I think that anyone who has ever set off on a RTW trip has had some kind of dealbreaker – one thing that, should it happen (or not happen), would take the prospect of traveling off the table. Maybe it’s failing to sell your house, getting offered a life-changing job opportunity, a family member getting sick, or failing to meet your savings goal. I don’t know what the trump card is in your life, but for Tony & myself, our dealbreakers have two names: Rory & Emmy Lou.
Rory is a 7-year-old Welsh Corgi (who Tony has had since Rory was just 4 months old) and Emmy is our 6-year-old ??? We think she might be a Tennessee Mountain Cur, but given that Tony rescued her from a kill shelter when she was just around 8 months old, there’s no real way to know. What matters most is that to know our dogs is to love them, and in the five years Tony and I have been together, the four of us have formed a family. Tony and I are unapologetic dog lovers, so to say we love our pooches more than pretty much anything on the face of this planet is putting it lightly.
Remember when I said that living your dreams wasn’t always a walk in the park and that sometimes you have to give up something you love in order to have something else you love? I wasn’t kidding.
Much has been written before about the hardship of leaving pets to travel, and I’m not so much of a narcissist to think that our story and turmoil is any different from the many travelers out there for whom seeing the world has meant leaving behind a furry best friend. Still, when Tony and I were back in the stages of making good on our dreams to travel, we ran through all the typical worst-case “what if” scenarios and realized that we could deal with essentially anything EXCEPT for two things. Under no circumstances would we be able to: 1) give up the dogs permanently; 2) separate the two. Emmy and Rory are like peanut butter & jam, bread and butter, and yes, sometimes dumb & dumber! They are best friends and the only thing more traumatic than us leaving them for a year or two would certainly be breaking this dynamic duo up. Ultimately, if we couldn’t find someone who would welcome both dogs into their home for 12 – 18 months (a big ask, to be sure), then our big trip wasn’t going to happen. Period.
Thankfully, I happen to have a set of pretty amazing parents.
When I first pitched the idea of this trip to my parents a few years ago and casually asked my dad whether they would be willing to look after the puptatoes for us, he said he thought that was something they would be able to do for us. Fastforward three years and my parents are now faced with the knowledge that we were 100% serious about taking this trip. After a little panicking that our nebulous “some day” plans were now going to be happening in a few months, they were still good to their word and agreed to spend a year with their “grandkids” while Tony and I traipse about the globe.
Words cannot express just how grateful Tony and I are to my parents, because—and I say this in all seriousness—were it not for their selflessness, Tony and I would not be taking this trip. And they are being incredibly selfless, because both my parents are retired and have their own travel plans… plans that they have agreed to put on hold so that Tony and I can take this trip now, rather than having to wait 5, 10, or even 20 years to do so. I feel incredibly lucky that my entire life, my parents have always done what they could to help me live my dreams, even when they cause me to take a path that they themselves would not necessarily take. To have their support in this way has been critical, and while Tony and I still face the impending reality of leaving our babies behind for a year, the guilt and anguish is greatly mitigated by knowing that the dogs will be incredibly well taken care of and loved during our absence.
We have been living with my parents (rent free… as if we didn’t already owe them a lifetime worth of favors!) for the past three weeks and it is already clear the dogs will be happy in ways they never could have fathomed. They have a wonderful neighborhood to walk in (complete with nearby park and a neighbor who gives out treats!), the weather is nicer, their allergies have calmed down, both dogs have started to make new puppy friends, and both are already being doted on and spoiled the way they (and all grandkids—human or no!) deserve. For instance, realizing that both the dogs love looking out the front windows for hours on end, my mom moved a bench she had up in her bedroom down to the living room so that the dogs can stare out the windows as much as their hearts desire. It’s now their favorite spot in the house. Although it will likely take some additional time before the dogs fully feel like this is their home, they are already 80% there, and I am sure this will be another one of those situations where Tony and I feel the weight of this choice far more than they ever do. It is so obvious that this is the kind of life the dogs were meant to have; their quality of life is so far beyond that which they were experiencing in our 700 sq ft apartment in sweltering, walk unfriendly Nashville, it isn’t even funny. I know when Tony and I return from our trip, this is the kind of life we will continue to try to provide for them.
Tomorrow we leave for Minnesota, and as much as the past few months have been all about looking forward and counting down the days until dreams become real, this is the one day I wish would never end. This act of leaving those you love rather than gathering them close and carrying them with you is truly the hardest part of travel. But once again, I know this pain, this sorrow, is felt so keenly only because I allow myself to love so fully and completely. When it comes to Emmy & Rory, it is the only way Tony and I know how to love.
So as not to end this post on such a bittersweet note, I will instead stress once again that running deep beneath these currents of sadness are endless pools of happiness and gratitude that my parents were so willing to offer us this solution, but I never want them to think we felt they made this offer lightly or that we don’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the gift they have given us. So: Thank you Mom & Dad. Thank you for sacrificing a year of your retirement so that Tony and I can live our dreams. It means so much to us that you have opened your home and your hearts to Rory & Emmy. We know that you will shower them with so much love and will do your best to make sure that by the time we get back, the dogs’ loyalties have shifted and they love you best of all. Thank you for supporting and being part of our adventure.