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This post is brought to you by an essential item Amy uses while RVing to work remotely: a broadband router to keep connected while on the road.
This is the latest interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!
Amy and her husband have been traveling full-time with their pets for the last 11 years. Their journey is a fantastic example of the benefits and happiness that can come with choosing a location-independent career. Be sure to check out the blog for tips and destination guides for traveling with your pets!
Thank you for hanging out with Freedom Is Everything, Amy!
Key takeaways from Amy’s interview:
“I know a lot of people have concerns about living a nomadic life with pets, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. A pet gives you companionship, motivation to get out and do things, and a way to connect with people you meet. And watching your pet enjoy the places you visit makes the experience even sweeter. There are some trade-offs, of course. There are things we don’t do because pets aren’t allowed. And if you have a dog, you’ll have to go out in the rain or the cold, even if you don’t want to. But, for me, those things pale in comparison to the benefits.”
“Leaving our friends and family behind was one of my biggest concerns. But, after a short time on the road, I discovered how friendly our fellow campers were! Meeting people who’ve chosen a similar lifestyle gives us something in common. And comparing places we’d visited generates endless conversations. We’ve made lifelong friends all over the country and meet up several times a year when our paths cross.”
“I believe that life is an opportunity to come to know ourselves and truly appreciate our unique gifts. The best way to do that is to share those gifts as completely and authentically as possible. Figure out what you want to contribute to the world, put your heart into it, and be gentle with yourself as you grow through the challenges you’ll face.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
I’m Amy Burkert, the founder of GoPetFriendly.com, a website that makes it easy for people to travel with their pets. The site launched in 2009, and my husband and I quickly realized that the best way to help others travel more confidently with their pets was to hit the road with ours. So we sold our home in Philadelphia, bought a motorhome, and have been traveling the U.S. and Canada since 2010.
In addition to collecting information for our pet-friendly database, I blog about the places we visit and share tips we’ve learned from traveling with our dogs. I also spend time connecting with our community on social media.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
Rod and I are both accountants by training. And like many accountants, we tend to view unnecessary risk with a jaundiced eye. So embracing the nomadic lifestyle was a huge jump for us.
Two things got us past our initial trepidation: the desire to build GoPetFriendly with authenticity and the knowledge that the decisions we were making were reversible.
A few weeks after we launched the site, we were taking a coffee break in a café when Rod said, “You can’t tell people how easy it is to travel with their pets if you’re sitting in an office in Philadelphia every day.” It hadn’t occurred to me before, but in that moment I knew he was absolutely right! To inspire people to plan pet-friendly trips, we had to show them how much was possible. They needed to be able to imagine themselves standing with their pet on the rim of the Grand Canyon, watching the sunset at White Sands, or hiking the trails in Custer State Park. And for them to imagine it, we needed to take our dogs and do it!
The second thing we knew was that we didn’t want to live on the East Coast any longer. Since we both worked from home, we could move anywhere. But we couldn’t decide on the perfect spot. Selling our home and moving into the motorhome gave us the ideal opportunity to research where to plant our roots next. Falling in love with the nomadic lifestyle and continuing to travel more than eleven years later wasn’t part of the plan – but it’s perfect for us.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
In 2008, a stray German Shepherd showed up on our doorstep in Philadelphia. We did everything we could to find his people, but no one came forward. So we adopted him and named him Buster.
A few weeks later, I started planning our family vacation – including Buster and our Shar-pei, Ty. I had no idea how hard it would be to plan a road trip with two dogs! It took me two days just to find hotels along our route where both dogs could stay. Finding fun things to do together or places we could eat with the dogs would have taken weeks.
We took off with the intention to locate dog parks, trails, beaches, and restaurants while we were on the go. But after traveling for three weeks, Rod and I agreed we needed to do something to make traveling with pets easier. That’s when the idea for GoPetFriendly was born.
The website now has information on more than 60,000 pet-friendly hotels, campgrounds, vacation properties, restaurants, dog parks, beaches, wineries, and more throughout the U.S. and Canada. And the blog contains destination guides for over 300 places, as well as tips and resources to answer common pet travel concerns.
Unlike most nomads, we launched GoPetFriendly and then concluded it would be more successful if we traveled full time. I’m so fortunate to have found my passion and turned it into a business, and it’s given us this life, which is better than anything we could have imagined.
What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?
When we launched GoPetFriendly and decided to chuck our old life and move into the RV, we already had our dogs – Ty and Buster. “The boys,” as we called them, traveled with us for ten years and visited every one of the lower 48 states at least twice.
One of my favorite experiences happened in 2017 when we took Ty and Buster canoeing on the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. Neither dog had ever been in a canoe, and at 35 and 80 pounds, if they got antsy, we knew we’d be getting wet.
It was March, the water was COLD, and Rod and I were nervous. The prospect of spending a day soggy and shivering nearly caused us to call off the trip. But we gathered ourselves, rented the canoe, and put in several miles upriver.
I don’t know what got into Ty and Buster, but they were absolutely golden that day. Ty rode in the bow of the canoe with a big smiles on his face. And Buster rode in the middle, standing occasionally to get a careful drink from the river flowing by.
That day was a great reminder that we humans tend to picture the worst-case scenario and then stop ourselves from taking action. My dogs showed me that the best-case scenario is equally likely … and sometimes things turn out even better than you can imagine. It’s a lesson I try to apply whenever I find myself looking for an excuse not to do something.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
There is something to like about every place we’ve been, but the spots I’ve enjoyed most are the ones where we’ve found fun things to do with our dogs. I wouldn’t trade anything for the time we’ve spent in South Dakota’s Black Hills , the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York, down in Big Bend, Texas, and on the Oregon coast. Especially now that Ty and Buster have passed on.
