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!
Skift Take: Using in-depth interviews with destination leaders from Europe, Asia Pacific and across North America, this report provides a roadmap for any destination executive looking for solutions to try and jumpstart their tourism economy in the era of Covid-19.
Going on safari is the experience of a lifetime. From when we’re small children, many of us dream of seeing lions and elephants in the wild, roaming the plains of Africa.
There are a number of countries where you can embark on an adventure and see animals in their natural habitats, with two of the most popular being Kenya and South Africa. But which country offers the best safari experience?
The answer depends on the kind of trip you are looking for.
The first step to going on safari in Africa is to make travel arrangements and ensure you have authorization to enter your chosen country.
Both Kenya and South Africa are easy to visit for travelers from many countries.
Kenya has an electronic visa (eVisa) available for visitors of most nationalities. This can be obtained from any location with an internet connection by filling out a Kenya online visa application, cutting out the time-consuming process of applying for a visa at an embassy. Once you have your visa confirmation, you can travel to Kenya, and Nairobi will most likely be your starting point.
There are only a small number of countries whose citizens must apply in person for a Kenyan visa. On the other hand, visitors from over 40 countries (mainly in Africa and the Caribbean) can enter Kenya without any visa at all.
South Africa has yet to introduce its own eVisa system, but citizens of around 70 countries can visit visa-free for up to either 30 or 90 days. However, if you are not a national of one of these nations, you’ll have to head to your nearest South African embassy to apply for a tourist visa.
Getting Close to the Wildlife
Both Kenya and South Africa are great places to see a diverse array of animals, including Africa’s “big 5” game: lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and Cape buffalo.
More of Kenya’s land is dedicated to national park space and wildlife reserves than South Africa, including the world-famous Masai Mara. There is a huge concentration of wildlife here, with many visitors ticking off the big 5 as well as cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, and wildebeest within a few days.
South Africa is home to its own famous safari location in the Kruger National Park. This is also rich in biodiversity and safari-goers are rarely disappointed with the animals they see.
The one factor that gives Kenya the edge is the Great Migration. Each year, around 1.3 million wildebeest, half a million gazelles, 200,000 zebras, and thousands of other antelope make the journey south from the Masai Mara over the border into Tanzania around July, returning en masse in October. One of the most impressive natural events in the world, it is well worth choosing a safari in Kenya to witness this epic exodus of animals.
Safari tours in Kenya also allow more room for approaching and getting up close to wildlife. Drivers and guides may slowly approach animals, not so as to disturb them, but to allow a better angle for your photos. The rules in South Africa are much stricter and you may have to settle for watching from a distance.
Comfort and Cost
Kenya tends to be a bit wilder than South Africa, so if you’re happy to camp in tents and feel closer to nature, Kenya’s a good call. However, if you want to stay in a lodge with clean facilities, it will not come cheap. There are few options in between fancier private accommodation and camping.
South Africa’s national parks, on the other hand, are built with visitors in mind. There are a range of different lodges, from more affordable cottages and bungalows to luxury private lodges. All accommodation tends to be of good standard, with clean facilities, a natural setting, and many come with bonus features like golf courses.
South Africa tends to be more family-friendly, with great options for visitors with children. The roads are better paved and infrastructure is better developed. This is a big plus if you want to drive around the parks yourself. Yes, this is an option in South Africa (as long as you stick to the rules). Of course, there are also guided tours if you’d prefer, which are practically the only option in Kenya.
However, this all comes at the expense of some of the wildness. South Africa gets full marks for being comfortable, having budget options, and being ideal for families, but it can’t help but feel a little controlled and sanitized, compared to the authenticity of Kenya. Again, it depends what you prefer.
It’s always worth bearing in mind that whichever country you choose for a safari, you’re probably going to need to get vaccinated against certain local diseases.
