Cat who hitchhiked on a journey around the globe: When former rugby player Dan Nicholson, of the Scottish Edinburgh team, quit his job to travel the world, he hoped the experience would change his life.
But what the former athlete, now 31, couldn’t imagine is that it would be a little kitten that would transform him forever.
After stopping playing rugby, Dean had become a welder. Dean says he was tired of working 9 hours a day and decided to get on his bike and see the world.
He left Scotland and traveled to Amsterdam. He passed through Belgium, Greece, Switzerland and Italy and boarded a ferry to Croatia. From there he went to Bosnia, where he met a striped cat that would become his travel companion.
It was an ordinary day. I was about to cross the border into Montenegro, and I was riding up a big hill by bike,” Dean told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime show.
Dean Nicholson and Nala became friends immediately
Dean heard a cat meowing behind him. She was following him up the hill. So he stopped, pulled over, and she just didn’t leave his side. Dean put her on the front of his bike and made her comfortable to take her to the next town.
I wanted to find out if she had a microchip identification.”
But the cat had no microchip.
She climbed on my shoulder and slept and I thought that’s it, she would come with me on the trip,” Dean says.
The original plan to go to Thailand fell apart and Dean realized that the kitten, whom he named Nala, had made him change.
She taught me to slow down and enjoy life much more. With her on the bike, her needs come first and that delayed the trip. Now we stop and play a lot, “he says, talking about Austria.
If there is a forest, we stop to play. And she loves to run on the beach.”
Just a cat, a bike and the open road
Nala has met several tourist attractions in Europe
The pair has cycled about 16 thousand km. Dean had to go after documents and make a pet passport for Nala. She became so important that her needs dictate the route.
I couldn’t go to Iran with the cat because there are no hotels that accept animals. The plan now is to ride through Russia in spring.
Wherever they go, Dean and Nala draw attention. Those who see them marvel at the little purring passenger who travels in a basket in front of the bike or on Dean’s shoulder if the road is rough.
Dean wants to finish his adventure on a beach in Thailand
People stop them to see the cat, and Nala is responsible for having already taken off at least a liter of free beer for its owner.
Nala went to Albania, Greece and returned to Dunbar (Scotland) for a pit stop. She has ridden in a cable car and even kayak.
They have become a sensation in Instagram, accumulating 800,000 followers and receiving about 1,000 comments a day.
Its 150,000 YouTube subscribers generate enough advertising money to support them, including bicycle maintenance and cat food.
Nala even has her own calendar and now she has won a book that shows her adventures.
We will spend the winter in Greece working in some animal sanctuaries. Then we’ll pass through Russia in the spring and go to Thailand, Dean says.
I want to fulfill that dream of sitting on the beach drinking coconut water.