Mark and Myas Adventures Interview

[Transcript] Episode: Travel to the USA and Canada With Your Dog – Interview with Mark and Mya’s Adventures

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Here is the transcript from Episode 1 of The Confident Traveller podcast with Mark from Mark and Mya’s Adventures.

(Transcript may be edited slightly for readability)

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Sarah: Mark and Mya, welcome to the show! Thank you so much for being here.

Mark: Thanks for having us.

Sarah: No, you’re welcome! I can’t wait to hear some of your tips which made this dream happen so others can follow in your footsteps, but first, you’ve been in North America for about 17 months now, so please tell us a little bit more about yourself, Mya, and this journey you’ve shared together.

Mark: Yeah so if anybody doesn’t actually know, Mya’s my White German Shepard. She’s almost 7 years old now and I’ve had her since she was a puppy. Almost 6 years ago now I was out with some family and sadly my father passed away very very suddenly. It was completely unexpected. He had a massive heart attack. Literally one minute we were having a conversation and the next minute he was gone. He’d been planning a trip around Australia for about 15 years and he was only 2 years away from doing it. It really showed me that you can’t put off your hopes and dreams and you really need to live in the moment that little bit more.

I’d been wanting to travel to Canada since I was about 16 years old. I used to play hockey, I wanted to ice skate on a frozen lake and all that sort of stuff. It really showed me that this had to happen because you might not get that chance otherwise. But I had Mya with me and I had chosen to bring her into my family, I had chosen to take on the responsibility of having her. She didn’t have a choice about that. I couldn’t just leave her behind. So I did some research and I found out, yeah, you can travel with a dog from one country to another and we just made it happen.

Sarah: I’m really sorry to hear about your dad but it’s good that something positive came out of that experience.

So before I started following you on Instagram I would have never thought of bringing my dog overseas. So how did you go from finding information and the planning process to get over here?

Mark: It was a whole heap of research really. I wanted to utilize Google and search for different country regulations to see what you could import and the requirements for those. It’s a really unique situation in the fact that you can’t get a pet passport for most countries. Europe you can but for the rest of the world, they don’t. Every country is an individual process.

For us, we jumped on… to be honest I can’t actually remember the name of the Canadian authority. But we jumped on their website and we had a look at what the requirements were to bring a dog from Australia to Canada. Then had a look to find out what the requirements were to take a dog from Canada to the US and back and forth and it’s actually a really easy process. It gets a little bit more complex when you want to go back home to Australia because Australia doesn’t have rabies or other diseases because Australia is an island effectively. There are a few more things involved in just making sure that when we head back home to Australia that Mya’s not bringing anything back that could affect the rest of the country.

Sarah: Right okay and are there certain breeds that aren’t allowed in Canada and the US?

Mark: Canada, yes, so in Ontario, I believe Pitbull’s aren’t actually allowed and there’s probably a couple of other breeds as well. They’ve definitely got their own regulations. I’ll be honest, I’m not an expert in regards to it but before you’re looking at doing it, it’s really important to make sure that they’re going to be eligible because there can be really pretty serious consequences if you try and bring a dog that isn’t eligible into the country.

Sarah: Okay and the government websites probably the best place to find that information?

Mark: Definitely!

Sarah: Great! That’s really good to know. Are there any other resource sites that you would recommend?

Mark: Yeah look so there are a whole lot of different pet transport companies out there as well. If you’re in North America you’ve got WorldWide Animal Travel. They’re really helpful. They’re all over the legislation and the logistics of getting animals from one country to another. In Australia, you’ve got Jetpets and you’ve got Dogtainers. There’s a whole heap of them. If you jump on Google you’ll easily find some different transport options there.

Sarah: Now from Melbourne to Canada is about a 15 hour flight so was that the first time Mya’s flown or did you do some smaller flights to get her to practice first?

Mark: So these days Air Canada runs a great service flying from Melbourne to Vancouver directly and like you said it’s about 15 hours. When we left they weren’t running that service and they only had Sydney to Vancouver direct which was about 14 something hours at the time. What we had to do flying from Melbourne was that we had to take a domestic flight up to Sydney, we spent the night in Sydney, then flew internationally to Canada.

