Around the world in 80 days: Age and knee replacements can’t stop these 81-year-old travellers

The duo planned almost everything on their own, including flights, hotels, fun things to do and also checked the requirements for entry into each country.

Michelle Chin

Michelle Chin

The Straits Times


Ms Eleanor Hamby and Dr Sandra Hazelip in Bali (left) and in a hot-air balloon over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. PHOTOS: AROUNDTHEWORLDAT80/FACEBOOK

April 14, 2023

SINGAPORE – They admired the Northern Lights in Lapland, observed penguins in Antarctica, floated in a hot-air balloon over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and took a plane ride over Mount Everest.

One even snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef and ate sea urchin caught from the sea in Easter Island.

These were highlights of an around-the-world-in-80-days trip to seven continents that a pair of seasoned American travellers took this year.

Documentary photographer Eleanor Hamby and physician Sandra Hazelip, both 81 years old, left their homes in Texas on Jan 11, and travelled to Antarctica, Easter Island, Argentina, Finland, Italy, Zanzibar, Egypt, India, Nepal, Japan, Bali, Australia and North America, just to name a few places.

Trips to some countries, such as Egypt and Japan, were inspired by fictional character Phileas Fogg’s travels in the book Around The World In Eighty Days by French writer Jules Verne.

Ms Hamby and Dr Hazelip returned home on April Fool’s Day. This was the longest trip they ever went on. Both are mobile, active and have had knee replacements in both knees years ago.

When asked how much the 80-day trip costs, Dr Hazelip told The Straits Times over a Zoom interview: “Our trip costs less than a new car or a fancy new boat.”

The average hotel cost was US$29 (S$38) per person per night, Ms Hamby said.

“Sandy and I have always opted to spend our money on travel instead of shopping for nice clothes and other things. Travel is the number one thing we save our money for,” she added.

They planned almost everything on their own, including flights, hotels, fun things to do and also checked the requirements for entry into each country.

They now have more than 50,000 followers on their TikTok account aroundtheworldat80, and more than 20,000 followers on their Instagram account.

“Most of that picked up in the last two or three weeks,” Ms Hamby said.

Dr Hazelip added: “We get comments on our social media from people who have said you have no idea the joy you have brought into my life by following you on this journey.

“People have said you have inspired me to do something, or you have inspired my friend and me to do something. So we are excited that we have been a benefit to other people.”

But their travels were not without tough moments, such as being caught in a huge crowd on Feb 22 during the Abu Simbel Sun Festival in Egypt. There were about 6,000 people there that morning, Ms Hamby said.

“There was no good crowd control. I am little, but I also stand my ground. So I did not let them push me around,” Dr Hazelip said.

Dr Hazelip and Ms Hamby met each other more than two decades ago when both of them were part of a medical mission to Zambia, Africa. Since then, they have been having adventures together and visited Syria, Turkey, Romania, China, Siberia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and more.

Dr Hazelip said: “We have the same ideas about travel, we do not get upset if we have to wait for something, and we do not get upset with crowds. We enjoy travelling, having fun and the experience.”

Their visit to Singapore was about 13 years ago, and they toured Singapore Botanic Gardens, Orchard Road, Port of Singapore and Night Safari. They also drank the Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel and ate Peking Duck in Chinatown.

An entry in their travel blog read: “Singapore is by far the cleanest, best planned, and one of the most entertaining cities in the world, unfortunately, it is also known as expensive. It does contain a fantastic melding of the old and new, historic and modern.”

Their next trip may occur in 2024, and may be to South America’s Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia.

Dr Hazelip said that before travelling, they would research a city’s or country’s background and not-to-be-missed top destinations. They try to learn about cultures and customs to feel more comfortable fitting in with the people who live there.

Her motto? “Get out of your easy chair, step out of your comfort zone, make some plans and live.”

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