Surprise! We’re home!

We have been home almost 3 weeks. THREE WEEKS! In a way it feels like we’ve been home two minutes but in other ways it feels like we’ve never been away.

It has been so lovely catching up with family and friends. I am loving my home comforts being back at my mum & dad’s but it has been a little hard being apart from Jonny after spending 24 hours a day together for 337 days!!

I’ve got my fix of almost all of the food on my foodie bucket list which has helped transition back to being home 😍🍴




Chippy chips & curry sauce!


Raspberry tart!


Sozo fry - all the bread!

Anyway, here’s the almost failed homecoming story that I promised…

I had been working very secretly with my uncle David. He was going to pick us up at Dublin Airport and we were going to go surprise my mum at work on 3rd March (which also happened to be my sister’s birthday!) I thought I was doing really well telling lots of little lies to make them think I was still in Thailand. I even went on the WiFi on the plane to spin them a story.

But when your mum was a detective inspector in a past life those little lies aren’t very convincing 😑

It turned out that of all days she had decided she wanted to go visit my granny. She phoned my granny to see if she was in and my granny said, “we’re not in, we’re on our way to Dublin.” Alarm bells then went in my mum’s head ⏰⏰ There was only one possible reason why my uncle and granny would be going to Dublin 🙈

Rewind to the night before our flight home. I contacted her friend in work who I knew could keep a secret. This would make it easier for me to arrive at my mum’s work. So when I got off the plane in Dublin I turned my phone on and saw all these frantic messages from Grainne

So not only was my mum onto me but she was getting everyone else involved. Instead of keeping her suspicions to herself! My auntie Lynne was on Dublin airports arrivals page checking when there were flights landing from Dubai. Then they were checking my online activity and because I had come online around the time of the plane arriving this confirmed it. I was home. My mum phoned my dad. I’m surprised she didn’t have a news bulletin on the lunch time news and a notice in the papers!!

Not going to lie. I cried. Tears of pure frustration! I had worked so hard to keep this a secret and DI Garland and PC Mussen were ruining it all! It didn’t help that we had been on the go since Tuesday night and it was now Thursday morning 🙈😴

When we eventually worked out how to get out of Dublin airport we found David and my granny. My granny was so shocked to see me and asked, “is your car here?” David hadn’t told her that they were there to pick us up so she was SO confused!!

It was time to change our plan.

We went to Jonny’s house first. Happy days we thought – at least we’ll be able to surprise one set of parents. Of course that didn’t go to plan either! We arrived at Jonny’s house and he ran up the driveway to sneak in through the back of the house. But of course his dad was sitting in the back garden so it was all a bit of an anti-climax.

It was okay. We could still surprise his mum when she got in from work. We hid in the front room with a plan to jump out from behind the door. So Jonny went to jump while I was behind him filming it on the GoPro. His mum’s reaction was pretty tame. We thought she would have been a little more surprised to see us. JONNY’S BROTHER HAD TOLD HER WE WERE HOME!!!!!!! Why oh why was everyone out to ruin this for us?!

We spent some time catching up with Jonny’s mum & dad which was lovely. I was FREEZING. I thought I had experienced cold weather in New Zealand. I had forgotten how cold it can get in NI.

Around 4pm we made the journey with Jonny’s dad to my mum’s house.

In the meantime David & my granny had arrived at my mum’s. David spun her the best story that he had been in Dublin to pick up a book when she was so shocked that he arrived without me. He told her the book was going to cost £30 for delivery so he decided to go a “wee run” in the car with my granny. I think my mum bought it although she said she kept peeking out the window because she thought I was hiding in the back of the car!! She even had ‘welcome home’ banners and a balloon up 🎈

We arrived around 45 minutes after they got there. I sneaked into the house as quietly as possible armed with the GoPro. As soon as my mum saw me she started shouting, “HAVE YOU BEEN IN THAT CAR THE WHOLE TIME? DID HE PICK YOU UP AT THE AIRPORT?!” No tears. No hugs. Just shouting!! I think she knew full well that we would be walking through the door sometime that night.

After shouting at her for almost spoiling it I swore her to secrecy. My dad was the next to arrive. I went and sat in his chair in the back living room. I could hear him talking about me in the kitchen. Anyone who watched the Cape Town reunion video will know that my dad likes to take his time. It felt like it took him 2 hours to walk into the room! He did seem pretty shocked that we were just sitting there but he’s not one to show too much emotion.

