Her voice is like the chambermaid in "Upstairs, Downstairs" - that tight, very proper British voice, edged with just a tinge of hysteria.

For 27 years, Sabina Shalom, who is 47, was a housewife. She cooked and cleaned and made beds, until she became like her voice - tight, very proper and a bit hysterical.

"I was a good scout, you know, I did my job and I liked it," she said. "But then what? The children (she has two) left and I stayed at home, got hooked on TV and got fat. It was bloody awful."

[WORD ILLEGIBLE] made a deal with her husband. He would pay her a maid's one-day salary for every week they had been married.

She took the money, loaded up a backpack full of diet bars and Ayds candy, and left her Miami Beach home in March on a five-month sabbatical from her husband.

She saw the world and lost 30 pounds.

Europe was her first stop and she stayed with an old friend in Paris, Naomi Rothschild, of the Rothschilds. Shalom had known her as a girl in England and it was one of the few plush stops on her trip.

Shalom is still a British citizen, although she has applied for U.S. citizenship, and she lived for 12 years in South America where her husband ran a synthetic fiber company.

When they moved to Colombia, she gave up a careers as a BBC interviewer and as a social worker because, "marriage is a job, too," she said.

But then they moved to Miami Beach, Fla., last year and she became bored with the housewife's life. So she packed a couple of matching outfits, no jeans because "it wouldn't have been ladylike for a woman my age," and headed east.

Most of her travels were in developing countries where she talked with authorities, economists and the people about their problems.

She went through Iran, India, Thailand, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji Islands and South America. And over 55,000 miles later, she limped into Washington this week on blistered feet, dragging a backpack full of memories.

She popped her last Ayds into her mouth, chewing breathlessly and chatting in parentheses.

"I rode buses, planes, taxis, motorcycles (Oh Lord, they go so fast!) and I hitched rides with the young kids whenever I could," she said.

"I slept wherever I could, on the floor, in strangers' homes, in crumby little motels (one that turned out to be a brothel!) and a hut in the middle of nowhere," she said clicking her fingers efficiently.

"I learned that I could make it alone."

Quite an accomplishment for a "middle-aged mum who was a very typical European housewife," as she said.

The secret to her success, however, was that she was not a tourist and not interested in the "sights."

"Everywhere in the world I was welcomed, but when I wanted to visit President Carter and Nelson Rockefeller, they were too busy," she said laughing. "And I had so much to tell them about the world."

She is charmingly brazen.

She walked right up to Indira Gandhi's house, only days after the prime minister had lost the election, and chatted with her about birth control. King Taufahau Tupon of the tiny island of Tonga near New Zealand discussed peanuts and politicians with her, she said.

And she was a personal guest of the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Leo Port.

"I was sort of considered the loony English woman, but that was okay with me," she laughed. "I'm not really unusual, I think, just a little more creative."

But Shalom's story is an unusualy one, because in a time of frustrated dreams she did something she had never done before.

"My husband was totally in control of the money in our house, he's a very European husband. I never paid bills or even signed a check in my life," she said.

"And believe me, there were times when I was changing currencies that I wished he was there . . . many, many times."

She learned, however, to do for herself.

"I don't like to think of what I did as 'liberation' because I don't think I was enslaved," she said. "I liked being a housewife, but there comes a time when enough is enough."

Her husband also learned to do for himself, she said.

"He was really quite helpless, couldn't cook an egg, iron a shirt, load a dishwasher," she said. "His first thought was 'What will I do for food?'"

Shalom told him he would figure something out when he got hungry enough.

There were many times during her journey that she found herself hungry and with no place to stay. While visiting the Easter Islands, she traded her raincoat, a good watch and some clothes for her room and board.

Frequently, her ticket to adventure was a little Polaroid camera, her "friend maker."

To the mudmen of New Guinea it was "black magic," she said. "Those people that I have absolutely nothing in common with became friends because I could show them their pictures instantly. It was wonderful to see their faces."

The reaction to her trip has been phenomenal among women she has talked with, and she says some publishing houses are wooing her now. A television show may be in the making and she's hoping for a spot on the college lecture series.

"You know, I learned things about these countries that heads of state never see, past the red carpet," she said. "And I learned that women need the recognition for their years of good service.

"Look at me. I've been around the whole bloody world."