Amazing Nomads: Mark and Mya – A Dog's Life

In this episode we meet Mark and his beloved dog Mya who spent two years traveling doing everything from snowboarding to whitewater rafting.


Photo © Mark and Mya

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Amazing Nomads: Mark and Mya

Mark and Mya are from Melbourne, Australia and spent almost two years traveling around North America showing people that you can have a dog and a life of adventure and travel. They hope to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

What’s in the Episode

01:40 Mark starts at the beginning

03:30 Who is Mya

06:05 Preparing the adventure

08:01 Logistics

10:00 The list of activities Mark and Mya shared

13:30 Ordering room service

16:58 Popular destinations to travel with pets

17:23 Next week

Who is in the Episode

After Mark’s father passed away suddenly in 2014, the Melbourne man decided he needed to make every day count and fulfill his dream of exploring North America. But he had just bought Mya, a White German Shepherd into his family.

 No problem decides Mark, I’ll take her with me to Canada.

Since then they have spent two years traveling almost 50,000 mi (80,000 kms) through Canada and the USA, and they even made it to Mexico for a day.

They have been skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, fat biking, hiking, sailing, mountain biking, kayaking and even whitewater rafting together, proving you can have a dog and a life of adventure and travel.

Mark and Mya

“We hope to inspire others and show them how to follow in our footsteps,” says Mark.

 Mark and Mya have more than 40k people following their adventures on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube


Quotes From This Episode

"A lot of people told me it wasn't possible, but it turns out it was. And we just started planning a trip over there, and from what I could tell, there wasn't a lot of information out there, but it was definitely possible and I really wanted to do it." - Mark.

"I remember going to a restaurant and asking if the patio was pet-friendly and if I could eat out on the patio with Maya and, and they said, "It's cold outside. Why on earth would you eat outside? She's more than welcome to eat in the lounge with you in the restaurant." - Mark

 " accommodation over in North America, and it might be a little bit different when it comes to campgrounds and trailer parks, but as far as hotels go, it's really, really easy to find." - Mark

Resources & Links

Scholarships Newsletter: Sign up for scholarships news and see what opportunities are live here.

Read Mark’s tips on extended travel with your pet.

Check out Jetpets, the pet travel people.

Want to Republish This Episode

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Next Episode: Van Life.

About World Nomads & the Podcast

Explore your boundaries and discover your next adventure with The World Nomads Podcast. Hosted by Podcast Producer Kim Napier and World Nomads Phil Sylvester, each episode will take you around the world with insights into destinations from travelers and experts. They’ll share the latest in travel news, answer your travel questions and fill you in on what World Nomads is up to, including the latest scholarships and guides.

World Nomads is a fast-growing online travel company that provides inspiration, advice, safety tips and specialized travel insurance for independent, volunteer and student travelers traveling and studying most anywhere in the world. Our online global travel insurance covers travelers from more than 135 countries and allows you to buy and claim online, 24/7, even while already traveling.

The World Nomads Podcast is not your usual travel Podcast. It’s everything for the adventurous, independent traveler. Don’t miss out. Subscribe today.

You can get in touch with us by emailing [email protected].

We use the Rodecaster Pro to record our episodes and interviews when in the studio, made possible with the kind support of Rode.

Speaker 1: The world nomads podcast bonus episode. Hear amazing nomads sharing their knowledge, stories, and experience of world travel.

Kim: Welcome to this episode of the world nomads podcast featuring not one, but two amazing nomads. Mark, and his very well-traveled pooch, Maya. My name is Kim, and Phil, are you actually aware that pet travel is on the rise? 37% of pet owners in the U.S. in 2018 traveled with their pets. Now that's up from 19% 10 years ago.

Phil: That's an amazing number.

Kim: It is.

Phil: It's really great and I know there's pet-friendly hotels, pet-friendly taxis, you take them on subways. You can even take them into restaurants in some places as well. Of course, they have their own beaches, parks, and even pet relief areas and facilities inside airport terminals to accommodate all that. But look, after Mark's father passed away suddenly in 2014, he decided he needed to make every day count and fulfill his dream of exploring North America.

Phil: What a great idea. There was just one complication: He'd taken over the responsibility of bringing Maya, his father's white German shepherd, into his own family.

