I just watched the sunrise from the highest platform of my super fun cat tower. A few minutes ago, I devoured a plate of white ocean fish mixed with salmon flakes! Can you believe it? Salmon flakes!
Seriously, what a wild ride my life has been. And I’m only 4 months old.
My name is Matcha, by the way. I’m this little domestic short haired cat from Bali and boy do I have a story to tell!
The First Day: Hungry and Scared
It all began when I was born I guess. It’s a bit fuzzy but I was born and suddenly, when I was only 5 days old, someone left me in the jungle in Bali. I could barely move and I was soon covered in grass, without food and trying to survive an intense rainstorm. It was rough. The storm eventually ended but I wasn’t feeling well at all. I was drenched, sooooo hungry and some bugs started crawling all over me.
All I could do was cry because I was really scared.
I don’t know how long I was crying but out of nowhere, I started to hear two voices nearby. I started crying more loudly, hoping they would hear me and maybe help somehow.
And they sure did. It’s still a blur but a very, very nice girl just scooped me up out of the jungle and put me in a little box. Then, this boy appeared with a cloth and put that in the box, which felt so soft on my belly. They started walking with me. I didn’t really care where we were going as I was just happy to be out of that jungle.
I was taken to a house for about an hour and then to some place called a ‘vet’. People were touching me, pulling bugs off of my skin, giving me milk and, honestly, I don’t really know what they were doing but it sure made me feel better so I just went with it.
Later on, we arrived back at that same house. And the same girl and boy started to take care of me. I learned that they were called Georgiana and Derek.
The First Month: A New Life
Georgiana and Derek didn’t seem too experienced, especially the boy, but somehow they managed to feed me with a bottle and even made a cozy place for me to sleep. They watched over me and made sure I was comfortable all the time. Even in the middle of the night they would wake up if I needed anything at all.
The days passed and I started feeling so much better. I did have something called ringworm but this girl and boy spent a lot of time on their phones figuring out how to get rid of that. They were determined! I even enjoyed the warm baths they gave me with that special shampoo.
At that age, I couldn’t go to the bathroom or eat on my own yet. So Georgiana or Derek would help me out. But sometimes I just didn’t need to pee or I just wasn’t hungry. The funny thing is that they always thought they were doing something wrong if I didn’t pee or eat. I found it quite amusing that they wanted me to pee so bad all the time! I don’t know how much they pee but I just didn’t need to go that much.
So, I was really tiny during that time. I was trying to figure out how to walk steadily and I couldn’t see very well. I did try to play with these cool toys they bought me and I started to stumble around on the grass. Although, I was quite content to simply let these two people rub my head and neck all the time. That was a feeling I had never experienced before and I must say, I loved it!
Georgiana and Derek were always doing something on these devices that had a screen and a keyboard. So the only way I could get them to stop and come back to rubbing my head was to cry a little. They fell for it every single time! It was such a simple trick.
Anyway, the next month was incredible!
The Second Month: Like a Dream
One day, we moved to this beautiful house in a different part of Bali. While there, I started to understand how to walk fast and even jump up on the bed and sofa. I could roam all over the place. Of course, Georgiana and Derek were always nearby and they wouldn’t let me out of their sight. I don’t know what they thought could happen…I mean, was some big cat going to attack me? Silly people.
They even started feeding me real food. I think it was tuna and it was so yummy! I also figured out that the box they kept filling up with these weird pieces of soy sticks was the place I was supposed to go to the bathroom on my own. First, soy sticks? Such hipsters! Second, I really don’t understand why they were so excited when I started using this tray. It’s just pee and poop but these two people were jumping up and down as if I had won an Olympic event. Am I supposed to cheer every time they go to the bathroom?
I guess I can understand their concern though when these little worms started to appear near my bum. Apparently, that’s not supposed to happen and before I knew it, I was whisked away to the vet again. I will tell you this…I am not a fan of the ‘vet’. It seems to be a place they take me whenever they don’t want me to be happy. But why don’t they want me to be happy all the time?
I don’t know. I just want to be happy!
Luckily, this visit to the vet was quick. However, and I can’t say for certain, I think my parents started slipping drugs into my food shortly after. I would taste this weird bitter flavor and the texture of the tuna was a little off. I’m not really sure what they were doing but they seemed to be quite secretive about it. At least those worms went away eventually.
Life continued and I became more and more attached to my family. They became more and more attached to me too. I learned how to do this thing called ‘purr’ and every time I did it, my family stopped whatever they were doing and showered me with attention and love. It’s another cool trick!
