Yes, this headline is for real…
Last week, Courtney and I had the pleasure of crossing paths with another family on the road… The Denning Family.
Like us, the Dennings are on a road trip as a family.
Unlike us, they have 5 FREAKIN’ KIDS with them! Holy moly. And they aren’t just going around the U.S. – they are in route from Alaska (where they lived for a year) all the way down the west coast to… ARGENTINA.
To top it off, they are pulling this off in a veggie-powered truck (read: paying nothing for gas) and a rooftop tent to sleep in.
We were so impressed and inspired by our short time with the Denning family – I wanted to share their story with you.
Below, I sit down with Greg and Rachel – while Courtney wrangles 5 kids total (thanks honey!).
Additional information and video summary:
- Follow the Denning Family here: DiscoverShareInspire.com // Twitter // Facebook
- [00:00] - Introduction to Greg and Rachel
- [01:15] – Where the Dennings have been as a family (Mexico, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, India, Canada, Alaska…)
- [02:05] – Ages of their five kids that travel with them (All under 8!)
- [02:50] – I ask the Dennings if they’re crazy – and if the lifestyle feels “strange” to them.
- [03:35] – Details on the Veggie-Powered Truck they are using for their roadtrip.
- [05:55] – How the Dennings can afford to travel (different from what we do)!
- [08:00] – Rachel and Greg’s top parenting tips for managing 5 kids on the road.
- [10:40] – What is the primary goal for the road trip?
Full transcript of the entire interview…
Hey everyone. This is Baker from Man Vs. Debt, and I am honored to be joined today with Greg and Rachel Denning, who—we’ve met a lot of people while we’ve been traveling along this road trip. But maybe—these guys have maybe the most unique story of them all. So I wanted to get them on camera while we’re spending a few days here in Redding, California, or outside of Redding, and share their story and get some of their expertise for what they’re doing.
So before I let them talk, I’m going to do so more talking. And that is, we get a lot of people that email or message us and say, “Hey, with so many people that are traveling and young, we really appreciate that you guys share your travels as a family.”
And so we’re very flattered when we’re able to do that, and sort of help other families realize that it’s possible. But even we need inspiration, and when we turn for inspiration, these are the type of families and the type of people that we turn to.
They don’t have just one kid. Not two kids, not three kids, not four kids. But they are doing this with five kids.
A family of seven, with five kids. And I guess, Greg, if you would, give us a quick recap of the last few years. We’ve talked about it, but I want to hear in your own words of where you guys have been. Just the quick version.
We got excited about travel, and Rach and I had a quick trip to Mexico. We both went, “Wow, we want to do this.” And so after our fourth child was born, we drove from the States down to Costa Rica. Lived there for a year. Then we moved and lived in the Dominican Republic, out in the Caribbean, which was fantastic.
After that, we ended up in India, and just loved that experience. Flew back from India while Rachel was pregnant with our fifth, and drove from Atlanta, Georgia, up to Homer, Alaska, where we spent the last year. So now we’re on our next adventure, which is Alaska to Argentina, to Tierra Del Fuego.
Yeah. So that’s why I wanted to get them on camera, for that specific reason. With four kids through most of that, now with the fifth, little baby Atlas, who is so cute. And what are the ages now, Rachel? What’s the breakdown?
Our oldest is Kyah; she is 8. And then Parker’s 7. Kimbell is 5, almost 6. Aaliyah’s 4, and then Atlas is eight months.
8, 7, 5, 4, and eight months. Correct? Wow, that is—I guess the follow up question to that is, “Are you crazy?”
Serious question. Do you get that a lot?
Do people really ask you? Do they see you, hear about what you’re doing, and they really—Honestly, do they check in to see if you’re a little loony?
Yeah. I think people think we’re a little strange sometimes.
It’s just so unconventional.
Is it really that strange though? So let’s get into this, ’cause I want to talk about this. We have people ask us this question too, and it’s not even close to the same scale of what you guys are doing. Does it feel strange, in day to day life for you?
No. To us it’s just, you know, you get up in the morning. You have breakfast, you get dressed, you—Except for us. Then we go to the beach or we go to the Redwood Forest, or we—
To Mt. St. Helen’s, or Rainer. Or today, up to the lake.
And I think that we’ve run into that same thing too. And I keep telling people, with life in the RV, because I want to get into what you guys are doing this most recent tour in. But people ask us all the time, when they see the RV, is “Can you do this for a long period of time?” And I always tell them, “After the first month, it was just life. And you adapt, and you learn how to live and operate in a small space, like the RV.”
Or even a smaller space, because you guys are actually doing this in a truck that has benches in the back for the kids, and a rooftop tent. So picture this: a truck and a rooftop tent. We think we need the RV, which is 31.5′ with a slide-out, a bathroom, kitchen sink. And here they are, making it happen, all the way from Alaska to Argentina, in just the truck. And not only is this a truck with a rooftop tent, this is a veggie powered truck, right?
