Two 81-year-olds from Texas are midway through traveling the world in 80 days. Best friends Sandy Hazelip and Ellie Hamby are now in Egypt and nearly 50 days through their journey across the world, which will see them visit a total of 18 countries and seven continents. Since departing Dallas on January 11 the two crossed the Drake Passage to Antarctica, and have visited many exotic locales including Easter Island, the North Pole, Argentina, London and Zambia.
Before they left, they set themselves guidelines: Avoid first class travel, stay in small hotels, carry just one small bag, no tours, use public transport and don’t hire travel agents. Hazelip (pictured right) and Hamby (pictured left), who have both had total knee replacements, met twenty years ago in Egypt and hatched their plan in June 2020, but the two are no strangers to travel. Since first meeting they’ve made a number of trips together. ‘We already knew we were perfect travel companions,’ they said on their blog , which they’ve been updating along the way.
Hazelip is a doctor who now works with elderly people in long-term care facilities and hospices. She lost her husband 20 years ago and is both a mother and grandmother – her four youngest grandchildren are adopted from China.
Hamby, also widowed, is a documentary photographer and has already traveled to 107 countries and all of the continents. Her photos have been included in magazines, brochures and exhibitions in both in the US and Africa. She has three children and is also a grandmother.
Organizing the trip was complex and they suffered setbacks caused by the pandemic. Originally it was planned to be Around the World in 80 Days at Age 80, beginning in January 2022. But after the delay the adventure was rebranded: Around the World in 80 Days Aged 81. ‘It has not been easy to make the final decision on our “Around the World in 80 Days” trip, but it had to be done. We are not canceling but are postponing,’ they announced at the time. As always, we dedicate all we do to the memory of the loves of our lives, Don and Kelly. We thank you both for encouraging us. We miss you and wish you were joining our adventure,’ they said before they left.
The two were asked on CBS News while in London what motivated them to embark on the trip. ‘I think the number one thing is meeting people, and the world is full of the greatest, most exciting and interesting people,’ said Hamby. In photos of the duo taken around the world they have appeared wearing matching t-shirts with ’81 and still on the run!’ printed on their backs. They have spoken about how the trip is also inspiring others. In one blog post they said an 87-year-old man wrote to them and said he was now considering his own trip – around the world in 90 days at 90.
The two women are encouraging of others. ‘Don’t sit in that chair and waste away. If you don’t use it, you lose it! Hazelip told CBS. The octogenarians were themselves inspired by fictitious Phileas Fogg – the protagonist in the 1872 Jules Verne novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Fogg is a wealthy Englishman who bets £20,000 ($24,000) that he can navigate the world in 80 days. Unlike these two ladies he had assistance and hired a French valet, Jean Passepartout, to travel with him. One of their first stops in mid-January was Antarctica (pictured), which required them to make a crossing of the Drake Passage. The seas were rough, and they described it as ‘at least 48 hours of 15-foot waves.’ On the boat they said walking was impossible without holding on and sleeping was difficult.
‘We are having a very rough day in the Drake Passage as the waves are around 15-foot high! They’re hitting from the side causing the boat to roll very badly. Everything falls off or slides,’ they said. Upon their arrival in Antarctica they were taken aback by the high 40-mile-per-hour winds and low temperatures but also impressed. ‘We again had a fantastic time entertained by the penguins, and the views were breathtaking,’ they said. ‘It is a feeling like no other to stand on the ground in the Antarctic. It is difficult to describe the serenity one feels when gazing at one of the most peaceful sceneries you will ever experience.’
Then they went to Easter Island (pictured) where they noted the island’s small population and size, 15.3 miles long and 7.6 miles at its widest, and photographed grazing wild horses. ‘They just roam freely, and some say there are more horses than there are people on Easter Island,’ they said on their blog.
‘There are only 36 family units. Our young waiter last night, Jose, said it is hard to find a mate who isn’t your relative. Miguel, our friend, landlord, and taxi driver, seems to be related to almost everyone on the island; everywhere we went, a relative of his was there,’ they said. The pair also marveled at the famous statues – more than 1000 are scattered around the island with their backs turned to the sea.
After Easter Island Hazelip and Hamby were forced to make the first major change to their itinerary. Their plan had been to go to Peru and take the train to Machu Picchu but due to protests and riots, that leg was canceled. Instead, they visited Argentina, which they described as a ‘substitute destination.’ ‘We have the travel philosophy “just go with the flow and enjoy the journey – even if it is not the journey we planned.” That is what we did,’ they said. After an overnight flight they went from Buenos Aires to Madrid, where they saw the Prado museum. Then they moved further north to Finland where they watched the northern lights and rode sleighs pulled by huskies. Next, they headed to Rome (pictured) where they ate pizza, made a wish at the Trevi Fountain and visited both the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel.
In Zambia they saw white rhinos resting in Livingstone National Park and posed for a photo. There, they also ticked off another wonder of the world, Victoria Falls. Just last week Hamby’s lifelong dream of visiting Zanzibar, off the east coast of Africa, was fulfilled. There they stayed in an affordable hotel and pointed out the diverse architecture and suggested it may have been the warmest place they had visited yet.
‘The old buildings (many in a dilapidated state, but still lovely structures) made one think of a different time when the Sultans ruled and how life would have been,’ they said in the blog. The next country for the two will be India, before east Asia, Australia and back to the US, where they will stop off in San Francisco and on their doorstep the Grand Canyon. The rest of their journey can be followed on their website, as well as their Instagram and Facebook pages.
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