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Monday, June 18, 2012

Live Deliberately

by jpaul (bio)

Let me share what I have learned from a family I recently connected with through Mormon Explorer. Meet the Dennings, a homeless family I can’t help but envy when I visit their website and see the life of adventure they are living. After living for the last few years in Asia and Central America, they are now enjoying a nomadic lifestyle as they drive from Alaska to Argentina. That is an amazing feat for any couple, but what still blows me away is that they are doing this with 5 kids.

When I first contacted them last month, I didn’t even know where to begin with my questions. How can you afford that? What about insurance? What about school? Can I come? As a delved into their blogs and videos on their website, I found that they had answered many of these questions themselves.

To my first question on finances, and probably the top concern for anyone considering a similar expedition, Rachel Denning responded,
"We’ve found that there is a misconception about travel. Our monthly budget for all seven of us is about $1500 - $2000. (Our cheapest month was actually about $950) That's for food, rent, utilities (internet, cell phone), etc. That's less than we used to pay in the states just for a mortgage. REAL travel is cheap. Vacationing is expensive. We don't vacation. :) And we don't have any other bills back in the States. We gave them all up. Travel is one of the most important parts of our life, so everything else ('stuff', etc.) gets a back burner. We own everything free and clear. We buy everything with cash.”
The idea of Traveling vs. Vacation is an amazing point that I hadn't really thought about before, but the idea resonates with me and what I enjoy about traveling. I love to explore. I don’t really care much for vacation. Spending money on a fancy hotel and taking pictures of the same landmarks that millions of others have already captured doesn't do much for me. I want to meet real people and experience their culture. I look back on my most memorable experiences while traveling, and they have never occurred at fancy art galleries or museums … it's usually when my family and I wander off the beaten path that we find unique experiences that we carry with us long after the trip has concluded.

As a father of three, I sadly don’t travel as much as I would like. I sometimes find myself on Facebook scrolling through pictures of friends riding elephants in India or backpacking through Europe and wishing that could be me. I quickly push that thought aside and realize that I wouldn't trade my three kids and the amazing times we have doing simple activities around our house for any adventure I sometimes feel I am missing out on. However, the Dennings are proving that my passion for travel and the increasing number of mouths to feed aren't mutually exclusive. They deliberately choose a lifestyle of experiencing and exploring the world over the typical career ladder, nicer bigger stuff, and making sure their kids learn as many sports and instruments before they're sent to college to maximize their earning potential so they can buy even nicerer and biggerer stuff.

The misconception of what makes children ultimately successful and happy is a common theme on their website. The Dennings' responses to these criticisms are an insightful view of the state of our education system and the challenge our lacking system poses on our competitiveness in the global workforce. See their latest article on "Why I Hope my Kids Never go to College ."As a teacher once myself, I agree that their kids will get more out of traveling the world and expanding their perception of what is possible than most of my students got out of studying for the "all-important tests" that came once a year. Most of my students would rather have been home playing video games or watching TV. The one-size fits all system dumbed down my brightest students and caused most of them to see education as a punishment they endure until they are no longer forced to be there. The Denning kids understand you can learn as much from volunteering at an orphanage as you can being lectured for eight hours. I'd bet you a lunch that the Denning kids understand the principle that learning doesn't end at graduation and that they will do just fine in whatever profession they choose (and will probably choose a profession they are truly passionate about).

I do not propose that you quit your job and travel the world (even though that seed has been planted in my brain). What I do think everyone can learn from the Dennings is to Live Deliberately. Know what is most important to you and make sure that is where you are spending your time and energy.

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