Indy to NYC: Flying with Felines

This is a two-pronged post - conceptual and practical - so before you hate on cats, read the first half and reap the benefits. This week officially marked my sixth month living in New York City. Spending $100+ on shipping boxes was a cost I happily incurred, in the moment and in hindsight. Transporting little things on quick trips home was a breeze, especially since I've already weeded through and prioritized my material things in life. But the last step in this transition and relocation was the transportation of my 10 year-old feline, Alli.

Cat eyes with wings

Cat eyes with wings

Owning a cat at this stage in the game is one of the few things that goes against my potential nomadic ease. Three years of college in dorms and sorority houses weren't conducive to hosting her, and post-college travels only had me in her vicinity for 49% of that time. For nearly ten years, my parents were wildly flexible and tolerant to house my shedding ball of love. And when the decision to move to New York called for a serious analysis of my pet ownership, I was overwhelmed at the extent to which I couldn't live without her.

Alli on sedatives

Alli on sedatives

We suburban Midwestern gals tend to grow painfully attached to our household animals, and I assume this touches on a maternal reaction to a dependent's reliance, which we embrace with fervor. We hear and respond to 'the call' - whether it's directed at us or not - to serve other beings. And it hits us with a glee/glum one-two punch; the latter only for the inevitable life choices or threat of loss an invested pet owner must face.

Though I find it a ridiculous debate and one that deserve zero airtime in any arena, I know not everyone enjoys cats, hearing about cats, justifying the existence of cats, etc. And though I am scribing and cutting video with those feline travelers in mind, Alli has been an obstacle to one half of my lifestyle and a beloved necessity to the other.

Dare I say we all have similar parallels?

Unconscious Anchors

I know a man named Jase who could easily steal the "Most Interesting Man in the World" title away from the bearded Dos Equis gent. Though I'm not completely clued in to the inner workings of his life, it appears he has very few factors hindering him from living the life he does: one of unconventional exploration. When he's not driving across continents, he's bartending for first class flyers. Jase is one of the few people I know that can actually live a nomadic existence without a desire for the opposite. He's the exception.



As my dad likes to diagnose, I have a tendency to be a contrarian, not only in the sense that I follow an unconventional job path but that I lean toward what's underrepresented in any sphere. I was a grungy nomad with a Blackberry, a sorority girl in art school. I summon a Devil's advocate response to any topic, but I don't put on black lipstick and call myself a nonconformist. These aren't conscious decisions. I keep my emotional eggs scattered in many different lifestyle baskets, to stay balanced and maintain the ability to relate to diverse people. My cat acts as my personal weight toward a more stationary and conventional path, for which I do have lingering desires. And I think most of us do, if not for that then something else.

Individually, we all tend to dabble, desire what we don't have, and wish to do it all. If you live a committed and routine life, you probably have the occasional hunger for wildly-dangerous spontaneity. And I've met plenty of travelers who can't silence the impulse to nest. Had I given Alli away in the move, I would have lost the sometimes necessary 'ball and chain', not to mention something I love. And had I merely left Alli where she was in Indiana, my move would have seemed an uneasy balance of two lifestyles: a nest with a false bottom or a trip that lasted too long. I desire a lifestyle that doesn't overindulge or invest in one way but moderates with many, because things change quickly and constantly.

Never letting the dust settle doesn't necessarily mean movement. It means variety. It means evolution. I'm not dedicated to being a nomad or a cat-wielding spinster, I'm just open to being influenced by the things, beings, and experiences that matter to me over time.

Guide to Flying Stateside with a Carry-On Cat

For those of you who don't like cats, stop reading. This is the practical part where I cringe over the amount of bad websites on this topic in existence and my subsequent call to make my own wee guide. This being a strenuous experience for human and feline alike, the only thing that will make you feel more comforted and secure is preparation. Don't take this situation lightly. The following relates specifically to flying with Delta, but most airlines will require some variation of these steps. And obviously, these were my steps, but everyone has differing opinions over big or tiny details. Ask your vet for reassurance.

