When Mike and Anne Howard set out on their honeymoon, they weren’t trying to break any world records. But, even after 500 days of travel following their wedding, they both knew it still wasn’t time to stop.
Now, Mike and Anne, the founders of HoneyTrek, are the world’s longest honeymooners. Since they started their journey in 2012, they haven’t returned to a 9-to-5 lifestyle, but instead have chosen a life on the road.
This year, Mike and Anne celebrate their six-year anniversary — of marriage and travel. Following the Travel Lessons Twitter chat they co-hosted for us, we caught up with Anne & Mike to hear more about what they’ve learned from their travels, how they created their website, and what it was like to write their first book, Ultimate Journeys for Two.
To start, tell us a bit about yourselves.
I’m a Southern California girl and Mike’s a Pennsylvania mountain man. We met in 2006 in New York while playing in a doubles volleyball tournament. Our outlooks on life, love, and adventure were a total a match and we were engaged just a few years later. When it came to planning our honeymoon, we knew a 10-day vacation wasn’t going to cut it. So, with a little bit of savings, good health, and love on our side, we quit our jobs in NYC, rented out our apartment, and embarked on a trip around the world … and we’ve been traveling ever since. Using our backgrounds in publishing, digital marketing, and photography, we created HoneyTrek to chronicle our journey across the seven continents and inspire people to mobilize their travel dreams.
Where did that first year of travel take you?
We booked one-way tickets to the Brazilian Amazon (a bold first stop, in hindsight) and headed south through Argentina to the tip of the continent. From there, we followed the Andes north through Chile, Bolivia, and Peru, where we hiked the Inca messenger trails to Machu Picchu. After a two-week stopover in the States for a wedding, a graduation, and the birth of our niece, we boarded our next flight to Africa! We got our feet wet in South Africa with a few safaris and a road trip to the Wild Coast, and then we went on to Zambia, where we proceeded to travel by local mini buses.
In addition to South Africa and Zambia, our time in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya blew our minds — from the wildlife, tribes, and Swahili coast to the inspiring resilience and utter beauty of the people. Flying from Nairobi to Kathmandu was like changing planets, but we soon found ourselves at home in Asia. We closed out 2012 by hiking through Nepal, taking trains across China, island-hopping Japan, and celebrating the holidays in Thailand.
When did you create HoneyTrek? What was that like?
As soon as we decided to go on this around-the-world honeymoon, we knew we wanted to share the experience online. I was a magazine editor and writer by trade, and Mike was a digital media strategist and hobby photographer, so blogging was right up our alley. We started HoneyTrek in November 2011, exactly two months before we left for Brazil. Blogging on the road is a big commitment, especially when you may not have reliable Internet, but it’s an incredible exercise in reflection. Stopping to process and share your experiences makes you appreciate them so much more.
What is it like to be constantly on the move? How do you balance work, your personal lives, and travel?
Moving every few days can be a little crazy, especially while also trying to run a business. We take the “work hard, play hard” approach. When we enter a new place, we’re on a quest to discover what makes it special — meeting locals, embarking on adventures, and exploring as much as we can. But when we have a break, we buckle down and work like fiends. Housesitting has been a great way to balance our desire to explore and need to work. We’ll find a house in a region we’d like to immerse ourselves in and stay there for two to five weeks to gain a sense of the community and home. For similar reasons, we just bought our vintage camper; it gives us our own space but allows us to travel to new corners of North America.
You’ve been to a lot of different places. What are some of the experiences that stand out in your minds as you look back on these last six years?
- Getting pulled out of our car by a band of elderly Peruvians for an all-day dance party.
- Stand-up paddleboarding around icebergs and penguins in Antarctica.
- WWOOFing on a veggie farm at the foot of a Japanese volcano.
- Having our motorcycle break down in the jungles of northern Thailand and being taken in by the nicest local family for two days.
- Experiencing a cheetah jump on the roof of our car during a safari in the Masai Mara.
- Embarking on a four-day, 14-leg trip from Pemba, Mozambique, to Zanzibar, Tanzania, which involved dhow boats, broken-down buses, banana trucks, and mud huts.
- Trekking through the Himalayas to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal.
- Teaching English in a tribal village outside Sapa, Vietnam, and celebrating Tet New Year with our new Red Dzao family.
- Hitchhiking on a Jordanian party bus into the Wadi Rum desert
- Watching the Northern Lights dance across the sky while sailing into the Arctic Circle.
If you want to hear more, we actually just wrote a post about our all-time favorite travel memories that includes all the juicy details.
Is there anything in particular that you try to do in every location you visit?
We like to hike to a viewpoint overlooking the area, sample lots of street food, do a homestay with a local family, shop for regional delicacies at outdoor markets, and chat with as many residents as we can.
Can you tell us about your National Geographic book, Ultimate Journeys for Two? How did you decide to write it, and what was that process like?
I’m not sure we would’ve had the guts or discipline to write a 272-page book (and cull 306,979 photographs down to 310) unless Nat Geo asked us to. They are the holy grail in travel publishing, so when they asked us to write their first book on couples adventure travel and share our favorite stories from around the world, there was only one answer — of course!
Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent is a travel-guide-meets-memoir of our favorite 75 places in the world, our best travel tips, and the stories that have shaped our hearts and souls.
Writing this book was an incredible opportunity, not only to become Nat Geo authors, but to also inspire other couples to break out of their comfort zones, heighten their senses, see the good in the world, and grow closer from experiences that only travel can offer. Rather than organize the chapters by region, we did so by type of destination (deserts, beaches, mountains, rain forests, architecture, etc.) so people could discover trips based on their specific interests. We tried to capture the essence of each place and the experiences that make it shine.
In addition to “When to Go” and “Where to Stay,” each destination includes a “Get Romantic” and “HoneyTrek Tip.” We wanted couples to see the romance in adventure, like hiking to a waterfall with natural infinity pools or riding a snow cat to a candlelit dinner in a yurt. We wanted them to spend their time in ways that count but also see that budget travel can sometimes lead to richer experiences. No-holds-barred, we shared our best road-tested advice and secrets for unforgettable travel.
What kind of tips do you have for people considering long-term travel of some sort?
The world is massive and it cannot be seen solely on 10-day vacations. You really have to carve out the time to experience it, open your mind, and go.
There are so many things you need to know before you leave on a trip like this. Start a travel savings account and direct deposit five percent of your paycheck each month. Start collecting frequent flyer miles, religiously! Consider working for room and board on the road (it will keep your costs down and offer the most immersive local experiences).
We have learned so much from our trip and are so passionate about the benefits of long-term travel that we also started Trip Coach, a one-on-one guide to world travel. So, if you’re wondering how you can mobilize your travel dreams, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Which destinations are you hoping to visit this year? Any big plans for Year Seven?
After a trip to Quebec for the world’s biggest winter carnival, we’ll pick up our RV in Florida and continue our road trip around North America. In 2017, we covered 21,000 miles in the northern half of the continent, so we’ll be spending a good part of 2018 exploring the south, southwest, California, and maybe even Mexico. We’re working on a new book about glamping, so finding the most unique and fabulous accommodations in nature will help guide our exact route.
What’s great about an RV is that you can park it at the airport and hop a plane to anywhere in the world, so we may just fly to Italy or the Czech Republic this year too! Another exciting project we’ll be working on is HoneyTrek Trips, a boutique travel agency we launched to help get others off the beaten track and make the most of their travels. Life is too short for package tours!