That’s right, yeah.
Tell us a little bit about that, Greg. What—How in the world—We’re spending $1,000 to $1,500 in gas. And we just went to Shell before we got here to meet you guys, and filled it up for whatever, $220. Tell the Man Vs. Debt readers where you guys went to get your fuel before you got here.
So yesterday before we got here, we stopped at a restaurant. I walked back to their veggie bin. They had over 300 gallons of veggie. I took what we needed and what we could carry.
Well, explain what the veggie is.
It’s waste vegetable oil. They take it out of their fryers after they’ve cooked the fries or the chicken, whatever they’re doing. They take the waste vegetable oil, they throw it in their bins, and then we recycle it, put it in the truck. It costs me zero, in dollars, to get that. There’s an exchange rate. I have to work a little bit for it. Took me a half hour to get 30 gallons. It was the slow way, but we—
We filled up for $220. You stopped by a restaurant with half an hour of work and did the exact same thing.
And a lot of people, I hear—I hear about this a lot. But it really—the vision, my mind comes up with two hippie-type people going around to restaurants. It doesn’t strike me as a family of seven actually pulling this off. Where’d you get the idea from? Or have you always been passionate about this issue? Or did you just jump into it?
No. We bumped into it. And our whole life has been like that. We just meet great people along the road, and new ideas. And once your mind’s expanded to a new idea, you grab hold of it. And we had been toying with this idea of a long road trip, and we kind of solidified it: “Hey, Alaska to Argentina.” And then the idea came across, if you can do this on veggie. We thought, that’s thousands and thousands of dollars.
Yeah, probably approaching at least $10,000.
Yeah, it’s going to be huge.
I don’t know. I’d like to see the math on that. But yeah, that’s a huge thing. So let’s do. Let’s talk more about the finances. ‘Cause one of the questions I get a lot is, how you guys afford this lifestyle. And I work, work way too much, as a lot of Man Vs. Debt readers—I go back and forth. But we’re working and living on the road. While you guys have a slightly different system of—Well, I’ll let you guys explain it. How are you affording this trip?
I think our main philosophy is that we eliminate everything that we can that’s not essential for us. So that we free up the time and the money to do what we really want to do. So—and that’s why we went with the rooftop tent option and everything, is because we’re eliminating rent, we’re eliminating accommodation expenses. We can basically—
Right. Basically living in our truck, but it gives us the freedom to go all the way to Argentina.
Yeah. And so primarily I guess what you did is, you guys—stage one is just to be ultra frugal, and to realize what’s important to you guys, spend money on that. Which we’ve talked about as well. But also just to eliminate these sort of expenses that people think are necessities when they’re traveling.
Like I said, we’re spending almost $1,500 a month. And it had Courtney and I scratching our heads to be like, “Wow, maybe we should’ve thought more about this” or “Maybe there are more ways that we can stretch ourselves,” when we heard about your guys’ story.
See, and we love to ask that question: “Is there a better way?” And you start questioning—We take our living expenses, and we’re like, “Is this the bare minimum?” And then you figure out, no it’s not. You can squeeze it, squeeze it. And so you give up some luxuries, some comforts.
But for us, with our priority—Hey, the trip’s our priority. Family time’s our priority. I can skip a little bit of comfort, luxury, here and here. Personally, I can give that up in order to say—[CROSSTALK]—time and other things so we can do what we really want to do. So we’ve gone totally frugal. And so our living expenses are cheap. So now when you find a way to cover those expenses, you get to do what you want to do.
And that’s great. And I want to now dive into what you just said about the family time. Because honestly, we’ve encountered this again in both the positive and negative of traveling families. And I might offend some people here. But a lot of times when we have—when we meet home schooled families, or we meet a lot of traveling families, at times the kids can be less than social. Or the parents themselves can be less than social. There can be some barriers there that we’ve seen in different families, and that we help—we’re taking strides to make sure that we’re healthy in that aspect.
But your kids—Seriously. This is not just because you’re sitting here—are so curious and so well-behaved, and really just amazing kids. So Courtney and I are looking at you guys, looking for parental tips. How do you guys travel, live so close together, and give the—What are your top parenting tips, is what I’m trying to get at. Because I really look up to you guys in that instance.
I think that one thing I always try to focus on with the kids is just personal responsibility and being concerned about being the kind of person you want to be. So if there’s some type of issue, I really focus on, “Are you acting how you want to be? Are you doing the kinds of things that are going to make you the person you want to be? And how do you feel right now? Do you feel good when you’re fighting with your brother or”—That’s my area of focus, really.
And is there one that sticks out for you?
