Ten months ago, my Mum, Cooper and I found ourselves in a sleepy suburb outside of Brisbane, surrounded by a squeaking pack of tiny Westie puppies. It was a far cry from where we expected to be in December 2020. I for one fully intended to be at a nice crisp German Christmas market, sipping on mulled wine and impulse buying sparkly decorations that I had nowhere to display.
But, surrounded by these white creatures that more so resembled tiny polar bears than Westie puppies with their eyes barely open wasn’t entirely bad either.
For the love of dog
One look at all of our past content here and on YouTube, and you’ll spot a mile off that Cooper and I are “dog people”. Not part time or casual dog people. Oh no. We are those all-in-totally-obsessed-heart-eyed weirdos who quite literally would follow a wagging tail along the road, through a shopping mall, down a commuter platform and onto a train if it meant we could have just one pat.
If that sounds insane to you, maybe you better go find another post to read 😛
As long as Cooper and I have known each other, we have loved dogs. In fact, I recall the first time I thought Cooper (my co-worker at the time) was “sweet” was when he stooped down to kiss one of our mutual friends’ dogs on the head when he met it.
“That’s so sweet,” I thought…and looked at him kinda differently after that.
Jumping forward a few years, we had two blue cattle dogs in our lives. One, Stephanie, my beloved childhood pet who moved with me to a small rural town in NSW where Cooper ended up befriending her and giving her a roaring good time in her twilight years.
And the second, Harry (pictured above), another bluey who was quite simply the best dog you could ever, ever know. He loved us and we loved him with all of our hearts. Everyone loved Harry – he was a popular family member with all relations and friends. He had his own identity and personality. When you imagine the “man’s (or woman) best friend” analogy of a dog and their human living their best life, together, Harry is the dog in that picture.
That rainbow bridge, I tell you, it’s a wonderful place with all our four-legged mates chasing their tails and their tennis balls, just waiting for us on the other side.
But of course, there’s that time in between. And ours was spent living abroad and travelling. We were always dog spotting and stalking puppies in the park – well, everywhere really (pubs, trains, cafes, courtyards, the workplace…). The time was never right for us to get a dog when we lived in London. We did however, sign up to be Trusted Housesitters specifically to get our dog fix and give love to fur babies in the absence of their own humans who wanted to get away on a holiday somewhere.
Which brings me back to being surrounded by Westie puppies…
Since we had to leave London for now, and with so much loss experienced over the past year, we decided that it was time to bring in new puppy joy. (Well, when I say ‘we’, I mean I kept shoving the newborn picture of our future Westie pup in Cooper’s face until he said ‘yes’ :).
We couldn’t get a bluey again based on our apartment living requirements, so we set about searching for a breed that we feel is quite similar in personality: the West Highland Terrier. Maybe it was sentimental – Westies had been the first breed we pet sat for in London; or maybe it was always meant to be, but we decided to give raising a Westie a go.
That day surrounded by Westie puppies, we made our choice: not the loudest pup, and not the quietest – the one in the middle who did seem content enough with us gently picking him up and having a chat with him about his future.
What did we learn about Westie puppies?
Well let me tell you, Westies, they’re not the same as cattle dogs 😂 In fact, we’d clocked early on – at about 9 weeks old – that our little Westie puppy, London (named after our beloved adopted home in England) had no intention of listening to anything other than what pleased him. Our vet even said to us, “yeah, he’ll never be obedient like the cattle dog”.
‘Westitude’, we later discovered on a Facebook Group full of Westie owners – is an actual thing. Defiant, belligerent, obstinate.
But oh my God, he’s just the cutest little defiant, belligerent, obstinate thing we could ever know!
Also, we are kind of in love with him, which is evident by the fact he has nine places comfortably laid out to sleep at home (in a one bedroom flat!). We also bought a doggie cam so we could check on him and make sure he was ok and not fretting when he was a little pup. Additionally, London has the luxury of attending doggy daycare during the week to keep him happy and social.
Best things we did to help our West Highland Terrier puppy as he grew up
If you’re considering the journey, go for it. These are the funniest little dogs you’ll ever meet! Actually hilarious! But here are my top tips based on our own experience:
Crate training was a new concept for us, but it’s the BEST thing we did. Even though London isn’t bound to his crate anymore, he still makes his way inside for his own peace, solace, warmth and rest.
The first eight weeks might be tough: they’re babies and need the same care human babies do. They also wake VERY early and need to know you’re there to help them with potty or nurturing.
Give your puppy the time he/she deserves. I think it’s easy to forget they’re still so young and really do need proper care. They love interaction and play, so spend time with them.
