Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

D is for Dogs

Day 4 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge – Thoughts on Being a Nomad

It might come as a surprise to some of you to read about dogs in relation to being a nomad. How could you roam the world with dogs in tow? It is definitely possible, if you put them first and if you find the right transportation methods. People close to us know how much we loved our dogs (and others) and that we would do anything to make them happy, never leaving them behind. How did we pull that off?

Kali and Darwin easily stole my heart

When I met Mark in California, he had two wonderful Australian Shepherd mixes, Kali and Darwin. The plan was to move onto a monohull (sailboat with one hull) and go cruising in Mexico. Mark found a dog-friendly boat, with only three wide steps down into the cabin (living area) and a flip-down transom in the back, so the dogs could easily board the dinghy. Except for the fact that they refused to pee on deck (Why would they, after having learned to NEVER do their business in their house for many years?), Kali and Darwin did great in San Francisco Bay. Until we poked our nose into the mighty Pacific… We had not counted on the effect of a heeling (tilted) boat on them (and me). Especially Kali was miserable, being uncomfortable, not knowing top from bottom and panting non-stop. Two days out – after owning and working on this boat for seven months – we decided to sell our new floating home. Instead, we bought a truck camper and explored Mexico and Central America overland. The dogs (and I) were much happier!

Fast forward to our second sailing attempt. Based on previous experiences, we looked for a suitable small catamaran (with two hulls) this time, since this type of sailboat lies flatter in the water and moves more stable. It is also roomier. We slept in a 3-person tent with our pups for a couple of months along the East Coast of the US, until we found our new home: Irie. The dogs (and I) loved this method of sailing and living on the water much better. We set out towards the Caribbean, dealing with the extra dog paperwork for the Bahamas. Kali and Darwin loved running off leash on the beaches and swimming in the gorgeous water, and so did we. Once in Puerto Rico, Kali unexpectedly passed away.

Darwin stayed with us another two years, while we visited most of the Eastern Caribbean islands, following the temporary pet importation rules – yes, it is allowed to take your pets to most islands, even the ex-British ones (I wrote an extensive article about all the rules and regulations for the cruising magazine Caribbean Compass). We would pick and choose our islands and anchorages based on the possibility of taking Darwin and we hopped from island to island to avoid long passages. In 2010, our boy died during a trip to the US, also from cancer, also unexpectedly, also too young. Since then, we have been tempted to adopt a stray dog in many countries, but, having a dog while traveling does restrict your freedom and we would have never been able (or contemplated) to cross oceans. We still miss our dogs every day.

Currently, the void is filled with the dogs we pet sit. They do belong to other people, but we grow attached to them and enjoy walking, loving and taking care of them, without the full responsibility of owning them. And, this way, we can still move about the country (and abroad) without our own pets in tow. As to dogs in our future? The question is not if, but when. 🙂

Have you traveled with your dog? Have you seen tourists with dogs during your holidays? Do you think it would be better to leave the dogs at home with a pet sitter, friends, family, or in a kennel during an annual vacation? What would you do with your dog if you were to decide on long-term travel? Have someone else care for him/her, or plan your trip around being able to take him/her?

(The previous days, I wrote blogs about “A is for Adventure”, “B is for Belongings” and “C is for Camper”. Stay tuned for “E is for Education” tomorrow!)



  1. We had a dog for 18 years — 15 of those on a sailboat. It was difficult at times and Sally certainly impacted a lot of the decisions we made over the years. She died in 2014 and we miss her like crazy but are waiting to add to our family until we’ve moved off this boat and onto our next adventure.


    • 18 years old. That is so amazing for a dog! I am envious of that, and happy for Sally to have such a great and long life! Loved the blog and photos of the PNW! It is so incredible out there, and peaceful. I am following your blog, although I shouldn’t without another boat in my future! 🙂 What is your next adventure going to be???