Kim: Was it his father's or did he just have the dog? I think he got the dog.

Phil: He got the dog, right.

Kim: He got the dog, and then he's taken it very seriously, as you will hear.

Phil: Not a problem. All right.

Kim: It clearly didn't stop him. Since starting their adventure, their story has become quite the popular one, with over 40,000 people following their adventures through Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. Obviously, links in show notes, but rather than us tell the story, let's actually hear about it from Mark.

Mark: What happened was, it was actually my 30th birthday. We'd all been out for drinks. We'd gone out for dinner. We were walking back to our accommodation, which was, I don't know, probably four or 500-meter walk from where we'd been. We got back. I was talking to him along the way and got back. Within a couple of minutes, my mum said to me, "Where's your dad?" I said, "I've got no idea." I'm sort of like, he was just behind us a couple of minutes ago, went looking for him, and found him dead on the bathroom floor after a massive heart attack. And it really highlighted to me, and people always talk about it, but it really highlighted how you just never know when you're not going to get another opportunity. There was just no warning whatsoever. He wasn't complaining of being ill, or anything like that. And he'd been planning a trip around Australia for about 15 years.

Mark: He was two years off starting that trip, and he never got to do it. And for me it really highlighted that I needed to actually live my dreams now, as opposed to saying I'll get to it down the track, because I'd been saying that I wanted to go to Canada since I was 16 years old. I used to play hockey, and always wanted to skate on a frozen lake or river. And for me at that point in time, it was all about saving and preparing for the future. And I had to work and build my career, and I had girlfriends at the time, and all these other things that were stopping me from traveling and going overseas. But I always said that, "Oh yeah, I want to get to Canada at some point." And sadly what happened with dad was the wake-up call that I had to do it then and there.

Mark: But for me I had Maya. So for anyone who doesn't know, Maya is my white German shepherd. And at the time she was, I don't know, maybe about four years old, and I'd chosen to bring her into my family. I'd chosen to take on that responsibility. She didn't have any choice about that. So I just thought I couldn't leave her behind for two years whilst I went off and travel because realistically for her, I was all she had. So I decided to look into it, and found that I could actually travel from Australia over to North America with a dog. A lot of people told me it wasn't possible, but it turns out it was. And we just started planning a trip over there, and from what I could tell, there wasn't a lot of information out there, but it was definitely possible and I really wanted to do it.

Kim: And there was no question that you would leave your dog, like many people do, with a family member, your mum as an example?

Mark: My mum definitely wouldn't have had a bar of it in all honesty. She's got her own dog and she lives in a very small house, and Maya being a German shepherd is quite a large dog. She would have said to me that I'd chosen to take on that responsibility. Now I need to sort of actually be responsible. Yeah. I had traveled once before with Maya, without Maya, I should say for about a month when I went to Europe many years ago, and she just didn't really handle it so well as well. So for me it was really that decision that I needed to make sure that her welfare was sort of looked after just as much as the fact that I had that responsibility that I couldn't really palm off to other people.

Phil: So where do you start, because dogs don't have passports, right?

Mark: Well actually they do over in Europe, believe it or not.

Phil: Oh no! Really.

Mark: But yeah, they do. You've got a pet passport over there, but from Australia, no, you're correct. They don't have pet passports in Australia.

Phil: You dress her up in a hat and glasses and did a weekend at Bernie's with an extra seat on the plane or what did you do?

Mark: Well, I thought I'd just throw her in the back of the suitcase and fly her over that way. But no, in all seriousness I jumped online, and I came across a pet transport company by the name of Jetpets, and there's a few others out there and I spoke to them. But in the end, Jetpets seemed to be able to provide me with the most information and made me feel most comfortable.

Mark: So when I spoke to them, they recommended flying over there with Air Canada, because Air Canada offered nonstop flights from the east coast of Australia to North America or to Vancouver. And when traveling with a pet, that's a really important thing, because it's those transit points where they're getting loaded and unloaded from the train that is probably going to cause them the most stress. Everyone's had one of those bad luggage experiences where you've had that really quick change over, and your luggage has gone missing. The last thing I needed was for my dog to go missing.

