Before the borders came down, Dean Nicholson of Scotland decided to travel the world on his bicycle. It was only ever supposed to be a solo journey, but fate intervened in the form of a tiny kitten. Catching his attention by mewing on the side of the road, Nala the cat soon became an international superstar. Having passed through Budapest earlier this month, Dean seems to have headed East, with a lucrative book deal in his backpack.
Scottish cyclist Dean Nicholson had been travelling the world on two wheels when he found himself approaching the Montenegro border. “It was 12 miles from the nearest town,” says Dean, “so it was obvious someone had dumped her”. We don’t want to give too much away – there’s that book coming soon! – but the pair have been inseparable ever since.
Dean and Nala the cat came into Hungary in late February. “The sun was shining and it was a great day for cycling,” says Dean. “We had no trouble crossing the border. The land was very flat, making it really easy to cycle through, and the quaint villages I passed were a nice change from the fields of Serbia.”
Dean and Nala had already attracted a steady social media following, amassing almost 750,000 followers on Instagram, and inspiring a series of comics by illustrator Kelly Ulrich about their travels. Dean has also just signed a lucrative book deal and his publishers are keeping the pair's next destination after Hungary under wraps.
Earlier on in Hungary before the shutdown, the duo had spent their first night in the country camped in the woods, and arrived in Budapest to heavy rain. “But it was absolutely gorgeous,” says Dean, “and I explored it that weekend and it got more and more beautiful. I couldn’t help but walk about and see the sights.” The first stop was Buda Castle, where Nala enjoyed playing in the nearby trees.
“This is when I found out Nala doesn’t like cranes very much,” says Dean. “We walked past the building sites and she jumped back on my shoulder!” The duo ended up spending more time than expected in Hungary – as borders began to close due to the coronavirus, they had to rearrange some of their plans.
No trip to Budapest was complete without lángos, and the Hungarian delicacy that captured the Scotsman’s heart. “Not even joking,” he says, “they are gorgeous”.