Planning a honeymoon is one of the more enjoyable elements of getting married. But what if you decided not to get back to reality and instead continue traveling for six years? That’s exactly what Mike and Anne Howard have done. Since January 22nd, 2012, they have visited 53 countries and 500+ regions of the world and shared their experience on their blog HoneyTrek.com. We tracked them down and find out what goes into planning the worlds longest honeymoon.
It might sound wild to many people to extend a honeymoon to a six-year trip, how did this come about?
While dreaming about our honeymoon, the list of destinations was running off the page. Then we thought, what if we go to all of these places? We’ve got a little nest egg, we’re healthy, we don’t have kids… will there ever be a better time to travel than now? So after saving and planning like mad for a year, we quit our jobs, rented out our apartment, and left home on a one-way ticket to Brazil. Six years, seven continents, and 53 countries later… we’re still on the World’s Longest Honeymoon.
How do you plan your itinerary?
Our original travel philosophy was to go places too far to visit while we have 9-5 jobs and too rugged to tackle when we’re old. That meant skipping the nearby, pricier, and tamer North America and Europe and getting far-flung in South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. As the years went on we got better at travel hacking and have since taken on a good chunk of Europe and are now RVing across Canada and the States. In terms of how we plan month to month, we keep a loose itinerary, picking out the must-see spots and leaving lots of wiggle room as cool opportunities arise. You never know who you’ll meet and what you’ll discover on the road — you don’t want too many reservations tying you down.
In a single sentence, how would you define your travel style?
A mix of local, luxury, adventure, romance, and flying by the seat of our pants.
And what do you value most about traveling?
It’s the greatest learning experience you can have. When you see the way other cultures live, you realize how many ways there are to find success and happiness. That definition plays out very differently around the world and it never seems to correlate with how much money or stuff you have. The more we travel, the more we realize that love, health, and a positive outlook are the secret to “the good life.”
Being on the road for so long must interrupt daily routines, what does your day-to-day look like?
It’s definitely evolved over the years. For the first couple years, we’d try to see and do everything that region had to offer, jam-packing our days with sightseeing and adventures. After that, it morphed into slower more immersive travel, where we might travel to 10 countries in a year but live on a farm in Portugal or a beach house in Croatia for a month at a time. In April 2017 we started our most recent chapter when we bought Buddy the Camper (our first “residence” in six years). Since then our adventure mobile brought us 22,000 miles from Florida to California to Alaska to Maine and back to Florida. Even though our location changes nearly every day, having our own closet to unpack, kitchen to cook our comfort foods, and living area to kick back, has given us enough stability to have somewhat of a routine. Each day is a new adventure, then come evening we find the prettiest view we can, soak in the sunset views from our panoramic windows or camping chairs, make dinner with our four-burner gas stove and oven (as people who haven’t had a kitchen in five years, this is wildly exciting), then work on the latest HoneyTrek project until bedtime.
Sounds like the dream. Does the reality look a lot different to what people may perceive from the outside?
Our lives probably look really glamorous from Instagram & Facebook, and some days they are — between sketchy hitchhikes and boondocking in parking lots. There is a lot of hustle required to make these dreams come true. The days when we aren’t having awesome adventures we’re on the computer writing, editing, pitching, and planning from 9 am until midnight. That said, we can’t complain about the volume of work because we have the greatest job ever; people just don’t often realize travel blogging is more than a full-time job.
Can tell us a little about your business model and how you fund your travels?
HoneyTrek was never meant to be a business. We followed a dream to take a honeymoon around the world, saved up, scraped by to keep it going, and with enough passion and hard work it has evolved into a paying gig. We didn’t make a dime the first two years on the road, but we kept honeymooning and producing good content and people started to take notice. By 2016, Microsoft asked us to star in a TV commercial, tourism boards invited us to promote their destinations, and National Geographic asked us to write their first book on couples adventure travel, Ultimate Journeys for Two. We also fund the travel bug through freelance writing, photography, public speaking, and social media. Though our real secret to traveling long-term is keeping our expenses low enough to need little more than each other and sunshine.
How big of a role does social media play in this?
On the road, so many things happen on any given day. With the ease and immediacy of Instagram Stories, we find ourselves sharing more often than we used to and letting our audience in on the silly and raw day-to-day stuff. It’s a blessing and curse because the camera and social media can distract from being in the moment in these beautiful places… so we are constantly striving for the perfect balance. On Facebook, we like to make it more about the audience, asking questions and listening to their travel dreams. We want there to be a dialogue and encourage more people to get out there and see the world.