The risk of serious diseases like malaria and bilharzia is much lower. Malaria tablets are only recommended for certain areas of the country. While national parks are generally hot-spots for mosquitoes that carry the disease, South Africa is unique on the continent for having a number of safari destinations that are free of malaria.
When on safari in Kenya, malaria tablets are a must and the list of vaccinations is more comprehensive.
If you’re going to make the trip to Africa, you’ll want to do more than just go on safari. Both Kenya and South Africa have idyllic stretches of coastline, which are great for beach lovers.
Once again, South Africa is better for families and those seeking a bit of luxury. The country has a number of beach resorts catering for visitors of all budgets, which are perfect for relaxing at.
Kenya, however, has a cultural ace in the hole. While it may not have the number or level of resorts as South Africa, it does have a number of fascinating ancient ports and medieval ruins, such as Gedi, to explore. History buffs and lovers of old architecture may get a lot more out of a holiday in Kenya than South Africa.
Two countries, two very different safari experiences. For a more wildlife-focussed, authentic experience in the wilds of Africa, Kenya probably has the edge, while for more comfort and a more rounded experience that all the family can enjoy, South Africa may be the better choice. Either way, it will a trip you will never forget.
If you want to live the expat life, with dreams of living affordably and comfortably in a foreign land that offers an enticing set of benefits, it’s possible. It’s not always straightforward and simple, but it’s possible.
While it would be wonderful if we could just show up in a new country, find a place to live and get settled into a new life, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. You can do that for a limited period of time (usually up to 3 months) in many places but beyond that timeframe, the process gets trickier.
This is why it’s vital to not just plan ahead, but to really dedicate significant time to figuring out how to achieve your expat goal before you buy a plane ticket or start looking for apartments. The more you plan ahead, the easier the process and the better your chances of making it happen.
When I recently got a residency visa for Spain, the process seemed overwhelming at first. But I spent a week examining everything I needed to do in order to apply and when the time came to move forward, I only needed 1 week to gather all of the documents and apply at the Spanish Consulate in Miami. Two weeks later, I had my visa and I was good to go.
Without that pre-planning though, the process would have been a mess and taken much, much longer in the end.
Apart from determining how you can actually stay in a country long-term and which visa you might need, there are other things to consider as well that will help ensure the process is smooth and the adjustment to life in a new country is smooth too.
1. Learn the language
Yes, people all over the world speak English these days and in 20 years of travel, there has never been a time when I was 100% stuck and could not communicate with anyone at all. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the language of the country where you want to live. It’s important that you do. It’s not only respectful to your new country but it’s also going to benefit you by allowing you to communicate better, meet more people and get deeper into the local lifestyle and culture. Expat life will be so much more rewarding as a result.
Start with the basics, dedicate some time each week to expanding your knowledge and focus on the benefits of learning more. If you are headed to Thailand, for example, try out the Simply Learn Thai app, and use that to improve your knowledge, with its 1000+ phrases available at the touch of a button. There are apps for every language and don’t try to rush it. Take it slow, learn a few more words each day and you’ll quickly see the results. Of course, taking professional classes and making sure you use your language skills by directly interacting with locals are also important steps.
2. Accept the surprises of expat life
Life in a different country can sound extremely appealing. However, there are always going to be surprises or aspects of life that you didn’t expect. Certain things that are easy back home might be complicated in your new land. There will be cultural differences and unique customs that you must adjust too. Life overall will indeed be different that more you realize this ahead of time, the less stressful will be your experience once you arrive.
Keep an open mind, try to learn as much as you can and appreciate the differences. This will help you get adjusted quickly without much friction. Making local friends helps and hanging out with other expats who have been in the country for a long time can help too.
It’s best to learn and join in the new culture instead of shutting yourself out. It can be tough at first but once you’ve figured it out, life will be even more fulfilling.
Not getting too worked up about the differences is the key. It’s only natural that different places will have different ways of life but again, it will all seem normal soon enough.
