Ever since the publication of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days in 1872, the book has lit up the imaginations of travelers for centuries. But to make it even more adventurous—and on-brand—what if those who took up the challenge of circumnavigating the globe in 80 days were actually in their 80s? Meet Sandy Hazelip and Ellie Hamby, two octogenarians inspired by this timeless novel who decided to set foot on all seven continents in a little under three months.
Though this quest is undoubtedly epic, this isn't Hazelip and Hamby's first adventure together. The two women actually met as they were traveling through Zambia over 20 years ago, bonding over their love for adventure and forming a lifelong friendship. “I said ‘Ellie, don't you think it would be fun for us to go around the world in 80 days at age 80?'” Hazelip recalled in an interview with CBS Mornings.
In honor of their 80th birthdays, they wanted to launch their trip two years ago; but, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, they decided to delay their trip. On January 11, 2023, they left their home in Dallas, Texas, and traveled to their first destination—Antartica—which they reached by crossing the Drake Passage on a boat.
“We don't travel first class,” Hazelip says matter-of-factly. “And so when we have other ladies, especially who say, ‘Oh, I would love to travel with you two,' the first thing I always do is look at their hands. If they are well-manicured, they do not want to travel with us.”
After Antarctica, their travels took them to the remote Easter Island. After having to cancel a portion of their trip due to the political turmoil in Peru, they chose to give Argentina a shot, enjoying a tango show during their time there. Their route then took them halfway across the world, and after a museum-filled layover in Madrid, they arrived in Lapland, Finland, where they visited the Arctic Circle and marveled at the Aurora Borealis. “We saw the Northern Lights in all their beautiful display, even with a full moon lessening some of the Aurora brightness. Again, we stood outside in the snow at -4 degrees Fahrenheit temps, but it was worth it all,” they wrote in their travel blog. They then went to Rome and London.
The next leg of their tour took them to Africa, where Hamby fulfilled her dream of visiting Zanzibar. Then came the Victoria Falls and riding a camel by the Egyptian pyramids, before celebrating that they were halfway through their trip with a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Their trip then took them to India, where they went for a rickshaw ride in Old Delhi and visited the Taj Mahal. By then, they had been on 34 different flights. Afterwards, they visited Nepal and took a flight over Mt. Everest.
The ladies then headed east, visiting Japan on their way to Bali, where they explored the Monkey Forest and daringly swung over the fields in flowy gowns. The pair are now in Australia, where they got up close to the Great Barrier Reef—Hamby chose to snorkel but Hazelip opted to hang back and relax on the yacht—before traveling to Darwin and jumping on the Ghan to cross the heart of Australia.
As they approach the final days of their trip, the women have not only conquered several destinations and overcame language barriers—they have inspired many around the world to go on international adventures of their own. “We have people sending emails, texting, and calling friends and family, telling them they should do something like this. Even one 87-year-old sent us a message saying he was now planning his trip, ‘Around the World in 90 Days, at age 90,'” they wrote in a blog post. “Of course, we sent a message back, ‘Go for it.'”