The Chinese food got ordered while we waited for Laura to come home from her nursing placement. The food arrived (I was in honey chilli chicken heaven!) but still no Laura. I went upstairs to bring down an extra chair so we would all fit at the table. As I was walking into the kitchen I saw her car coming down the street. In a mad panic I just dumped the chair in the living room and commando crawled past the window back into the kitchen. I waited for my mum to swap the cars about with her and eventually she opened the door. AT LAST! Someone showed real emotion! She cried. For a bit because I think she was glad to see me and then because she realised Jonny had the GoPro in her make-up free, afro haired, gurning state!

So here it is – the home sweet home video!

The next surprise was for the Mussen’s. I hid under the stairs as I heard them come in. Josh had arrived with a piece of paper with all the evidence that I was on my way home. I had Alan (the travelling monkey!) in my hand and stuck him out through a crack in the door. Emma shouted “WHAT THE HELL?!” and then realised that we were home. PC Mussen was going to get punched along with her DI for all their investigating!!

The final surprise of the day (thank goodness!) was my other granny. Lynne went into the house and Josh timed us sitting in the car for 2 minutes (he couldn’t wait any longer!) then we went into her room and I casually said “Hiya granny!” I swear I thought she was going to have a heart attack!!! She must have held onto me for 5 minutes. It was as if she thought I wasn’t going to make it home alive!

So, that was it!

Thanks so much to Grainne for trying her very best to throw my mum off and I apologise that you had to endure her in her hyperactive “Natalie’s coming home” state! And a big thanks to my “unki Dave” for his amazing acting skills!

This week has brought us back to reality with a bang! Jonny started back to work yesterday which was pretty painful. I felt awful for him but equally awful for myself as I had a job interview. This was the worst kind of reality for me. However, I got the official news this morning that I was successful! I now have just over a week until I start back to work. AHHHHH!

Time to organise the next gap year…

Until then…goodbye x



Koh Tao: the end!


Yep. We are home! Although you probably all know this by now! I still can’t quite believe our year of adventure is over. But all good things must come to an end 🔚

Our final week in Thailand consisted of a whole load of relaxation, snorkelling, more relaxation, too many mojitos, and oh yeah! an engagement 💍

As soon as we arrived in Bangkok we got the sleeper train to Koh Tao – we didn’t want to waste a minute of island time! We ditched our big backpacks in a hostel so we didn’t have much to carry. We chilled with a Singha before heading to the train station. The train turned out to be a pretty horrible experience 🚂👎 we seemed to have got stuck in the noisiest carriage EVER! It was impossible to get a decent sleep. But knowing Koh Tao was just a few hours away made it a little more bearable.


Singha's at Lub D!

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South Africa: the final chapter!

Sawubona…Hallo…Hello for the final time from SA 👋 (well technically we’re in Thailand right now!) We have had a very busy month! I really can’t believe our time in South Africa has come to an end.

After Jonny’s parents left us we got stuck back into volunteering. There was a day of depression after leaving the luxury of the Dugong Guesthouse 😧

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Khanya hospice & the big reunion with the Clarke’s!

Hellooo! Sorry for the lack of updates. Jonny and I managed to use up the hospices WiFi allowance within one week – we didn’t realise there was a limit 🙈🙈

Anywho…we have survived two weeks of volunteering ☑ to say we’re tired would be an understatement 😴 😴 we’re so not used to work!

So, what have we been up to?! (Apart from spending lots of time watching the really cute monkeys…)


Cute or what?!

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South Africa: PE to Umkomaas!

Sawubona from Umkomaas 👋

I thought I would do a post to update you on our final weeks in PE and the start of our volunteer journey in Khanya hospice.

Our final couple of weeks in PE were very chilled. We made the most of having absolutely nothing to do!

We spent a lot of time here…



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A look back at our travel highlights from 2015!

I know I said that my last post would be my final one for 2015 but it wouldn’t be the end of the year if I didn’t do a bit of reminiscing. So I thought I’d do a little round up of the main highlights since we started this journey in April.

In 9 months we have explored 8 different countries over three different continents 🌏🌍 We have flown 13 times ✈ Slept in 80 different beds, 2 tents ⛺ and a camper van 🚐

It was a difficult task trying to think of only a few highlights. As you can see I got a little carried away…
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