And when we all sat on the sofa, enjoying each other’s company, they would order dinner and I would try to eat it off their plate. That was such a fun game they played with me. It looked so real when they tried to shove me away from their food over and over again!
Then we would watch a movie sometimes. Georgiana really liked these scary movies and Derek really liked these dumb comedies. I would have been happy to watch a nice animal movie but they just weren’t interested.
Life was really great and I started to get the idea that I was going to be taken care of forever. Every time they moved to a different house, they took me with them. And every day, it seemed that their routine was built around making sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable and happy. While in that jungle at 5 days old, I never could have imagined that things would turn out this way!
Oh, did I tell you? They even bought me this awesome cat house thing. Wow! Three floors, rooms to sleep in, scratch posts to scratch and even a hammock! A HAMMOCK!!!
The Third Month: I’m a Princess
I was in that comfy hammock when, one day, Derek lifted me up, put me in my pet carrier and took me back to that damn vet again. I was pretty chill about it because, I don’t know, it seemed harmless enough overall. But this time, holy crap. They jammed some needle in the back of my neck and called it a ‘vaccine’. I was pissed off and quickly discovered that I can hiss and spit and make some serious noise that make these people afraid to do things like that again. Believe me, I used these new found skills because I ended up at the vet two more times for these vaccine injections!
They kept saying it was for some vaccine passport book and that I would need it to leave the country, but why would I leave the country? I’m a Bali cat. It didn’t make any sense to me.
Well, about a week later, they really surprised me good. I did have to sit in a car for about 3 hours but when I was allowed out again, ohhhhhhhhhhh. We were at some house right on the beach in a small town called Amed. It was surreal. I could hear the waves all day and listen to birds. I could run all over the place and jump around and have so much fun. They even let me outside every now and then. I would eat some grass, try to climb trees and just run through the bushes, free as those birds!
In the evenings, I would hang out in my cat house and relax. Right before bedtime, I would always play this crazy game with Derek. He would hide his hand under the sheets and I would try to find it every time he poked his finger out. It was wild! I could play that game for hours and hours. I don’t know what Derek’s problem was because he got tired quickly from this game but no way I was going to let him stop!
By this point, these two people were treating me like I was a princess. They even called me ‘princess’ all the time. But I guess they were just confused because I don’t really have any royalty in my blood. I wasn’t going to tell them that though!
This went on for 1 more incredible month!
A Week at the Vet
Eventually, our time in Amed did come to an end. And every time I try to think about the 3 weeks that followed, I have such a mix of emotions. It was an intense period.
Let me tell you about it.
One day, I didn’t feel very well and all I wanted to do was sleep. A couple of times, I tried to walk around but my legs weren’t stable at all. My family looked very concerned as I just curled up on a chair unable to move much.
Before I knew it, I was back at Sunset Vet, but this time was very different. Derek was there at first but suddenly, he was gone and I was in a cage in a strange room with strange people and a few other animals too. I thought maybe it would last a few minutes but I ended up in this place for 6 long days. During that time, I had to receive injections and an IV and these friendly but unfamiliar vets would check my condition every few hours. They said I had an infection and a muscle sprain, whatever that is.
The good news is that I started to feel better each day. The bad news was that I really, really missed Georgiana and Derek and I had no idea if I would see them again. By the 6th day, I was quite sad. I felt better physically but my life had changed so much, from a beautiful house on the beach with a loving family to this stale room where I wasn’t able to be free at all.
And then…I almost peed myself when I saw Georgiana and Derek walk into the room! I tried to play it real cool, occasionally sniffing their fingers through the cage to make sure it wasn’t a dream. I thought they had abandoned me. I don’t know why they were gone for so long. I suppose it might have something to do with the vets and the fact that my illness was cured but I don’t really know how this stuff works so I’m a little unsure.
Either way, they came back for me! And they took me to another house with palm trees and grass and flowers and plenty of space for me to be myself again. At this point, I knew for certain that I had a family forever!
The Fourth Month: I’m a Traveler
We spent 2 weeks at this sweet new place. Georgiana and Derek never seemed too thrilled when I would climb high into the thorny tree in the corner of the yard and refuse to come down for an hour, but I didn’t care. I was so happy again and I knew they would get over it every single time and still feed me my favorite food.
That’s why I didn’t get too stressed when suddenly, one morning, I was put back into my travel carrier and placed into a van, next to a cage that had a small dog in it. I was a little concerned that Georgiana and Derek were saying goodbye to me but I tried not to worry too much. A very nice man seemed to be in charge now and I could tell by the way they were talking that whatever was about to happen, it wasn’t going to last long.