  2. This post was really touching. I think it’s great to bring your dogs with you if you can. At this time I have cats not dogs (a couple of kittens which were abandoned near my house – found treasure.) Cats definitely don’t travel well. Whenever I see people traveling with dogs I think it’s great even if I know it must limit your options. Thanks for sharing the stories and the pics.

    • Hi Anne! Thanks for stopping by. We have met a lot of long term sailors (called cruisers), who travel with their cats. Usually, these cats are used to living indoors, but they are doing pretty well, most of them. As a European (our cats were always outdoor/indoor ones), I have always found it a bit odd that people keep their cats indoors, but I understand that concept better now, what with all the traffic in some areas and the scare of losing them. Also, some of our cruising friends sometimes take their cat on a leash to the beach, or let her/him roam freely when in a marina or boat yard. Good for you, adopting those kittens!

  3. Aww…that was such a sweet post. What adorable puppies. As much as I would like a boat cat, we’re just not going to do it. I don’t relish having to deal with the paperwork. We definitely have more freedom not having pets anymore, but there are days I wish we did.

    Cheers – Ellen |

    • Since we traveled a lot with our dogs in the past, cruisers often asked us for advice in regards to sailing with pets. We would always give the same answer: “If you already have a dog or cat before you start cruising, by all means, take them with you. They will forget about the smaller space for the trade-off of being with you full time. If you don’t have a pet already, though, we would not add one to the challenging lifestyle.” I think you are making the right choice about not getting a cat. There are enough other cruisers out there with one, so you will be able to get your cat-fix visiting them! 🙂

  4. my 14 year old German Shepard passed last October. She was my companion on many adventures and a few travels. She hated the car (as it too often meant a trip to the Vet), but loved the destinations. I know I could not kennel my pet, as it could seem to them like abandonment. I miss my dog terribly, but have avoided getting another because 1. I’m not ready. 2. They do restrict mobility and travel.

    • Sorry to hear about the passing of your furry companion, Ryan. I can totally understand your 2 points about replacing. It took us a while, before we were emotionally “ready” for a new dog (a few years later), but because of your #2, we still don’t have new dogs.

  5. Such a sweet post! We have a dog onboard and he loves it. It definitely does restrict our travels etc, but I wouldn’t consider rehoming him. We’re all stuck together, for better or worse!

    • You are so right, Lucy! We felt that changing the dogs’ environment was due to our “selfishness” of wanting to go cruising and therefore, we wanted to make their lives onboard as comfortable and fun as possible! 🙂 They were an integral part of our family.

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your dogs. Losing a pet is so difficult.

    We have three cats, and when people find out we’re going to be moving to Thailand, I’m often asked what we’re going to “do with them.” Take them with us, of course! They’re our babies. It took more time to find an island with vet care, but that was extremely important to us.

    I think they will love the heat (even though they have long hair, they sleep in front of heaters) but probably not the rain storms.

    • We found that in tropical countries, our dogs used to like the tile floors and breezy corners. Your place in Thailand will probably not have AC (if so, the cats are lucky!), so the shady, cooler spots might become their favorites. And, they will have fun chasing the creatures that come with living in a house in the tropics! I’m glad to read that there wasn’t even a thought in your mind to not take your cats. Once part of the family, always part of the family! 🙂

  7. Sorry about the loss of your dogs. I’ve noticed that many hotels and motels now allow pets. Years ago you couldn’t have them in the room with you. I am glad that is changing.

    Plucking Of My Heartstrings

    • Yes, that is an improvement, also here in the US. But, it comes at a pretty steep price in most motels and hotels here. I have always noticed a bigger tolerance towards dogs in Europe than in the US. In Belgium, you used to be able to bring your dog into the bar or restaurant with you, or even stores, if they were well-behaved. In the US – because of hygienic rules – that is a no-no. Except, outside on a terrace, where no food was served. It would be nice if that were to change, as long as the owners keep behaving as well! 🙂

  8. Loved reading about your travels with your sweet aussies. Love your whole blog! Keep on traveling and finding adventures!

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