Back in May 2015, Richard East quit his job and sold his house and possessions to travel all over Australia in a camper van with his best friend: his rescued pet cat, Willow.
Now, two and a half years later, the unlikely duo have completed their trip around the country, having visited all six states and two territories, logging in more than 50,000kms of travel.
Along the way, the two went did incredible human-cat bonding activities, such as sailing in the Great Barrier Reef, camping and hiking up mountains, and driving for hours and hours on off-beaten dirt roads.
When I say every moment is precious I truly mean it. I try to enjoy every day with Willow but in the back of my mind I know nothing lasts forever. I know I shouldn’t think too much about what-ifs. So I bury those thoughts. We are happy and healthy now and I think we make the most of every day with head butts and little afternoon chats.
Richard, who hails from Hobart in Tasmania, says that people often get surprised whenever they see him wandering the country with a feline.
“Some people think it’s odd that I’m travelling with a cat, but Willow is so chilled out and absolutely loves our new lifestyle,” he told Bored Panda.
“Willow is kept safe with a tracking collar which allows me to always know where she is. She spends most of her time off the leash and is always keen to explore around our camp. With the tracking collar, I have the peace of mind that if she decides to go for a hike I will be straight onto her.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed, he added that there are many others who are doing the same thing.
“Every night there are hundreds of little cats tucked into bed in camper vans across Australia,” said Richard. “They are probably easier to travel with than dogs as they don’t require as much attention.”
We spoke to Richard to find out more about going on a once-in-a-lifetime journey with a feline friend. Have a look:
~ This pic was taken 2 weeks ago near Geraldton, Western Australia. I have just had a week in Melbourne for my friend's wedding and got to catch up with so many old mates. I have now flown back to WA and Willow and I are very happy to be reunited. Now heading South of Perth to see what we can find in the forests, back in our van, our home.
What inspired you to sell all your belongings and just hit the road with your cat, Willow?
“I had a good job and I had a house but they weren’t things that made me happy. They weren’t things that I truly felt grateful for. This I thought was a shame and not a life well lived so I decided to sell up and make a new life for myself, one that I could wake up each day feeling grateful for.”
~ We can see our house from here! ~ As soon as we stopped the van we both knew it had to be climbed. Only a little hill but in a land so flat every hill is a mountain and every mountain feels sacred. So we start climbing, a little black cat looking back expectantly as I stumble over the loose rocks. No leash, no teather, just a trust that when we get to the top we will have each other. And we did. Every thing seems tiny on top. Our home, the road trains on the highway, and all the day's worries. To sit for just a moment, with the last of the sun's rays in your eyes and think, "Everything is okay".
What’s the best thing about travelling in a camper van with a cat? Also, what’s the hardest part?
“The best thing is always having the companionship of your best friend with you. We spend all day together and she is a big support for me. It’s a joy to have the opportunity to see the world through her eyes as we explore new places together.
“The hardest part would be that she is a cat and cats are by nature nocturnal. So often she wakes me up at night!”
What activities does Willow like to do most during the journey?
“Definitely sleeping. However, in the few hours each day she is awake she loves to explore the places we camp and I keep an eye on her to make sure she is safe.”
Which places you’ve visited are your favourite?
“There are just so many. We have recently spent a lot of time on the Spencer Gulf, South Australia and the beaches and sunsets are incredible.”
Now that you’ve travelled through all six Australian states, what’s next for you and Willow?
“Make that six states and two territories! We are still traveling, although I like to consider us ‘nomads’ now, moving on as the climate changes, chasing paradise! This year we will spend some time in Tasmania before heading back up to central Queensland to wait out the winter.”
What’s your best advice for those dreaming of trying out the camper van life?
“Making the transition to campervan life feels like a big leap but it’s a rewarding lifestyle once you settle into it. It can be scary leaving the security of a job and house but the freedom you get makes up for it.
“The stress of mortgage repayments and bills vanish and you find that you don’t have to work much when you live simply. A million doors of opportunity will open and you might find yourself somewhere or doing something new you never imagined.”