I’m not really great with time but I’ll guess it was around two days or so when, just as I had expected, Derek appeared and we were together again. It seemed that we had left Bali though, so that was bizarre. It was my first time off the island and we were now in a place called Jakarta, staying at what Derek kept referring to as a ‘pet-friendly hotel‘. Anyway, we stayed at this hotel for 3 days and pretty much played the entire time!
Derek seemed a little stressed during this period but I tried to use my purring ability to calm him down. He also wanted to put this harness thing on me but I wasn’t happy about that and didn’t let him. I feel a little bad about it but I’m a cat after all and a harness just doesn’t work for me. I did let him put a small collar on as a compromise though.
On the third day in Jakarta, it was time to leave again as Derek started packing up. At this point, I was even excited. Where would we end up next? What a crazy life I was leading! I always seemed to end up somewhere fun and comfortable, as long as it wasn’t the vet.
So let me tell you about the next 40 hours!! 40 HOURS!
I was in this smaller travel case and we ended up at an airport. I was in disbelief, thinking to myself, “Now I’m going to fly? I’m a Bali cat and I’m getting to travel the world!!”
But I don’t know. If traveling the world always involves being on an airplane for 12 hours, then a 10 hour layover in another airport and then another 12 hour flight, I don’t need to do it all the time. There were also security checks and so many strangers around. I needed to go to the bathroom in odd, unfamiliar places as well and my system was all messed up because of the time changes. Oh, and I really didn’t enjoy being in that travel case for so many hours.
Then it ended. I don’t know what happened. Our second flight landed in a place called Miami, which I think is in a country called the USA. We then walked through the airport and then we were in a car. Nobody even asked me for my paperwork or why I wanted to come to this new country. I was shocked!
About 1.5 hours later we were in an apartment and I was free to move around again, just like that.
In one room, I had a new cat tower waiting for me, which is bigger than any cat tower I’ve ever seen! I had some great food waiting for me too. The space seemed comfortable to run around and play in and it really didn’t take me long at all to adjust. Derek is here as well of course! I must say, I like it.
Everyone seems to be talking about the ‘shitshow’ and some major problems with a virus in the area and lots of talk about politics but I don’t know, from my perspective everything seems quite calm and I’m having a ton of fun! I just want to play with my favorite piece of rope, eat some more salmon flakes and observe the world from my tower. Is that too much to ask?
And who knows what the future will bring? Will I travel more? Will we move to another house again? As long as I don’t need to visit the vet too often, I’ll take whatever comes my way.
I still can’t believe that only four short months ago I was crying in the Bali jungle, so hungry and scared.
I’ve been living the dream ever since, all because these two people happened to walk by at the right time and save me. Now I’m a world traveler and a princess and I have the best family on the planet!
VIDEO: Here’s a super cool video Georgiana made about my entire journey so far!
Many major Canadian cities are fast becoming the most expensive places in the world to live. Ideally, you should travel to Canada before settling there for a significant amount of time, to get a feel for the place. But, for reference, you’re looking at at least $2,000 for a 80-square-meter apartment in Toronto, and you can double that if it’s a spacious place in the city center. Likewise, Vancouver is similarly priced, and whilst these cities have incredible amenities, the point of being a digital nomad is to be free from living in areas that we cannot afford.
So, when looking at flights to Canada, make sure you decide on the city that is right for you.
Halifax, Nova Scotia – Up And Coming
Halifax is on the rise, and whilst it used to be overshadowed by Vancouver, it’s soon becoming a wise alternative in the property market. Halifax has a decently-sized city feel to it when it comes to amenities and things to do, whilst its dense downtown is less easy to feel lost in than, say, Vancouver. It’s a small big city, in a way.
Halifax is cheaper than most of the big cities, but it is fast accelerating in prices, so you may not want to wait around. It’s currently around $1,500 for a one-bed apartment in the city. Because people are flocking here since the rise of remote work, it’s beginning to build a buzzing economy that has plenty of start-ups, making it ideal for networking and finding clients.
Ottawa – Affordable Big City
Ottawa is a great choice if you like a big city with plenty to do. With an average one-bedroom apartment costing around $1,600 per month, Ottawa is affordable for Canadian standards, given its 1-million population and strong economy. Often, the more affordable options in Canada have fewer things to do and less nightlife – but not Ottawa, it has it all. It’s a pedestrian-friendly and diverse city that has some great history to it.
Because of its cosmopolitan and progressive nature, Ottawa is popular and friendly towards immigrants. Much more so than say, Quebec, and it remains to have a very high median income and stable economy. Plus, you’ll meet tons of other digital nomads.
