From entrepreneur couples, travelling creative professionals to outdoor enthusiasts looking for the next thrill, a growing number of people are choosing to live a little differently, converting vehicles like vans and buses into full-time homes on wheels. The reasons can be numerous: more financial freedom, as well the allure of travelling with your home as you see the wider world out there.
These are some of the same reasons why Australian Rich East embarked on a cross-country trip in his simple van conversion. But he's not alone: so far, he's travelled 50,000 kilometers (over 31,000 miles) with his rescue cat, Willow.
In early 2014 I started making plans for a massive life change. Unhappy with my 10 years in the corporate world I started designing a new life for myself. I started designing a campervan that could provide me with shelter, a home, and comfort for this next stage of my life. Slowly I began to sell all my possessions such that what was left would fit in this van.
Willow had already entered into Rich's life well before the implementation of his plan. He wasn't sure how Willow would travel along. He had grown attached to his quiet companion and realized he couldn't just let her go. So he began 'training' her for travel and was pleasantly surprised:
I took Willow away for weekends, then whole weeks, and not only did she cope, she thrived. I soon realized that what I thought was a house cat was in fact a van cat, an adventure cat!
The pair set out from Hobart, Tasmania in May 2015, travelling very, very slowly over the next two years -- often no more than 60 kilometres per week. Along the way, the pair adapted extremely well to life in the van -- seeing new sights and spending plenty of time in nature. Willow wears a tracking collar, and roams around leash-free, though she rarely wanders more than 100 metres away from the van. Willow, like most cats, will spend hours napping under the van, under the van's solar panels or in her carrier.
There are some distinct advantages to bringing a cat (instead of a dog) along on such a trip, says Rich:
I may be biased but I believe travelling with a cat is easier than travelling with dogs. Cats are very independent and don’t require a huge amount of attention. Willow is quite nocturnal, sleeping throughout the day if we are driving and coming out in the afternoon for some food and a cuddle. The only disadvantage to having a travelling cat is not being able to go into the occasional area where pets aren’t permitted. We avoid the National Parks to find our own hidden places that maybe we wouldn’t have found otherwise.
The pair wrapped up the bulk of their trip earlier this year, but continue to travel in the van. You can follow them on Instagram, on Van Cat Meow, or hang up one of their adorable calendars, on sale here.