Ensure plenty of toys and stimulation are available for your puppy, especially if you’re going to be out.
But with that said, please please do not get a puppy (of any breed) without thinking through how he/she will spend their days. If you’re going to be out a lot in the future, will you provide daycare or walkers – what’s the plan?
Best treats we discovered are chilled carrots (he LOVES these) which are especially great when your puppy is teething; and peanut butter on a Lickimat (available on Amazon and at pet stores).
Our doggie webcam was so inexpensive on Amazon and well worth it so we could monitor in his early days how he was coping when we were at work.I spotted there was a two hour window in the afternoon when he started to panic and suffer from separation anxiety, so arranged for friends to drop in and play with him during that time while he was very young.
Get proper breed-related advice on how to feed and care for your pup: Westies tend towards sensitive stomachs and allergies, so do your research to ensure you are prepared and can prevent these things if possible.
Educate yourself: there’s a WEALTH of wonderful training information on YouTube. If you’re getting a puppy, spend time teaching yourself how to care for him or her. They deserve it, and your future self will thank you! Two of our fave trainers’ channels for this are Zak George and Michele Lennon.
Learn to go with your intuition. If a cry is more than a cry or you sense there’s a difference between anxiety and tantrum (and there is), take action on it accordingly.
Westie puppies are very social, so after vaccinations, ensure you’re getting your pup out and about to play with other dogs. Puppy preschool is a good option, as is doggie daycare in the long run. Dog parks are in every city, and you can find breed-specific or location-specific pooch meet-up groups on Facebook.
The world will revolve around your Westie puppy, because he/she demands it to be so :)
A future world with our Westie
As London grows, he is gradually shedding some of the puppy Westitude. He wants to hang out with us more and do dog things … like we remember dogs do. He’s brought so much fun and laughter though, and reminds us yet again of the value of dogs: they are pure joy.
He is certainly part of our pack now. Or perhaps, it’s us who are in his.
We can’t wait to see what the future holds: adventures with London in London, perhaps?
As this tale goes, in March 2017 Ashley Bush received a photo from a friend. The pic featured an adorable little dog called Chester who was ‘one of the team’ greeting guests in the lobby of a Florida hotel, the Aloft Tallahassee Downtown.
Chester was a rescue dog, recruited as part of the hotel’s foster dog program.
Curiosity got the better of Ashley. That’s how she ended up stopping in to meet Chester.
The Leon County Humane Society had placed the Pekingise/Chihuahua cutie at Aloft for his effervescence and abundant cuteness. They also figured he had a unique ability to thrive in the busy environment of a hotel lobby. If he got tired, they’d set him up with his own doghouse, a custom-built replica of the hotel.
Ashley said she felt an immediate connection with Chester (pictured below).
“I put him on a leash and took him around. He jumped up on the sofa next to me, very curious and sweet. Chester seemed very well-adjusted.”
Travel + dogs 🐶
Ashley and her partner, Walter, ended up adopting Chester 🙌
How many of us are likely to book a local hotel staycation, and leave with a furry friend? Cooper and I probably would!
Chester was the third dog adopted from the Aloft Tallahassee Downtown as part of their foster pet program. This excellent initiative was started by the Aloft Asheville Downtown and it’s spread to some of the group’s other hotels in America.
Each hotel partners with a top local animal rescue facility and hundreds of rescue dogs have found new homes through the collective program.
Where did the idea come from?
Seems serendipity was at play. Emma Ledbetter, director of food and beverage at Aloft Asheville, was flying to interview for her current job. She sat next to a man who worked at an animal rescue facility. They got to talking, and coincidentally ended up sitting next to each other on the flight back. That’s when she had an idea…
After securing her job, she brainstormed with the hotel’s general manager about having an ‘ambassador dog’ that would ultimately be adopted.
The first canine guest, Gabriel, was housed in the back office and it took just three days to find him a new home. Staff then moved their foster dogs into a contained area in the lobby, and had the custom dog house built.
“Even associates who aren’t really dog people got excited and helped make the program a success,” Emma says. “And the guests love it. It’s so fun to see businessmen come in and the first thing they do is greet the dog.”
Corporate culture and man’s best friend 💕
Ingrained in McKibbon Hospitality’s corporate culture is the opportunity for teams to undertake projects that will enhance the guest experience, lift employee enthusiasm and do good in the community.
“The foster dog project is a perfect example of how these factors converge,” says Randy Hassen, President of McKibbon Hospitality. “It checks all the boxes. And it’s a great example of innovative thinking about how to run a successful hotel. We’re not surprised that three of our other Aloft properties started their own programs.”
