Bicycle Touring with Fiji the Friendly Guard Dog - Jasmine Reese, Part 2
Ever dreamed of embarking on the roadtrip of a lifetime, with your favorite canine in tow? Jasmine Reese has built her life around doing just that, by bicycle. And although her furry sidekick, Fiji, can be a formidable guard dog, Fiji’s presence is also an added pressure for Jasmine to make good decisions on the road. “I have a life that I have to protect,” writes Jasmine. “If I sense Fiji isn’t in good spirits on one of our cycling routes, or she looks like she's in distress with certain places or people, I remove us from that environment.”
“I have a life that I have to protect.”
Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, Jasmine has traveled nearly 14,000 miles across the United States and parts of Canada. When I asked her if she ever felt fear while traveling, Jasmine replied that she's usually in the moment and enjoying herself. The tough part is when other people are afraid for her. “It's the well-meaning people who tell me about the dangers of the world,” explains Jasmine. “Sometimes, their anxiety starts to become my own.”
Enjoy this Part 2 of my interview with Jasmine Reese!
What makes Fiji such a great travel buddy?
OMG, Fiji is my spirit animal, my friend, my hero, and just an overall amazing being. She's so sensitive and loving and intelligent. She's so sweet and protective - unbreakingly loyal. She sticks super close to me, and acts as a guard dog for our gear. She only runs away when she's chasing after a critter in a park or on a nature trail, but even then she doesn't stray far. She's an excellent travel companion.
“Fiji is my spirit animal, my friend, my hero, and just an overall amazing being.”
How was Fiji on your first bicycle tour?
On our first trip, bicycle life was a learning curve for not only me, but her as well. But due to her amazing intelligence, she picked it up super fast. She did and does have some behavioral issues and quirks such as separation anxiety and acting like a maniac when she sees another dog, but that's all part of the amazing package that is Fiji.
Are there any downsides of traveling with a dog?
Due to her separation anxiety and dog mania, it's hard to leave her alone, so we literally spend 24/7 together unless some generous soul is willing to babysit her while I perform, attend a music class, or give a house concert or speech. And, despite her loud barking and snarls when she sees another dog, it's all show. We've stayed with hundreds of dogs and cats across the country, and Fiji has made friends with most of them -- well, maybe not all the cats. Hehehe.
“Due to her separation anxiety… we literally spend 24/7 together, unless some generous soul is willing to babysit her.”
What are some of the benefits of having Fiji with you?
Fiji keeps me grounded. I make smart decisions on the road because of her. I don't travel alone at night or go down crazy roads because I have a life I have to protect. If I sense she is not in good spirits on one of our cycling routes or she looks like she's in distress with certain places or people, I remove us from that environment and change direction. If not for her, I probably would take more risks and be more daring. For example, I hope to explore Asia next, but it'll most likely be South America because Fiji is 8 years old, and at this point in her life I’m not willing to expose her to the new experience of air travel.
Also, when I feel like giving up or I am just discouraged on a particular day because my legs are hurting and I can't find a place to stay for the night, all I have to do is look at Fiji and she reads me and gives me the much-needed comfort to keep pushing forward.
“Fiji keeps me grounded. I make smart decisions on the road because of her.”
Does fear sneak up on you during your travels? How do you work through it?
When I’m on the road, I’m in the moment and enjoying every minute of it. Usually, I’m only meeting nice people and having great experiences. The bad news of the day rarely touches my ears.
That being said, it's usually during the prep phase, when I am getting ready to go on a new tour, that I let other people's fear feed my anxiety. It's the well-meaning people who tell me about the dangers of the world and ask me the "what if’s:” "What if you get kidnapped?" "What if you get raped?" Sometimes, their anxiety starts to become my own.
“If I’m watching the news a lot and seeing these terrible things happen to innocent people, then I start to question myself and feel some major fear.”
How does the outside world or the opinions of others affect your confidence when traveling?
If I’m watching the news a lot and seeing these terrible things happen to innocent people, then I start to question myself and feel some major fear. For example, the murder of the two young women hiking in Morocco earlier this month sent a chill down my spine; it resonated with me because they were sleeping in their tents when ambushed. I felt sadness for their families and friends, and I was angry at the victim-blaming - at the people who would say, "Well, that's what happens when women decide to travel alone. They were asking for it." I mean, what terrible, unempathetic, sexist, and disgusting things to say!
“It's nonsensical to stop living because of the potential occurrence of evil.”
But then, the amazing Heike Pirngruber -aka Push Bike Girl - posted epic photos of herself traveling completely solo through Morocco around the same time. She reminisced about all the kind people she met.. And my anxiety attacks became less frequent and finally went away altogether.
I realize bad and evil things happen to people regardless of where they are and what they are doing. And it's nonsensical to stop living because of the potential occurrence of evil.
It appears that you’ve successfully built a life around what’s most important to you: bicycling, your dog Fiji, playing the violin, traveling, and speaking engagements. Are you feeling satisfied these days?
Yes, my saying is, "I used to be sad with moments of happiness. Now, I am happy with moments of sadness." Being human is full of emotions, and it's not realistic to avoid negative emotions like sadness, frustration, guilt, anger, etc.... But living a life where the happiness-to-sadness ratio is properly tilted in happiness's favor is all we can ask for.