Alli cat in her kennel at the airport, pet travel

Alli cat in her kennel at the airport, pet travel

  1. When booking your ticket, ask to reserve a spot for your cat as a carry-on in the cabin. Each seating area only allows a certain number of animals on a flight. Do yourself and kitty a favor and book a non-stop.

  2. Flying across state lines is surprisingly a Department of Agriculture issue. Research what is required of the destination state in terms of pet inoculations and documentation. Frequent your veterinarian to receive a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (or a health certificate), and expect to pay $30+ for these pieces of paper along with any necessary shots (often rabies). These are only valid within 10 days of travel, so schedule this visit a couple days before the flight.

  3. Purchase a soft kennel to ensure its fit under the seat in front of you. I dug into the airline's website to find out the specific model of airplane I was flying and the measurements of the foot storage. First shopping online makes finding specific measurements and reviews easier than at a physical store, but before I bought the kennel, I had my cat 'try it on for size' at the store. Some may frown on that. I smiled at it. After purchase, stick one of the health certificate carbon copies in the kennel pocket.

  4. Leave the kennel out for a couple days prior - to make travel less of a shock and give kitty more time to familiarize with her carrier. I lined the bottom with an old mat that she recognized, along with a maxi pad to make me feel a little better about potential accidents. Packed in my other carry-on were additional mats and pads, along with food and a copy of the health certificate.

  5. Arrive 90 minutes early for check-in, pay your animal carry-on fee, and to ensure getting the best seating arrangement. Having an empty seat beside you is optimal. And make sure you pass through security during a lull. One TSA agent asked me if I wanted do the screening in a closed room, in case she breaks loose. I felt confident I could hold onto her and take her through the metal detector. At these low traffic times, someone should be able to help you return the cat into the kennel, if that's usually a struggle. Thankfully, Indianapolis' TSA agents are wonderful people.

  6. When at the gate, appeal to the attendant (if you haven't already at check-in) to make sure your seating situation is that which will provide the least amount of discomfort for fellow travelers.

  7. Take-off and landing are both awful, because kitty will be hyperventilating and without your assurance that everything is okay. During the flight, put the kennel in your lap, make sure enough air is hitting her, and insert your arm through the flap to hold her close to you, petting the entire time. This works for my cat, who clings to me at the vet's office. And don't be surprised if she slobbers excessively. Mine wouldn't accept any water or food.

  8. Upon disembarking, be prepared for someone to pull you aside to inquire about your cat's health certificate. Though no one asked for mine, I think we'd all rather pay $30+ for nothing than get pulled in by the USDA.

  9. Once at the final destination, make sure before the cat is let free that she knows where to find her water, food, and litter box. I recommend trying to maintain as much continuity as possible from her pre-flight norms - litter brands, food type, bowls, comfort toys or blankets. My cat needed a serious wipe-down out of the kennel, as she urinated a tad and slobbered her mat damp. Post-travels, it will take a while for kitty to feel comfortable and recovered from the traumatic experience. Thankfully, it's all over now.

Updated Information

Flying with Felines

Flying with Felines

Kitty ended up having to relocate back to Indianapolis because I got another traveling gig. On this leg, I consulted with a vet about giving her a mild sedative, which she took right before leaving for the airport. We tested the drug on her a couple nights prior, and it hit her like a brick within 20 minutes. Unfortunately, when it came to flying time, the pill didn't dissolved quickly, and its effects hit her five hours later back at home, swerving like a drunken sailor.

Crush up any sedative you give your cat into soft food she will easily digest. Test this practice a couple nights prior and make sure she has supervision the entire time. She will try to jump, and she will not be coordinated enough to succeed.

The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 4

Sometimes it’s a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life – that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I’m all confused. You probably are too. Let’s talk amongst ourselves… There's a phrase I often hear from cowabunga dudes or girls that fill out their customs forms with pink glitter pens...

Live each day as if it's your last.

What a steaming load. I don't like this mindset, nor do I believe it's all that helpful. The premise is somewhat nice, but imagine if people actually took this phrase to heart.

It's Not All About The Thrills

Live to the fullest!

Live to the fullest!