Chester is still living happily with Ashley and Walter. But, his new family haven’t forgotten where he came from. They frequently take him for visits. His hotel family still loves him too.
Tourism Thailand has announced wildlife conservation and care for animals like elephants and dogs is improving. This is music to the ears of animal advocates.
Organisations and individuals have made great strides to improve the state of Thailand wildlife.
On this, the media release stated:
“… a priority for authorities is preserving Thailand’s remaining forest cover and returning some developed areas back to a wild state.”
Elephants and Thailand wildlife
We haven’t travelled to Thailand, but friends have. They adore the place for its beauty, wildlife and friendly locals. Our fellow travellers share that visitors must be vigilant when researching an ‘elephant sanctuary’ to visit. If you’re here, you should know NOT to visit anywhere that offers elephant rides.
Encouraging responsible travel
Elephants have been mistreated here for a long time. Yet the elephant is Thailand’s national symbol. Thoughtless visitors have fuelled the demand for elephant rides and entertainment. This in much the same way as donkeys are used in Santorini Greece for riding up to see the sunset.
Thankfully, ‘aware’ travellers and tourism destination operators are spreading more positive messages about animal welfare and doing the right thing.
Land regeneration and poaching
Elephants need large wild areas to thrive. That’s why there is a renewed focus on regenerating the land for them. To counter poaching, the government plans a database of every domesticated elephant’s genetic information.
The plan is to stop poachers from taking wild baby elephants and claiming them as offspring of domesticated elephants. The government is also scrutinising elephant camps for any mistreatment.
Elephant conservation efforts
The Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (TECC) has been caring for elephants in a forested area south of Chiang Mai since 1993. Conservation is the key, and TECC operates an onsite elephant hospital and manages a mobile clinic. The TECC teaches visitors to appreciate elephants and has pioneered conservation and research in Thailand.
Phang Nga Elephant Park is a family-run eco-business north of Phuket. Here, visitors interact with elephants in a respectful way. No dancing and circus tricks!
“Public awareness about elephants is the aim. Through human-elephant interaction people learn to respect and practice responsible elephant tourism.”
The Soi Dog Foundation started in Phuket in 2003 to help the street dogs and cats on the island. The group is active on social media and while some images are hard to see, the awareness is critical to their efforts.
Soi provides a humane and sustainable solution to the stray population and has expanded nationwide. Work includes rescue, sheltering, medical treatment and vaccination of strays.
Keeping waterways clean
The UN reports that our global marine environment is in serious trouble. In an effort to reverse the damage, Thailand is also pushing to reduce plastic waste and conserve corals.
11 of the best healthy holiday ideas you’ll read this year…
One of the downsides of enjoying your work is that you tend to forget to take breaks – I’m very guilty of this, and in 2017 I intend to consciously seek healthy holiday ideas for real rest and relaxation.
Towards the end of last year I burnt myself out, became run-down and rather miserable.
The trips I took in 2016 weren’t actually holidays. While they were amazing (Stockholm for a conference and a super quick trip to Malta in the summer), I was pushed for time, over-indulged (because it seemed like a really fun option at the time), and ended up more tired than before I’d stepped on the plane in the first place.
Increasingly the pressures of modern-day life mean we’re always ‘on’, and Cooper and I are arguably becoming wiser with age, because our new world view incorporates happy, healthy holiday ideas where we want to have energy to explore, the chance to rest and the capacity to express our discoveries creatively but without overdoing our time spent online.
Healthy holiday ideas we now seek, mean that we’ll come back home feeling refreshed in mind, body and spirit.
11 of the very best happy and healthy holiday ideas
Worry-free ways on how to rejuvenate in mind, body and spirit in 2017…
Whether you’re heading off on a road trip, coach tour or spending a week in a Tuscan villa, we’ve discovered the easiest healthy holiday ideas to implement include planning your meals and excursions ahead of time.
Lack of planning (or even boredom) often leads to impulse buying that spirals into unnecessary spending (and subsequent financial stress), plus food or alcohol intake that’s well beyond what was intended.
Then you feel sluggish for the duration of your holiday. Not fun.
Scheduling your time also means making the best use of it, so you can mix up hours spent exploring and being active, with time for simply chilling out and ‘being’.
In our experience, it’s easy to get tired when you’re travelling; your routine is different, you’re often on the go and that impromptu pint of beer is always an excellent idea … not!
For our recent trip to Ibiza in Spain though, I’d spent just a little bit of time planning where we could explore on foot from our accommodation, and I used the weather as a guide to determine which would be good days to be out and about (when it was sunny) and when would be better to just laze about (cloudy or rain forecast). It worked a treat!
