Baba Lena Erkhova escaped World War II and an abusive husband so she could fulfill her dreams of traveling the world.
I have always wanted to be the cool aunt who jet sets around the world and brings her nieces and nephews back fancy, expensive gifts from exotic countries. While I'm still quite a way away from achieving that goal, this grandma has quickly become my icon. Baba Lena Erkhova, who passed away last year, dedicated the last few years of her life to exploring the world around her. She was from the central Russian city of Krasnoyarsk and rose to fame in 2016. Her world tour began on her 83rd birthday when her friends urged her to begin the journey of a lifetime. Soon enough, she crossed off all her dream destinations from her long list.
On her 83rd birthday - which she celebrated almost a decade ago now - her close friends sent her to a travel agency and got her a passport. Then, she was sent off on her first adventure; it would definitely not be her last. The grandmother once revealed in an interview, "My friends asked me why I never went traveling. They told me, ‘You have the money.’ And I thought, ‘Why not?'" Her story first went viral when she met young Russian tourist Ekaterina Papina in Vietnam. Ekaterina, who was amazed by the old woman's spirit, helped her start an Instagram account. "I was on holiday in Vietnam. I was having dinner when I heard Russian and I saw that an old lady was trying to tell the waiter that her soup was too spicy," the tourist explained. "I helped her and it turned out she came to Vietnam on her own and we made friends. I was surprised by the way she was so adventurous in her thinking and how clear and bright she is at her age."
Lena, who left behind a daughter and two grandchildren, shared that she had experienced domestic abuse. Her husband was a violent alcoholic who would often attack her and her daughter. Eventually, she was able to leave him and live by herself. Going further into her past, when she was just three years old, she lost both her parents. Then, at 14, she experienced the trials of World War II. Her world tour was a way for her to finally experience freedom, independence, and joy. After her first trip, she rode a camel in Jordan, drank cocktails on the beach, tasted new flavors in Thailand, swam on islands, and made a lot of new travel buddies. Though she was diagnosed with cancer, she did not give up on her dreams to continue traveling.
She would pay for her travels by saving her pension, among other methods. She also used to grow flowers and sew in order to fund her journeys. Though she passed away due to cancer in 2019, her journey still inspires many of us. To many, Baba Lena was a shining example of how age is just a number. So, while we may be under lockdown now, her story is a reminder to pack your bags and see what the big, beautiful world has to offer.