel. I want them to see the world and know how to speak different languages. I have been a nomad off and on for about 9 years now and I love it. My last trip was traveling around Africa six months.
    I think your kids will just fine. They will certainly learn more than the little zombie kids stuck in front of the playstation eating high fructose cornsyrup filled snacks all day.
    I would love to have a family and do the same thing. I think I have been delaying having a family because of my travel bug. You experience has given me much encouragement to start a family and keep traveling!!!

  17. Ron

    I can identify with both sides of the issue. I had the opportunity to move/travel when I was growing up and it has helped me converse with a diversity of cultures in my career. It can also give a child (I’m talking about my personal experience now) a sense that you do not have to deal with anything bad as you know you’ll move and not have to resolve an issue.

    I’m blessed with the best of both worlds now and it took deliberate living to get here. My wife and I have found a great area to call home where she is not being considered a low life because she stays home with our children (yes, in the USA it is a taboo to be a good stay at home mom). I have worked 23 years with a good Company and have earned quite a few weeks of vacation and the resources to take my family on trips (our daughter has been in 30 states by the age of 10).

    We have a stable home to return to after each trip and it is because of the love my wife puts into it. Stability in my mind is about the blessings and love parents give to their children.

    • Rachel

      Having a home and staying put is a wonderful thing. We’re enjoying doing just that right now in Panajachel! But you are right, ultimately ‘stability’ as individuals and as a family comes from within – not from location.

  18. Jill

    I LOVE this!! My thoughts exactly! And the video is priceless! I do think the “safety” issue around kids here in the U.S. is causing unintended consequences: depression, anxiety, obesity, FEAR. . . what can they/we do anymore without constant supervision?!! And I am surrounded by people with “stability” in that nothing ever changes. That’s about it. Let’s ask whether our families are joyful and thriving, not simply STABLE!!

    And I completely relate to the “go to college and get a job” rhetoric. We were recently asked about how our kids will get into college (we unschool and our oldest is 7) and I said I don’t believe in college and that it’s definitely not our goal but if any of the kids wanted to go at some point, they’d figure it out then. That left them utterly speechless. Seriously thought they may report us to authorities. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for sharing your joys with us!

    • Rachel

      LOL That’s funny. I can see that. As I read recently in a really good book (Out of Our Minds by Ken Robinsons, who says school kills creativity), ‘going to college’ has become a religion. You speak blasphemy! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. Chris

    Love the points made about providing an environment that is right for growth, development and stability. I can see any lifestyle providing this and, as you say, it is about living delibrately.

    Certainly enjoy your take on this path and provides food for thought.

  20. Sonia

    Another good read, Rachel.

    Interesting to note that in Australia, at least, the “experts” are now urging parents to stop wrapping their kids in cotton wool, to allow/encourage more independence, to get them out doors regularly and to encourage and support them take risks. We are apparently seeing, in our work-force, our first generation of cotton-wool wrapped and raised young people; it’s a worry … people with very few ideas, limited initiative and motivation, limited ability to problem solve, limited or no resilience …

    My son developed a chronic illness 13 years ago, very traumatic and challenging and has meant I have needed to re-evaluate and redirect my life … changing my Gypsy lifestyle to a more grounded one, although not totally travel free (God help me that should ever be needed). However, Drs have repeatedly commented on the level of my son’s resilience and self-esteem … many different Drs have said many times that, without his resilience and self-esteem he most likely would not still be with us.

    We never know what challenges your children are going to face and it’s our job to give them the skills and experiences which will prepare them for what ever comes their way in life. Not having a “blessed” childhood myself, I was ever conscious that resilience is essential to survival and you can’t get that wrapped in cotton-wool, with no expectations to contribute to life; your own, your family’s and others.

    LoVe your work!
    Looking forward to seeing what your beautiful brood create for their futures.

  21. lynn

    There are always going to be people who want to tell you that what you do is wrong no matter what you are doing. When we left for our vagabonding adventure we were told flat out that there was no way this was what we should do with our family. I disagree.
    One word about the seat belts. I just have to say as an ER nurse I have seen too many people severely mangled or dead when they would have walked away with minor scratches if they had been wearing a seat belt. The inconvenience of wearing a seat belt is worth increasing my chance at life to me. The slides look awesome though. Too bad you didn’t know about the sand and cardboard trick. Could have really got going. We would love it. Hope you guys are doing great.