Tip: Sign up for the local version of a deals site like Living Social or Groupon in advance of your holiday, and gather discounts on tours, dining, spa packages and local experiences before you go.
Shop at a supermarket
This is one of our best healthy holiday ideas that we share with everyone, and for good reason. It seems so simple, but a lot of holiday-makers fail to act on taking that quick trip into Lidl or Aldi.
By buying your own beverages, food and planning meals ahead, you’re taking control of budget as well as what you are putting into your body.
That is, you know exactly what’s going into each meal in terms of ingredients and calories; you have the choice to balance healthy snacks (e.g. fruit and nuts) with cheeky holiday indulgences (bring me corn chips, cheese and Prosecco!), and it’s much cheaper than getting to the point where you’re hungry so you pop down to the corner store for something over-priced and under-nourishing.
You don’t need a gym on hand to be active.
Of course, you could travel to a destination specifically to take part in a well-being retreat like yoga in Italy or Turkey. But if not, take advantage of modern technology and services like meetup.com to find running clubs, yoga classes, cycling groups or hobbyists who enjoy things you do (for example, bird watching, meditation, hiking).
Signing-up for meet-ups happening during your visit has two advantages – you can enjoy physical and mental activity while meeting locals and finding out more about the destination you’re visiting.
Explore on foot
City breaks, island adventures and regional escapes all have something wonderful in common – the best way to explore is on foot.
Certainly, you’ll possibly need to intersperse this activity with a local bus ride, hop-on-hop-off city sightseeing coach tour and even a bike or a boat ride, but to really see and feel a new place you’ve got to get on the ground and wander.
The other obvious benefit of this is the incidental exercise you get!
When we visited my brother and his wife in Japan we couldn’t have eaten any more food if we tried (so yummy, try a Watami restaurant for a large Izakaya menu, and Sukiya for delicious curries), but we walked so much that we went home lighter than when we arrived!
Additionally, when we visited Ibiza, nothing much was open as it was low season (winter) but that didn’t bother us because there were plenty of places to explore on foot, and even hiking was an option for those who are so inclined.
As mentioned, plan ahead to see what your options are; bring maps with you or take some from a tourist information centre or airport (be prepared in case you cannot access data on your phone when you’re out and about).
If you suffer knee or foot pain, ensure you pack appropriate footwear, support or even strapping if required, so that your adventure is safe and comfortable.
Many cities in the world offer walking tours that showcase the famous, quirky and interesting highlights of the place.
A lot of these options are either free or very inexpensive, run by locals who know their backyard and are keen to share their insider-secrets with enthusiastic travellers.
Once again, you’re enjoying incidental exercise by getting active; you have the chance to learn about a place and ask questions, thus putting the curious mind to work, and you’re saving on financial worries through this cheap tour option while also contributing to the local economy.
Win. win. win!
Before you leave for your destination, simply Google ‘walking tours in…’; research and contact your preferred operators and plan the excursion into your itinerary.
Remember to also search for niche options that interest you, which might be ‘walking ghost tours’, ‘walking history tours’, ‘quirky walking tours’, ‘insider secret walking tours’ and so on.
Pencil in ‘me time’
What is the one thing that you have discovered brings more light into your day?
Is it morning meditation, twenty minutes free-writing, drawing, reading or sparing some time to watch or listen to a motivating broadcast (e.g. on YouTube)?
Make time for this activity during your time away, in fact if you can, prioritise it.
Journaling is a pastime that I feel always brings benefit to my life, but I often lack the time to do it around my day job.
On our recent trip away, I made sure I took some time out each afternoon for this activity.
All you need is ten or twenty minutes a day, but making time for something that lights you up will help to invigorate your spirit in time for a return to the home and work routine.
Unleash your inner creative
A rising trend in the travel industry is that of ‘creative tourism’ which caters for the ‘creative traveller’.
This means that many of us are using holidays and travel adventures as opportunities to express ourselves creatively.
Maybe it means that you use some of your time away to work on writing your book or blogging?
I get just as much enjoyment these days out of writing and photography (and Cooper is really into producing vlogs) as I do taking the actual vacation. It’s one and the same, and we’ve both had conversations about how invigorating it is to indulge in our creative side while being inspired by different landscapes and experiences.
You don’t need to have a website or YouTube channel to delve into this though; creative art, cooking, writing, language and even fashion courses are on offer in many parts of the world now – simply research online whatever takes your fancy.
You could search by destination, or, many travellers are actually selecting destinations based on the creative experiences available to them there.
