Author Ryan Powers Boyle and travel photographer Katie May Boyle are six months into a two-year European adventure. Traveling with their 11-year-old labradoodle, Chloe, they move to a new country each month. Here’s how they do it.
“Chloe’s been traveling with us for most of her life, starting with a two-year RV trip crisscrossing the United States when she was five. (She’s 11 now.) Her breed makes for an easygoing travel companion, but experience counts too—at this point, she’s up for anything. She gets a little nervous when the suitcases come out, but we’ve taught her the phrase ‘Chloe will come’ to put her at ease. Tell her that, and she gallops off to guard the suitcases until it’s time to go, making absolutely sure we don’t leave her behind. She won’t budge, even if means waiting there for days.
The expat life was something we had always dreamed of when we were teaching at a private school in Walnut Creek, California—who doesn’t want to travel full-time? We’d already spent two years traveling in an RV, working on music and photography, but this would be bigger. We spent a few years lining up location-independent work before the right opportunities dropped into our laps, and six months later we left the country for Thailand. That was nearly three years ago. Of course, Chloe came with us then, too.
Most countries require some sort of entry permit for pets. The application process varies substantially from place to place, and you want to give yourself plenty of time to tick all the boxes. Plenty of time. We learned most of what we needed to know to get it done from bloggers who’d already moved with pets, including Tieland to Thailand and 8 Miles From Home. Also, pettravelstore.com offers country-specific information for traveling with a pet from the U.S., and usually a country’s government website will maintain a page dedicated to importing animals—“[country] pet import” is a good place to start a Google search.
It took us three months to get Chloe into Thailand. (And that was easy compared to the six months it took to get her into the U.K.) The paperwork looked daunting at first, but once we got started it took surprisingly little effort. When we arrived in Bangkok, the quarantine officer didn't even glance at Chloe. As long as the paperwork was in order, he was happy. Bowing repeatedly and smiling like a maniac may have also helped. But don’t try that in London. In order to avoid quarantine on arrival when we moved to the U.K. from Thailand, Chloe needed a rabies titer test, but the British entrance requirements mandated the test be performed by a European lab, meaning we had to FedEx a vial of dog blood 5,000 miles to Germany to make sure we were compliant. The rules on quarantining pets (and whether you can get around it) vary country to country, as well as depending on what country you’re coming from.
But it is easier to be in Europe with a dog than it was in Thailand. Before we moved, we read about a mall in Bangkok built specifically for pets and thought, Great, Thailand loves dogs! But no, not so much. There are strays everywhere, and in Chiang Mai, at least, it was almost impossible to find a park or green space that allowed dogs. Pet-friendly condos are virtually nonexistent, which meant a house with a yard was the only real option for a 50-pound labradoodle. And taking her on walks in the neighborhood meant always carrying a big stick to scare away the soi dogs.
Europe has been much easier for finding dog-friendly open spaces and housing. Having an E.U. pet passport helps, because it makes crossing the borders between E.U. countries pretty smooth once you’re here (at least for now—who knows what will happen with Brexit). So far we’ve lived in England, France, Portugal, Spain, Scotland, and Ireland. France (again), Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia are next on the list.
On a more selfish note, traveling with Chloe has meant more opportunities for us to connect with Europeans than we might’ve had as random tourists without a goofy brown mop following us around the pub. But more than that, she’s basically our child. Having her along has meant a deeper, richer experience than we ever could’ve had on our own. Plus, you know, who doesn’t love watching a happy dog? We’ve seen her body surf in Koh Samui; hike through cloud forests; play with donkeys, cows, sheep, and even a curious koy fish; and spend time on a banana farm. Better than all that, though, is that Chloe’s been lucky enough to be loved and admired in more languages than I can count.” —As told to Sarah Purkrabek
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