When Bridget suggested staying a month in Bremen to have easy access to groceries, a bigger train station, and an airport, my mind went to the only time I’d been to Bremen. Which was a very boring experience. I was absolutely surprised by how much I liked the city. Moving out of the Airbnb after 5 weeks definitely did not feel like a goodbye forever.
So, what could I tell about Casablanca?
Let’s make a quick reality check.
“How are the cats doing?” is probably one of the most heard questions we get. Followed by the “cats are very territorial” information that basically everyone adds to it. And yes, they are. Probably not every cat would accept the changes we are all going through in this nomadic experiment. Good thing, Viola and Westley have already lived in more places than I did. They traveled across the North American continent and then even across an ocean. We knew they could handle new places well.
And what can I say? They seem to like the new jumping and hiding opportunities that the ever-changing places offer them. When you live closely with animals and observe their behavior, you can see if they are relaxed or anxious. If they are chilling or fleeing. We always wait for Viola’s first “thump” – when she lets herself fall sideways onto the floor, couch, or bed, lifts one leg into the air, and exposes her belly while looking at us with a “look, how fluffy my belly is. But you CAN’T TOUCH IT!”.
That’s our “alright, she likes it here” sign.
What about the territorial part? Well, it seems they define us as their territory. Once we reach a new place they check in on us quite regularly – in between exploring and defining their napping & hiding spots. We added a couple of their blankets, carriers, and hiding spaces to our traveling gear, and voilà. We stay with them as long as possible in the apartment on arrival day. And, funny enough, they like to listen to our playlists. It smoothes the other sounds and noises in the new environment, especially during feeding times. I guess you really get to know your non-human partners.
They do still hate the car ride if 1) Westley can’t stay in his carrier and 2) Viola has to stay in the carrier. So, she rides with her own seat belt fixed to Bridget’s seat belt. And Westley travels tucked away in the darkness of his carrier.
Also, changing to a BARF diet creates more steps to consider in the early morning hours – and a stronger stomach to handle the raw meat & organs mix -, but the health benefits for both cats are amazing. Is this just one step away from butchering and preparing their whole meal from scratch?
The moving days are still the most challenging days. Getting everything out of the car into the apartment and then (maximum) 4 weeks later getting everything back in the car can be very emotional. While carrying backpacks, bags, and crates you definitely start to question every item in there.
“Do you really need that?” “Why did the kitchen crate become heavier?” “Did I even touch this during the last weeks?”
We travel with a Dacia Logan and, granted, about 1/3 of all the stuff is for the cats. I have a Tetris need for packing. Everything needs to be stored away clean and safe while there’s still space left for a third human. That’s my goal. And as few extra tote bags as possible. If you pack two options for, let’s say, preparing coffee, you will always end up using your favorite – or the more convenient – one. Every. Time. The same goes for clothes, shoes, extra kitchen things, or our creative stuff. Our need to have a spare at hand – just in case – leads to piling up things. Or the extra 1 or 2 tote bags.
But how much do you really need in places to feel comfortable? Or want? What makes it your place? What makes it our place when we all have different levels of feeling comfortable and at home?
We gave away so many things in January and stored just the fewest, dearest items at my mum’s place for the next home base we will create eventually. Before Bremen, we stopped at my mum’s, changed the seasonal clothing, and left even more than just a couple of items there.
Currently, we haul out and in the car:
- 2 cat carriers, the cat condo, 1 bag with cat food, toys, and medication, 1 litter box, 1 cat tree
- 2x backpacks “We are not naked!” – one with all her clothes and shoes, one with all my clothes and shoes
- 2x backpacks “All work stuff and tech.” – one for Bridge and one for me
- 1 crate with sketching and writing supplies, current books, and bathroom things
- 1 crate with kitchen stuff – herbs, spices, salt, and our iron skillet, a small cutting board, 2 sharp knives, an aero press, a coffee grinder
- 1 cooler bag for fridge leftovers and frozen cat food.
- my ecological monitoring kit, a sleeping bag, and an outdoor shelter
- 2 yoga mats
- 1 guitar
- and the infamous extra tote bags: one for foods that we didn’t finish till the last day and one for stuff that we found after we had already packed everything.
What makes it our place?
A couple of air plants, a crazy lama, and an Elsa figure who has lost her ice crystal by now.
We started our time in Bremen with an acute kidney failure from Miss Viola. She didn’t eat or drink and was throwing up spit the whole traveling and arrival day. During our first dinner in Bremen, sitting in a cute restaurant, we received a phone call from the vet. “She could live another 3 days, 3 weeks, or 3 years with this. We don’t know.”
Instead of exploring a cute city, we stayed almost 4 days inside, force-feeding her and worrying about losing her.
For people who never had pets, it might be weird to think of them as family members. Or that the possibility of losing one of them hurts so much. “We are all Earth,” someone in a reconnecting seminar said. “And when we are Earth, we feel the joy but also the sorrow with every being we allow ourselves to connect with.”
Bridge and I definitely reached another level in our relationship through this. I always joke that my rank in our family is maybe second or third depending on how Westley behaves that week. But I never challenge the thought that Viola is first and always will be. She has spent double the amount of years with Bridge than I did, offering unconditional love and support through big changes. I hope I will be as good as a partner.
I can’t describe the joy when Viola after 4 days started to eat and drink normally all by herself.
A handful of vet appointments, manually feeding her with a selection of different renal-appropriate meals, and a lot of good wishes to the universe brought her back to an almost more energetic than before state.
A deep breath in, a deep breath out with a sigh.
The apartment was filled with the energy of the pianist who normally lives here and works for the Theater Bremen. But also with her things, furniture, blankets, and decoration. Her own watercolors filled the picture frames on the walls. Everything was white. The walls, the furniture. Except for the put-together kitchen with different wooden cabinets and the piano in the corner of the room. When you’re staying in other people’s spaces you can’t help yourself but think “How would I make this my place?”
Stepping into the garden, a 200-year-old beech tree greeted you, reaching into the sky and shading the basement apartment we were staying in. But I forgot my extra pair of socks and the sweater standing next to it.
There was a lot to celebrate, too. In a self-development training last year, I wrote down for myself “Celebrate often”. Celebrate life, friends, love, and all the little moments that every day brings you. We danced into May and made Bridge’s birthday absolutely pink. Bridge went to London to celebrate her bachelorette party. I celebrated in my way by being on-farm with Fabian. And tasted delicious apple wine. We explored what to do on a Sunday with friends and sketched, painted, and crafted with Philippe.
“You need to leave a mark in every city, village, or place you’re traveling to!”
Is it Casablanca or Cat-a-Blanca?