Phil: Mm-hmm

Mark: So yeah, having that service with Air Canada that flew direct from Australia to Vancouver was really important, and that all came from Jetpets recommending that. They also helped us organize for Maya to get vaccinated against rabies, because there's rabies over in Canada and the U.S., and all the veterinary and import permits that needed to be filled out, and they just made it super easy.

Phil: What about insurance? Because obviously, you know, you get vet bills with a dog when you're traveling. Were you able to get some sort of insurance for Maya?

Mark: That's something and if world nomads wanted to jump on, I'd love to come across that. But that's the one thing that I've really struggled to find. And I looked. I had a big look for travel insurance for a pet, and at one point in time I thought that she might've been able to be included as an item of personal property, but it just wasn't the case. I'm aware that there are racehorses that always go off and, and travel, and there's got to be some sort of insurance process when it comes to that. I went off and spoke to a couple of brokers in regards to it, and no one could actually give me an answer for a dog. For the actual flight itself, she wasn't insured, but then once we got over to Canada and the U.S. then we got some pet insurance during that period of time for her,

Kim: The logistics are incredible, and we've chatted recently to Lucy Barnard, a fellow Australian, who is walking from very south of America to the very north of Alaska, Phil?

Phil: Yep.

Kim: With her dog, and then Aubrey Sweeney, an American comedian who travels from gig to gig in her RV with her dog. And you know the biggest issues for Aubrey are finding restaurants or trailer parks that are dog-friendly, so even before you get to that stage there's a heap to think about.

Kim: Yeah, look, in all honesty, we really didn't find those sort of logistics that difficult. So compared to Australia, North America is so pet-friendly, and pretty much everywhere we went there was pet friendly option. It's really interesting. North America varies so much depending where you are because every state in the U.S. is almost like it's a little mini own country.

Kim: When we were in Oregon last, I remember going to a restaurant and asking if the patio was pet-friendly and if I could eat out on the patio with Maya and, and they said, "It's cold outside. Why on earth would you eat outside? She's more than welcome to eat in the lounge with you in the restaurant." So that was in Oregon, and very similar situation in California as well. But then there was other states and in Canada and British Columbia where, it's just an absolute no go that dogs are allowed anywhere near any food or beverage service area. So probably the biggest logistic issue over there is finding out what's relevant to each state, because once you learn the rules for one state, it's completely different on the other side of the border, which can be a couple hour drive.

Phil: Did Maya enjoy the travel? Did the dog enjoy the travel?

Mark: Look, definitely. And I think honestly for her, she just wanted to be included. She didn't care where we went. She just didn't want to get left behind, and we went off and we did some absolutely fantastic things. We went canoeing together. We went white water rafting. We went mountain biking. We'd go back country skiing and snowboarding. We went snowshoeing to frozen waterfalls. She had an absolute fantastic time. I would say probably her favorite thing was the mountain biking. She just loves being able to run behind me sort of when I go riding down the trials, quite enjoyed the back country skiing and snowboarding. There was a mountain in Revelstoke that we'd quite regularly go to, and we'd climb up about 800 meters of vertical and ski down, and she had a lot of fun sort of doing that.

Mark: And probably the one thing that for her-she had a little bit of a few of water when we first started over there, and we spent a lot of time building up her confidence, and slowly we introduced her to a canoe in a like, and when she got comfortable with that, then we moved into a kayak on some slow-moving water, and eventually we got her into the white water, into the raft in the white water river. To see her progress from start to finish there was actually really rewarding seeing how much she'd grown. I'm not gonna lie. On that final trip, there was a moment she was probably looking at me going, "What have you got me in for?" Because at the start we videoed it all, and at the start you can see she's looking around in the raft and she's got a big smile on her face, sort of watching us all paddle and just slowly going down the river.

Mark: And then we hit the rapids, and the raft's bouncing up and down and she's got this look of worry on her face and looking at me like, "what's going on?" And then after the water flattens out and calms down, again she's got a massive smile on her face. I think she quite enjoyed the experiences and getting out there and seeing more of the world than just a backyard as well. People talk about how calm she is now. I think it's because she's gone off and done so much, so when she walks down the street or goes into a shopping center or hotel, or meets a whole heap of new people, nothing's overly exciting anymore because she's been there and done all that.

