Riding a motorcycle around the world is thrilling, challenging, and liberating, and you are guaranteed an adventure full of opportunities to venture off the beaten track. Add a partner and three dogs to the mix, and you are guaranteed a journey overflowing with unique experiences.
Australian couple Stu and Janell have been riding around the world on their BMW 650 GSs for the past nine years, and they always travel with their pack of loyal pooches.
Naturally, traveling with a pet in a camper or RV is a different experience from riding on a motorbike, as time, preparation, and the right mindset are absolutely essential. As you explore, your pet must feel comfortable in a limited space, be secure with constant movement, and be safely transported in its carrier. Thankfully, after many years on the road, Stu and Janell’s pets have learned to be mobile and have become accustomed to riding along. They have mastered the art of traveling with their canine companions and carrying only the essentials.
We travel in our rig with a nervous but adventurous Yorkshire Terrier, and more often than not, he is an absolute handful. We have learned that when traveling with a pet, you must have extra wits about you, especially in areas with wildlife or a country with many territorial or aggressive strays. The heat or frigid cold is always a concern, and a sudden illness can quickly become an emergency. But the joy of traveling with your pet is like no other. They are fiercely loyal, great companions, and at most times, eager adventure travelers.
Stu and Janell’s dedication to their pets is commendable; their love and devotion to each other and their pack motivate and inspire them to travel.
Tell us about yourself.
We are The Pack Track and started traveling worldwide on motorbikes in February 2014. We set out with a goal to travel around the world in two years, but we’re still going strong 107 countries later.
What was your first overland journey?
We flew with our dog Skyla from Sydney, Australia, to Dallas, Texas. We organized the purchase of our secondhand motorcycles and started heading south down the Pan-American highway from Texas to South America. When we returned to North America, we continued exploring and knew there was no reason to return home. Once we had uprooted ourselves and committed to the adventure, [we knew we would] continue to do it.
Tell us about your furry friends?
Skyla was our first love; we adopted her from the pound in Canberra, Australia. She was a Staffie cross, about six months old, and we had seven crazy, beautiful years with her. She was a very anxious dog which we did our best to manage. The Pillion Pooch was designed to keep her comfortable and safe on the motorcycle in the big wide world, and she loved to ride. Skyla passed away in Venezuela after a noble fight with cancer. Skyla was brave and beautiful.
Weeti is our quirky Venezuelan street dog from El Callao near Gran Sabana. She had a tough start in life, getting hit by a truck [followed up with] serious surgery and rehabilitation and bullied by bad people. However, her rescuers, Luis and Alicia, were excellent and never gave up on her recovery; they are why she walks today. Weeti was about two years old when she joined our pack in October 2014, a month after Skyla passed. It wasn’t planned, it just happened, and she rose to the challenge. Weeti is loyal and strong and has been to over 99 countries.
Shadow may be small at 4.3 kilograms, but she’s ready to take on the world and has a heart of gold. Shadow is courageous and kind. In August 2015, Stu was riding through rural Colombia, and she darted into the road beside him. He narrowly missed her, but the car following him ran her over. She lost an eye but gained a pack that day. In no time, she was vaccinated, microchipped, and on a plane to Florida, touring the USA, Canada, and Mexico, then aboard the Queen Mary 2 sailing to England. She will always be nine countries behind Weeti.
Azra was about six weeks old when we picked her off the highway in Eastern Turkey in December 2021. With no mother in sight, no villages, and no hope, we decided to keep her. One of the biggest challenges of our journey has been having a puppy. We still have no idea how big she will be, but she is growing into a lovely young lady who is very fond of her “big” sisters. Watching her grow as a dog and a traveler will be exciting.
What motivates and inspires you to travel?
The simple answer is each other and our pack. We all love to ride and be on the move. We have such wonderful and happy memories and some dark times that we go through together. We want to finish what we started, so Australia is our end destination, and we look forward to reaching home one day. Weeti and Shadow are getting on in years, and we want them to have a comfortable retirement in Australia at the end of the worldwide adventure; they deserve it.
How has traveling changed you?
Traveling has allowed us to get to know each other, no hiding or masking anything, so our relationship is solid. That would never have happened in the life we were leading before travel. We were busy with work, sports, and social lives. But also, as individuals, we both agree that travel has opened our hearts and minds to humans and humanity and broken down the prejudice we are fed in the media.
What has surprised you the most about overland travel with a pet?
Just how often people welcome our dogs, whether talking to them in an elevator, taking photos of them on the motorbikes, letting them stay in whatever accommodations are offered for the night, or bringing them into restaurants and cafes with us.
