Extended Travel and Pets

Extended travel with pets
Tabitha curls up with a good book at an Econo Lodge

You want to travel the world. You love your pets. What do you do?

Reconciling your dream life with the real-world constraints of your existing life is no small challenge. Few of those challenges are harder than incorporating the needs of pets into your travel plans.

It’s probably because of how much we struggled with this issue that reading the blog post Letting Go: What about the Pets? made me so sad. In fairness to the good folks at Meet, Plan, Go, I think they simply buried the lead. The article really does have good, useful, information, which is typical of their work. To get to the best stuff, though, you need to read past the title and the first three testimonials of people who gave away their pets to pursue a life on the road.

Take them with you

Where Letting Go shines is in the final third of the article when they take on the challenge of traveling with animals. It is here we discovered FoxNomad’s fabulous two part Ultimate Guide to Traveling Internationally with Your Pets (part 1, part 2).

The guide covers everything from pre-trip preparation for long flights to clearing pets through customs once you arrive. It deals with the critical (getting proper documentation) as well as the helpful, but less vital (animal frequent flier miles). It really is an ultimate guide where flying with pets is concerned.

Travels with Fido and Feline

But boarding an airplane isn’t the only way to travel, or even the best way when animals are involved. Driving is a far better option. Ever since Steinbeck and Charley set off to rediscover America we’ve known that pets are natural road trip companions.

By driving to your destination you control travel times and can take breaks as often as needed. Fido gets to ride along with the family instead of in the baggage compartment. And with an RV, everyone avoids the stress of constantly changing environments; man, woman, and beast sleep in the comfort of their own beds each night.

It is for these reasons we postponed our international travel ambitions and now travel fulltime in a motor home. The needs of our nervous cats weighed heavily in our decision.

RVing doesn’t preclude international travel, though. It’s possible to drive from Deadhorse, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Not only is it possible, it’s been done. Pat and Alie Schulte of Bumfuzzel made that trip in a ’58 VW Bus. The road doesn’t have to end in Argentina, either. When they reached the southernmost city in the world, they loaded the bus on a cargo ship and set sail for Europe. You can read about their trip in this five part series (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5).

Sail Away

The inspiration for our multi-year road trip wasn’t Travels with Charley, or even another RVer, but a sailor. Shannon happened upon fellow freelance writer Diane Selkirk’s travel blog Ceilydh Sets Sail and saw photos of their cat, Charlie, on board. The resulting epiphany that we could take our cats with us by simply changing our opinions about what long-term travel means made our entire trip possible.

Over the years Diane and her family have sailed roughly 12,000 miles to 10 different countries on two separate trips. Their latest excursion began in July 2009 and has taken them as far north as the fjords of British Columbia, down the west coast to Mexico, and across the pacific to Australia where they are currently.

Diane tells us that “having a cat aboard isn’t much different than having a pet at home–the differences are we needed to find a good motion-sickness medication for him and we are very careful with his medical records. We keep a very comprehensive file folder of every vet visit and carefully research each country’s entry requirements in advance.”

The world will wait

A sad fact of life is that our pets don’t live forever. We shouldn’t rush to unburden ourselves of their care. They’ll leave us too soon all on their own.

Whether by boating, RVing, employing the tips and techniques described in the Ultimate Guide, or through some other method, our first and best choice is to take our pets along with us. If we can’t figure out a way to incorporate our pets safely into our plans, we really should consider changing our plans.

The world isn’t going anywhere. It will wait for us.

We do not recommend delaying the start of your dream life lightly. We’re passionate advocates for extended travel. We really want people to discover this wonderful lifestyle and we want to help them overcome whatever obstacles they may face; but not at any cost.

Extended Travel with PetsIn our 7 Lessons from a Year on the Road article we advise against a rash “just do it” approach to life-altering decisions. In our How to Revolutionize Your Financial Life post, we discuss the importance of long-range financial planning; which is at odds with the practice of saving just enough for the next trip that some perpetual travelers employ. Here, we recommend delaying, or radically changing, plans to honor the commitments we’ve made to our furry friends.

Changing your life in a responsible and meticulously planned way is a minor theme on this blog. It is, after all, what we practice and what we believe; even if the conclusions don’t always lead us down the easiest path.

With respect to leaving pets behind, we worried ours would never understand why we abandoned them. Besides, how would we ever explain it to them if they could understand?