But I also love being surprised by a place. For example, this spring, we planned to spend a couple of weeks in Tucson, Arizona. We’d been there a few times over the years and thought it was “just okay.” This time, for some reason, we kept finding pet-friendly things to do with our pandemic puppy, Myles! After two-and-a-half months, we’d finally crossed everything off our list and were ready to move on. It’s the best when you have to admit that your previous impressions of a place were wrong.
What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone that wants to travel with a similar style?
We’re unique in that our travel choices, because of my website, revolve around pet-friendly places. I know a lot of people have concerns about living a nomadic life with pets, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. A pet gives you companionship, motivation to get out and do things, and a way to connect with people you meet. And watching your pet enjoy the places you visit makes the experience even sweeter.
There are some trade-offs, of course. There are things we don’t do because pets aren’t allowed. And if you have a dog, you’ll have to go out in the rain or the cold, even if you don’t want to. But, for me, those things pale in comparison to the benefits.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
Living a nomadic life isn’t easier or harder than living any other kind of life … it’s just different than what we’re taught we should do. And different than most other people choose. Many of the challenges I imagined we’d face never materialized.
Leaving our friends and family behind was one of my biggest concerns. But, after a short time on the road, I discovered how friendly our fellow campers were! Meeting people who’ve chosen a similar lifestyle gives us something in common. And comparing places we’d visited generates endless conversations. We’ve made lifelong friends all over the country and meet up several times a year when our paths cross.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
Two things keep people coming back to GoPetFriendly. The first is that they know that we know what we’re talking about. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and write a blog post, but our readers know that we’re out here with our paws on the ground. We’re learning things the hard way and discovering hidden gems so they can have more fun traveling with their pets.
The second thing that has led to GoPetFriendly’s loyal following is our focus on community. We love connecting on social media and in the blog comments – answering questions, sharing ideas, and celebrating successes. With an active community like we have at GoPetFriendly, there’s no time to be lonely.
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
Remember that I’m an accountant by training … I’m not super technical. My blog is on WordPress, and I mostly use my iPhone for photos. We use a variety of meeting platforms and Google Docs team collaboration, but that’s about it.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
Pet travel is a growing trend and, after an initial hit, the pandemic gave us a real boost. Many people added a pet to their family over the past year, and all of us developed deeper bonds with our furry family members after spending more time together.
Right now, we’re averaging 140,000 unique visits and 250,000 page views per month. The site is monetized with ads, and we also offer upgraded listings to businesses who’d like more visibility. We’re growing quickly and, if all goes well, will reach revenues near $100,000 in 2021.
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
For someone looking to develop a content business, my recommendation is to consider adding a resource component. While the GoPetFriendly blog still draws the majority of our traffic, the database allows us to work with corporate partners in a way that other bloggers can’t. And the two components of the site work together to generate traffic, which ultimately increases our ad revenue.
Tell us about your content creation journey and share some of your favorite content that people should check out!
For me, writing the blog has been one of the most enjoyable parts of our journey. Sharing our experiences and knowing that my posts will help other people make memories with their pets is a big part of the fun.
To date, our grandest adventure has been to choose the top pet-friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states and then visit them all in one year with Ty and Buster. We called it the Ultimate Pet Friendly American Road Trip, and Rod and I agree that it’s the craziest and best thing we’ve done since we started traveling.
Other things have happened by serendipity. I mentioned earlier that we adopted a “pandemic puppy.” In actuality, Myles wandered into the RV park in San Antonio, where we were stuck at the beginning of the lockdown last April. Still grieving Buster’s passing, and Ty’s only four-and-a-half months before that, we weren’t looking for another dog. But this little guy is special. He’s allowing me to connect with everyone who’s faced the challenge of raising a puppy when in-person training classes and opportunities to socialize our dogs weren’t possible. My post on Training Your Dog To Travel addresses some of the skills we can teach our dogs, so they’ll be great travel buddies.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
I believe that life is an opportunity to come to know ourselves and truly appreciate our unique gifts. The best way to do that is to share those gifts as completely and authentically as possible. Figure out what you want to contribute to the world, put your heart into it, and be gentle with yourself as you grow through the challenges you’ll face.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
The internet. I simply couldn’t do this without reliable cellular internet coverage. We’re lucky to have a pretty tricked-out system, thanks to an especially techy friend.
I’m also going to say a positive attitude. A good attitude can turn a bad day into a tolerable one … and a good day into a great one.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
Making time every day to exercise and meditate. (Not at the same time.) Work feeds my mental self, and I’ve always been pretty good at keeping in touch with my family or doing things I enjoy that meets my emotional needs. When I started spending time every day taking care of my physical and spiritual self, I became a happier, more balanced person.
Tell us about a deep passion of yours! What has your journey been like, and what advice/resources would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about this topic?
It’s probably not obvious yet, but I’m passionate about the human-pet bond! No matter how long our pets live, it’s never long enough. But the memories we make together last forever. Whether it’s a trip around the block or across the country, if I can help someone make one additional memory with their beloved pet, I’m grateful.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
Visiting the GoPetFriendly blog is one way to follow our adventures – subscribe if you’re so inclined, and we’ll deliver the posts right to your inbox. We’re also on all these social platforms: