Of the small percentage of the world’s population that gets to experience the privilege of travel, there is an even smaller portion of pet travelers. This number, however, is growing, and we see that growth reflected in a variety of tourism-related industries. This includes obvious businesses, like pet-friendly hotels and restaurants as well as social media, where we see a plethora of dogs who seem to have lives fuller than most people.
I’m lucky to be included in this wave. After years of solo travel, I’m no longer alone. My dogs, and even my cat, have come with me, much to my delight, and even to the delight to those around me. A cute dog can break the ice and help form friendships and smiles no matter the language or cultural barrier.
But travel has an impact, especially if you’re traveling with a furry friend in tow. As you learn and grow as a traveler, you’ll want to consider your pet as well. This kind of personal growth produces a richer travel experience for all involved.
Here are ways to being a mindful pet traveler, but first, check out the benefits of mindful travel.
The benefits of mindful travel
If you want a more profound travel experience, consider mindful travel. Mindful travel is about getting into different state of mind. It allows you to appreciate your destination more intimately, including the good and the bad.
Through mindful travel you avoid sweeping through an area, and instead attempt to really connect with it.
And critically, mindful travel doesn’t only benefit you, the traveler, with a more meaningful experience. It also helps to protect and support your destination.
With a focus on community and locals, mindful travel works to reduce your impact, helping to maintain the location so these experiences will be available for years and generations to come.
Travel doesn’t have to negatively impact a destination, and it doesn’t have to erase a culture either. We don’t have to be part of the problem.
Without further ado, here are ways to being a mindful pet traveler.
1. Respect local customs
Dogs have been around domestically for thousands of years, but their relationship to humans evolved differently across the globe. While it’s normal for Americans to spend thousands on their dogs (vet bills, and clothing, and organic dog treats, oh my!), other countries have drastically different approaches to raising canines.
Do your research before reaching your destination, and plan accordingly. Cultural expectations and local rules should always be abided by and respected. You don’t want to make locals uncomfortable (at best), or offend them (at worst), with your dog’s behavior or actions.
At the same time, you’ll want to seek balance. This means ensuring that you and your dog are both comfortable, and able to adapt if need be, without too much of a fuss.
While it’s true that you can’t please everyone, you can and should be respectful when it comes to local customs. That extends to your pup too.
2. Buy locally and buy small
When you travel with your dog you probably try to pack all of the necessities. But that doesn’t mean you won’t need an extra poop bag or two. For those unexpected and expected canine needs, including souvenirs, try to shop locally and shop small.
By shopping local and small, you’ll put money into the community you’re visiting. As a bonus, you’ll learn about cool products that might not be readily available to you back home.
Buying local and small isn’t limited to shops; it also means frequenting markets, hiring local providers and operators (think tours, groomers, walkers), and using locally-owned businesses, whenever possible.
3. Leave places the same or better than you found them
When we travel with dogs, our footprint extends to our canine pals as well. We’re responsible for cleaning up after ourselves, and our dogs, and as guests, we should always leave a location in the same or better condition than when we arrived.
This isn’t limited to picking up dog poop – it also goes for rental cars, hotel rooms, and any other locations where your dog might shed some fur or scuff up surfaces with their paws. Bring lint rollers, wipes, and always make sure your dog is properly groomed.
4. Set intentions
Mindful travel also means meaningful travel, i.e. your journey has a purpose. This can mean anything from learning the local language, to spending more 1-on-1 time with your dog, to having the opportunity to wind down and relax.
Whatever your trip’s goals may be, naming your intentions ahead of time will help organize your thoughts and give your visit new levels of meaning.
Setting intentions may also clear up lingering questions and indecision. If your intention is not dog-friendly (say, eating in as many five-star restaurants as possible), perhaps it’s best to leave your pup behind. They can always join you on the next journey.
5. Connect with locals
It’s quite common for someone to take a trip, only to realize later (or not at all) that their interactions with locals were limited to wait staff and hotel employees. It’s easy to interact only with ex-pats and other visitors if you’re staying in a hostel, or sticking to the tourist spots.
One of the easiest ways to meet locals is to connect over a common interest. What better than dogs? Hit up a local dog park, find local dogs on social media to meet, or go to a nearby pet shop. With a dog by your side, it’s easier to make local connections.
Besides getting a better sense of your destination, connecting with locals can also be extremely helpful – want to know the best vet in town, in case of an emergency? Ask a local. Want to visit the best dog parks in the city? Ask a local. What about the yummiest dog-friendly restaurant in the neighborhood? Ask a local.
Yet another way to meet locals is to hit up some apps. Websites like Airbnb, Bla Bla Car, and EatWith help travelers exchange services within a community. It not only brings money to locals, but it helps build relationships as well.
6. Travel off-season
At times, travel during the high season can lead to overcrowding, limited resources, and disruptions to local communities. Visiting a destination in its peak season means you’re adding to the over-saturation, and it can be harder to enjoy yourself with your dog when there are so many others trying to do the same things and go to the same places.
Consider traveling to your dream location at a different time, when there are fewer people and perhaps even cooler weather.
There are other perks to traveling off-season too! You’ll avoid the crowds, things are likely to be cheaper, and fewer experiences will be sold out or fully booked. This means more options!
How do you travel mindfully with your pet? Let us know in the comments.
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