How many people would love to quit their job and head off into the world of travelling with a little fluffy companion?
Well this is what Richard East did – he said he’d simply had enough of not appreciating life and after ten years of ‘working in the corporate world’, something needed to change.
He, along with his cat Willow, left home in May 2015 and have had some amazing adventures, including exploring old relics and sailing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef together.
Rich told UNILAD:
Over 10 years, I built up a life for myself in Hobart through my career, I had great job and a nice house but there was always something missing.
I was so lucky to have the life I had but I was ashamed to say that I didn’t appreciate it. This made me quite unhappy as I felt I didn’t deserve it and I felt so disconnected to the world.
One day I decided to make a change, to learn how to be grateful for every day. I worked from the ground up to create a new life for myself keeping what would make me happy and getting rid of everything else.
The new life I had planned was to live in a camper van, work only when needed and learn to be content.
Happy #caturday! We can't decide if we want to go adventuring or stay put. I guess we'll sleep in until we decide 😺❤️ . . . . . #vancatmeow #blackcat #adventurecat #blackcatsofig #catstagram #catsofinstagram #cats_of_instagram #realmenlovecats #kitten #catlove #instacat #cutecat #australiagram #australialovesyou #love #seeaustralia #exploreaustralia
Yet there was a slight problem with his plan – Rich had promised to look after a little black rescue cat called Willow.
He told UNILAD:
I thought about who could care for her when I was gone but then I realised, she was always there for me when things were tough, so I shouldn’t abandon her.
I decided to take her with me and since leaving Hobart in May 2015 , we’ve travelled to every state and territory in Australia – this is known in Aussie adventure cat slang as a Purrfect-Eight.
We’ve sailed the Great Barrier Reef, crossed the Australian Savannah, lived on beaches, forests, and plains.
Willow has a tracking collar so if she did decide to wander off I can find her straight away. She’ll stay close to me and loves to nap on the roof under the solar panel, whereas in winter, she’ll sleep under my blankets all day.
Rich set up a blog and Instagram page called VanCatMeow and he regularly posts wonderful photos and updates from their day-to-day escapades.
He calls Willow a ‘fluffy little bundle of joy’, who’s very affectionate and really loves her cuddles, pats and head rubs.
Willow spends the majority of her outdoors time off-lead but under supervision from Rich.
This means I find places to camp which are suitable both for her safety and the health of the environment. We do not go into National Parks or Flora/Fauna reserves, but we still get to see some incredible places.
Rich says he and Willow have an ‘unspoken agreement’ about when she’s off the lead, saying she’ll always come back to the van and he’ll always wait for her.
Spending 24/7 together they’ve got to know one another extremely well and share a special bond.
The pair have now travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres around Australia, often only managing around 60 kilometres a week, in what he calls the ‘world’s slowest land speed record attempt’.
In an Instagram post in May, Rich uploaded a photo of a Map of Australia and wrote:
In 2016 we celebrated a year on the road and I joked about how we had only made it as far as central Qld. Today, we celebrate two years and although we’ve put in some serious ‘kilometerage’ through the NT and WA completing our visit to every state, we’ve still not finished our ‘Big Lap’ – and we’re fine with that.
I’m often told there’s very little stopping one from achieving their goals. I will tell these people there’s also very little stopping you from going to the beach tonight with your favourite cheese and watching the sunset.
With this mentality we enter our third year, a year I’ve not quite mapped out yet, nor have any good reason to do so. We’ve settled so well into this new life, any need to get from A to B is now impertinent. In previous years I would often wake up wondering where I should be, but lately I realise I’m already there.
The post continued:
The average size of an Australian house is over 200 metres squared. Our home is just 5m2 and provides our warmth, shelter, a place to cook and a place to sleep.
A place to work, a place to sit and watch the world go by as the tides change or a storm comes in. Where we park soon becomes an extension of our home and we have been spending increasing amounts of time doing just that. There’s a deep comfort I’ve found in knowing everything I need is in one spot, including my companion, a little cat whose coat is so vibrant, with a temperament to match.
Other travellers will ask me which way I’m headed; I’m often unable to tell them, to their confusion. We’re not really headed anywhere in particular and some weeks, calling ourselves travellers seems untrue. Maybe ‘nomad’ would be a better term in that our movements are seasonal as we search for climates that best suit our days.
And of course, thank you Willow – the little black adventure cat who’s made my van into a home and the whole of Australia her backyard!
~ The house is a mess but the backyard is looking good. If it's all too much, it might be time to step outside. When we arrive at camp Willow is quick to get out and have an explore. She will survey her new backyard for 10 minutes or so then it's time for another nap. When I put the lounges out she is always quick to grab the good one, and I always make sure I have the camera ready to go!
Rich told UNILAD:
Every day is a pleasure travelling with a cat. To see Willow’s wide eyes wonder of the world puts me at peace and reminds me to slow down.
We’re so lucky to be able to live this life, people often ask how can I afford it? When you live simply without having to pay bills or rent it only takes a few months of work to support yourself for the rest of the year.
Soon we’ll have made it back to our home state but it doesn’t mean our adventure is ending. We’ll cruise around Tasmania visiting many special places I’ve been to over the years before heading back to mainland Australia next year.
This is the life I’ve created for myself, with a little black cat who’s made my van a home and the whole of Australia her backyard!
What an amazing story!