I’m always surprised by the friends I make on my solo travels. From hippies to wandering artists, surgeons that quit their jobs to travel full-time to recently dumped millennials who decided to bicycle across Europe to find peace in their hearts – I’ve made friends with a colorful array of souls on my solo trips across the world. But it was a recent friend that stole my heart away, and this friend wasn’t even human.

No…this friend was a cat.

A cat named “Meow.”

As soon as I arrived at the Birds Nest home-stay in Ubud, Bali, a skinny and striped young kitty with only a little stump as a tail pounced on my lap as I was checking into my nest (yes, I lived in an actual woven nest 4 floors off the ground) meowing and kneading her paws onto my skin. Let’s be honest: you can never tell with cats; most of them are complete assholes, swiping their claws at you with the flick of a switch and always independently swishing their tails at you as they walk away. But this cat was an exception. She was an intensely affectionate young cat, constantly chatting with every person who walked in the room. She meowed so much, it almost became annoying (and this is coming from a huge animal lover). I learned from the Balinese men that worked at the Bird’s Nest that they found her homeless in the rice fields, and her constant meowing was so obvious, they decided to name her the sound she consistently produced: “Meow”.

This chatty kitty followed me everywhere. She sat on the ground of the bird’s nest every morning, she followed me to the bathroom (where a single sink and a a tub made of rock sat underneath an open nest underneath the green palms), scurried along the dirt path in attempts to catch a fluttering butterfly and lazily pawing her way through the rice fields, nibbling on the tall grasses and chasing the wild ducks. This friend, although four-legged, was my sweet companion on my 4 days living in the middle of an open rice field. On this part of my solo trip through Indonesia, I was starting to miss home, my friends, and my boyfriend back in the states. When Valentines Day came, I sat in my bird’s nest – with only a mattress, some light curtains to shield out the bugs, and a book – and took in the view of the fading sun from four floors up, the tall grasses and fields of rice stretching out into the distance. The only sound accompanying me every evening being the sound of crickets. A wave of melancholy swallowed me; I didn’t feel sad but I didn’t feel happy either. I was in this in-between state of lonely and fully content. My always-present feline friend perked me up on even the quietest of days – her bouncing head springing through the rice fields, her meow echoing throughout the open-air lobby, her constant crave of a pat on the head. Meow was always so chipper. And this friend, although non-human, left the greatest impact on me during those 4 days stranded in a rice field in Bali.

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Meow: Among the Rice Fields of Ubud

June 24, 2017

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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical moments through my lens and my pen. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I'm inspired to share the light around me. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.

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Helena Woods is a destination newborn and family photographer based in France and New England and travels worldwide. She is known for her natural light, modern classic, and emotive photography style.

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