Gretel and I recently got back from a 9-day, 4,000 mile road trip to the southwest. Earlier this year, we visited Canadian National Parks for a week, went on several multi-day camping trips, and had many more mini adventures. People often tell me I’m lucky that I get to travel so much with my dogs. I admit that I got out with Gretel more this year than I have in most other years but it still feels like “not enough” to me. However, to most people who only get weekends off, and two week a year of vacation, it is a lot.
I am very fortunate to be in the position I’m in. It’s not “luck” though. This last summer was a culmination of a plan I started over 5 years ago (more like 7 really). I took real steps since that time, and made conscious choices, to make it happen.
If you don’t feel like you get out with your dog enough either, here are some tips to help make it happen.
1) Know What You Want
Are you dissatisfied? Do you want more from life? What does that look like? It’s easy to get caught up in wanting things to be different but it’s important to pinpoint HOW and WHAT you want to be different. Until you know that, you can’t make a plan of actionable steps and this “more” will stay a daydream.
For example, I knew I wanted to spend more time with Chester and Gretel. What did that mean? For me, it meant working from home so we could keep each other company all day. It meant getting out to hike at least once a week. It meant taking several road trips a year.
2) Plan Ahead
Like I said, this summer of many trails and camping trips was 5+ years in the making. I used to work in an office with the standard office job schedule – Monday through Friday and the customary 2 weeks off a year. I knew I wanted things to be different. I started thinking about what situation would allow me to spend more time with my dogs and took steps to create it.
Now, I admit there can be more challenges when you have kids or own a house (neither of which I do) but there are ways to create the best life you can with the circumstances you have. Still, you can outline some steps that will get you from where you are to where you want to be (or at least closer).
3) Take Real Action
Oh, the places we will go! We’re headed to Arizona too to meet up with some Instagram friends. 3,000 miles in 9 days? No sweat. We love road trips. . You’ll want to follow along for sure. Our plans include the Bonneville Salt Flats, trying to get a permit for the infamous wave, Grand-Staircase Escalante, and hiking and camping in Arizona. And the icing on the cake? @longhaultrekkers will be our co-pilots! . This will be the biggest IG meetup we’ve participated in. Have you done one?
You developed a plan, but that means nothing unless you actually do something about it. After you know WHAT you want, you have to know how you are going to make it happen. In my case, I knew the only solution was to work for myself. I parlayed a hobby I loved – blogging and online communication – into a business. I bolstered my experience with a certificate in social media management. Then I decided to get a master’s degree in digital communication (This was more of a want than a need – I likely could have made a living doing what I do without it).
I dug deeper into my networks of pet lovers and invested in attending conferences within my industry to learn and network. I took one step after another to learn how I could grow my business. I set up a work schedule that allowed me more time to hike with my dogs. Everyone’s life, circumstances, and desires are different but the point is that I took REAL steps to make my vision a reality. I remained dedicated, put in a lot of hard work, and financially invested in the future I wanted to create.
4) Find the Money
Maybe you fund your trips with a change jar. Maybe you set aside a little bit every month. Maybe you can make a little travel fund from selling items you make as a hobby or things laying around the house you no longer need. There are “out of the box” ways to help fund your trips too.
In my case, I built up this blog and social media accounts for Chester and Gretel. This got attention of companies that who want to help facilitate the same lifestyle I wanted create (in exchange for some public thanks). It’s a win-win situation. I share them with you and I get a little extra funding so I can travel more.
#ThrowbackThursday to our last adventure. Or the one before that. Heck, this could be any of them. No matter where we go, we always have at least one pack of Zuke’s treats with us. . We’ve been super lucky to go on so many adventures this year. That’s been made possible, in part, by our sponsor @zukespets. They really are a brand that walks their talk and encourages others to do the same. . How do you and your pooch #LiveLifeOffLeash?
In some cases – like with Zuke’s Natural Dog Treats – their support goes beyond their desire for a little self promotion. Zuke’s (who we love regardless whether they support us or not) is a company that believes in creating lasting memories, and enjoying the outdoors, with your dog. Their staff truly lives the lifestyle and, as a company, they want to support the community in an authentic way. They don’t want me to just write about their product and post some pictures. They actually WANT me to travel and adventure more with Chester and Gretel. They helped fund our trip to Canada a few months ago and our recent road trip to Arizona to camp/hike with our Instagram friends.
Maybe you don’t have internet famous pets like me but there are other ways to “self sponsor” trips. You can sign up for Rover.com and make a little extra money dog sitting. You can sell things you don’t use or need anymore on Craigslist or Ebay. You can check the Craigslist “gigs” section and maybe pick up a few extra bucks for delivering groceries to a senor citizen or something.
5) Cut Your Travel Costs
Who wouldn’t want to take an all-inclusive vacation to the Bahamas or tour Europe? I know that’s probably not going to happen for me unless skip vacations for years and save my money. My soul needs to wander and adventure more often than that.
In order to go on more vacations, I have to “cut corners” (but I actually like it). I road trip a lot of places and camp so my primary expenses are gas, food, and campground fees. I try to buy food at grocery stores instead of eating out all of the time when I travel. I visit popular places in the off-season when fees may be lower. Shopping is generally not on my agenda even when I visit a resort town or mountain village (well, window shopping maybe but I don’t buy something unless I forgot a piece of gear for my trip).
The key if finding a style of travel that you’re camping with that fits within your budget.
6) Make It a Priority
Take these great words of advice from our friends
This trip has been epic. And seriously not that expensive. Want to travel and see things you’ve never seen before? Meet people from different places with different life experiences? Get lost in the wilderness? Then go. Seriously. Save a few dollars a week. Don’t order that pizza. Make your own instead and put that $20 in your “go out and do shit” jar. Pack a cooler, make sandwiches, stay at cheap hotels, camp, crash with friends. Maybe you can’t go cross country. Maybe you can’t get that kind of time off work. Then take a long weekend and pitch a tent in the woods in that state park you drive by every week but have never been to. Hop in your car and drive to the ocean. We only get one of these things called life. Are you living yours or just working til you die?
Everyone has a busy life and obligations. That will never go away. But don’t let it stop you from enjoying the outdoors or traveling with your dog. Because the thing is, that busy life and those obligations aren’t going anywhere. There will always be responsibilities and “shoulds” looming over you. No one ever gets to a point where they don’t have any of those.
The difference between people who travel a lot with their dogs and the ones that don’t is often the willingness to do it in spite of those things. What might feel like a “long vacation” to you (1-2 weeks) will fly by in a split second to those who are still immersed in their regular routine. You have to make it a priority. There will always be something else that feels urgent breathing down your neck. You just have to make the time.
Although I technically have more flexibility working for myself, it’s almost more of a challenge to get out. When I worked for someone else, my paycheck was steady and I always knew I had weekends off. When I was done with my workday, I was able to leave work at the door. Now, every minute is work in some fashion. Even when I’m out hiking or camping, I’m taking photos or thinking of blog articles. Or I’m brainstorming and networking with the friends I’m hiking with. Traveling is the same way too. My to-do list is never done. I have to set up periods where the work isn’t so important that I can’t delay it a few days to a couple weeks.
The bottom like is just make it happen! Life is short. Make sure you spend it doing the things that fill you up and bring you joy.