The first flight from Melbourne to Sydney, that was Mya’s first flight and I’m not gonna lie, she was dirty with me. She had no idea if I was coming back or anything like that. It was only a one-hour flight but she was pretty peeved with me. But after half an hour of playing with her up in Sydney, she was pretty chilled and knew everything was okay. And yeah flying from Sydney to Vancouver she was good as gold.

Sarah:  Right.

Mark: When I saw her she wasn’t distressed or anything like that. I honestly think she just curled up and went to sleep. She was in quite a big crate down in the animal hold so she probably had more room than I did up in economy. But it wasn’t the first time we traveled but it was the first time we traveled on a plane. 12 months earlier we had gone from Melbourne to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania, so a boat. She was in a crate there in the animal hold as well. Similar experience although the crate on the plane was probably three times the size that she had and she didn’t have the motion of the waves moving the boat, which I’ll be honest, if she was like me she probably felt a little uneasy. The plane was a little bit more of a smooth ride.

Sarah: If you were to do it again would you have done a few more smaller flights to get used to it or just flown 15 hours direct?

Mark: Look I actually think we did it perfectly having that one hour flight beforehand because that way she learned that I was coming back and she wasn’t stressing over it for 15 hours. 

Sarah:  Sure.

Mark: And I think that’s one of the reasons why on the second flight she was much more calm and comfortable at the end.

Sarah:  Ok that makes sense.

Mark: But then I’ve also spoken to other people who have also said they’d just prefer to get it over and done with it. I think every dog is definitely unique and people need to make those decisions for themselves.

Sarah:  So how do you go about getting your dog a ticket? How does that work?

Mark: Yep so that’s a little bit of a complex process and to book a flight out of Australia, you really need to utilize one of those pet transport companies.

Sarah:  Right.

Mark: Because most airlines require an expert to make those arrangements because they want to know that the dogs in the correct sized crate and all the appropriate documentation have been filled out. They just want to know that everything’s going to go smoothly. So if you get in touch with one of those pet transport companies then they can actually go off and make that booking with the airline on your behalf. We made sure we flew on the same flight and they can arrange all that stuff.

Sarah: And I guess they arranged the crate and everything that Mya would need.

Mark: Yep, so you can buy them independently or you can get them through the pet transport company which I’ve found is probably the cheaper way to do it because they’re buying them in bulk. And yes they get a better cheaper rate.

Sarah: OK great. So let’s get into what it’s like actually traveling with a dog here in America and Canada. How are you going with accommodation? Do you find that there’s a lot of places that offer accommodation for pets?

Mark: Yeah, I’ll be honest, North America is really dog-friendly so we haven’t actually been anywhere we haven’t found a surplus of pet-friendly accommodation. The hospitality industry over here is really really onboard with it. They understand that pets are part of the family these days as well and they’re businesses so they will go off and they’ll cover their costs of having a pet in a room by charging a small pet fee. Some of them like the Four Seasons, the Fairmont, the Delano in Las Vegas… there’s probably half a dozen others that I could rattle off that actually have dog-friendly in-house dining menus.

Sarah:  Oh really.

Mark: Yeah, so when we were at Whistler the other day and were staying at the Four Seasons, Mya actually had steak, eggs, and meatloaf for breakfast.

Sarah:  I think that’s better than what I eat for breakfast!

Mark: Possibly! It came out in a very gourmet looking dish.

Sarah: Right, so where do you eat that? At a restaurant or in your room?

Mark: It was in-house dining so it was delivered to the room. That’s what I mean, it’s opening up extra avenues for their industry, extra sources of income. There’s definitely people out there who may say “look that’s too expensive for me”, “It’s not something I want to do” or “my dogs on a specific diet”. But there’s other people out there who will go “Well I want to travel to Las Vegas. I don’t want to have to worry about taking a dog bed or dog bowls or dog food or anything like that.” And the fact that the hotel provides all these amenities is something that they really enjoy.

Sarah: Yeah it makes it easier just to fly somewhere. You just rock up and enjoy your holiday with the dog. Yeah, that’s fantastic I didn’t know that that was offered.

So have you had any issues in any with Mya, like national parks or certain places to eat? Have you had any struggles?

Mark: There’s always challenges. Prior to traveling with Mya I would definitely have traveled in a different way. So I think research is probably the best thing to do and forward planning. Wherever you go, I remember before this trip a lot of people said to me “Don’t plan so much just kind of fly with the…”

Sarah:  Go with the go flow.

