In 2012, I gave up my lease, packed my bags, and took off around the world permanently with my small dog, Luna, in tow. We’ve been traveling for more than a year and a half now, lounging on Mexican beaches in the candy-pink sunset light, snuggling up under fluffy down blankets in the snowy Swiss Alps, hiking for hours through Germany’s spooky Black Forest, and sitting quietly in Parisian restaurants for hours with a glass of wine for me and a bowl of water for her.
It has been, as you might imagine, a beautiful adventure. In addition to it being an adventure, though, this time abroad has also been a beautiful rush of life lessons. I’ve learned more about life, love, and happiness in this last year and a half than in the many years prior. And so many of those lessons I learned because of Luna.
So, what have we learned?
Traveling requires a lot of self-trust. I have to trust myself to make the best decisions for Luna and I. I have to trust my intuition when we find ourselves in an unknown neighborhood or a new situation.
And I’ve learned that self-trust is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the easier it is to use and the more effortless that movement becomes.
Most people are good. They want to help. They care.
Twice during my travels, I’ve had to leave Luna in the care of another person for a short time. I’ve been pretty good about trusting others in life, but when it comes to Luna — my best friend, the most important thing in my life — it was hard. Really, really hard. But it also taught me the importance and beauty of letting go and of trusting myself (there’s that again) to choose the right people to trust along the way.
Once, while trying to make it onto a Paris metro train, I got caught in the doors. I was rushing, trying not to be late to a friend’s house. And as I hopped on at the last second, the doors slammed into my shoulders.
Two or three Parisians rushed over to pull me free and all was well, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it, couldn’t stop feeling panicked. Because what if those doors had closed between Luna and I? What if I’d lost her?
The thought terrified me (even now, thinking about it, I’m sick to my stomach). And as I sat there holding her to my heart, I realized that this has been my habit throughout life: rushing for no reason and making myself anxious, upset, afraid, or injured because of it.
If I hadn’t had Luna with me, I may not have realized how much of my life I’ve spent in an unnecessary, soul-killing rush. I vowed to stop rushing, to never again put myself in a situation where my timeliness is prioritized over my safety or that of Luna.
Watching Luna run wildly through the snow in Switzerland, zip across the beach in Mexico, and roll around full of joy at the top of one of our tough uphill hikes always reminds me to let go and take joy in my life.
It’s so easy to not do things because they make us feel silly or because society frowns on them, but it feels so great to break free.
With Luna as my inspiration, I spent September and October 2013 hiking the Alps while singing to myself, pausing to hug trees because I felt like it, and dancing a victory dance at the top of each trail.
I’m sure people thought I was crazy … and I simply don’t care.
Luna is a good listener. Tell her to stop, stay, go, run, or not chew/eat/mess with something and she will obey. But, if you don’t tell her no, she’ll go for it. She’s always testing the boundaries, watching for the exception.
And in a year and a half of traveling, I’ve discovered that there’s something beautiful in that approach to life. Too often, we don’t try something because we think the answer is going to be no. We don’t ask for a discount on our hotel room, or ask that mountain guide we just met to let us tag along on his next hike, or ask if that super interesting business owner we just met to let us pick his brain over coffee because we don’t want to be a bother. We think the answer will be no.
The truth is, though, that the answer is yes much more often than we think — and we can’t know that unless we’re always asking, testing along the edges of what we think are the boundaries.
Thus, I’ve learned to start asking and to keep pushing forward, embracing a world of possibilities that lives just beyond my assumptions.
So, after two and a half years on the road, I find myself happier, stronger, and more grounded than I’ve ever been — and I’ve learned so much from both the traveling itself and from having Luna bouncing joyfully alongside me, being perfectly herself and taking the world by storm.
What have your dogs taught you? Let us know in the comments!
Learn more about dogs with Dogster:
Read more by Gigi:
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.