Archie on the road: The ups and downs of long-term travel with a dog

Archie scanning for cats from Hohensalzburg Castle (Salzburg, Austria)

Whenever people find out we brought our dog with us from Canada, they give a start and their eyebrows shoot up. “You brought him from Canada?” they invariably repeat, like that’s so ludicrous they couldn’t possibly have heard correctly.

Yes, we brought the dog.

Are we glad we did it? Yes, definitely. So far it’s gone well, though naturally we’ve encountered challenges along the way. Obviously doing long-term travel with a dog requires sacrifices and adjustments, some major, but just like traveling with kids, you adapt.

In particular, traveling with a Jack Russell Terrier—the loaded gun of the dog world—keeps things lively.

Here’s what we’ve experienced over the past eight months, as we made our way from Amsterdam all the way to southern Turkey.

Archie hanging out at the campground (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

THE GOOD STUFF

  • Our whole family is together on the trip. We love Archie and he loves us. Adorable, merry, loving and loyal, Archie has been with us since he was eight weeks old and is a full-fledged member of the family. During the night he cuddles with us and warms our feet; during the day he entertains us with zany antics. Leaving Archie behind in Vancouver would have broken all our hearts, Archie’s included, and cast a pall over the entire trip.
  • Archie guards the camper while we’re away. I can’t express how grateful I am to have a dog guarding our camper, especially when we are parked outside the safety of a campground. As vagabonds of the digital age, we carry lots of equipment including MacBook Pros, Kindles, a DSLR camera, lenses, and more. But as long as Archie’s in the camper, I doubt anyone could get hold of our stuff. He may look cute, but try to invade our space and he’ll morph into into a furry chainsaw faster than you can say, “Oh crap, that dog’s insane!”
  • Archie makes me feel more secure at night. We’ve never had a problem, but I feel better knowing Archie would go barky and mental if any would-be intruders tried to get in. Especially when we’re free camping. Once some harmless Turkish drunks pounded on the camper door at 1 am and Archie went ballistic.
  • Archie behaves well in the camper. When we’re gone, he does an obligatory rummage through any unsecured trash and then goes to sleep. He never destroys things or has potty accidents in the camper, no matter how long we leave him. Good boy!
  • Archie is endlessly entertaining. He sleeps upside down, he steals anything made of fleece, he shivers if the temperature drops below 70, he holds his ball in his mouth for hours so no one can steal it, he is terrified of women with long and bushy hair, he barks in his sleep, he knows for a fact he’s bigger than every other dog on the planet, he becomes hysterical at the sight of anyone pushing a broom, he chases cats like a demon from hell, and he amuses locals with his maniacal ball chasing and general antics.
  • Public transportation in Europe is dog friendly. We’ve brought Archie on all kinds of trams, subways and buses with no problem. It’s so much more laid back than North America.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF

  • Not all campgrounds and hotels take dogs. It’s a bummer when we manage to find a campground that seems perfect only to discover dogs aren’t allowed. We’ve always found places to stay, but once in a while our first choice isn’t available to us.
  • Most campgrounds in Europe charge for dogs. This is absurd, since dogs aren’t taking showers or using the facilities. The highest daily rate we’ve paid for Archie has been around €5. Highway robbery! Interestingly, Turkish campgrounds never charge for the dog.
  •  Our excursion options are sometimes limited. Archie’s joined us for everything from a 10-hour day touring Amsterdam to a hike in the Swiss Alps, but some things we just can’t do with a dog. Multi-day boat cruises or train trips, for example. Also on the days Archie stays home, we can only leave him alone for so long (especially when the weather is very hot or very cold). Wemiss having the flexibility to spend 12 or 14 consecutive hours out, letting our day unfold organically with no thought to when we’re coming back.
  • Stray cats and dogs are everywhere in Turkey and Greece. Strays are everywhere in some countries, especially Turkey. If I’m unfamiliar with the local dogs, I take a big stick whenever I’m out with Archie. If a dog gives us problems, I thump the ground menacingly and the dog will usually take off.  Cats are lurking everywhere and Archie always wants to chase them, so that’s a pain.
  • Archie detests being petted by strangers so I have to keep them at bay. This is the toughest thing we have to deal with. Archie looks like an adorable cartoon character, so people (especially kids) often try to pet him, wave their fingers in his face, or worse yet, stick their faces right into his. Since we started traveling, the poor dog has come to hate this and will immediately snarl or snap, so when he’s out with us, I have to be on guard. If I sense someone wants to pet him, I move between them and Archie. If they reach out their hands or lean forward, I order them to stop in the local language or pantomime “No, he will bite,” which works pretty well and tends to send people scurrying away with expressions of horror. To spare Archie, I don’t bring him to overly crowded places (outdoor markets, playgrounds, buses, etc.) where it’s tough to keep people out of his face. Even back at the campground, kids will sometimes wander uninvited into our pitch to “pet the dog,” so I need to be alert.

Archie leading the way through the Jungfrau (Bernese Alps, Switzerland)

IS IT WORTH IT?

Yes.

We’re having a great time with Archie, and he’s enjoying himself too. On this trip he’s become a swimming fanatic and has gotten to chase way more cats (especially here in Turkey) than he ever could have at home. When we drive the camper, he rides shotgun in my lap. When we watch movies at night, he snuggles with us under our family blanket.

Doing long-term travel with the dog has been easier than we thought. Even with the challenges, I’m grateful we didn’t abandon Archie in the process of realizing our own dreams.

Have you ever considered doing long-term travel with a dog? If so, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear all about it.

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