European regions including Tuscany, Costa Brava, Ibiza, Barcelona and the French Riviera are particularly leading the way on this front. Take a look at the Creative Tourism Network for more information, or contact the local tourism authority in an area you’re keen to visit to enquire about options. Elena Paschinger has also written a lovely book on the subject, The Creative Traveler’s Handbook.
Switch off tech
The ultimate in healthy holiday ideas is to take a break from technology. While Cooper and I obviously need and like technology for blogging and vlogging, we schedule time for it now.
We’re aware it’s important to step away from online engagement so we actually have time to engage with each other, our friends and family!
Our big tip here is to set boundaries for when computers, phones and tablets should be put away, for example, within two hours of bedtime and/or not switched on first thing in the morning.
While we are aiming for happy and healthy holiday options now, we also don’t believe in worrying about what we’re consuming. It’s all about planning ahead (as mentioned above), being sensible and mindful.
I freely admit – when I’m excited about a platter of cheese and a large glass of red being placed in front of me, I tend to guzzle without thinking about it!
I’ve recognised this pattern, so now I write myself little calendar reminders on my phone that pop up to say, ‘slow down’, and I also ask a trusted travel companion like Cooper to remind me to mindfully enjoy my food and to savour the wine. It’s not a race, after all.
Being mindful during meal or snack times means you’ll slow down on consumption and are likely to get much more enjoyment out of the experience.
Make your intentions clear
If you feel in need of a healthy break away and want to make the most of your next holiday in ways I’ve discussed here, it’s important to let your travel buddies know of your intentions, or carefully choose who you travel with.
That is, try to spend time with people who have a similar mindset and who also want to take time out to reinvigorate mind, body and spirit while enjoying all the perks of a holiday.
You can all support each other in achieving this if the group’s intentions are similar and/or clear.
Give to receive
There’s no better way to replenish the soul than by giving, and in our case rarely are we happier than when we’re surrounded by animals (particularly dogs, though I would seek elephants and monkeys too)!
This idea might not be viable everywhere, but it’s worth looking into ethical animal experiences or volunteering options that will give you an authentic experience and one to ultimately be proud of.
Our friend Amy offers an excellent example in her blog where she tells of how she volunteered in an animal welfare centre in Thailand.
We also know that if you’re visiting Whistler village in Canada, you can offer to walk the dogs who are being taken care of in a shelter not too far away. I’d suggest there are opportunities to help in many destinations because all charitable organisations need a hand (but especially smaller ones).
If you have time, ask around where you’re staying and see if there’s a chance you can give your time (or money, if/where relevant) to support what locals are doing to make the destination you’re visiting a better place.
By giving, you will inevitably receive a beautiful experience, positive feelings associated with the helping of others, and if you believe in this as I do, good karma too.
We got so excited about this topic we decided to check-in with a couple of inspiring friends who are also wellness experts. Happy and healthy holiday ideas, they say:
You are on holiday so the most important thing is to relax. Listen to your natural breath wherever you are to calm a busy mind – this can also ease an upset tummy. Busy day sightseeing or long flight? Then lie on a bed and put your feet up the wall – this relieves tired legs and stimulates the restful part of the nervous system. And laugh – it’s good for the soul!”
–Flavia Munn, health journalist and yoga teacher (and guest blogger here with a story about attending a yoga retreat in Turkey).
Particularly if you’re on a long holiday, it can be beneficial to try and keep up some of your home routines, though, without being too rigid and not allowing time to enjoy some decent rest and relaxation of course! I like taking a travel yoga mat with me for holidays like this. Having my mat around encourages me to make some time for my practise. It’s light and folds up small, so it’s easy to travel with. Even if I just do a couple of sun salutations or a few simple poses it helps me hold onto those positive habits or regular practise and more easily settle back into my usual rhythm when I return home again.”
–Sarah McFadden, yoga teacher.
We’d love to hear from you with your advice, suggestions or questions about happy and healthy holiday ideas. Please drop us a line in the comments below.
Welcome to Travel Live learn, where we are passionate about living a life full of great adventures. We are Sarah + Cooper: we know life's short, and we're here to encourage you to make the most of it! We have worked in media, communication and creative roles for many years, and have spent over 10 years living and working abroad. Our hottest content topics here are pet friendly travel, house + pet sitting, and designing a life as expats or digital nomads wherever in the world you want to be. Join our community of over 11,000 like-minded adventurers - find out more by signing up for the mailing list and our Facebook Group. Find us on YouTube too. NEW podcast now live: search 'Freedom and Four Paws' on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google podcasts or your fave podcast service provider.