Young Man Leaves Old Life Behind to Travel with Unexpected Buddy

Wanderlust. While we all have experienced that thrilling desire to travel and to explore new places and new ways of living, not all of us act upon that desire. That was not the case for Rich East, a young man who, as his life in Australia was getting more and more dull and unfulfilling, decided to hit the road with an unlikely companion…his best friend Willow, who so happens to be a cat!

Leaving His Old Life behind

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Rich East is an adventurous young man born in Australia. In 2013, his go-getter attitude led him to change the course of his life. And just like that, his adventure began. He changed his typical suburban life in Hobart, Tasmania for small off-roading and hiking trips with his small stuffed lion and his best friend: a furry kitty named Willow.

Travel Buddies

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While it’s pretty clear that most cats wouldn’t enjoy traveling in any type of vehicle from one place to another, Willow was delighted to explore the world with her human.

Finding Her Place

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Like every cat, she has her special places to rest after her cat-tivities:

“Willow is very curious and loves to explore. She spends most of her days snoozing on top of the roof rack, under the van, or sleeping in her cat carrier. On cold days, you will find her snuggled up in my blankets,” Rich said.

It’s All about Agreement

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Rich explained that they have an unspoken agreement:

“She will always come back to the van, and I will always wait for her. She rarely wanders more than 100 meters from the van, but when she does, I can find her with her tracking collar.”

Two Birds with One Stone

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Once they were all set up, Rich and Willow began traveling a bit more, specially during Rich’s days off from work. It was during one of those trips that he discovered a new passion: photography. Now, not only does he enjoy traveling, but also taking beautiful photos of Tasmania.


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“For the first time I felt free,” he said. “Free to design a new life for myself,” (and Willow!) In 2014, Rich quit his job, sold his house, and bought a van. “I threw away everything that didn’t bring me joy. The premise was simple: build a new home in which I could travel.”


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It was Rich’s main task to renovate the van. He installed a ready-to-go bed in the back, a small kitchen in the middle, and a front seat that could turn around, and added a surfboard in the roof in order to make the most of his living space.

The Journey

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Once everything was in order in the van, Rich bought a map of Australia so as to draw the route he wanted to take. First, had to take a ferry from Tasmania to the mainland and then, follow the coast all around the country.

“It was hard to think about all the things that I was leaving behind, so instead I thought about all I was taking with me and all that I would gain. I left my town and everything I knew for a new life and the unknown,” said Rich.

Taking It All in

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The journey continued, but Rich decided to take things slower, and began to stay in places for longer periods, to appreciate everything around him. As he and Willow bonded on the road, he came up with some new ideas…


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Rich was enjoying their adventures, but thought that it would also be fun and exciting to put his creativity in motion. So, he invested in new equipment: cameras, tripods, and drones, in order to record their adventures and welcome the world into their lifestyle.

New Passion

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Thanks to the cameras he bought, Rich got better and better at his new hobby, photography. Soon, he became an expert in capturing all the breathtaking scenes he and Willow stumbled upon day by day.

A Growing Success

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Rich started to post his photos and videos on social media under the name VanCatMeow. Soon after, the pair gained thousands of followers. In fact, people loved the photos so much, that they wanted to buy prints for themselves; and that’s how VanCatMeow began to sustain itself financially.

Favourite Model

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It was no surprise that Rich’s favorite model was Willow. Every time he got the chance, he would snap a picture of her. Sometimes it was easy, but some other times, Willow wouldn’t be so cooperative, so he had to be extra patient.


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Rich has many hobbies, apart from photography and traveling. Surfing, reading, and woodworking are some of them. In fact, it was thanks to woodworking that he was able to make a little extra cash for gas and MeowMix.

A Beautiful Adventure

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By the end of 2018, Rich and Willow had toured the whole coast of Australia, and were going off the grid for a month in the Outback. It is unclear what the future holds for them, but we can all be sure of one thing: their friendship and love for each other (and for adventures!) will be forever intact.

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    Cat lady who enjoys binge-watching and taking naps.

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