Globetrotter couple reach 1,500 airport destinations on “magical” Sahara journey

FOR FRIDAY: Globetrotter couple celebrate visiting 1,500 airports on'magic' journey to the Sahara

Alan and Agnieszka Forbes celebrate their important airport visit just before takeoff in southern Morocco (Photo: Alan Forbes)

They’ve made a nerve-wracking landing on a remote Caribbean island and on a strip high in the Bolivian mountains to collect airport visits.

Alan and Agnieszka Forbes have now met their goals of 1,000 and 500 respectively in their latest adventure in a Moroccan region dubbed the Gateway to the Sahara.

They celebrated with orange juices since the southern town of Tan-Tan, where they landed after reaching the milestone, is dry. However, before the domestic flight from Guelmim, 130km north, they were able to hire an airport security officer for a group photo.

Alan’s 1,000. Wednesday’s visit and flight round out a hobby that became an obsession after he started counting more than four decades ago.

Morocco is also something special because it was the destination of the couple’s first trip abroad together in 2012.

Alan, 62, and Agnieszka, 44, now plan to continue “gathering” Wetherspoon pubs and visiting every airport served by Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air and British Airways.

(Image: Alan Forbes)

Alan and Agnieszka Forbes pose for a selfie in front of the sparsely populated Guelmim Airport (Photo: Alan Forbes)

“We were really looking forward to the trip to Tan-Tan,” Alan said.

“I didn’t have a goal until recently because it had become kind of an obsession.

“I’m partly relieved that we no longer have to find 20 or 30 airports for a trip, but overall we’re happy.

“We marked it with orange juice in Guelmim before landing at the very nicely named Tan-Tan, which is my 1001st airport.

“Guelmim has a really interesting history because it is the gateway to the Sahara and has the largest camel market in Morocco. It only has nine commercial flights per week while Tan-Tan has five.

“It was quite foggy when we walked to the terminal and we couldn’t see it until we were two minutes away, so it added a bit of magic to the occasion.”

(Image: Alan Forbes)

The couple are all smiles as they celebrate reaching their airport visit goals (Image: Alan Forbes)

The seasoned travellers, who have also visited 822 Wetherspoon pubs so far, flew to Morocco via Barcelona on February 22 and will return to the UK via Gatwick at the end of March.

They are scheduled to take a total of 10 international and domestic flights on a trip that will next take them to Western Sahara before heading home to Woldingham, Surrey.

To date, Alan has visited 140 overseas destinations and Agnieszka 76, including countries and territories with different forms of government.

(Image: Alan Forbes)

Alan sets the scene outside Guelmim Airport, which only has a handful of flights each week (Image: Alan Forbes)

(Image: Alan Forbes)

The couple’s travels have taken them all over the world over the past four years (Image: Alan Forbes)

The list includes some of the world’s most remote places – and they drew confused reactions from airline industry workers when they asked to be dropped off in Tan-Tan on a flight to Casablanca.

Highlights of the couple, who see foreign travel as a full-time job, include a mountainous site in Mestia, Georgia and a hub in Potosi, Bolivia, which used to be the world’s tallest commercial facility. Another is an airport on the Dutch Caribbean island of Saba, which is widely considered to have the world’s shortest trade lane.

“Saba is pretty well known for being a scary airport with a very, very short runway,” Alan said.

(Image: Alan Forbes)

Alan in Guelmim, where the shot is a far cry from the couple’s departure at Gatwick (Image: Alan Forbes)

“The smaller the airport, the better for us, and flying to Tan-Tan, which is surrounded by desert, is very special. Papa Westray in Scotland is important because it’s the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world and we did it on our honeymoon two years ago, so that was very special for us too.

“Airports can be boring and frustrating, but we like to see if the terminal building has character, like Jaisalmer Airport in India.

“It’s also about where we flew, meeting people and learning about the culture.”

(Image: Alan Forbes)

A glimpse of the domestic flight from Guelmim that took the couple via southern Morocco (Photo: Alan Forbes)

Alan, who has three children and one grandchild, worked in the travel industry before he and Agnieszka retired four years ago to focus on their hobby.

Agnieszka, originally from Poland, worked as a sales manager for a five-star hotel chain in the Caribbean before starting ticking airports off her list in 2012 when the couple started dating.

They travel on a budget, book in advance at the lowest prices they can find, and surfed the couch with hosts for free to experience local life.

(Image: Alan Forbes)

The veteran travelers roped in a security guard for a group photo after they reached their tally (Image: Alan Forbes)

Experiencers now see the daily living expenses of their extended trips abroad as cheaper than staying at home in Surrey as domestic bills in the UK soar.

“In Morocco we spend at most £30 a day,” Alan said.

“People are friendly and we’re constantly experiencing new cultures, you never know what’s coming around the corner, good or bad. It’s something we do together and we enjoy it.”

Upon returning to the UK, the couple plan to visit Wetherspoons, with around 70 venues still on their list, and complete the Wainwright’s coastal walk

(Image: Alan Forbes)

The Experience Collectors plan to continue touring around the UK and overseas (Image: Alan Forbes)

However, the list leadership is set to continue as Alan aims to visit around 300 airports served by the four airlines, with 25 remaining.

“We’re going to do it in stages because getting to the 1,000 airports was the most important thing,” Alan said.

“As long as we’re still traveling together and experiencing new places, that’s the main thing, we’re just not going to cross them off the list.”

Agnieszka adds: “I love everything about travelling, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and just being on the road in general.

“It’s just knowing that there’s something new to explore around the corner, like Guelmim, which has the largest camel market in Morocco.

“It’s a passion that we share with other travelers and the people we meet along the way.”

MORE : World traveling couple couchsurfing in Saudi Arabia on a mission to visit 1,500 airports

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Justin Scaccy

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