“This is Life” with the Dennings

I thought I was going to be alone all week with the kids. Mr. King had to go back to Costa Rica to firm up some business and banking matters and I was going to be a single mom. I was planning on taking the full week off from work, an increasingly frequent behavior of mine. I wanted to soak up the intensity of my children, concentrate on teaching G to swim and lead a quiet, little life until K got back.

But, as they do many times, plans changed.

The Dennings, online friends and a fellow traveling family, were finally in Belize and I invited them over to Ambergris Caye. Since April 2011, they have been traveling in their vegetable oil powered truck, on a journey which began in Alaska and will eventually end at the tip of Argentina. They’ve spent the last 6 months journeying through Mexico and they have five, yes FIVE, children under 9 years old.

The Dennings' Vegetable Oil fueled truck.  Photo by Rachel Denning

The Dennings' Vegetable Oil fueled truck. Photo by Rachel Denning

I didn’t know when they were coming or even if they were still coming. They had directions to our condo, but I hadn’t heard from them in a while. And then, an unexpected knock on my door revealed a flock of little heads peering in wondering who they were about to see.

My eyes were thrilled to see them.  I’ve been following their travels, mishaps, obstacles and rebounding spirits on their travel blog and thought it was quite an honor that they’d visit little ‘ol me. Too bad Mr. King was missing it.

An instant casualness settled into our little condo as 14 feet shuffled their way inside. At one point G turned to me and said “Mama, there’s too many to count”.  He was right. They were hungry and I had a mountain of coconut curry to serve. Luckily, they had traveled through India and loved curry. Yes, even the children.

We exchanged the who, whats, whens and whys of getting to know each other and then settled into creating informal messes. It quickly registered that I had no experience feeding this many people as the coconut curry that was to last two days, was gone. So we headed out to walk the streets in search of groceries.

Our favorite stand with great sweet corn tamales.

Our favorite stand with great sweet corn tamales.

I severely underestimated the amount of food that it takes to feed a troop like this. Normally, two pineapples last us a week, now they lasted one day. Each time I would start cutting into a pineapple, a swarm of hands and mouths attacked. Pineapple chunks would be swiped before the knife hit the cutting board. No doubt Greg, the dad, was the worst offender.

I wondered how much food they must carry on their truck to feed these growing, very active bodies. The kids insatiable thirst for sweet coconut water (that we call “pipa”) emptied 10 gallons of it and their appetites devoured over 120 bananas. During the week I cooked over 12 pounds of dried beans and 6 pounds of rice.

I love cooking for people, but even I fatigued by the end of the week, leaving us to eat chicken tacos and pupusas from the local stands. No complaining here.

Little monkeys climbing coconut trees - Parker & G

Little monkeys climbing coconut trees - Parker & G

Our families really enjoyed the time together. Long term travelers have an easygoing spirit that lends itself to becoming friends more quickly than usual. We have a tendency to be able to connect with people and enjoy the present moment out of necessity, knowing that it may quickly fade. We’re not sure how long we are staying in a spot so we fully embrace it before it evaporates. Although, we have the reassuring feeling in the back of our minds that we will, someday, meet again somewhere in this world.

The boys fishing for dinner. Could you imagine the amount of snapper we'd have to catch?

The boys fishing for dinner. Could you imagine the amount of snapper we'd have to catch?

We climbed coconut trees, we created a beautiful mermaid in the sand, we ate lots of popsicles, we created chaos in the pool, we devoured a friends invitation to a barbeque, we watched sunsets, we worked into the wee hours of the morning, we shared birth stories, we swam in the ocean, we saw stingrays, we found frogs, we ate peanut butter popsicles, and we convinced them to stay until Mr. King returned from Costa Rica.

Me with 6 of the 7 children that helped create blissful chaos this week.

Me with 6 of the 7 children that helped create blissful chaos this week.


I loved listening to Rachel and Greg talk. They embarked on this expedition nearly one year ago and plan on taking three years to finish, more or less. If more, fine. And it probably won’t be less.

“This is Life” Rachel says.

This isn’t a project or something that needs to be finished. Ever. THIS is LIFE: a worldly first hand education for the entire family, meeting kindred spirits along the way, volunteering to help others, enjoying the beauty of the natural world and human creations, giving thanks for blessings, nourishing bodies with local food, expressing innate creativity with work and play, stimulating curiosity, celebrating family and giving thanks for the beautiful differences that make this world so engaging.

This is life, This is travel and This is what makes the Dennings so inspirational.

Each day is a day for the open-ended enthusiasm of life to flow out. Greg, a personal development coach and motivational speaker is enthusiastic and has a smile on his face ALL the time. Rachel indulges her creativity in photography, website design and writing. The children never complain of being bored, they are accustomed to creating their own entertainment and play together beautifully, usually without toys, making up games and having fun. Living in such tight quarters and spending so much time together fosters respect of one another and great imaginations.

The Denning Family in the waters of Ambergris Caye

The Denning Family in the waters of Ambergris Caye

The Denning family graced us with a week full of laughter, fun, and inspiration. They have given us confirmation that the lifestyle that we have created for ourselves is right for us. They have inspired us to see more places and meet more people.

The week was awesome. I never did teach G how to swim, but the boys taught him how to courageously jump in the pool and go underwater without screaming at his mama. Thank you to the Dennings for sharing a part of their life with us.

Keep up with the Dennings on their Discover.Share.Inspire blog and on Facebook.

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9 Responses to ““This is Life” with the Dennings”

  1. Catherine Forest February 21, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    So sweet! It’s great to read about your week since we are also having a traveling family visiting us here in Costa Rica and are experimenting the same thing as you! It is so great to connect with other travelers!

  2. Living Outside of the Box February 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Isn’t it awesome that we have the resources to connect with fellow travelers? I love it! And of course, the Dennings are awesome, too (and GREAT eaters)!! Haha!! Hope to connect with them again, and you guys in the near future!

  3. Susan February 21, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    MAN! Now I really wish we lived close by because our G does exactly what your G used to do when jumping in the pool and going under. Top of the lungs screaming. And you’re exactly right about meeting other traveling families and making “fast friends”. It’s something only other travelers understand. Can’t wait to read more about this week of fun!

  4. Clark Vandeventer February 22, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    So happy you had the opportunity to connect in real life with the Dennings. We haven’t yet met any of the people we’ve become so close to online. Look forward to when we do!

    • S King February 25, 2012 at 7:22 am #

      It really was “an instant casualness” and we enjoyed it! Perhaps we’ll still be in Central America when you make it down here, Clark.

  5. Mary February 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Hmm, what is this about peanut butter popsicles?? I may need a recipe!

    So glad you guys got together, I also enjoy following their journey. Rachel writes with a candidness not often found else where.

    • S King February 24, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      We love our “peanut butter popsicles”…which are really just a huge spoonful of peanut butter that we slowly lick off.
      Sometimes, we’ll add a little Nutella to the mix, because Nutella makes all things better.

  6. Amy @WorldschoolAdventures February 24, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    What a fun week you had! I love how so many of us are getting to meet each other, the internet is such an amazing tool to bring like minded people together 🙂

  7. lisa wood February 25, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    That sounds like such a great week….and we have five boys – they eat faster than we can buy it, slice it or cook it 😉

    We too have meet some amazing people on our travels, and love connecting with others 🙂

    Its so good to read that other families are tavelling and loving their way of life.

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