Nala's World is about a bike ride around the world with a unique twist. The cyclist, Dean, does his bike ride with a cat. Dean is from Dunbar in Scotland and his choice of travel companion is by accident. He rescues the cat from the side of the road in the Bosnian mountains. He names her Nala and they embark on an incredible adventure together. This book is about the bond between Dean and Nala during their bike ride and all of the things that they experience together.
The first 3 chapters of the book cram in a whole lot of adventure. Dean recounts when he first meets Nala and the tension of smuggling the kitten across the border into Montenegro. There's the back story about why he decided to cycle around the world and how he hurt himself diving off the Mostar Bridge. You are immediately drawn into the story by this action packed tale. When you reach the part where the kitten falls asleep in the nape of Dean's neck it will melt your heart.
The focus of this book is about the relationship between Dean and Nala, more so than the bike ride. Dean has to quickly adjust to life on the road with a cat with plenty of trips to the vet, a pet passport and border crossings.
Dean soon realises that Nala is giving him a much more intimate experience of the world. He finds that people approach him and strike up conversations because of the cat. In particular, at a refuge camp in Greece he shares conversations with people there. He relects that this would probably not have happened if it was not for the cat.
People approached him, sometimes in the middle of nowhere, because they recognised him from social media. The book is an interesting example of the impact of social media on our lives.
A large section of the book is about Dean's time as a kayak guide in Santorini, to earn more money. His descriptions of this place really make it sound idyllic. This is when the social media craze for Nala errupted. People started to turn up from all over the place to see Nala. At first Dean doesn't know what to do with this new found fame. He soon decides he could use his influence to do some good in the world and highlights the work of animal charities and the widespread issue of dogs being abandoned in many parts of the world.
He raises an incredible amount of money and is able to help many animal charities. A calendar with photos of Nala raised £90,000.
It's not all about Nala and there is plenty of cycling and world travel action to enjoy. On the road to Turkey Dean had to cycle in a dry heat that could reach 100 Fahrenheit, whilst hauling 50kgs of belongings, including Nala's pet carrier. At one point he lost his passport and belongings. In Azerbaijan Dean partakes in the tea drinking ritual with strangers. Dean also experiences the world at the start of the Covid pandemic.
This book might not be the classic tale of a solo round the world cycle trip, but travel with a cat brings an interesting dimension to the genre. It is an engrossing book for the combination of adventure and highlighting an issue that doesn't get as much attention as it should. This is the problem of how cruel people can be to animals and that there are charities struggling for funds to help these animals. The book also teaches us that the power of social media can be used to make a positive difference in the world.