Mark: “…Go with the flow!” Yes and “See where things take you.” But we did try that and it just doesn’t work so well when you’re traveling with a pet. So (for example) the Grand Canyon, it’s a national park and they’ve got some areas where dogs are allowed but they’ve also got other areas where dogs aren’t allowed.

So hiking down below the rim into the actual canyon itself, dogs aren’t allowed down there. For me, I wanted to be able to do that. So it was important for me to (A) Find out what she was allowed to do and what Mya wasn’t allowed to do. (B) If she wasn’t allowed to do it and what I wanted to do, what could I do with Mya? So the Grand Canyon actually has its own boarding kennel.

Sarah: Oh really.

Mark: Yes, and Mya didn’t actually stay there overnight, but she was in there for maybe three or four hours whilst I went off and did my hiking into the actual Canyon.

Sarah: Doggie Day Care!

Mark: Yeah, Doggie Day Care!

Sarah: Great!

Mark: And that’s all organized by the National Park. So that’s what I mean over here in North America, it’s so pet-friendly. There’s definitely so many different services offered that allow you to go off and travel with your pet. And sometimes those services aren’t offered in the immediate surroundings and you might have to think outside the box and that’s why forward planning is really really important.

Sarah: Are those services quite expensive or are they reasonable do you think?

Mark: No, generally with the national parks we’ve found them to be super cheap. I think Doggie Day Care in the Grand Canyon was about 15 dollars for the day.

Sarah:  Wow! Okay, that’s really good!

Mark: I think in Yosemite it was maybe eight dollars and that was really cheap.

Sarah: So it sounds like you would have had a lot to plan before you came here because you are traveling long term.

Mark: Yep.

Sarah: How long did it take you from this idea to actually putting it into place and getting on that plane?

Mark: So my father passed away in 2014 and that’s kind of when the idea actually started to form and then we flew out at the very end of 2017. So there were about 3 years in there.

Now we were probably ready maybe 12 months earlier to do it or to some extent we were trying to push to do it a little bit earlier than 12 months. During that time we were looking at different destinations that we wanted to visit. We had some sort of rough plan as to what we were going to do. 12 months earlier I actually came over for a one-month scout trip. I didn’t want to be bringing Mya all the way from Australia to Canada and the U.S. and not have any idea of the lay of the land and what was acceptable and what wasn’t.

So the year before I flew over and did a bit of a road trip on my own just to work out where things were. And yeah like I said sort of researching different things, connecting with people on Facebook and an Instagram, looking for different travel groups, and just getting that information before we made it over.

In all honesty I probably would’ve loved to have been organizing things maybe even another twelve months in advance but, then we started up our social channels maybe… when would that have been… We flew out in November so was probably May beforehand… we started doing it six months earlier and they were just a huge resource for us.

Our story started getting shared and more well-known on the internet. It wasn’t until I posted maybe three months before we flew out, and I asked a question about what mobile phone providers we should have and asking about different cars and their suitability, and banks. The response I had was just absolutely amazing from people who had started following us.

And in all honesty, they’ve been our greatest resource on this trip. Just connecting with other people and getting information from them, because they’ve already done so much with this sort of stuff. They might not have done the same big trip that we’ve done but they could already be living in Canada and driving around in a four-wheel drive and know which sort of four-wheel drive works and which one doesn’t and what to be looking for in those sort of circumstances.

Sarah: You’ve got an amazing following on Facebook and Instagram and you also have a blog as well and a few Facebook groups.

Mark: Yep.

Sarah: That’s fantastic that you’re managing to help others in this situation through your Facebook group I believe.

Mark: Yeah. For us it’s really it really developed and evolved. Initially our social media channels were all just about sort of telling people kind of what we’re doing and posting some cute photos of Mya. But they’ve really evolved and we’ve learned that we’ve been inspiring people and people are trying to follow in our footsteps. And maybe just on a smaller trip, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to fly from one side of the world to the other.

We’ve seen how much it’s turned into a community. So yeah, as you said we’ve got our own social channels. We’ve also got a whole heap of different Facebook groups set up for different locations throughout the world where people can actually join those and share their own adventures and meet other people. It’s really turning into a bit of a community and that’s what we love seeing.

Sarah: On your travels have you met many people doing what you’re doing?

Mark: Yeah I definitely. So wherever we travel we try and hold a meet up. Thanks for coming to our meetup last night.