Edmonton – Cheap Big City Near Nature
Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, which lies in the midwest of Canada. Despite having almost a one million population, Edmonton is both very cheap and in the midst of amazing nature. With an average rent of $950 for a one-bed apartment, Edmonton is arguably the cheapest city on this list.
Although the city grid is fairly large, conservation areas and nature parks surround it. Elk Island National Park, Muttart Conservatory, William Hawrelak Park… The list goes on. And, despite the large city feel, Edmonton has one of the best bus networks in all of Canada, with 7456 bus stops. Usually in the US and even Canada, you can only have one of the two: Affordability and public transport. However, Edmonton offers both, making it ideal for the low-key outdoorsy types.
At the heart of walking holidays in Spain lies the Camino de Santiago – Pilgrimage of Compostela – known as the Way of St James in English. This is a network of pilgrim paths dating back to the 9th century, when the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great were discovered, in which different towns and villages across Europe all lead back to Santiago, Spain.
Although Camino de Santiago Frances begins in France, these routes all end in Spain. For this reason, Spain has become a very popular walking holiday destination, in which holidaymakers and hikers from around the world dive into a segmented route within one of the pilgrim paths.
This type of holiday has it all: physical activity, culture and history, and is a chance to explore different places. Whilst you may have driven from one town to the next in Spain, it’s not quite the same experience as walking, in which you have lots of time to take in your surroundings and see every inch of soil between two connected villages or towns.
Within Camino de Santiago, there are many routes with varying levels of difficulty. Sarria to Santiago is a popular one as it’s graded 2 out of 5, yet covers 111km, crossing various significant Spanish towns such as Sarria, Puertomarin, Palas de Rey, and Arzu.
This particular route takes 7 days to complete, in which there are many great hotels along the way. Of course, because most of the day is spent walking, which is free, and the hotels include half board or breakfast (up to you), these walking trips have very few unexpected costs.
Another popular route to Santiago is from St Jean Pied de Port. if you’re thinking that doesn’t sound very Spanish then you’re right, because this route begins in southern France and ends in, you guessed it, Santiago. The ‘French Way’ is one of the most culturally rich walks in the world. St Jean Pied de Port in the French Basque region is a 12th-century town. Soon, you head to Pamplona, which is world-famous for its bull-running, before you eventually pass through northern Spain. This walk is extremely diverse, allowing you to see both the differences and similarities in Spanish-French architecture, culture, and terrain.
Socialising and Culture
Of course, meeting other pilgrims along the way is also a key part of these routes – this is the benefit of sticking to the historical trails. Other like-minded folks will undoubtedly be crossing the same paths that are experiencing the same challenges.
Because these are historical routes, the towns they cross are culturally significant too. Almost any route you choose will have a plethora of cathedrals, architecture, and authentic cuisine. Rustic villages and forests are plentiful in northern Spain too.
What Time of Year is Best?
Southern France and northern Spain are both fairly mild climates all year round, with average summer temperatures of 25 degrees celsius (80F) and average winter temperatures of 12 degrees celsius (54 F). For this reason, no time of year is too challenging to make these walks, although between June and September is recommended if you want as little rain as possible.
It’s not a surprise that I often think back to my recent trip to Jamaica.
Whether it’s the flashes of white sand and perfect water, the local food, the wanders through downtown Montego Bay, the day trips into the jungle-covered interior and, of course, the infectious vibe of the people, the trip was beyond memorable.
I had been to Jamaica many times when I worked on board cruise ships as a Tour Manager, way back in the early 2000s. But this time was different. Instead of visiting for a mere few hours at a time, on this occasion, it was a full 10 days on the island. Naturally, this gifted me the opportunity to do more, meet more people, eat more food and simply visit far more places.
A vacation to Jamaica should be high up, very high up, on any traveler’s list, especially if that traveler is fond of tropical destinations, a combination of relaxation and culturally-focused excursions, endless natural wonders and, to be honest, feeling happy from the moment you arrive. From that first smile and all the positive energy you’ll soak up from your first few conversations, by the time you reach your accommodation you will already know that you’ve made the right choice for your trip.
And the good news is that traveling to Jamaica right now is quite easy, with a simple set of Covid guidelines to follow:
As for my personal recommendations of places to visit:
The Caribbean is the holy grail of boating holidays. With over 5,000 islands, incredible weather and endless tropical marine life, setting sail with a catamaran rental through Nautal offers up an endless world of possibilities. Here is a guide to the many adventures you can get up to when sailing around the Caribbean at your own pace.
Island hopping is undoubtedly the first thing that comes to mind when traveling around the Caribbean on a boat. Catamaran rental in the Bahamas, for example, is a fantastic way to pass the time, being home to 700 islands and 2,400 cays alone. When factoring in the Caribbean as a whole, you’re undoubtedly going to stumble on some hidden gems and potentially uninhabited islands.