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12 Comments on “Extended Travel and Pets”

  1. Pat Bean November 30, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    One of the many reasons that I chose my RV as a way to travel across North America was the ability to have my dog, Maggie, by my side. I am fortunate to have a few family members who are willing to look after my spoiled child when I travel abroad, such as the 16 days I spent in Africa. Having her, however, reduces my desire to leave the continent. It’s all about choices. I’ve chosen my priorities. Everyone else must do the same.

    Like

    • Brian November 30, 2011 at 11:32 am #

      Hi Pat,
      I agree that everyone must choose their own priorities. But I also think that those of us who comment publicly on these things need to appreciate our ability to influence decisions. If we, as commentators, don’t believe all priorities are equally good, I think we do a disservice by presenting them as if they are. I can certainly make the case that the linked “Letting Go” article takes a pretty specific editorial stand on the issue, even though it is presented as an objective list of options.

      Like

  2. grant November 30, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Nice picture of Tabby! She was a good furry feline friend.

    Like

    • Brian November 30, 2011 at 11:34 am #

      She was. Shannon misses the discipline Tabitha imposed by sitting on her lap for hours. It’s harder for Shannon to stay at the computer working without that weight holding her down.

      Like

  3. Sarah November 30, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Great article! And we agree–we’ve always understood that our animals had to be a part of any of our planning for travel and while it is a lot of work to make sure they are comfortable, it is worth it to enjoy their company.
    In our case, the solution has been for someone to live in our home and care for the (right now) 6 cats and 4 dogs. We have a couple of them that would be good candidates for life on the road or the water, but not all of them would really be happy traveling.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and these great links!

    Like

    • Brian November 30, 2011 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Sarah,
      Something I thought about including, but didn’t, was the idea you bring up – not all animals are good travelers. So even if our intentions are good, forcing pets to travel may not be the best option for them. My preference then would be to put extended travel on hold in favor of shorter trips. Utilizing house sitters, like you suggest, is a good option.

      Brian

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  4. Kristina December 1, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    It must be difficult to decide what to do with your pets while travelling. I don’t have any so it makes it easier. For now 😀

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  5. cperigen December 1, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    I have a 7 year old chihuahua who has been a great companion for all of those years. She has learned to become a nomad as well because when I DO travel internationally or across the states I don’t take her with me. She’s used to being dropped off at the houses of friends and family. For weekend trips and car trips she travels well but it DOES get expensive and time consuming to bring her if I have to get on an airplane. We are planning to take off on a round the world trip in a few years and although my parents will be taking Peanut for the duration of our trip…my heart lurches every time I think of it.

    Like

  6. Languedoc Lady December 6, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    When my husband and I were presented with the opportunity to live in France for a few years, one of our major considerations was Felix, our feline companion. We knew one couple who would adopt him…..but it would mean giving him up for good because we knew we wouldn’t break the bond they formed in our absence. But we also knew we wanted to travel in Europe, too, so finding a safe place for him in France was paramount in our decision. Fortunately, in one of our many internet searches, we found a nearby cattery run by an English speaking cat lover. That clinched it…..Felix moved to France with us, loves his new home and is content with his time at the cattery (I swear he’s made friends with the other cats there). Bringing him here was a good decision for all of us….our lives wouldn’t be as full without him.

    Like

    • Brian December 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your story.

      Like

  7. Naomi December 7, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    I’ve taken my dog all over Australia, she’s been on planes, boats, certainly done some heavy duty 4WD travel, but the quarantine requirements make it pretty hard to ever get her back should I take her to Asia, especially as she has never been kennelled in her life. 3 years ago I went away for 7 months and left her with a wonderful house sitter who spoiled her rotten, but she still got depressed and missed me terribly. Seeing how she reacted on my return totally broke my heart and made me realise I could never do that again. I plan to go travelling again long term but the decision has been well and truly made that I won’t leave till she’s gone. I don’t want to lose her, but it is inevitable, so in the meantime I spend little, save lots, and enjoy the time I have left with her. And then a new adventure begins!

    Like

    • Brian December 7, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like you have an awesome plan for both you and your dog. I especially like your comment about how your dog reacted to your separation. Many people don’t believe that animals experience complex emotions but it sure seems like they do. I find it hard to believe that they don’t.

      Like

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