What is your earliest travel memory? Is there a particular place you hold dear to you? And how has all of this shaped the kind of travel you do today?
Anne: When I was seven, my Dad was working in Japan indefinitely so we considered moving there as a family. I have vivid memories of looking at potential homes with rice paper walls, visiting classrooms where you had to take off your shoes, and attempting to eat meals with chopsticks (I thought I was going to die of starvation or live off Hello-Kitty cookies). We didn’t wind up moving to Japan but I think it piqued my interest for other cultures at an early age. In high school, I studied abroad in Costa Rica, did a college semester in Spain, and used every vacation day I had while working in New York.
I’ve always been one for adventure and Anne and I started traveling abroad within months of dating. In fact, our first Valentine’s together was spent sneaking into Cuba.
Talking of family, have you had people come and join you?
On 04/04/04 Mike started a tradition that when the day, month, and year aligned, he’d throw a party. So when 12/12/12 came about, we rented a house in Koh Samui, Thailand and 8 friends flew from the States to join us for 12 days of fun. Travel also allows us to meet up with friends we’ve made all over the world. For example, we met our friend Paal in Bolivia, and have since seen him in Norway and New York. Deb, we met in Cambodia then caught up with her again in Vietnam, Indonesia, and San Francisco.
Can you tell us about one of the most challenging places you visited?
Our four-day, 14-leg overland journey from Mozambique to Tanzania might take the cake. We were standing at a small junction of two dusty roads in northern Mozambique, waiting for a hitchhike for over three hours, night was falling, and there were still no cars going out direction. Adding to the uneasiness, a drunk guy kept babbling to us in Portuguese, making slit-your-throat gestures. Our Portuguese is horrible so we couldn’t tell if he was saying “Stay with me so you don’t get killed,” or “Stay in my town overnight and I’ll kill you.” Either way, we had to get the heck out of there. Just as the sun was going down, a pickup truck pulled up. The driver said he couldn’t take us as far as our intended destination but said that we could sleep on the floor of his cousin’s mud hut. This was looking like the bright side of a grim day, until we attempted to sleep and the mice started running around the dirt-packed rafters, knocking mud chunks on us with each scurry. If it wasn’t for fits of delirious laughter, we would have never made it out of that day. The next three days involved fording hippo-filled rivers and hitchhiking on banana trucks, read the full story here.
And just to balance it out, what was one of the happiest days on the road?
On our way to one of the deepest canyons in the world, hugging the curves of the Andes and yielding to cows, a fiesta of elderly Peruvians appeared in the middle of the road. We crept forward, assuming they’d move to the side, but instead a woman wearing a traditional embroidered dress knocked on our window. “Come dance!” she said in Spanish with a smile. “You may not pass until you dance!” Mike and I looked at each other, and then simultaneously swung open our doors. The partygoers cheered and the band of wooden instruments got louder. She took our hands and pulled us into a circle of twirling ladies. Around and around we went, with leg kicks and hip shakes, until the shot master appeared with an earthen jug. He poured us an overflowing chicha corn brew and we toasted with an exuberant, “Salud!” Arm in arm with our new friends, we danced until dark and happily never made it to the famed canyon. This is the day, we realized serendipity is the new bucket list.
When you face obstacles in your relationship, is it more complicated to overcome these when you are on the road?
Everything is more intense on the road. The things you take for granted at home — food, shelter, jobs, etc — are in flux all the time. This can create unnecessary stress in a relationship so learning to communicate and shake things off is key. That said, experiencing these incredible highs and lows bonds you like no other. Your brain starts to fuse and you can sense each other’s needs, anticipate reactions, and how to get a laugh. Together, our memories run deeper because we’ll always share them.
What’s your best advice for couples who want to find more time and money for travel?
Start a travel fund ASAP and automatically direct 5 percent of your paycheck into that account. Travel is an investment in yourself — don’t skimp! Join airline and hotel loyalty programs, and use credit cards that reward your everyday spending. Join sharing-economy sites and communities; the more you immerse yourself in the travel community, the more opportunities will present themselves. Don’t think just about planning your next Instagrammable vacation, think about the experiences you want in your life and how to make them a reality. We dive deep into the planning process in the “Travel Smart” section of our Ultimate Journeys for Two.
All photos by HoneyTrek.