Yeah. Rachel and I are really passionate about personal development, and trying to be our best selves. We’re aware of the stigma of social retardation or whatever. “Oh, no, you won’t be social. You’ve got this recluse.” You imagine this person that can’t communicate. We’re on a quest together. We’re passionate about personal development, and trying to make the most of ourselves. So we go about it with passion, and the kids follow along.
I was just going to say that.
And we encourage them. We’re outgoing. We love to meet people from all cultures and places and backgrounds and ages. And be able to interact with all of them, and learn from them, and grow and learn in every situation. So we’re passionate about education. We’re passionate about being people of influence that can make a difference in the world and just try to be good people.
Model that for your kids. Lead by example.
And they follow along.
And obviously this is a softball. But you guys believe that travel enhances that in your kids? And enhances that in yourselves?
Which we do too. And again, I said that was a softball. But that’s sort of what Courtney and I keep coming back to, is I think that we think in general that travel is leading us, and then by in return Milligan, in the direction of where we want to grow as people.
So that’s really great. So let’s talk a little bit of shop. Let’s talk a little bit about your guys’ site, ’cause I really like it, and that is discovershareinspire.com. Is that right? What is the goal now? Let me ask you this.
What’s the primary goal of your trip? Have you thought—That’s a tough question for us. What’s the primary goal of the trip from the West Coast, and literally the West Coast of the entire hemisphere, I guess. That’s what it is right?
The entire West Coast, yeah.
That’s awesome. What’s your guys’ primary goal?
It just started as what—we thought, “What do we want to do?” Based on the travel we’ve done, based on the experiences we’ve had, what are we really passionate about? And our thing is discovery. It’s really about that. We love going to new places and seeing what they have to offer and learning from it. But then we really tend to get bored after we’ve been there for too long. So we realized that we love that change. We love to—exploring new things. So when we thought about it, we were like, “Well, let’s just drive and keep driving”—
And just keep going south.
And keep going, yeah.
And share all the great things that the world has to offer. But if I can step back, it’s all priority. Our main focus is family closeness. We want a tight, close, growing, loving family that we become well-rounded, developed people and stay tight as a family. And so that priority’s important. That’s the basis of this discovery, sharing, and this travel. Hey, we’re going to do this trip, but the goal is just a solid family. So often, so many of us get distracted by work or other pursuits or hobbies or whatever it is. And so our main priority is that. How can we really do that and then tie in discovering, a desire to share. Always experience and then share it.
Yeah. So let’s take that. And Rachel, you’re I guess the primary writer, or the primary face of the website itself. How does that tie in? You guys have this personal message of family first and then evolving. Together as a family, evolving, is what I’m deciphering from you guys. How does the site tie in to that? How does the site—What’s your goal with the site?
With the site, I just like to share our experiences. So I’m writing about what we’re doing. I’m also offering tips and advice about how to do it. How to manage education and where to go and everything.
Sure. It’s almost like a megaphone for your guys’ experience. Get those out to other people that may be looking at, “Well, it’s nice if you want to travel, but I have three kids. I could never do that.”
Emails I get all the time. People who say, “When you guys have your second child, things will change.”
We hear that all the time.
So when you guys have your sixth, it’s definitely going to be different. I love that, because I think that we need more megaphones from people who break down barriers, who break down excuses. And I think—I’m flattered that we get to do that for a very, very small group of people with one kid.
But it’s awesome to be able to share your guys’ story, to say, “Hey, there is almost no excuse. You can make it happen. You can be frugal. You can go with five kids. You can realize whatever is your priorities, and you can make those happen.” So that’s why I’ve enjoyed having you guys on and I enjoy sharing your story.
So I always finish up, wrap up these sort of interviews. And I haven’t told you guys this before. So this is a little bit of a surprise. But I want you guys to ask a question of the Man Vs. Debt readers. You guys have to come up with a question. You ask, and we’ll get the feedback from the readers. Either one of you can jump in, and I know it’s—I love surprising people with this question. If you could ask one thing, what would you ask?
That is tough.
There are no wrong questions.
A question for your readers.
I would think, “What is it that holds people back?”
You’re on the same page. Go with it.
“What is it that holds people back from doing what they really want to do?”
If I—I may even be able to evolve that a little bit. ‘Cause I love this question. When it was asked to me one time, I think it literally changed my life. “What’s the #1 thing that’s holding you back?” Right now, what’s the #1 thing that’s holding you back?
And eliminate that, and then your next #1, and move that one.
Yeah, keep moving it on. If you guys can help all of us out by listing out what the #1 thing is holding you back, and again, Greg and Rachel, thanks for joining me today.
And it’s an honor to be able to share your guys’ story and spend a couple days here with our families together.
The Dennings Ask: What’s the #1 barrier that’s holding you back from your own goals?
What a great question!
What’s the number one hurdle – right now – that’s keeping you from your own vision of the life you want to lead?
I hope you are as inspired by the Denning family as we were! Follow them here!