The Travelling Cat
Once upon a time there was a room full of cats. The problem was they didn’t know they were cats. One day, one of the cats said I really wish I was a cat. I want to be a cat more than anything in this world.
Some of the other cats heard this and they said - me too, I want to be a cat. How can we become cats?
I know, said one. Milk, we need milk. If we drink milk, we will become cats.
Well, the milk didn’t work.
One of them suggested, let's go out and roam the streets at night, get high on catnip and start catfights. It’s gotta be worth a try.
So off they go...
One of the cats had gotten so fed up with trying to be a cat that he decided to go out into the world and see if he could find out the real answer.
The cat goes on an epic journey and has a great time, he meets so many other animals and learns about them, where they're from, the different ways they live their lives and although the cat makes friends with other cats, the penny still had not dropped.
One day the Travelling Cat is standing next to a beautiful still lake, feeling a bit thirsty, it decides to go and have a drink. As the cat reaches the edge of the lake, it sees its reflection in the water.
I’m a cat.
I cannot wait to go home and tell the others what I know.
The Travelling Cat returned home and shared the amazing tales from its incredible adventure and finally dropped the big discovery!
You are all cats.
Unfortunately, they didn't understand. They laughed off the Travelling Cats notion and began discussing the benefits of getting an owner, perhaps one of those would really make them true cats!
The Travelling Cat realised that he couldn't just tell the others what it knew, it needed them to go on their own journey and experience it for themselves.
Back in 2015, I experienced what I call a pivotal moment in my life. I experienced heartbreak, I had fallen into a friendship group that I did not belong in, I was in a lot of debt and to top the year off, I had a miscarriage.
I dealt with this, by not dealing with it at all. You see at some point in the past, someone came up with this ridiculous saying… don’t worry there is always someone worse off than you. The truth is, every single person is unique, we are all very individual, which means our capacity for emotional pain is different. Something that I find painful and traumatic, another person may not have the same experience as I have. And vice versa.
I did myself a huge injustice by not acknowledging my pain and not allowing myself to properly grieve my loss. Instead I refused to talk about it and pretended I wasn’t bothered.
Of course when you push pain inwards, it can't go anywhere so it grows and you become sick and for me, by mid-2016, I was in a bad way.
I felt worthless, lonely, sad and the darkness, in here and here, was crippling me, I was questioning what the point in living was.
I remember sitting on my bed, crying and I just wanted to know how to be happy.
So, I did what all normal people do, when looking for an answer to something… I picked up my phone and typed into Google (I love Google, I use it all the time, especially at the pub quiz haha) and I literally typed in the search box, how to be happy, and amongst all the various pages, I came across one that simply said - 8-week happiness course.
I will try it, I thought, I have nothing to lose at this point. This course didn’t make me happy, but it did introduce me to meditation and new ways of looking at my loss, which was where my idea to travel was born.
In October 2016, I was boarding a plane to Panama, by myself.
The original plan was to spend 6 months in Panama, why Panama, well, I had seen it on season 3 of prison break and I thought, I want to go there, not the prison, obviously, that would be weird.
I was going to write a book that I had started years before but never finished and beyond that, no idea.
It is amazing what can happen when you just let go of an outcome.
I actually spent 6 months backpacking.
I ditched the suitcase and multiple pairs of shoes that I did not need and brought myself a backpack and during those six months, I visited Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Colombia.
I learnt to surf, yes I managed to stay on the board and ride a little baby wave. Crushed it.
I learnt to Scuba dive, that was an experience. I actually cried in my mask on my first dive doing my skills tests. One of the other students who I didn't even know came up and put her arm around me to comfort me. And I swear out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shark and the whole time I was just thinking, I want my mum, which is ridiculous because my mum could never take on a shark, she’s like a puppy.
I found the whole experience pretty traumatic until I cruised along with a hawksbill turtle and instantly my appreciation for this incredible planet just exploded. There is a whole other world living down there and it is spectacular.
I hiked up a volcano and boarded down it. Thank god for travel insurance right? That was a really tough hike for me, but there were three Australian guys behind me that just kept behind me, saying, you can do this, you got this. Again, they didn’t know me, they could have overtaken me at any point, but they didn't. They supported me the whole way up and one of them even carried my bag for me. Because I’m a princess and people are amazing.
I spent weeks at a time on beaches. Beach parties, sunsets, sunbathing.
I saw incredible places and made life-changing friendships.
I released baby turtles into the sea. I swam with a whale shark and wild dolphins!
Needless to say, I did a lot of really cool shit.
But throughout that trip, I was also stripped back of all of my conditioning.
Travel has its lows, I won’t lie to you.
I got sick a few times and it was tough being in a foreign country alone but there were always other people in the hostels, looking after me, getting me drinks and medicine.
I saw a lot of street dogs, which breaks my heart, they don’t deserve it. But I always fed them and gave them cuddles, even when they didn’t want them and because of this I was able to walk around at night on my own because I always had a pack of dogs walking alongside me and let’s face it, no one is gonna mess with a crazy dog lady!
I’ve gotten lost more times than I can even count but I always wound up exactly where I need to be.
I would not change a single thing about any of my travels... except the sand flies.
I could not communicate freely as I could at home. I had to learn Spanish and hope that the person I was trying to speak with could understand what I was trying to say. I won’t lie, I used charades a lot.
But there is one form of communication that everyone, everywhere in the world understands.
I went from living in a 2-bedroom flat, with an abundance of privacy to sharing a dorm and a bathroom in a hostel with ten plus people and I was moving around every other day.
A new bed in a new place, surrounded by new people.
I realised how attached to stuff I’d gotten. It is nice to have things, but I don’t need them to be happy.
I rarely had any idea of what the day or time was. I’d only need to know this information if I was catching a flight or a bus.
Prior to travel, my life had been structured by time, not only for work but I was approaching 30 with no husband, no children and up until this point, I was on the clock to start settling down and reproducing.
No one ever asked me my age on my travels. No one cared. It was irrelevant.
And one thing that completely baffled me, was how people who appeared to have so little in terms of material objects, were so happy and content.
I started to notice that for most people, the thing they held so dearly, was their community. Taking care of one another.
All the sudden, all the things that I’d thought were solutions to being happy, were actually making me sad. My constant need to have something more was actually taking away everything that I already had that was good.
I was starting to see that travelling was bringing me closer to the world and the people in it and more importantly, I was getting closer to finding out what happiness really is.
And I am not alone in feeling this way, I have a podcast called if a hostel could talk, where I speak to people from all around the world who have travelled and although their fun stuff differs and their journey is unique to them, we all share the same underlying experience.
Travel took me on a journey from a really painful and empty place to this very point where I am standing here with an idea that I feel is worth sharing.
The idea is that this planet holds everything that you need to have a great life.
I believe travel can be used as a type of therapy and education. It can increase feelings of happiness and improve a person's mental health. It can help you to grow and heal.
So… If you feel like you are failing or hurting and you are staring at a blank google search box or wondering how you can be more like a cat, then I want you to know that the answers you are looking for are out there. So go and find them and have a great time whilst searching!