Most people, given unlimited possibilities and no monetary concerns, would live out one ambitious day after the other, leaving monotonous tasks or building block actions to rot in the corner of their consciousness. Believe me, living like that is thrilling but exhausting (cough, cough). Though I do believe you should enjoy your life, very few people would allow themselves the comfort of knowing what they are doing is good enough in the grand scale of possibilities.

Having this motto tattooed to your cubicle wall seems like a dark, English joke of depressing proportions, and writing the same thing, albeit in Chinese characters, across your waistline seems about as ironic as writing, "I know how to live better than you do."

Instead I think there needs to be a rewording of this overspoken - and therefore somewhat redundant - phrase:

Behave as though you'll never get another chance to make things right. Appreciate what wonders enwrap your life today, and find the present peace that can allow contentment to reign supreme in your mind.

Mexican woman cooking in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican woman cooking in Puerto Vallarta

I don't think I live day by day, nor do I feel I live today to the fullest. I guess I do at times, but it's not a rule. If given the opportunity to do something extreme, 75% of the time I do it. But if lying in bed reading a great book and preparing a nice salad for dinner sounds better than flinging myself off a bridge head first or eating bat brains, I won't opt for the seldom done thing just because it's the ever-stated "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

There is incredible beauty in a calm existence - where precious actions of the day have a poetry of their own. We all will stare at the old hands of a Mexican hombre, chopping green pepper and limes, and call it a lovely, timeless sight of a man exercising his family's culinary secrets. If we do something comforting and truthful to ourselves, I feel we are honoring our own lifestyle by saying, "The majority of my pleasures are sweet and understated…I live a good life."

Instead of thinking "live for today," I'd rather think, "live for these next few months." Planning for more than that allows time to slip by unnoticed, and considering only the next few days doesn't give ample time for planning that which makes you tick.

The Nosedive Muse

We're going down!

We're going down!

Though I don't like this "live-today-because-tomorrow-may-not-come" saying, I have to admit that the fuel driving me on these journeys isn't much different. These days, I've grown a little fearful of planes and turbulence and often tell myself, while flying through the sky, "This bad boy could go down in flames...would I be happy with my life if that happened?"

I imagine that moment of realization as the nosedive commences; what would be going through my head? "I never took a chance on that dream experience. Why didn't I ever give that one thing a try? I never did that...or that!" It's a morbid thought, but it somehow taps into a priority list in my brain I'm not always aware of. I can barely pick a destination I'd most like to visit next, because I want to visit them all, but there's something inside me that cares more for one place or thing than another. The nosedive evokes that muse.

This is why I try the trips where the odds are working against me. This is why I don't settle down and get an apartment and a job and a boyfriend the way my family would like me to. This is why I went to Fiji on my own dollar to try and start something that very likely wouldn't work out.

Check My Expiration Date

The problems I face with my mentality are ones of support, or a lack thereof, and time, or my conflicting views of it.

On November 1st, 2009, I looked at my winter and thought, "I have enough money to have an amazing experience abroad, though I have to be extremely frugal. Where should I go, and what would be the best usage of my time?" I felt this was a completely understandable dilemma. Heck, who wants to be here for the brunt of a Midwestern winter anyway? And instead of plowing into the suffering job market looking for something that doesn't make me nauseous, I wanted to go and do something that connected with me profoundly. Makes perfect sense, no? Not if people feel more comfortable with convention and therefore feel less comfortable with your tendency to poo-poo it. It's not tolerance that backs you up; it's support.

Going for it

Going for it

I hate when people say, "Time flies!" No. Time is always the same, and it's just an awareness of it that makes this speedy perception. I plan on living my 20s to the fullest, not in a way that negates responsibility but embraces alternative views of convention to make sense to the individual. I want to try many different paths because geography doesn't have to limit my spectrum. Therefore, I'm out and about, seizing those opportunities that scream out to me in those nosedive musings. And though I know by the time I'm 30, I'll say, "Whoa, I'm getting old, and I'm nowhere near procreating," I will at least be happy with the chances I took up to that point.

Living life to the fullest means having an awareness that you're merely mortal, but as the polarity of my soul drags me toward both adventure and stationary living, I've adopted the idea that I've got plenty of time ahead of me to do everything I want to do. And since that's quite a long bucket list, I need time to space it all out. Here's hoping the nosedive is never real, until maybe my 100th birthday.