What challenges do you face on a day-to-day basis traveling with a pet?
This has been our life for so long now that anything to do with the dogs doesn’t seem like a challenge; it’s just life. We have noticed changes over the years, improving travel with pets. For example, a lot of online booking sites now have pet-friendly filters. Google Maps have excellent coverage worldwide, so that you can find veterinarians and pet shops everywhere. Information from other travelers about crossing borders and continents with pets is also easily found on the internet, with more and more people joining the ranks of international pet travel each year, sharing their experiences and promoting an ever-growing market.
Having the correct documentation for your pet is not a daily challenge, but the most important to get right.
How have you been able to mitigate those challenges?
Mitigating challenges is just being informed and organized as much as possible and knowing what to expect. We aren’t always informed and have turned up to plenty of borders in the world, unaware of the pet requirements.
Regarding any accommodation difficulties with pets, we carry our own camping gear. Having the equipment is great because a good night’s sleep is essential when operating a vehicle the next day with your babies on board. We enjoy camping and do it a lot, but it’s also the last resort if, for whatever reason, we can’t find a place to stay. This may mean setting up camp at a fuel station, on the side of the road, on a rooftop, or in a shed.
How could industry or infrastructure be more accommodating to animal travelers?
We have taken more ferries than we can remember around the world. Companies like Brittany Ferry that offer pet-friendly cabins have a great model that all ferry lines could adopt. There is no excuse for a ferry not offering pet-friendly cabins to keep the owners and the pets happy and stress-free on their voyage.
Are there any community resources that you rely on?
Ioverlander.com is a mapping tool with information on accommodation, border crossings, mechanics, and any other relevant topic to overlanding. We regularly input information into its database and rely on information other users have added, particularly on border crossings and camping sites.
TrustedHouseSitters is an app where you can find people to look after your pets, or you can look after other people’s pets. We use it mostly over winter for free accommodation in a pet-friendly place. All of our pet-sits involve dogs, and it’s fun for our dogs to socialize and have some time out. These sits can be anywhere from days to weeks to months.
Any tips or tricks for traveling safely with pets?
[We recommend] regular stops during the day to walk around and also to get some shut-eye. These are essential for motorcycle travel. But also, on our non-riding days when exploring sites and cities, we need to decide whether the dogs should be out with us or resting at the accommodation. Our number one goal with our dogs is to make sure they get enough rest. We stop and catch up on rest if they’ve missed out for a few days.
Of course, carrying food and good drinking water every day is essential. We have been hungry and without water countless times, but never our dogs. While they are super troopers on our adventures, they didn’t choose this life, so it’s important to remember that and put their needs first.
We also carry a course of antibiotics for each dog should something happen and we can’t get to a vet quickly enough. Keep any meds in a cool, dry place and watch the expiration date.
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
Our Pillion Pooch motorcycle dog carrier. We have one on each bike to carry our three dogs. Weeti and Shadow ride together 2-up on Stu’s motorbike, and Azra rides on Janell’s. The carrier keeps our dogs safe and comfortable in all climates and terrain. We love it, and it works perfectly for us.
In your experience, what are the most pet-friendly countries?
In our experience, the UK and Luxembourg, as they allow your pets on public transport, restaurants, and cafes.
Any incidents with your pets along the way?
Skyla was diagnosed with lymphoma in Australia before we left, so we delayed our departure for her to have a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. When cancer returned, our only option was to administer chemotherapy drugs which was a challenge to buy in different countries and to keep cold while traveling. When we left Australia, she was in perfect health, and we had every reason to believe she would live a long, healthy life.
Weeti was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2015. We spent a fortune working out that a tick-borne disease had caused the condition. She went on antibiotics for the illness and phenobarbital for the seizures. Azra arrived with parvovirus. Fortunately, we found her when we did, and she was put on a course of injections to treat the disease.
Have you recently flown with your animals? Can you offer some strategies to make you and your pets more comfortable?
We have done a few flights with dogs, including Sydney to Dallas, Manaus to Port Velho, Bogota to Miami, Cabinda to Luanda, and Alexandria to Paris, Seoul to Hanoi, Hanoi to Da Nang. However, we take ferries or ships wherever possible. If you want to move between the Americas and Europe, check out the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship, the cost is comparable to flying, and it’s much more pleasant. We did it in 2016; since then, the boat has renovated its kennels and doubled its capacity. We have also traveled by train along the Trans-Siberian railway with our three dogs
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