Meet the Girl Whose Cat is a Travel Blogger
Annie Yardhan has been travelling around the world for the past six months carrying her cat Mia in her backpack. Her blog IFollowMyCat.com and Instagram @Ifollowmycat have received global attention and thousands of loyal followers after Buzzfeed wrote an article listicle about them last month. Annie and Mia have backpacked through 15 countries together, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
N: How did you come up with the concept for the blog?
A: It’s funny that you use the word ‘concept’. I don’t see my lifestyle as a concept at all. I fell in love with solo travel when I was twenty and did my first Contiki trip in America. The two and a half months I was there, I met such incredible people and grew as a person, but I wasn’t fully content. To be apart from my warm ball of fur, my best friend, was hard. A lot of people laugh at that, but I don’t care what they think. I knew when I travelled again I wanted to bring Mia along, so I did, and started sharing all our adventures and challenges with the world.
N: In your blog you write that when you’re stuck on which country to go to next, you open up a map and wherever Mia places her paw, you go. Is this true?
A: Yes! I don’t always travel based on the whims of a cat’s paw of course, but a few times I have done this and it has been awesome. After spending a month in Spain last summer, I felt overwhelmed with all Europe had to offer, so I left it to Mia’s spontaneity. I opened up a big paper map of Europe for Mia and straightaway she picked Serbia. I did some research to make sure it was feasible then off we went. If blogs consistently brag about travel that is ‘off the beaten track’, how much more hipster is my idea?
N: What have been the reactions of other people upon seeing you and Mia?
A: Mia is very sociable and having her around is the best way to make friends. She really helps to ease my nerves when I am in a new country and don’t know the language because locals always want to help the girl with the cat in her backpack. When I was shopping at a local market in Azerbaijan Mia somehow managed to wiggle out of my backpack. I was so panicked when I couldn’t find her for twenty minutes, then suddenly I heard a loud burst of laughter. I found Mia being stroked by an old moustached shopkeeper while his little son fed her some fresh tuna. The shopkeeper ended up inviting us to lunch at his house (entirely through sign language) and we made some very unexpected new pals. People love adorable cats; it’s a universal truth.
N: You’ve become a celebrity in the online travel and cat communities. Your Instagram has 500,000 followers and features stylised, high quality shots of Mia. Can you take us through some of Mia’s cat shoots?
A: Travel and cat Instagram accounts are so popular these days, but I am the first to combine the two. I usually buy infant traditional clothing for Mia in the countries we visit. I don’t collect any other souvenirs but these outfits. One of my favourite images is of Mia in a tiny red sari sun bathing in front of the Taj Mahal. As I was photographing her I noticed a crowd of almost a hundred people gathering around us. People were so fascinated and in that moment I experienced true serendipity. I felt so connected to the local people, and realised how much animals bring out our shared humanity. It was a humbling moment.
N: I imagine that it is not easy to travel with a cat 24/7. What are some of the challenges you and Mia have faced?
A: It definitely isn’t easy being the sole caretaker of another being while travelling. She is my baby; I am always responsible for her safety. But she is so well behaved, trusting and independent. I have gone out partying and left her with backpackers I have befriended in hostels and it’s been fine. Even hostel employees or volunteers don’t mind keeping an eye on her when I want to go out alone sometimes. At first I was really hesitant to entrust Mia in the care of a stranger but when my request was received with kindness, I realised it is important to trust people, and healthy for Mia and I to have time apart from each other.
N: You’ve been in Morocco for the past two months. How has that experience been for you and Mia?
A: Morocco was quite difficult for us initially because there are stray cats everywhere, and domesticated cats have a lot of freedom to roam the streets of medinas as they please. It broke my heart because I could feel how much Mia wanted to join them, to make friends, but I just did not feel comfortable letting her out like that.
Our base is currently in Morocco because of the deep respect Islam has for cats. The colours, geometry and kindness of the locals fascinates both Mia and I. Turkey is high on our list as the next feline-friendly destination, as well as Iran.
N: What has travelling with Mia taught you about yourself?
A: One of the biggest lessons Mia has taught me is that each of our identities are as unique as our fingerprints. We have met hundreds of cats all over the world but truly Mia is not like them. She is an extraordinary cat. And in her silent wisdom I have realised that although we humans share love and pain in common, I am also an extraordinary woman.
N: What can we expect to see from you and Mia in the new year?
A: Travel has taught Mia incredible self-discipline and curiosity. I don’t know why they say curiosity killed the cat, because I can tell you that Mia has never felt more alive! In 2017 we will be focusing on painting and visual art. Although I am mainly a writer, I want to experiment with painting and teach Mia as well. My vison is to create a huge mural in a new country in collaboration with Mia.
Writer’s note: Annie and Mia are figments of my imagination. I interviewed them in the depths of my dreams. I hope this interview inspires cat fiends everywhere to attempt this sort of ridiculous and brilliant journey.