1) On September 20 we were in London, the day the UK commemorates the Battle of Britain. It was after lunch, and we were walking down the street towards Westminster Abbey. Then, quite unexpectedly, we heard a roar from above, and a squadron of Hurricanes and Spitfires roared over - very low and very, very loud. Then, they did a second pass. At that moment, an elderly gentleman (obviously in his Sunday best) started to talk to us. He had lived in London as a boy, and had tears in his eyes as he watched those vintage aircraft fly over. He said he remembered those days well, and the sound of those planes. For a moment, history came alive. It was spine tingling.
2) On October 20, after spending 5 weeks in Canada for the campaign and election, I drove to Toronto, flew to London, flew to Basel, then rented a car and drove across Switzerland. About 9 pm I found the Beachli family cabin, and climbed a hundred or more steps up the side of the mountain in the dark to find Ursula, George, Molly and John waiting for me. As I sat down and enjoyed my first glass of wine, it was clear to me that my parliamentary career was really over. I was back with my family, and we were on our way to the next chapter in our lives. What a relief. It felt great.
3) On December 6 (about 5 a.m.) we drove into Kruger National Park in South Africa for the first time. Within the first 2 hours, we had seen buffalo, giraffes, rhinos and elephants. In fact, one massive bull elephant got so close to the car we could hear him breathing and see that he was looking at us. I remember sitting frozen, trying to savour the experience, but also aware that bull elephants can destroy a car in a minute or two if they turn aggressive. Time stood still. The elephant lingered, then left. Nothing bad happened. It felt exhilarating.
As many of you know, travelling, particularly travel planning, is my passion. If it is an art form, then this trip has been my masterpiece. I spent hundreds of hours planning it, and we've spent 176 days experiencing it. I still can't believe it's over. I'm happy and sad at the same time. I know there will be more trips, but never another one like this with our children. It was truly the trip of my lifetime.