Sarah: Of course, it was great.

Mark: So usually we get anywhere between 3 and maybe 20 people turn up wherever we go so. It’s just really great to be able to say hi to people that have been following along and some people write to us every day. We’re actually heading down to San Francisco in a couple of days I’m really looking forward to meeting someone who’s been messaging us for almost a year now. It’ll be great to actually meet them in person. And I figure it’s the very least we can do for the support and the advice that they offer us, to take a little bit of time out of our day and to be able to say hi to them. It’s just great meeting some new people as well.

Sarah: So let’s get into some more serious stuff. Coming onto this trip, you would’ve been thinking about it for a long time. There was a lot that was going into that planning process. Did you have any fears coming into this? What were your main concerns?

Mark: My main concern was that we were going to run out of money and be begging in the street trying to get me and my puppy home or something bad would happen to one of the two of us.

So if anyone’s not following us we try and show what it’s like to travel with a pet. And I’m a pretty adventurous guy as well so a lot of the stuff that we do is sort of travel and adventure focused. We go off and we’ll go backcountry ski touring, we’ll go whitewater rafting together, we go mountain biking, a whole heap of those kind of activities. And some of them have been completely new to me too. I’d been skiing since I was about two years old but I’d never skied out in the backcountry prior to coming over here. So things like avalanches. 

Sarah: We don’t get those in Australia!

Mark: Yeah exactly yeah. So there was definitely some concerns there for me. But I went off and I made sure I did some avalanche awareness courses and a whole heap of training in regards to that. Pretty much wherever we’ve gone off and we’ve had fears, we’ve tried to put things in place to avoid have a negative outcome.

Sarah: Prevention tactics.

Mark: Exactly.

Sarah: Right, that’s smart.

What would be your advice to dog owners who don’t have as much time or money to travel overseas but still want the travel experience that you guys are having?

Mark: I would just say that I’m not an overly wealthy person back home, I’m just a middle-class person. I definitely had a whole heap of savings before coming over but I wasn’t quite sure how long we’d be able to do this for. I think there is generally always a solution to problems. For us, we ran out of our savings a long time ago and one of the things that we do is we work with various pet-friendly businesses and adventure businesses and help create them content and provide them feedback on their services.

So we’ll go off and we’ll create videos and photographs that they’ll utilize in their own marketing and as a result, those businesses will help support us within our travels. That’s how we’ve gone off and been able to continue our adventures for the last six months.

There’s also plenty of other options out there. Just try to keep an open mind and looking at various solutions is always a great way to do it. There’s a whole heap of information out on the internet about being able to work remotely or having passive streams of income. I’m definitely not an expert on them. If you want to give up the 9 to 5 job and be able to travel overseas, look at the skills and the assets that you have and how you can utilize those whilst on the road. I think that’s the best advice that I can offer. 

Sarah: Yeah, no that’s great advice. You can also get working visas. I have a working visa for Canada actually.

Mark: Yep.

Sarah: So under 30 you can get that and do some traveling jobs I guess. 

Mark: And I think that’s the key thing so for me being over 30. I completely forget about that but yeah. I’ve got plenty of friends who have done exactly the same thing and that’s probably one of the big things. Especially coming from Australia, the working holiday program is so popular between Australians and Canadians traveling from one country to the other. But yeah that’s really good advice.

Sarah: Yeah I guess you just got to choose something that suits you and suits your skills.

Mark: Exactly.

Sarah: It’s great you can to do that to stay on the road.

Mark: Yep.

Sarah: Well, thank you for sharing all of that information with us. I know a lot of people will find it valuable. Tell us where is the best place to find you?

Mark: Yes. So we are on Instagram and Facebook at @mark_and_myas_adventures

We’ve also got our website as well: and yeah we’d love to hear from you all.

Sarah: I’ll put all of those handles in the show notes as well if you want to find them there.

Thank you so much for being here Mark. It means so much to me that my very first guests and I’m so glad I could share your story with a little more of the world. So good luck with the rest of your journey and I’m excited see how this trip progresses.

Mark: Thank you.

Sarah: And if you did hear any little grunts throughout this episode that was Mya who is sitting right next to us, she’s pretty chill now.

Mark: Mya…

Sarah: I think she wants a little bit more attention.

Mark: You want to say hello?

Mya: *Barks*

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