When I sold my things, gave up my lease, and took off around the world with my little dog, Luna, I knew it would be amazing. What I didn’t know was that I’d spend the next two years of my life learning something new every single day — not only from the travel and the people I met along the way, but also from Luna.
A few months ago, I told you about five lessons I learned on the road. Here are five more:
I’m something of a workaholic. Despite being in amazing places like Edinburgh, Scotland or the Swiss Alps or the sandy beaches of Mexico, I can easily find myself for whole days, dawn to dusk, trapped inside my apartment rental or B&B staring at a computer screen.
If I were traveling the world alone, this would be a big problem.
Luckily, though, I travel with my dog, and because of her I have to look up, get out, and take a walk around the block. I have to move away from work for a little while.
And what I’ve discovered (which so many people wiser than I already know) is that taking breaks improves not only the quality of my life, but also the quality of my work.
I have Luna to thank for that.
When I lived in Denver full-time, I had a house full of things. But on the road, everything Luna and I own has to fit in a backpack. And you know what? That’s really all we need.
A couple dog sweaters for chilly days, food and something to put water in, one tug toy and one ball — dogs are natural minimalists, and in trimming down her things, I have learned how simply I can live as well.
When I first got my new sleeping bag for an autumn spent in the Swiss Alps, Luna dove inside and burrowed through the entire bag, taking in its smells and dimensions and ending up with just her nose sticking out the end.
And that’s how Luna approaches life in general: with curiosity about every aspect of a new thing, every smell, every inch.
When you’re traveling, that kind of curiosity can change a mediocre experience into a brilliant one.
Instead of simply sipping an espresso in Italy, I tasted five kinds, learning why the quality differs, what to look for in a good espresso, and what to look for in a good coffee maker.
Instead of sitting in my room at the cozy B&B I recently stayed at in Parma, I walked every foot of the grounds, discovering (to my delight) giant trees with ladders reaching up into their branches, an ivy-covered shed, and a small café table surrounded by vines.
It’s so easy to be on autopilot and to only get half of an experience. But it’s not hard to turn up your joy with a little extra exploration and a little extra curiosity.
Do this even if it means leaping into the unknown.
On a sunny day in the Swiss Alps, Luna and I followed a group of BASE jumpers — those lovably crazy people who jump off cliffs, diving through the air for a few seconds before breathlessly releasing a parachute — to the edge of a cliff where we watched them jump off.
As the first jumper left the cliff’s edge, Luna rushed after her. Luckily, she was on the leash and I was quickly able to pull her to safety. But I thought that it was a beautiful lesson. Luna, not understanding that people would fling themselves off cliffs on purpose, was willing to risk it all to try and rescue the person who had jumped off the cliff.
If only we all cared that much about the people around us.
Throughout our travels, Luna is always making friends. She sneaks away on Croatian ferry rides to sit on the laps of stern-looking men (who secretly love her). She cheers up crying babies on train rides. She lets little old ladies on the Paris subway pick her up and kiss her face.
She never holds back and always loves.
And isn’t that the ultimate lesson of not only travel and dog ownership, but life itself?
And so, after two years of travel with my dog, I’ve learned to better explore, to care about people even when it is risky, to live simply, to take breathers, and to love.
What have you learned from your dogs? Have you ever traveled extensively with your pets? Tell us your stories in the comments!
From more from Gigi about traveling with Luna:
Learn more about dogs with Dogster:
Gigi Griffis is a world-traveling entrepreneur and writer with a special love for inspiring stories, new places, and living in the moment. In May 2012, she sold her stuff and took to the road with a growing business and a pint-sized pooch. You can follow her adventures at gigigriffis.com or friend her on Facebook.