    • Rachel

      Thanks Lynn,

      I agree, there will always be someone who disagree with your lifestyle choices. You have to do what you know is right for your family.

      We did use some plastic bottles on the slides, cardboard didn’t work as well.

      And as for seat belts, we know first hand that they can be a very wonderful thing. But one of the things about travel is that you have to learn to adapt and embrace the ‘uncomfortable’ and uncontrollable. I can’t even count the number of times when we traveled in a completely ‘unsafe’ chicken bus or gua gua, or on the back of a motorcycle, where seat belts aren’t even an option. It’s hard to swallow as a parent, especially at first. But then you learn to go with the flow, do the best you can, and trust in a higher Power than seat belts. Sometimes it’s the best you can do. And when it’s all you can do, you have to learn to be okay with that. The rest of the time, you can use seat belts. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • lynn

        Totally agree. You have to weigh the risks with the reward and a life without risks is a life without reward. If seat belts aren’t an opption then that doesn’t mean you should not opt for that form of travel. We have been on some harrowing rides with no seat belts in Guatemala and other places and the risk was worth our reward. If seat belts are available then the risk of not using them is not worth the reward in my opinion.

  22. circe

    I just wanted to let you know that this is my new favorite blog!

    It has remotivated( is that a word) me to get back on track and follow what is important!
    Our family left Colorado a year ago in a RV and traveled for a bit and landed in Florida.(Me, My husband and four kids) We than bought a one way ticket to St Thomas.
    We just recently bought a boat and have made a date to leave next year.
    We had found ourselves sinking into our old lifestyle of spending too much, and too many kid related extra curricular activities.
    Your blog was what I needed to get our priorities in order and pursue our true passion which is to be at service to humanity.
    I have been asked this very question and you answered it wonderfully!

    Thanks Again!

    • Rachel


      How wonderful! We have dreams of doing the ‘boat thing’ sometime. I’d love to know how your experience is. Thanks for your beautiful comment.

  23. MrsFivers

    We don’t believe in college and jobs either.ย  We believe in getting an education and in doing useful work that serves family and others.ย  But most people would have a heart attack if we tried to tell them that. Education (at least in America) is, and should always be, free for the taking.ย 
    “Want a stable family? Then become a stable parent.”ย  That’s the problem for most people right there.

  24. Savannah Grace

    Oh, it’s so silly what people say. Yes, perhaps there may be some truth to their complaints but comparing to the positive travel has on a person, it’s just ridiculous for people to complain. Coming from a similar situation, having backpacked around the world with my family for 4 years in my teens I am not unfamiliar with this kind of remark either. I agree with you and with what all the other people who agree with you say. It’s an incredible experience and they are learning things that can NOT be taught in a classroom or sitting in one spot being “stable”. Keep going. Enjoy the journey!!!

  25. Carol K8z

    As one who grew up moving a LOT, I totally agree that learning how to adjust to change, even when it’s really hard, as a child prepares you to deal with life much better as an adult, especially when the core family is intact. My parents and 5 siblings provided the constancy of “home” even though that home was changing constantly. I feel that with that experience as a child, I have been much better prepared to take what life brings without becoming depressed and having to rely on antidepressant medications because life isn’t what it’s “supposed to be”, even accepting and moving on after the death of my loving life-companion. Too much stability makes it difficult for many people to accept and adjust to change, thus the epidemic of prescribed medications. The only constant you can expect in life is change! Learning to take it in stride is a gift you are giving your children…my grandchildren, by the way!! Love you all!!

    • RachelDenning

      @Carol K8z “Too much stability makes it difficult for many people to accept and adjust to change, thus the epidemic of prescribed medications” — wow! Really good.
      “The only constant you can expect in life is change!” — also really good ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. laurenmichelemcgarry

    LOVE YOU ALL- YOUR ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! Your awesome parents- keep it up!

  27. Jessica

    Love every bit about this article! Never stop exploring and being unique!


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