55 Years After Their Honeymoon Road Trip, This Couple is Taking Their Old VW Bug on One Last Adventure
New Zealand couple Ivan and Beth Hodge kicked off their marriage 55 years ago by driving a Volkswagen Beetle across Europe for their honeymoon; 35 years later, they completed the same trip in the same car. Now, after releasing a book about their adventures, For Love and the Beetle, the duo is preparing to make one last tour in the vintage car—taking the month of March to once again drive across New Zealand.
“It’s such a lovely story. We just happen to be in the story,” Ivan, 82, told Travel + Leisure. “But it’s a great story of a marriage, life, grandchildren, and travel.”
On their first trip, in 1961, the two traveled through Portugal, Spain, France, and Yugoslavia over the course of six months, eventually making their way to Calcutta before heading home on a cargo ship to New Zealand. They allotted a pound per day (or about $22 today) for their adventure, often sleeping in their car.
“Our philosophy has always been that if you’re going to travel, make your money work as best as it can,” said Beth, 80. “We converted the car and put the backseat up on the roof and had the seats reclining so we could sleep in the car,” Ivan said. The duo even packed a small tent because hotel options were limited.
While they had little in terms of comforts, they did pack a camera, tapes, and a video recorder to capture their journey. “We recorded messages on tapes and sent those back home to New Zealand, and took video and photos,” Ivan said. “That’s why our whole story has been so well documented.”
Thirty-five years later the couple did it all again as a second honeymoon, retracing their steps and taking pictures in the same locations they visited before. “We repeated the journey and saw extraordinary differences in countries like Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, India, and Greece,” Ivan said. “The change was enormous and the change in us was enormous, because we had recordings of our initial impressions. We were so young and naïve that we changed our opinions on lots of things like communism. We became more tolerant to things as we became more worldly.”
Beth and Ivan learned lessons about love and marriage from their road trips, too. “There’s no point in have a squabble or disagreement because there’s only the two of you,” Beth said. “What are you going to do? Just forgive them and move forward.”
Their travels shaped their marriage and family, evening inspiring their 21-year-old grandson Tahni Dwyer to see the world. “We’ve gotten into a lot of discussions about history, politics, and the Beetle over dinner,” Tahni said. “I’ve learned an enormous amount from them, like the value of travel. I now realize that it’s underappreciated in most people, and how enlightened and tolerant you can become through travel.”
Now, 55 years and 188,000 miles later, Beth and Ivan are taking one final road trip, called “Bye Bye Beetle,” across New Zealand. At the end, the car will retire to Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology. “The museum is really great on educational programs and inspiring young people to give it a go. In a big city like Sydney and with 12 grandchildren, I don’t know what would have happened to the car, but at least now we’ll be able to visit it for years to come. It will be looked at an enjoyed,” Beth said of the bittersweet journey. Ivan added, “Our car has history and we have history.”