When former Edinburgh Rugby player Dean Nicholson packed his job in to travel the world, he hoped it would be a life-changing experience.
But what the 31-year-old didn’t realise is that it would be a tiny four-legged friend that would change him forever.
Dean, a welder from Dunbar, was sick of his 9-5 existence and decided to get on his bike and see the world.
He left Scotland and travelled to Amsterdam. He passed through Belgium, Greece, Switzerland and Italy before boarding a ferry to Croatia.
He then travelled on to Bosnia which is where he met a little striped creature who would become his travel companion.
Dean told BBC Radio Scotland’s
Drivetime with John Beattie: “It was just an ordinary day. I was about to cross into Montenegro and I was cycling up a big hill.
“I heard a wee cat miaowing from behind me. She was chasing me up the hill. So I stopped and pulled over and she just wouldn’t leave my side. I put her on the front of my bike and got her comfy to take her into the next town. I went to find out if she was microchipped.
“But she wasn’t and she climbed up on my shoulder and fell asleep and I just thought that was it, she was coming with me on this tour.”
The original plan to get to Thailand as quickly as possible went out of the window and Dean realised the little kitten, who he named Nala, had changed him.
Speaking from Austria, he said: “She has taught me just to slow down and enjoy life a lot more. Having her on the bike her needs come first and it slowed the tour down and now we stop and play a lot. If there’s woods we stop and play and she loves running on the beach.
The pair have covered about 10,000 miles. Dean had to organise a pet passport for Nala, and now the world is their oyster.
So important is his furry friend that she even dictates the itinerary.
Dean said: “I couldn’t go through Iran with the cat because they wouldn’t let her stay in hotels so we missed that. The plan now is to cycle up through Russia in the spring.”
Everywhere they go, Dean and Nala attract attention. Local people are in awe of the little purring passenger who travels in a basket on the front of his customised bike or on Dean’s shoulder if it’s a bit bumpy.
People stop them to see the cat and she has been responsible for at least one free pint of beer for her owner.
Nala has been to Albania and Greece and back to Dunbar for a pitstop. She has been in a cable car and even enjoyed kayaking.
They have become social media sensations, racking up 800,000 followers on Instagram and about 1,000 messages a day.
Their 150,000 subscribers on YouTube bring in enough advertising money to keep them going in bike repairs and cat food.
Nala even has her own calendar and now a book charting their adventures.
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Dean said: “We are going to spend winter in Greece working at some animal sanctuaries. Then through Russia in the spring and on to Thailand. I want that whole dream of sitting on the beach – with a coconut.”