ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For Dr. Sandy Hazelip and Ellie Hamby, the open road is an old friend. First meeting at a medical mission conference in Dallas in the early 2000s, they made a fast friendship that has seen them through the many adventurous stages of their lives.
“We have been in uncomfortable situations, but we travel well together,” Hamby said.
Thus far, they’ve taken three trips together. The first, along the Trans-Siberian railway in 2008, where they were questioned by a KGB agent regarding a nearby crime.
Hamby explained, “The police were trying to decide if we were accomplices to murder… Which we weren’t, fortunately.”
Their second trip together, the duo went through the Middle East, where they said they narrowly escaped by working with a kind, local man to navigate their way out of a growing war zone.
“In Syria, actually, when we arrived, it was just two or three days before the war started,” said Hamby.
Their third trip together, they traveled through Southeast Asia. But their greatest expedition is yet to come. Dr. Hazelip suggested a roundtrip tour just five years ago.
Dr. Hazelip expanded, “I said, ‘when we turn 80, why don’t we try going around the world in 80 days at age 80?'”
The global COVID-19 pandemic would put a damper on that plan, postponing it, but not canceling the trip. Ever the optimists, this intrepid duo regrouped and even worked a pun back into their plan.
“So, this year we leave January the 11th to go around the world in 80 days at 81 and still on the run,” Dr. Hazelip sang with a chuckle.
Leaving for Antarctica on the 11th from Dallas, their 80-day journey will take them through the seven continents and past the wonders of the world- a plan they’ve kept to, with a budget and an experience they’ve kept authentic.
“The only way you can really do that is if you immerse yourself in the local culture as much as you can as a tourist,” Hamby said. “We try not to go with tourist groups and no stays at the Holiday Inn, only local accommodations.”
Though this is far from their first international trip, it is the first time they’re traveling purely for themselves, after having done years of humanitarian efforts through their medical and photography work.
“I have to confess, this was a little hard for me to just do something just for fun,” Dr. Hazelip shared.
Hamby continued, “I can’t imagine going around the world in 80 days with anyone else but Sandy Hazelip.”
Addressing all who question if these two have any reservations about the danger involved, they say ‘bring it on.’
“We’ve lived a full life and a good life, and if we fall off the iceberg or drop out of the hot air balloon,” Dr. Hazelip began, “we’re going to say, ‘we have two husbands waiting for us in heaven… Okay!'”
In their travels, Hamby and Dr. Hazelip told KTAB/KRBC they’ve come to find a kinship with every face they’ve met, returning from each trip with a perspective that reflects the world around them.
“‘Americans seem to… not separate the people of a country from the government of a country,’ and that was from an Iraqi man – very intelligent, very nice. He was very wonderful,” Hamby and Dr. Hazelip spoke. “He got us through the border and all that, but I thought that was a profound statement and a good lesson for us.”
A common understanding they hope others can see through their travels, Hamby said, “We’ve come to find that people are the same all over the world.”