Mark and Mya’s Adventures
Recently I was asked, what inspired me to travel from one side of the world to the other with my best friend Mya (A white shepherd). The short answer to that is family. The longer answer, the answer that will probably give you more understanding of who we both are, is still family, but there is a story to go along with it.
Like everyone growing up, my family had a huge impact on the person I would grow up to be and ultimately shape Mya’s life. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have had a childhood puppy and wouldn’t have learned to ski, snowboard, rock climb, paddle, mountain bike, hike, or camp. They are the ones that fostered my strong love for the outdoors and adventure.
Six years ago, when I got Mya as a puppy, I was given some advice that has really shaped my relationship with her. I was told that for Mya, I would be her pack, her family, her whole world. If she was to have a good or bad life, that would be entirely up to me. I took this responsibility quite seriously and at this point I stopped seeing dogs as pets and started seeing them as family members. It was my job to introduce the world to her. I wanted Mya to be able to join me on as many adventures as she could. Not just because I didn’t want her to miss out, but also because having her with me enriched my experience. For the first three years of Mya’s life, that’s exactly what we did in Australia.
Unfortunately for my family, a little over three years ago, my father passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack. He was two years away from retirement, two years away from going on a holiday around Australia that he had been talking about for at least 15 years. I know it’s cliché, but it really hit home, you can’t hold off on the things you really want to do. You never know if you might get another chance to do it and I wanted to live my life without regret. As a result, I changed my focus in life from working for tomorrow and building a life, to enjoying today and planning for tomorrow.
It got me thinking. Since I was sixteen, I’d wanted to visit Canada and spend a winter there. I’d had plenty of reasons not to: career, relationships, money, and more recently, Mya. Despite wanting to live my dreams, I’d chosen to get Mya, I’d chosen to make her a part of my family, and we had been through so much together. How could I now just choose to leave her behind?
I chose to stop making excuses and to make it happen. It wasn’t easy and I had to fight hard to make it happen, but a few years later I was on a plane with Mya flying from Australia to North America.
Since then Mya and I have driven over 40,000 km and visited Canada, the USA and Mexico. I didn’t want to simply bring Mya along. I wanted to include her in our adventures as much as possible. As a result, traveling with her has forced me to think outside my normal way of thinking and explore activities that I may have overlooked in the past. Mya has joined me backcountry ski touring, snow snowshoeing, ice skating, fat biking, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, mountain biking, and hiking. Some of our most memorable moments would be:
Visiting Big White in British Columbia and being able to ski with Mya for the first time. The area that we skied was nothing special, in fact it’s just a trail that runs from the village to the car park, but being able to take Mya up the gondola and then watch her excitedly run behind me will be a memory I will hold onto.
Towards the end of winter we were fortunate enough to be able to visit Banff National Park. Whilst in Banff, Mya and I got to explore Johnston Canyon and see the frozen waterfalls up close. If you haven’t ever seen them, the only way I could describe them is incredible. I really hope one day I get a chance to return and climb them, whilst Mya watches me from below (she isn’t a big fan of heights).
On the East Coast of the USA, we made our way to Lake Placid, in upstate New York. The contrast between the city and mountains really highlighted to us that we truly feel home when we are in the mountains. Mya and I had a great time paddling across the lake and being shown some of hiking trails by locals Amber and Ariel.
Not too long after, Mya and I made our way to Niagara Falls, which was an incredible experience. The shier magnitude of the falls was just amazing. Although we weren’t able to spend the whole day together, visiting the falls on the USA side of the border and being able to get up close to them with Mya was a very memorable experience.
Finally, some of the most beautiful places we have visited would have to be the National Parks in the USA. When we first started talking about visiting them, people told me that it was so restrictive and wasn’t worth it. Sure enough there are some pretty strict guidelines, but for the most part we have made it work and been able to see some incredible places. I’ve also been amazed at how many other travellers have had their dogs join them whilst exploring the parks. Some of our favourites would be Badlands, Glacier, Arches, Canyonlands, Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Grand Canyon.
The whole experience has been incredible in so many ways. Mya has grown so much. She is so much more calm now and people often comment on how well behaved she is. I put it down to her going almost everywhere with me. She has been exposed to so many different situations now, that whenever we go somewhere she doesn’t need to get super excited as she has already experienced something similar. When I look at her and see her smiling, I know she’s happy. I think her needs are simple; she just wants to be included and be with her family.
For me, I got an amazing travel companion. She has been there for me every time I’ve gotten worked up or felt down because of something that has happened in my life. She quietly nudges me to reassure me and level me out. Because of Mya I have met so many incredibly amazing people, some who I hope to have in my life for many years to come. She has always listened to me and inadvertently encouraged me to see and do many things I never would have without her.
If I were to pass on something I’ve learned, it would be this: You don’t need to fly from one side of the world to the other together or go on a year long adventure. Next time you have a spare moment, grab your furry mate and go somewhere, or do something you love doing together. They will love that you’ve included them and both your lives will be so much more fulfilled because of it!