I’ve taken a few non-solo trips now and here’s what I’ve learned.  

First off, you need to like your travel bud.  

After returning from my long road trip, I still had the itch to get up and go.  So I enlisted some loving kindness and commandeered my part-time-custody dog for a long weekend.

Here’s Dela!   

Dela works with me in my regular life as an emotional support dog for folks going through tough times.  Don’t tell them, but she really just wants to get pet, and doesn’t really give a crap if it makes you feel better, as long as she keeps getting the head pats.  But the thing is, it  does make people feel better.  Seeing her doofy, gormless smile directed your way has a tendency to make your troubles melt away into the ether.  So, I felt excited to take a trip with her.

The thing is, Dela suffers from some chronic illnesses.  I won’t bore you with all the details, but she has had broken limbs in the past due to accidents sustained before I knew her.  She’s had two rough accidental pregnancies in her history. She’s suffered from a stroke and had to undergo brain surgery. And more recently, she has been diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders where she will have to take medication for the rest of her life.  In short, Dela is burdened with chronic dog arthritis.  So, even though her little bread-box shaped body wants to constantly bounce up and at you, it also doesn’t want to, which adds for some limitations on the road.  But we’ll get to that.

When travelling more than solo, packing changes a bit.  Suddenly, the precious real estate inside your car gets allotted more stringently — that seat you used to place your backpack on is now prime time for a butt or toe beans.  That floor where you had your food is now crammed with dog food or snacks for your travel partner.  Sleeping suddenly means cuddling in the back with a two-or-four-limbed partner.  

Another thing that changes when you are travelling for more than one is the need to stop here and there.  Some folks need breaks and time to stretch, others have bladders the size of a pea.  (In my case, my bladder is a pea compared to Dela’s bladder of steel, I have no idea how she does it.)  Whatever the case, you need to be OK with listening and attending to the needs of your car compatriots.  

For my weekend getaway with the Del, I planned a short trip up through the Poconos, to New York’s finger lakes region with a quick stopover at Lake Ontario and an overnight at the Adirondack mountains of upstate NY.  

I quickly found that having companionship in my car was quite pleasant — whereas before  had to take in the sights and wonderment on my own and share them only with my camera (and own internal sense of great humor and musing, mind you), I was now able to view a cool sight AND make eye contact with this ridiculous creature, which isn’t nothing.  It almost scratched the itch of wanting to look at a travel partner and be like, “Oh my God, that mountain, right??”  But just a tad less so because Stubs McDog couldn’t see it over the door frame.  Things like eating became more pleasant.  Travelling felt good when I could make eye contact with a smiling companion.  

We hit up Seven Tubs Nature Area first and took a dip. This area is dominated by water cascading down a hillside, carving out rocky tubs for folks to swim and bathe in. Dela hates swimming and I was treated to her accidentally slipping and sliding down a little waterfall.

An important change to my travels accompanied my accompaniment — I couldn’t just do stuff willy-nilly without some forethought.  Taking a dip to rinse my pits in a lake suddenly meant finding a place to secure the beast.  Walking places meant timing it a little longer so everyone could stop and coo over this waddling potato.  And, to my dismay, some of the attractions I had wanted to see clearly posted, NO PETS.  I had to be OK with giving up on revisiting Watkins Glen this time around because they were decidedly done with shedding, I suppose.   

Luckily we were still able to get over to see Lake Seneca and take a break under the grape vines.

We then travelled to one of the many local waterfalls at Ithaca Falls Trail, which was absolutely beautiful.

Another important factor to consider when you are travelling with a companion is their physical aptitude and ability level.  I like walking and I am terrible at traversing inclines because I hate exercise.  It is easy to assume that others are like me because I spend time self-deprecating about my physical ability level, but it is important to remind myself that others do have differing levels of can-do’s and can’t-do’s.  

In the case of travelling with Dela, she made it very clear to me on our visit to Robert Wehle state park that she absolutely did not intend to travel any further.  It was morning and we had just arrived and after walking just a few hundred feet, she plopped down in the shade and refused to stand up again, no matter what stage of grief I found myself in.  Talk about boundary setting and communication, this dog does it all.  I had to carry her bloated corpse into my prius which I left running with max A/C in order to go catch a quick glimpse of the Great Lake before our departure.  

Midway through this trip, I then sprung for a dog backpack that would allow me to carry her up the arduous trek to the top of the mountain that I had planned on camping at that night at Roaring Brook Falls.  Of course, this was for nothing, and Dela soldiered up the mountain, smoking my out-of-shape ass in the process.  I guess she just didn’t care to see Lake Ontario.  

Hanging out with a dog on a mountainside is great for the company, and harrowing for the possibility of a sausage-shaped animal sliding off the side of a cliff.  Despite this, we did well, although Dela did cry at the prospect of me taking a frigid dip in a mountain stream (I somehow survived).  That said, I would not highly recommend sleeping with a dog in a hammock — I felt every turn and sigh that she made all night, which was not exactly great for my own rest.  But, it was nice to have the company, I suppose.

I would absolutely travel with Dela again.  She was phenomenal company, and a wonderful centerpiece to my trip — her smiles, attention, and ability to break the ice with strangers was welcome, to say the least.  That said, when you car camp (and regular camp) and drive around for hours on end with a companion, be sure you enjoy their presence, and account for and attend to their individual needs.

1 Reply to “Traveling with Companionship”

Comments are closed.