Christmas Past & Christmas Present

Christmas Present- 23rd December, 2017

Landing back into Heathrow airport on a grey, drizzly day would have been nothing short of unremarkable (and incredibly depressing) if it wasn't for the fact it was December 23rd and (nearly) Christmas. It's been made more remarkable for the fact that 'December 23rd' for the past two years has consisted on "flying home for Christmas". Today, we have flown "home" from New York, where we currently live, for a Christmas in the English countryside. In 2016, exactly one year ago to the day, we took a similar long-distance flight, but this time from Cuba to London after 134 days away travelling the Americas on the honeymoon of a lifetime. 

This blog post is a retrospective account of where my head was after returning from six months exploring North, South and Central America with my new husband. I'd had the most incredible adventures seeing several Wonders of the World, living out of a backpack and working tirelessly on what will always be known as this English Rose's best tan to date. Little did I know that no sooner than seven weeks later we would have been granted visas and moved across the Atlantic to set-up a new life in New York...

Christmas Past - 23rd December, 2016

Our arrival back to the UK was much anticipated and the festive spirit had certainly rubbed off on my parents who tackled the M25 rush hour to replicate the opening scene from Love Actually. Our version would be called Tears Actually. Which there were. Sort of. 

Playing up to the stereotype of men chaotically last-minute shopping, Mr A dashed off into the airport crowds to enjoy the temperamental service of Southern trains (clearly some things haven't changed since we've been away!) and headed for Selfridges. Meanwhile, feeling like my right arm had been chopped off without him by my side, I was embracing every bit of the festivities and particularly bowled over by the live music at Gatwick's Arrivals Lounge sharing some definite Christmas cheer. 

In a whirlwind of unpacking the trusty (yet a little disheveled by now) backpack and re-packing for our first 'Mr & Mrs A' Christmas in the 'shire, I was more than ecstatic to reacquaint myself with a fully-stocked fridge. Forty-eight hours back into life on British soil and I'm remarking on the biggest shocks of being home...

My iPhone can do more than just Candy Crush now??!
If you were following my blog during our travels in the latter half of 2016, you will know of my despair at lack of wifi and, lately, the Internet as a whole in the 1950s (aka Cuba). So, to have constant 3G and broadband connecting to my iPhone is a luxury that I won't be taking for granted anytime soon! Hello new apps, updated iCloud and new downloads on Spotify and, of course, the blogging world is now back at my fingertips - Planoly, Buffer, Crowdfire, Blogger, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram - good friends, I've missed you!
Who turned the lights out...
I forgot what it was like for it to be dark at 4pm! The days weren't massively longer in a Central America of late, with sunset typically around 6pm which felt short at the time but is nothing compared to Blighty. Luckily I'm in proper snuggle mode so cosying down by the log burner and drinking mulled wine totally works it! For those of you who are feeling the endurance of Autumn/Winter, just remember that since December 21st (Winter Solstice) we get an extra five minutes of daylight a day!

...and turned down the heating?
Having been used to spending the majority of the last eight to twelve weeks in shorts and a t-shirt, usually sweating it out very unglamorously and stripping into my bikini whenever it was culturally acceptable, I'm now embracing layers, and crucially, jumpers! Pass me the roll-neck.

The budget books have closed.
The discipline of writing down each and every expenditure (even for using the loo!) seems to be a habit I'm feeling at a loss for. You mean I can buy a drink and not have to write it in my Notes, tally up all costs at the end of the day, convert it from whichever of the ten currencies we were using into Sterling and add into our Excel spreadsheet? Well...I don't know what to do with all this free time!

Yet there's cash at my fingertips?
Until my little trip to South America this year, the only queues I had ever seen at a bank were on the BBC News when Northern Rock was in trouble and everyone was panic withdrawing. I now know that queuing for hours (I'm talking literally) to get to an ATM or cashier is commonplace in South America. And there's absolutely no guarantee that the cash machine won't run out of funds for several days. Thank you banks of Britain for your easy and FREE withdrawals. Not being charged a fortune to get hold of my money is just the kind of treat I've been waiting for (oh and cashback after this extravagant year of spending!!)

And the other silly things...

...Not having to pay for every meal, snack or bottle of water (thanks Mum & Dad). In the same breath, having to cook. I had next to no knowledge beforehand but now I'm back to uni days and boiling a kettle. 

...Wearing high heels, boy did that hurt! Pass me my Havianas. 

...Putting my wedding and engagement rings back on after safe keeping. Whilst I feel very attached to the silver band I handmade in my Yr 9 Design Technology class which has travelled with me during this trip, I'm glad to be reunited with the real McCoy!

...Still saying 'Gracias' and my poor Spanish lingo coming out. Apparently my mother doesn't understand 'Donde este le wrapping paper?'

And so on this note, I wish you a 'Feliz Navidad' as I tackle the jet-lag and reflect on just how lucky I am for another year of adventures.



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