For example, Salt Cay, a gorgeous island that is home to a quiet village and a sleepy atmosphere, is one you most likely haven’t heard of. With only one bar and one restaurant, you’re getting a unique experience of serene isolation, but with some locals nonetheless. There are countless other islands just like this, but also some more vibrant and populated ones too, like Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.
Beaches and Coves
Almost any one of the 5,000+ Caribbean islands is bound to have a white sand beach with crystal clear water, so it’s almost redundant to name some of the “best”. However, there certainly are some noteworthy names that are highly acclaimed, and it gives you somewhere to start in your search.
The first name that comes to mind is Grace Bay, which is on one of the Turks and Caicos islands. There is a coral reef just off the shore of its 8 kilometer long white sand beach. Being a highly regarded beach, there are also some famous exclusive resorts and hotels too if you’re looking to take a night off from the catamaran.
Seven Mile Beach located in Grand Cayman is another name you may have heard of – and for good reason. Laden with coconut palm trees, Seven Mile Beach is a very swimmable and tourist friendly beach that has plenty of hammocks, clear water and amenities for you to enjoy.
Before exploring the possible water sports that you can indulge in, it’s worth noting that the marine life in the Caribbeans is buzzing and rich in its beauty. Stingrays, turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins are just some of the many exotic marine life you may come across. This makes scuba diving a thrilling activity, and being on your own boat, you can stop off whenever and wherever you like.
Some local islands may offer boating tours, which would be redundant, but they may be worth trailing if you see one as they may know the exact spots for spotting certain species.
If you head to a more populated island, such as the Dominican Republic, you will find many merchants selling or renting gear for some water sports – like windsurfing and jet skis. In fact, Exumas in the Bahamas also has swimming pigs which is a once in a lifetime kind of thing to see.
Ultimately, renting your own boat at Nautal changes the entire dynamic of the vacation. Suddenly, you can see and do everything you want to but can do so at your own pace and with privacy. It allows you to improvise – perhaps you have stumbled on an incredible sunset or great snorkeling spot – and can avoid the crowds whenever you wish.
If you want to travel the world for a year with your partner and children, here are some things to know about getting it right:
Make Sure It’s the Right Decision
The reality oflong term travel is that it isn’t always fun or easy. While there are plenty of adventures to look forward to, you should also prepare yourself for boredom, disrupted travel plans, poor weather, uncomfortable situations, and more.
This is not meant to put you off your gap year. Rather, it is meant to offer a more balanced perspective of what your year of travel may look like. This way, you can ensure that you and your family are better prepared for the experience.
Create a Plan for Homeschooling
If you are traveling with younger children, education may not be a pressing issue. However, with older children, the situation can be more complicated, especially since each state and country has its own laws on homeschooling. Check what the requirements are and make sure to abide by them to prevent your kids from falling behind. To make the job easier, try to register your children in homeschooling courses or systems. They will be able to follow professionally constructed lessons, assignments, and more.
Match the Destinations to Your Children’s Age
When traveling with children, you may not always get to be as adventurous as you like. This is especially true when moving around with infants and toddlers.
When it comes to babies, look for places with creature comforts and good healthcare in case of emergencies. You should also have constant access to safe water and food. Primary school-aged kids are a bit tougher, but you should still look for areas with proper accommodation and basic comfort.
When your kids enter their teenage years, you can head out to more remote areas or even into the wilderness. You can choose to live in RVs, and tents or travel to countries where you will find yourself off-the-beaten-path on a regular basis.
Travel With the Necessities
It’s only once you begin traveling that you realize how vastly different countries are, especially when it comes to supplies for your children. You might not be able to get the kind of baby formula or top quality car seats that you’re used to at home. Stock up on items that you can’t do without. If your children are quite young, take a car seat and stroller wherever you go as well.
Plan Activities Around Your Kids
When planning activities, it is important to balance out museum visits with fun activities for your kids. Otherwise, they will get bored and that’s not going to make a family gap year any easier. This doesn’t mean that you only have to hit up theme parks or play centers though.
Instead, focus trips around nature, animals, and activities that actively engage your kids. These trips keep them occupied but also broaden their minds and horizons. You may also want to do plenty of research before visiting larger cities. It won’t take long to see how kid-friendly a certain city might be and whether or not they have sufficient activities that would appeal to kids and a family.
A family gap year can be a great experience for everyone as long as you are prepared for what to expect. With the tips above, you can proceed knowing that you have properly thought out your decision and now understand how to move forward in the best interests of your entire family.