Lots of thoughts...would anyone like to add to this conversation? What do you think about the phrase "Live each day as if it's your last"? And how does your expiration date influence your choices in life?

The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 3

Sometimes it's a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life - that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I'm all confused. You probably are too. Let's talk amongst ourselves...

Martha Wouldn't Be Proud

No longer housebroken

No longer housebroken

November 24th, 2008: My first day back from the Big Journey. Refusing to enjoy the comforts of home and longing for the road immediately, I decided to cook some boiled eggs - my recovery sustenance after the evil gastro disease of October. Somehow it seemed more comforting than a bucket of ice cream or fried food to sit at home and munch on the simplicity of a jiggly egg.

I put a pot on the stove with water just covering the four rolling eggs. My father told me to put them on high heat. Forty-five minutes later, the fire trucks were parked in front of my home, while I ran outside waving them down with a white dish towel.

Upon placing the pot down on the licking flames, Dad called me downstairs to teach the art of stapling canvases onto frames, since I purchased many abroad for presents and such. After a few minutes, he took off for the gym, and I saw my comfy armchair/office and sat down to continue the work I thought I was doing prior to the art lesson.

I started smelling burnt popcorn and figured Dad had done it again, completely forgetting he took off. Even after the alarm started buzzing from smoke, I figured he was taking care of his microwaving mistake. Eventually, the beeping, the lack of footsteps upstairs, the sudden flash of sulfur up my nostrils, everything came together, and I jumped up so fast I hurdled the couch in my way.

Exploding Eggs

Exploding Eggs

The remains of four eggs were fused onto the bottom of a bone dry saucepan. Bits of yolk and white splattered every surface like shrapnel from the stovetop bomb. Opening up windows and turning on fans, ventilation couldn't happen fast enough. The phone rang. My parents decided to choose a security code we hadn't used since our days in elementary school, but after exhausting all other password choices and calling Dad's unresponsive cell phone for help, the security representative on the other end realized I was telling the truth, that I was legitimately family...and just plain dumb.

The mess was cleaned up by the time I heard the distant fire trucks. A weight pressed on my heart as the sounds grew closer, and I made a plea to the Swiffer in my hands to stop all the madness and embarrassment as I cower in the corner of the pantry.

I'm not often embarrassed. I've tripped, been pantsed, made inappropriate comments and not been as embarrassed as I was when the fire trucks pulled in front of my home. My neighborhood being a clone of Pleasantville, half my neighbors came outside holding their dogs and looking worried.

In a chicken coop

In a chicken coop

Being on the road for so long apparently stripped me of domesticity. I forgot how to be a suburban American. It doesn't make much sense when you calculate the 22.7 years I spent learning such skills compared to the 7 months it took to forget nearly everything.

And you may ask, "What does one have to learn in middle-class American suburbia?" Well, a lot.

  • The correct way to answer the phone: "Hello, Lindsay speaking..." instead of "Hello? I don't know where anyone is...what's the date?"

  • Proper laundry etiquette: wear clothes once, then wash. After months home, I still preferred the sniff my detriment.

  • Bathroom manners: use the toilet. My crazy eyes darted outside often, wondering if the neighbors would see me if I pulled an African overland squat in my back yard.

  • Balancing technology time and rest time: instead of taking breaks and interacting with people on a regular basis throughout the day, I worked online 16 hours a day and forgot how to form sentences verbally.

  • Proper public attire: I apparently embarrassed my mom when I went to the mall to visit her, wearing nothing but cloud print footed pajamas and a Santa hat. I thought it'd be funny.

Travel the world. Learn about yourself. Try new things. Stretch your limits. Come back home with new eyes...apparently to find out you've forgotten everything you once knew and must learn again.

Does any of this happen to you all, or am I the only one that comes home domestically awkward?

The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 1

Sometimes it's a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life - that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I'm all confused. You probably are too. Let's talk amongst ourselves...