Kim: how did you go booking into a room? How does that work?

Mark: Yeah, we utilized TripAdvisor a lot, in all honesty, to find pet-friendly accommodation, because we found some of the other websites to be a little outdated, where TripAdvisor seemed to be the most accurate at the time. But like I said before, pet-friendly accommodation over in North America, and it might be a little bit different when it comes to campgrounds and trailer parks, but as far as hotels go, it's really, really easy to find. And they've very much embraced the pet-friendly market over there, so we'll get accommodation anywhere from two or three-star hotels where it's just a standard room, all the way up to four and five-star hotels.

Mark: And we stayed at them all. We stayed at some places where I was like, "Oh, I'm really glad mum doesn't know we're here." But then we also stayed at some places like the Four Seasons and the Fairmonts where, believe it or not, they actually have doggie in house dining menus. So you can order room service for your dog, and I think at one stage Maya had a meatloaf. Maybe at the Fairmont she had, I think it was salmon, asparagus and eggs for breakfast.

Phil: Which wine went with that?

Mark: Well, she's only six and a half years old. She's not old enough to drink yet.

Phil: Not old enough!

Kim: Well, she's done in six and a half years, over 80,000 kilometers through Canada, the USA, and you even went into Mexico for a day. You're back home in Australia now. Have you both got itchy feet?

Mark: We have a little bit. We've seen all these beautiful places overseas. Now we should actually see a little bit more of their own country. So we're, trying to put together a trip around, at least the west part of Australia because we'd like to meet some of the people that have been following us and talking to us on social media in Australia, and being able to see some of their beautiful coastal spots as well.

Phil: I was going to ask that. Is it like a community of pet travelers?

Mark: It's definitely a growing thing, and we've been sharing a, as much as many chips is what we can on our social media channels, and what we've found is by doing that, we've had a bit of a community grow around us, and if it wasn't for the people that have been talking to us on social media, there are so many different places that we would have missed out on.

Mark: And that was one of the things that we started doing early on when we were traveling, was saying to people, "We're heading to Moab, Utah. What do you recommend us doing?" Because there isn't a lot of information specifically out there on the internet, people have all these recommendations and they would say, "Make sure you go to the corona arch." Because it's outside of the national park, dogs can go anywhere, and it's one of the most beautiful photogenic spots that you'd be able to see in that area, and it's things like that. If it wasn't for everyone, sort of having that community in sharing that information, that we just would've missed out on so much.

Kim: Well that is one well-traveled and well-loved pooch.

Phil: Lucky dog.

Kim: I know. That dog has done more than I've done.

Phil: Hey look, we've received an email talking about traveling with animals, Ron who emailed us, he's sort of retired now with his wife and they're living a nomadic life, and taking around their two dogs with them, a French bulldog and a Boston terrier, bit smaller than a white German shepherd.

Kim: Yeah.

Phil: And thanks very much for the email, Ron. It was great to hear about your travels, and also have a little bit of a discussion about over-tourism and of course if you want to contact us, we'd love to hear your stories of traveling with your pets too. So give them, that's a really popular thing. Let's start talking about it. Our email [email protected]

Kim: In fact, Ron was saying that they travel on land because they can't find airlines for the dogs, but there are going to be links in show notes, and even tips from Mark that will help him.

Phil: I didn't say the first time I traveled in Europe and somebody sat down next to me with a dog in a bag, I was a bit surprised.

Kim: Now mark mentioned Jetpets who helped him get Maya to Canada. Now they provide complete door to door service from and to any destination in the world covering Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. So Ron, that might help you. They've transported everything from dogs to tigers, and we'll have a link in show notes, but FYI, they do operate under the name of Pet Express in the U.S.

Phil: Some of their most popular destinations, by the way, include South America where cats and dogs must be microchipped or have the registration tattoo. In Canada, pet culture requires owners to flush dog waste down the toilet rather than dispose of it in bins, while in Malaysia, certain breeds of dogs have got to have a muzzle on.

Kim: Yup. As I say, world nomads podcast from your favorite podcast app and please subscribe, share, and tell your friends about us. Next week-

Phil: -a special episode as we investigate van life.

Kim: See you then.

Phil: Bye.

Speaker 1: Amazing nomads. They inspire.

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