Octogenarian Best Friends Travel From Antarctica to India—And the World Notices
Their around-the-world trip in 80 days turns the duo into an internet sensation.
It all started with a crazy idea between two best friends to travel around the world in 80 days. The reference wasn’t just to Jules Verne’s adventure novel, Around the World in 80 Days. It was also a reference to their age.
Sandy Hazelip and Ellie Hamby had met over two decades ago. Says Ellie, “We both, being widows, kind of found each other and found this friendship, and we both had phenomenal marriages, the best husbands in the world. And then we found the best friends in the world.”
It was Sandy who pitched the idea of a trip around the world in 80 days for their 80th birthdays. Ellie was immediately on board, and the two started planning. Then Covid hit. The year the women turned 80, they had to put their plans on hold because of the pandemic.
The idea of international travel seemed a far way off. But no matter—these two women are not easily deterred. Patiently, they kept putting the pieces in place and were ready to travel the year they turned 81.
The Adventure Begins
Sandy and Ellie started their trip off with a bang when they decided that their first stop after leaving hot and humid Dallas, Texas, would be Antarctica. It also allowed them to check one continent off their list—because they were determined to set foot on all seven continents before the end of their 80 days.
The two chronicled their adventures on a blog where visitors can see pictures of them lounging in beautiful red dresses in Bali, donning leis at Easter Island, gazing upon the Taj Mahal, and smiling on the streets of Rome. But this was far from a relaxing trip. “We’re not wanting our comfort zone. We’re wanting an adventure,” Ellie explained.
In between Antarctica and South America, the two women crossed the Drake Passage in 15-25-foot high waves. The passage is considered one of the most dangerous in the world, and it took them two full days.
Sandy and Ellie flew over Mount Everest in an airplane and over the Nile Valley in a hot air balloon. They went on a wild dog-sledding ride in Finland and were plagued by seasickness on several occasions. In Australia, a fire alarm had them rushing out in the middle of the night, spilling their belongings behind them. Not once did the women consider that adventure travelling might not be for them.
Their Trip Goes Viral
In between some of the rougher moments, there were also serene views of the Northern Lights and sunny afternoons in Rome. As the two women crossed the world on their adventure and updated their blog and Facebook page, they started to garner quite a following.
Updates on the traveling octogenarians made it to YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Sandy and Ellie’s grandchildren were excited by that. News outlets started to pick up their story, and the two often sat for interviews along the way. They even made an appearance on Saturday Night Live.
How did two seniors afford traveling for 80 days to such exotic destinations? By being savvy. On average, they spent only $29 per night on accommodations, and they weren’t afraid to make choices like traveling in second class.
Neither woman was a stranger to international travel, either. In fact, that 20-year-old friendship began in Zambia when the two were stationed there on a medical mission, and they had travelled many times since.
In fact, if they were nervous about traveling just the two of them, they didn’t show it. In one blog post, the women laugh about sleeping accommodations on a train, the two of them on bottom bunks with young men just above them.
When they needed help, they asked; but mostly, they felt comfortable figuring things out. For them, it was part of the adventure. They laughed when recalling trying to get around Japan: “Figuring out the Japanese train system required more skills than we had together.”
Home Sweet Home
And when they finally made it home, their friendship was stronger than ever.“We’ve been together 80 days 24/7,” said Ellie, “and we’ve just had a great adventure. It’s just really made us even closer than we were.”
The duo insists that their traveling days are not over. As the two best friends drew attention over that 80-day trip, people from around the world started commenting that they would love to host Sandy and Ellie. They’re already planning their next trip for 2024.
While people wait, though, to follow the two octogenarians in their newest adventure, they can follow their Facebook page called “80 and still on the run” or even buy Sandy & Ellie tote bags and t-shirts. Or perhaps be inspired by these two women who refuse to stop living their lives to the fullest.