22 Travel Lessons I Learned From My Dog

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I suppose it’s only natural that a dog in my family would become a traveler though I don’t think my boy was born that way. From the day I picked him up — his “Gotcha Day”, if you will — his life was a series of adventures.

small puppy
An itty bitty puppy, only eight weeks old.

We started with something I thought was tame, although I’m sure he was terrified at the time. After driving from central Wisconsin together, essentially strangers, we stopped at Kopp’s Custard in hopes I could bribe his love. Nine spoonfuls for me, one for him, a creamy vanilla treat he gobbled up willingly. Afterwards, we ambled along the Seven Bridges Trail together, an awkward first hike where I first realized walking on a leash doesn’t come naturally to puppies.

From that point forward, we included him on as many trips as we could. We explored the whole state of Virginia and later New York, rented a luxury cabin in North Carolina, watched the eclipse in South Carolina, swam in a lake in Michigan, hung out in southern Ohio, and probably a dozen other things I’m overlooking. He even crossed the border multiple times into the great country of Canada.

girl holding dog in cabin
Back when he was small enough to carry!

But here’s the thing about traveling with dogs, if you don’t know already. It’s not like traveling on your own. They have different goals, plans, and ambitions whether you want to accept them or not. They see and experience the world differently and if you let them guide you a little, you’ll see the world differently, too. Because of that, I learned a lot about travel from my dog.

Sadly, my goofy adventure buddy passed away unexpectedly, a reality I haven’t yet accepted. But this post is not in grief or in search of sympathy: it’s to celebrate the many things he shared with me along the way. My dog did so much more than keep me company on roadtrips. He opened up my eyes to a whole new way to travel. For that, and for so many other things, I’ll be eternally grateful.

dog and woman sitting in car
My roadtrip buddy

Although you never met him, he was a master of wrangling everyone he ever met to be part of his life. Since he’s not here to do it on his own anymore, I’m taking this moment to do it in his memory.

So, without further ado, some words of wisdom about traveling, all courtesy of the very best dog.

1. Day trips are the best trips. Duh! You get to sleep in your own bed at night!

2. Travel should be planned around people, not places or things. So plan that roadtrip to visit family and friends.

dog looking up at table
Hanging out in Falls Church, on an excuse to visit friends

3. It’s always dinner time somewhere. Go ahead, sample the local specialties.

4. There’s never a rush to get anywhere. Unplanned detours and stops may surprise you as the best parts of a trip.

dog in front of waterfall
He insisted on taking this trail. Turns out he was onto something.

5. You don’t have to go far to travel. Anywhere new, even if it’s just around the corner, is a new place to explore.

6. Don’t let the cold scare you off of being outside. Sometimes the snow makes things even more fun.

dog in snow
A delightful winter day

7. If someone smiles at you, go introduce yourself. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.

8. If you love somewhere, go back, over and over. You don’t need reason to return somewhere that brings you joy.

dog in front of firepit at sunset
His favorite place in the whole wide world.

9. A mess is nothing more than a temporary problem. Mud and dirt are other words for dog glitter.

dirty dog
Dirty dog

10. Camping is for suckers. Why squish into a tent when a heavenly bed is big enough for 3?

11. Always pack snacks. You never know when you’ll hit traffic.

dog drooling over pizza
Pizza to go, please.

12. The more the merrier. Travel might be more complicated when you invite friends or family but your pack is at its best when everyone’s together.

dog with small child
Traveling with family

13. The right souvenir can make someone’s day. When you find a gift that you’re certain will make someone smile, snatch it up with no regrets.

14. Mornings are meant for getting up and at ’em. Walks are simple pleasures, but they’re still pleasures.

dog at lake
Mornings in the woods

15. Naptime for everyone! I mean, you woke up early, so you have to balance that somewhere…

16. Don’t stress over packing everything. If you forget something, you can find a substitute once you’re there.

17. It’s okay to stop and observe for awhile. You never know what you may see.

dog looking out window
Window watching, a favorite pastime

18. Keep digging until you find what you want. You might not know it yet, but there’s treasure everywhere.

19. Life is about laughing and smiling. So go ahead, let loose somewhere along the way and make your own fun, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to everyone else.

happy dog and woman
Always smiling.

20. Disconnect, turn your phone off, leave that laptop at home. If you’re gonna adventure, you might as well adventure right.

dog wearing life jacket
Adventuring in a canoe

21. Delight in the little things. And never lose your sense of wonder.

22. Take a million photos because someday you’ll want to look back and remember.

dog in front of sunflowers
And most importantly: there’s never enough time, so treasure the moments you have.

1 thought on “22 Travel Lessons I Learned From My Dog”

  1. You nailed it! Traveling with one’s dog is the best! Their spirit of adventure is contagious and inspiring. I’ve learned so much from my dogs over the years, especially to be in the moment. And that doggy kisses are the best! Your boy had a beautiful heart which must be why God called him home so early. You were blessed and Polska wouldn’t want you to be miserable. That’s one of the truly wonderful things about dogs: unconditional love and happiness. Someday you will find another and because you loved Polska so much you will be free to love another special boy or girl. From one who lost her soulmate last February just know that the heart heals and it does get better. And know that they are always with you, enjoying every day and every adventure. The hardest part is coming home to an empty house. My heart aches for you. I’ve had 3 special boys and one very special girl: very different personalities and I learned from each of them. So, stay strong!

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