Back around Halloween time, I thought I had the next six months figured out. I thought I’d do one hell of Kickstarter campaign to fund my cat-schlepping book, and then finish the manuscript by the end of the year. I thought I’d publish it around my birthday in February, start sending rewards out to backers, and then spend the spring doing an epic American road trip with my cat. And I thought it would be a joyous time to be in the US, what with our first Lady President we were about to elect.
Life rarely pans out quite the way you think, huh?
Almost immediately after I’d launched my Kickstarter on November 15, my husband was offered a really great teaching job. In Ireland. Starting in two months. Julian was actually in Ireland for work when he found out, while I was en route to Portland for Thanksgiving. Suddenly, we had less than two months to pack up our lives in Germany, clear out of our flat, find accommodation in Ireland, get ready for the holidays, deal with insurance and utilities and doctors appointments and landlords, make arrangements for my husband’s daughter to visit us, and try to stay on top of our actual work.
Oh, and most importantly: figure out how to get a cat to Ireland.
This has turned out to be a weirdly difficult thing to manage. I thought that since Aífe has an EU pet passport, she would be free to travel around the EU. I thought that because I was told that, by the vet who issued the pet passport, and on videos from European Parliament. And because I had checked the Irish Department of Agriculture’s website, where it states explicitly:
Cats, dogs or ferrets from other Member States of the EU may enter Ireland through any port/airport of entry and may be transported by any airline or ferry company operating within the State that is willing to transport such animals.
As regards air travel, the Department does not require that pets from the EU be carried as manifested freight and it is therefore a matter for the airlines to decide whether to carry the animal in the cabin or as excess baggage.
The next step was to book a flight with one of the many airlines that have pet-friendly policies. Except when I started looking on their websites or calling their customer service numbers, it turned out that none of them would take an animal on any flights to Ireland or the UK.
Why? Well, I got different answers every time I called the Lufthansa helpline. One lady said I couldn’t fly with a cat into Dublin because Dublin is “in the UK” (which it definitely is not). Another person said that it was because Irish law prohibits it. But as the above quote spells out, that is not true.
I decided to call the Department of Agriculture, to ask them why, if their website said they were cool with pets flying into Ireland, the airlines wouldn’t do it. I was told that:
- they get calls on this exact question literally every day. And
- it really is, as they’ve stated on their website, up to the airlines. It’s absolutely not because of any law they have to keep pets out, and they don’t know why the airlines are telling folks that it is.
So, WTF is going on? I don’t know. Nobody I've talked to so far really knows either. What I do know is that if you want to go on a flight to Ireland with a cat, all of the airlines make you send your cat with a ‘freight forwarding’ company. The first one I was referred to gave me a quote for €760! 800 bucks just to have my cat follow me on a two-hour flight, as freight, when my human ticket only cost €47!
Luckily, there is an alternative to this bullshit – to go by ferry. It takes a lot longer, but it's not nearly as expensive as sending her as freight. Unlike the US, most of Europe is well-connected by an amazing network of trains, all of which seem to allow cats to be carried with their owners. And, while their service is somewhat cut back during the winter, there are several ferry routes connect Europe by water, too.
Aífe and I have to get from Germany to Ireland by land and then sea. Which means we basically have two choices:
- Take a series of trains to the edge of the Netherlands. Take a ferry from the Hook of Holland to the Edge of England. Take a series of trains across England and Wales. Take a second ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin. Then one train to our final destination.
- Take a series of trains to the edge of France via Paris. Take a seventeen hour ferry to the bottom of Ireland. Then a series of buses to our final destination.
By the time I was ready to book, seats and cabins for humans were long sold-out on the French route, and kennels for cats were sold out, too. So our decision was made for us: England it is. I’m slightly nervous about having to go through two ports of entry with an animal, as it doubles the chance that someone will decide to get funny about our paperwork. But Aífe is legit, and has her paperwork, vaccinations, and microchip, so there’s no reasonable denial of her right to move through the EU, and her kennel has been booked on both my ferry trips. We should be set. The journey will take three days altogether. Just me and the kitty, voyaging across the world on perhaps our most ambitious trip to date.
I’m super excited.
As soon as we get to Ireland, there will be a lot of literary festivals and activities to get involved in, lots of new and old friends to meet, lots of towns and hills and waterfronts I want to take Aífe to see and smell. We’ve already had a hotel room booked for us at a literary festival in February, so that’s super exciting. These new experiences will give me a lot to learn from, and I want to put every bit of useful new information into my cat-schlepping book before I publish. It will make the book a lot better, so it will be worth the short extra wait. I still plan to self-publish A Cat-Lover’s Guide to Cat-Schlepping as an eBook in 2017; hopefully in time to still help folks get their kitties out in spring!
The first half of the year will be chalk-full: relocating to Ireland, diving into the Irish landscape and literary scene, finishing this cat-schlepping book, and working on my novel and other writing as time allows. Then in the second half of the year, my husband starts another teaching job at another university. In Singapore. Which will be a whole other can of worms from anything Aífe and I have ever done together. You can bet that I’m already working on how to get Aífe safely to and from Southeast Asia, which is quite a haul, even for us.
So you can see why trying to start a self-publishing imprint, fulfill backer rewards, and drive 10,000 miles around America, suddenly seemed like an insane undertaking to wedge into all that we now have going on next year. It was an awesome project (if I do say so myself), and I haven’t chucked it out entirely; just placed it back on the ‘Maybe Someday’ shelf for the time being.
You can follow our epic adventures next year here, and on Twitter, Medium, and Instagram (all those little round buttons below). And if you’d like to get in touch through the Contact page, or enter your email and hit the SIGN UP button below, I’ll make sure to send you a message when the book is finally ready to roll.
Wishing you many happy holidays, and good schlepping in the New Year.