3. Understand your budget
While it might seem like you’re moving to an inexpensive location, it definitely pays to spend some time figuring out just how much you should expect to spend. A realistic budget takes into account potential surprises (which you can find with some research) that you might not initially think about when moving abroad.
One example is Playa del Carmen, Mexico. This great beach town offers an ideal expat life, with beautiful apartments for less than $1000 per month, within walking distance of the white sand beach and the center of town. You’ll probably have a rooftop pool with a view as well. However, most people don’t realize that the cost of electricity is very high in parts of Playa del Carmen, especially in newer buildings.
If you use the air-conditioner for 10 hours per day, you could end up paying over $200 USD per month in electricity. This could affect your budget greatly and would be an unwelcome surprise if you didn’t know about this before you arrived.
Some countries have very high fees for signing a contract to rent an apartment or house. Other countries might have limited public transportation options, leading you to take more taxis than you normally would take, and therefore spending more money. There are all kinds of possible financial surprises and it’s best to know about them ahead of time.
The best way to get real information is to ask questions to those already living in the place you want to go. Facebook groups, reddit forums and so on are all great resources where you can post your questions and get actual answers that will help you figure out how you will actually spend per month for the lifestyle you prefer.
4. Earning an income
If you can live off of savings or retirement funds, excellent! If you need to work though, you want to look into the rules before moving to your new country. In general, it can be quite difficult to get a work visa that allows you to work for a local employer. You would typically need a job offer that proves the company couldn’t find any locals to do the work. This is difficult and unless you’re moving between countries in the European Union as an EU citizens, the chances of getting such a visa are low.
If you work online, that’s ideal. In many countries, such as Portugal and Germany, there are actual visas you can get that are designed for those who work online and just want to live in their country as a resident. You can show up, continue your work and avoid the taxation rules as a result, making for an easy adjustment to expat life.
For other countries that don’t offer such a visa, it can be a little more challenging but still doable. You just need to check the local tax and employment rules and figure out how that might apply to you.
Whether you teach English online, design websites, find work on Upwork.com or even work remotely for a company in your home country, wherever you end up, this is going to make life easier than if you need to look for work in the country itself.
Of course, if you do work online and even if you have a small one-person business, it’s best to make sure that your operation complies with the laws of your home country before you move abroad. This could involve having the proper business structure, tax numbers, bank account and business insurance, which doesn’t need to be a huge expense but offers some useful peace of mind.
The allure of the expat life is real and these days, it’s easier than ever to make happen. What you don’t want to do is decide to move to a new country, buy a plane ticket and only then realize that there is much more to the process than you imagined.
From cultural surprises to unexpected expenses to visa rules to work eligibility and so on, being an expat can be quite frustrating if you don’t take the time to understand the situation before you leave.
It’s worth doing the research and being prepared in advance. This will certainly lead to a smoother transition from life in your home country to those wonderful expat dreams.
Universities with hospitality schools like Cornell (pictured) aren’t likely to make swift changes to curriculum in light of coronavirus. But the pandemic is a hot topic within every classroom. sach1tb / Wikimedia
Skift Take: It will take years for pandemic strategy to show up as a central part of any major hospitality school curriculum, but coronavirus today is still a central part of any classroom — virtual or otherwise.
Some hotels like Chicago’s Palmer House (pictured) are facing foreclosure, but real estate attorneys see alternative options for struggling owners. ThreeIfByBike / Flickr
Skift Take: The hotel industry is struggling under months of cratered occupancy and revenue. But there may be a way to avoid foreclosure with the bank — as long as your hotel was doing fine before the pandemic.
Critics argue safety measures like temperature checks are more theatrical than effective against the spread of coronavirus. Hotel brands say they help build guest confidence. NeferJanah Meistrup / Wikimedia
Skift Take: Strong communication and decision-making power at the local level are key to making heightened hotel cleaning measures succeed in an ever-changing pandemic information environment.