Carpe Dimes and Nickels

Carpe Lake Tippy

Since I returned from a round-the-world trip on August 17th, I've done very little besides sit in front of screens - computer, TV, what-have-you. I seldom leave home or drive my car unless it's purely necessary. Rarely do I step outside if not to summon my cat in at twilight, and the most exercise I get comes from group fitness classes at the gym down the street. I spent one weekend in northern Indiana with my best friends eating guacamole and floating on one long raft around Lake Tippicanoe, but that certainly can't be all the excitement I can handle over a two month period.

Why do I not carpe the diem when I'm not traveling?

This isn't to say Indianapolis is a humdrum city. Since I've been home, I've been inspired to visit Indy's Fringe Festival and multiple cultural celebrations (including Irish and Greek), camp outside in the brisk fall evenings, take bike rides along the Monon Trail, enjoy the friends I have in town and a myriad of other activities; however, I only managed to accomplish two of these list items in all this time.

National parks pepper the state of Indiana like acne on a teen's face, so why do I not pack up my Coleman tent and get out there?

This is my favorite season and type of weather, reminding me of football season and my affinity for the smell of dead leaves. Why do I never leave the house?

The Imbalance

After spending 2.5 months concentrating solely on experiencing the world, maybe I was burned out and needed some time to document those moments still unprocessed, but I completed my purge of World Traveler Internship memories a month ago and had relaxed my fair share by that point as well. The fact of the matter is when I'm back in Indiana, regardless of season or how many friends I have in town, I live like a hermit but continue to pine for the adventure of another country. And it's not always a desire to romp around the Andes or dog-sled in Siberia; I often wish for the simplicity of a small town in Mexico or reading a book in an Italian piazza - fundamental activities I could easily do at home with the same level of perceived exoticism.

In Alain de Botton's book, The Art of Travel, a man travels around his own bedroom as if it were any other place in the world, where he experience the known as if it were unknown, not just pretending but actually opening the eyes to a new perspective. It's a conscious choice to see your own native surroundings as banal and yawn-inducing, and for those of us who live for the next departure date, making this decision to spent your home days pining will give your emotions a roller coaster ride throughout life. My happiness chart would look like a sine curve - with the peaks occurring on the road and the low points while sitting at home.

Living it up in Indiana

Living it up in Indiana

Indianapolis isn't exactly a hub for tourism. Though we have two (or three) of the five highest grossing national sporting events each year, people don't flock to this area for nature and culture above other locales. But if I were to approach this city (or even state) as a traveler would, I'd be filling my days with gourmet cafes, nature hikes, museum visits, excursions to small towns for chili cook-0ffs and elaborate Independence day celebrations. I'd be jet-skiing across Geist on weekends and having barbeques with friends regularly. Free gallery nights and dairy farm tours, baseball games and tailgating...I think I've made my point. I've been lazy.

I turn my adventurelust on and off as well as my wallet's accessibility at home. In my mind, I can't silence the thought that one night's dinner and movie in Indianapolis could fund a week or more living in India. A cocktail here cost four times as much as one beer in Cambodia. If I were traveling and had no desire to experience anything because of proximity or cost, I'd be pretty darn bored, and most would consider this approach to be a waste of time on the road. So why do I not consider my state a destination?

Thus far, I've failed to mention the activity that does retain my attention day and night while in Indy: computer work. Since August 17th, I've switched to and designed a self-hosted website with (almost) daily posts of various media, read books on travel writing, written articles for and connected with many publications and companies and developed a plan for future humanitarian/documentary work overseas. It's when I'm gone that I wish for the connectivity of free wifi and a good computer at home, so I suppose I try to make the most of it when stationary. But this isn't living.

Am I doing at home what is essential for me to live the life abroad? If I'm desiring to document travel, do I not need to be completely wired and figure out other passive means of generating income online? This is how I justify all the time spent indoors, away from those activities which truly sustain my spirit. In reality, if I consider myself a good traveler, I need to ensure the love of discovery is naturally infused into each day, regardless of location.

In an attempt for equilibrium, I will challenge myself to live a little at home, because I do love the excitement that can occur under these skies. Cornfields don't have to grace your eye with familiarity; they can be just as thrilling as the south Indian farmland. And it doesn't have to cost a trip to Mexico to enjoy the delights of nearby.