12th July – Somewhere above America/London/Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

While I’m flying on this final flight as well as watching plenty of movies I have plenty of time to reflect on my round the world trip. I’ve been to 21 countries (some more than once) South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, China, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and USA, 25 plane take offs, a parachute jump, 24 plane landings, a helicopter, a sleeper train, an overlander, a canoe, a mokoro, a raft, a campervan, trains, cars, boats, 4×4’s, undergrounds, cars, bikes, buses (one on the roof), tuk-tuks, and even a camel, I’ve surfed, paddleboarded, and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, seen the big 5 most dangerous animals in Africa, came inches from stepping on a deadly puff adder, fought with a monkey, risked my life in a devil’s pool, white water rafted, hiked, swam with sharks, been wrapped in snakes, eaten caterpillars, kissed a giraffe, held a sea turtle, come face to face with an angry silver back gorilla, broken a phone, a camera, and a rib, been to see the tallest building in the world, the most beautiful building in the world, the Great Wall of China, watched opera at the most famous opera house in the world, played cricket in Goa, golf in LA, yoga’d on rooftops, visited Buddhas actual tooth, dined with a Japanese filmstar, climbed mountains with donkeys, bumped into Ursina and Emily from India in Sri Lanka, Tom and Kat from India in Nepal, and got recognised from India by a lady I didn’t recognise in Sydney, I’ve been snowed on, rained on, suntanned, watched the Affair in Sydney and spotted the star in Santa Monica, seen some of the world’s greatest art, architecture and cities, I’ve eaten magic cookies, I’ve been massaged in Bali, Reiki’d in Oz, palm read by a tour guide in India and given messages about my future from a flight attendant medium on this actual flight. I also turned 40. It’s been epic, amazing, breathtaking and emotional, I’ve met beautiful people and made friends for life especially my wonderful hosts – Jess in London, Vanessa in Dubai, the Heegers in Brunei, Rachel in Bondi, the Graingers in Brookvale, Simon and Kasia in Los Angeles and Joe in Santa Monica. I have had the best time on an adventure that has filled me with memories that will last my lifetime and would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Now to get me home where it all began. We touchdown in Heathrow. Mum and dad don’t have enough room in their car for me as well as all the luggage, luckily the lovely Sarah has come to collect me and as we push our luggage through “nothing to declare” there she is in the arrival hall holding up a Bab’s Cabs sign.

We drive home in the pouring rain that makes visibility almost impossible stopping for coffee in Reading. I’d forgotten just how green the countryside is. Crossing over the Severn bridge we finally arrive in Wales and it isn’t long before we get to Cardiff. Before driving to my house we stop off for a cuddle and a catch up with Gram, it’s so lovely to see her after 11 months and 17 days of travelling the world. The time has flown by and once I’m home it’s like I’ve never been away. Reunited with my brother and Lizzie we all tuck into good old British fish and chips.

Welcome home!

6th July – Santa Monica/Malibu, Los Angeles, California, USA

We walk to Swingers for American breakfasts and coffee. We are filled with confident anticipation on route to the Wales v Portugal Euro 2016 semifinal game that we have opted to watch at Ye Old King’s Head. Armed with pints of Guinness and good seats we watch, proud and patriotic, along with our adopted Welsh supporters Joe (American) and Kasia (Polish). Mum has even brought along a Welsh flag. Sadly we lose but even by my novice spectating experience we put in a valiant effort.

After the game we go for a coffee at Dogtown with Simon, who couldn’t come and watch the game with us because he had work. Reluctantly I agree to go to Roger Dunn’s Golf Shop. After trying on some hats and using the bathroom, I sit outside on the steps in the sunshine and wait for the golfers to finish trialling clubs. Next stop 3rd street promenade for mass sunglass trying on.

A drive up the PCH brings us to Gladstones oceanfront restaurant where we sit looking out over the beach watching a seal play with/eat the seagulls while we drink wine and munch on a platter of seafood.

We quickly change back at home and head out for dinner at Tar and Roses. We sit out in the heated garden, it takes us a while to notice that we are actually sitting outside. The restaurant is very cool, low lit and our waitress has the most gentle voice and kind demeanour. We have a lovely evening sampling many fine dishes including wood roasted peach with speck and burrata, honey ginger glazed sweet potatoes and mouthwatering slow cooked ribs. Full and happy we say goodnight to Simon and Kasia and head home.

1st July – Santa Monica/Downtown, Los Angeles, California, USA

After breakfast and a walk Cholo and I jump in the car and drive Downtown on a tomato plant watering mission. I promised Simon and Kasia that I’d pop back to water their plants while they’re away in Montana. Mentally I meant to come yesterday but I was seduced by the beach and completely forgot until I was laying in bed last night.

The traffic is bad so we unfortunately miss half an hour of the Wales versus Belgium football game and I’m devastated when I turn on the tv to see Belgium is winning 1-0. Fortunately within minutes Wales equalises and Cholo and I get comfy to patriotically support from the sofa. I’ve decided Cholo is an honorary Wales supporter. As luck would have it my mum and dad brought welsh cakes from home and I cannot think of a better game snack to munch on to accompany the coffee I grabbed from the 1st floor!

During the game I vacuum and empty the dishwasher and water the plants, paying particular attention to the tomato plants that have metamorphosed into triffids in our absence. All jobs done, Wales win. Hooray. All around a productive visit Downtown. Cholo and I hit the road in order to miss the Friday traffic.

Back home we sunbathe, I make dinner and slump in front of the tv. After my fill of Orange is the New Black I attempt to watch both Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2, but fail somewhere during the second movie waking up in the final moments. A gone midnight walk for Cholo and I hit the hay.