This man decided to take a break from being a human and turned himself into a goat

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When life gets unbearably stressful, most of us opt for a vacation that relieves us of the worries of day-to-day life.

Thomas Thwaites, a UK-based designer, decided to take that a step further and take a break from being a human entirely. He became a goat.

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Seriously. With the help of a team of researchers and the financial support of London-based biomedical research group Wellcome Trust, Thwaites built himself a suit to achieve goat status and cross the Alps, all of which he chronicles in his upcoming book.

For Thwaites, the project wasn't just a physical adventure. It was a psychological one, too.

"I started thinking of the project as kind of this investigation into what present-day science and technology could do to help me achieve what I think is this ancient human desire of becoming more like an animal," Thwaites told Business Insider.

Here's what the experiment was like:

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This man decided to take a break from being a human and turned himself into a goat

This is Thomas Thwaites. He's a designer. You might know him from his TED Talk about building a toaster from scratch. Last year, he decided that he wanted to take a break from being a human.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

At first, Thwaites wanted to try being an elephant. Its size, he thought, would make it easier to transition from a two-legged person to a four-legged animal. But he changed his plan after speaking with a shaman who said that he'd connect better to his environment if he chose to become a goat.

Photo courtesy: Flickr/Diana Robinson

Next, Thwaites went about discovering how to be a goat. He spoke to goat behavioral experts to find out how and what goats think. After finding out that activity in several parts of his brain distinguish him from a goat, he met with a neuroscientist at University College London to try and hack a system for temporarily shutting those parts off, particularly the Broca's area, which is related to speech. To Thwaites' dismay, the technology to turn off a person's ability to understand language isn't there yet. So, Thwaites decided to focus on the physical aspects of becoming a goat.

Photo courtesy: Sioban Imms

To become a goat, Thwaites didn't just need the mind of one — he also needed a goat body. So he built some prototypes to resemble the four-legged amble of a goat. Movement didn't come easily with big wooden structures like this one.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

So Thwaites decided to consult some experts. He met with animal-movement researchers who helped him understand how goat muscles move, as well as prosthetists who helped him develop his final prototype. To get there, Thwaites had to demonstrate how he moved as a four-legged animal using shortened crutches.

Photo courtesy: Austin Houldsworth

Eventually, Thwaites and the researchers arrived at this, the goat suit Thwaites would graze around in for six days.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

To avoid damaging Thwaites' wrists, the arms -- or forelegs -- of his goat prosthesis can't move around a lot once he's settled in.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

His feet were essentially lifted up on wedges, so that instead of being firmly planted on the ground, they could be at an angle that made it easier to walk around on four legs. The body of the suit was made with waterproof fabric to shield Thwaites from some of the elements.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

Before departing on his journey as a goat, Thwaites visited a goat farm in the Alps to ask a goat farmer named Sepp if he could join his herd. On his first day as a member of the herd, Thwaites traipsed down the valley's steep mountainsides headfirst in his suit. "It was kind of painful," said Thwaites. "It was actually a shocking, difficult thing."

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

Thwaites also had to graze on grass all day. "I learned to quite enjoy eating grass," he said. Goats, like other plant eaters, have an organ called a rumen that is filled with microorganisms that help them break down grass into edible sugars.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

Humans don't have a rumen. Thwaites considered swallowing a microbial mixture that would mimic the rumen and help him digest the grass, but he was told that that was unsafe. Instead, he used a pressure cooker to cook the grass and break it down into a kind of "grass-stewy soup."

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

Thwaites told Business Insider that he'd eventually like to work on building a "kind of artificial rumen," but that'll likely take some time. In the meantime, he relied on the pressure cooker to break down the grass for him. Before drinking the concoction, he used a chemical test that confirmed the greens had been broken down into sugar.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

The best part of the whole thing for Thwaites? "Probably just hanging out with the other goats and being part of the herd," he told Business Insider. "It was quite a nice time."

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

By the end, Thwaites had even made a goat friend, though he said he thought that he was going to make some goat enemies as well. Though there were some tense moments, no head-butts ensued: "In the end it was the kind of moment where you're accepted into the herd."

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

After six days, Thwaites completed his journey across the Alps as a goat, but he says that he's not done yet. He's been invited to hang out with other goats this summer, where he can hopefully push his prototype further. "I just think I'd like to continue iterating this thing to get to this dream to actually gallop," he said.

Photo courtesy: Tim Bowditch

"GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human" goes on sale on May 17.

Photo courtesy: Princeton Architectural Press


You can preorder the book here -- and, as a bonus, it comes with a set of 100 animal postcards -- for more images and details of his trip.

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