Is Van Cat Meow fake? Confessions of a social media influencer

On this particular day, we were camped at the Recreation Ground at Panmure, a small town of just a shop, a pub, and 424 people. It was early morning, and as I spent some time with Willow outside as she explored the footy oval, I had a quick scroll on Instagram which left me considering how I present our adventures to the world.

The reality of travelling around Australia is that not every moment is stunning, awe-inspiring, or breathtaking, regardless of what the tourism brochures and social media posts might tell us.

In fact, there’s lots of moments in between those magical experiences that are not particularly noteworthy at all. But, it’s these moments that reveal the true reason for why we travel.

In less than 2 minutes I was exposed to hundreds of exquisitely styled photographs of #vanlife showcasing magical moment after magical moment. No where to be seen were the rainy days stuck inside, the overnights in Bunnings carparks, and the unease that sometimes creeps in late at night of not knowing where this road may take us. Were we doing it wrong?

Willow jumped up onto the bench as I sat next to her. These influencers seem to have it all figured out, I said to myself as I scratched Willow behind the ear. And how do they keep their vans so immaculately tidy?

But then I thought, what do people see when our photos appear in their social media feeds? Are we telling the whole story? After all, many would describe us as social media influencers.

Willow jumped down and walked onto the oval. The goalposts formed the perfect background as I snapped away on my camera. But before I could get the shot, Willow walked away. I took out a treat from my pocket and enticed her back in frame.

Back in 2016 when we had been travelling for a year, our little instagram of a couple of hundred followers blew up into the tens of thousands after our story went viral. At first I was afraid, as if something had been taken away from me. However, I soon realised that the people tuning into Willow’s story were the warmest group of people I could ever hope for.

Another year later, Willow’s Instagram was near 100,000, and then I guess you could say I was exposed to the darker side of social media.

These days on social media, I feel I can see through a lot of what is real and what is not, especially when it comes to brand advertising.

Influencer wouldn’t be a term if it wasn’t for individuals being sponsored by companies to influence you to buy their products. In the past, we have run sponsored posts for Bonds, Google, Royal Canin, Bravecto – and I’ll be honest, it all left me feeling a little bit empty inside. We were fortunate enough to be able to donate most of the proceeds to charities in need.

I see people chasing new followers as if it will make them rich and famous, but the only winners are the corporations whose brands are being promoted.

Every second Instagram post seems like someone is selling you a health shake or handing out coupon codes for products you don’t need, or even worse, teasing you with some unobtainable dream lifestyle beyond the reach of most.

These days, readers of our stories can opt to help us pay our website/newsletter bills by sending a few dollars to us directly. It means we can keep everything free for everyone and that’s something I feel great about.

Though, I’m not against the idea of doing sponsored posts in the future – because it means I can help animals in need – it does mean I can be very selective. Just recently we had someone contact us about promoting their insurance product in Australia – too slimy for us, thank you!

Willow jumped up onto the boundary rail and again, I was too slow getting the shot before she jumped back down. I pick her up and place her back there to get the shot.

I’m grateful that our website allows me to step away from the hype of social media. It’s a place where I have the time and space to tell stories how I want to tell them, without concern for an algorithm, because I know the people who need to hear these stories will find us somehow.

It means we can keep it as real as possible, because I think that’s what people want to see.

So there we were at a rec ground in rural Victoria, in a town that nobody has probably heard of. Beautiful but unremarkable. And there, a little black cat strutted her stuff across the grass.

The photos I took will need to be processed on my laptop. I’ll boost up the shadows to balance the background scene with Willow’s beautiful coat, but I won’t be slimming her down or editing out her primordial pouch. Willow is a real cat and I think she is beautiful as she is.

If you browse through our Instagram you might think that Willow is out exploring at every opportunity, but this isn’t true. She enjoys her time outside, but she’ll follow it up with a 22 hour nap!

Sure, you probably won’t find Panmure rec ground on the front page of Instagram, but there’s something about watching Willow explore that made it the most magical place on earth, something about being somewhere so ordinary with someone that means so much to me.

I realise not everyone can drop everything to travel around Australia with their cat, but what I hope to present to the world is the importance of these special moments we spend with our best friends.

With Willow asleep back in our campervan home, I look back on the snaps I had taken that morning. I hope that when people see them they’ll put their phone down and think, oh yeah, I could have a cup of tea with my cat in the backyard, or lie down next to them in the sun in their living room. This is what really matters.

For us, travelling gives us plenty of these special moments together, no matter where we are. After all, that’s the real reason we travel, and the reason we share it with you.

* * *

Thanks for reading our latest story. We’ve seen a lot of rec ground across Australia and they’re actually a wonderful, peaceful place to spend some time.

Also, don’t bother following us on Instagram – it’s a real time waster! Though, if you don’t want to miss a thing, make sure you join our email newsletter.

In our next story we will be crossing the border into South Australia, but not before we contend with a bag of avocados not permitted over state lines.

Profile Photo

Van Cat Meow

Please try again.
Thanks for joining us! A welcome email is on its way to you!

Come along for the ride!

Willow has captured the hearts of thousands around the world as she travels through the wilds of Australia. Join our newsletter and see for yourself.

As seen on:

Lonely Planet

The Daily Telegraph

Business Insider

People Magazine

Sunrise TV



Cart Item Removed. Undo
  • No products in the cart.