A popular phrase in Scotland is: ‘Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye.’ Simply, it means that the things that are meant to happen to you will happen. It’s also the opening and closing phrase of the book, Nala’s World by Dean Nicholson. Though the writer means it in reference to the cat he rescues during his adventures, it also really applies to the anticipation many people had for this book. Personally, this book was a release that I’d been looking forward to since I first heard about it and it does not disappoint.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Nala’s World is an account of Dean Nicholson’s bicycle ride around the world. Though he started his journey in Dunbar – for those of you unfamiliar with Scottish geography, it’s next to Edinburgh – it really begins around the point where he meets his future furry companion Nala, on the side of a road in Bosnia. Finding her skinny and alone, Dean ends up doing what he can to nurse her back to health and adopts her as a pet. Though Dean occasionally reflects on life prior to his travels, the rest of the book follows their adventures throughout Europe, as well as their growing popularity for social media, concluding with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing them to stop for the time being.
If you’re like me and follow Dean Nicholson and Nala on social media, a lot of the events of the book will seem familiar. Instagram though only really provides short snapshots into the daily lives of the pair. Nala’s World is a much more intimate experience, written from a first-hand perspective. It’s full of joyous moments with Nala, moments of contemplation and self-reflection, and a few heart-breaking events. At 261 pages, it’s a nice read that left no emotion untouched.
Most of all, it appealed most to my sense of wonder, as a friendship between a cat and man ‘who considered himself more of a dog person’ blooms with the countryside, back roads of Europe as their setting. Dean points out that the name Nala translates to Gift in Swahili, and that accurately summarises what she means to him. The additional fact that Dean first decided to go on this adventure to do something new and exciting with his life really hit a note with me.
Though Dean does meet other people in his travels, the character who he shares the most dialogue with is Nala, which is an amusing mental image – just a bearded, scraggly Scotsman chatting away to his cat. The other characters that Dean meets also adds an extra layer of appeal to his adventures – it’s really nice to hear about all the different people who help him out during his journey, whether it be with odd jobs to help him get a bit of money or opening their homes up to him to offer him shelter. The short conversation he has with a man outside of Athens felt profound and touching to me in particular. There are also some comedic moments, like when Dean gets pulled over by a police officer. Thinking he’s in trouble, the man only advises him to make camp soon because the weather is planning to take a turn for the worse and ‘you don’t want your cat to catch a cold’.
Additionally, throughout the book, there are breaks in the narrative which are replaced with photos, a couple from Dean’s past, but mostly of Nala, the places they saw, and the people they met. It makes for a nice visual aid and offers readers a bit of a breather. Even if you have already seen them on Dean’s Instagram page, I highly encourage flicking through these photos.
All in all, I found Nala’s world to be an excellent read. It’s a nice compact catalogue of adventures and a fairly well paced out read. It’s a shame that the current state of the world has put a break on Dean and Nala’s travels, but it would be lovely if this book were to get a sequel for the latter half of the pair’s journey. In a time when most of us are still stuck inside, this will be a pleasant read for those who long for adventure.
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