‘Life Is Short, the World Is Big’: A Chat With the World’s Longest Honeymooners
Mike and Anne Howard, founders of the travel blog HoneyTrek, left on their honeymoon six years ago—and never looked back. They’ve explored all seven continents, doing everything from jungle survival school in the Amazon to stand-up paddleboarding in Antarctica.
In their new book from National Geographic, Ultimate Journeys for Two, the pair draw on their experiences traveling together across seven continents and offer tested-and-approved recommendations for intrepid couples, no matter their age or budget.
We chatted with the Howards about their favorite adventures, tips for other travelers, and much more.
You’re on the world’s longest honeymoon. How did that come about?
When we were brainstorming honeymoon destinations back in 2011, our list of dream destinations and experiences was running off the page … a 10-day honeymoon just wasn’t going to cut it. We realized life is short, the world is big, and the value of travel was too great to wait until we were 65. So with good health and a new marriage to celebrate, we decided there was no better time than now. We thought it was going to be a one-year honeymoon but as the months went on, we got hooked on the beauty and kindness in the world. January 2018 will mark our sixth anniversary of life on the road.
What makes Ultimate Journeys for Two different than a traditional guidebook?
For starters, the information in the book isn’t just pulled from research and rankings. It comes from firsthand experience and an absolute love for each place. Rather than organizing it by regions of the world, we [did it by] type of place and experience—mountains, beaches, deserts, snow, rain forests, road trips, etc. We want you to discover destinations based on your interests and travel cravings. There aren’t too many household names in here, because you already know Paris and Kyoto are fabulous, and for the well-known sites we did include, we always share a fresh approach to shake the crowds. (Ever seen Niagara Falls encrusted with icicles? Did you know there is more than one Inca trail to Machu Picchu?) This is not your typical nitty-gritty guide with lists of restaurant recommendations and price ratings. We get to the essence of each place and the experiences that make it shine. There is also a raw honesty to this book. We share the blunders, comical encounters, touching moments, and the human side of life on the road.
Why did you focus on adventure travel for couples?
There are many books on romantic travel, showcasing destinations with the finest candlelit dinners, couples massages, and silkiest sheets. And, hey, we like those things too and made sure to include a few in the book, but lasting memories run deeper than a few nights in a fancy hotel. When you discover a beach cove without a footprint, a temple covered in vines, or a waterfall nestled in the forest, and the only person around is the one you love … it’s sweeter than a chocolate on your pillow. Getting out of your comfort zone, immersing yourself in other cultures, and making memories to cherish for the rest of your lives—there is no better bonding experience. The joys you’ll experience are nearly impossible to explain to people, but something you two will intimately understand and share forever.
What are some your favorite adventures in Ultimate Journeys for Two?
Scuba diving through the wheelhouse of a World War II ship; road tripping to the world’s largest salt flat in a luxury Airstream; rock climbing sea stacks to the soundtrack of crashing waves; paragliding over Roman ruins and cascading travertines … and these are just a handful of the 300+ adventures in the book! One of our favorite pages is “Choose Your Own Adventure,” where we list some of the wildest activities. Pick the one that gets your heart racing, then flip to the corresponding page number to discover where it is in the world. This book is not meant to be read linearly; it’s filled with rabbit holes and bridges like this for you to keep exploring.
What are your best tips for traveling as a couple?
One of our best pieces of advice is to drop the notion of “a perfect vacation” and learn to roll with the punches. Find the humor and adventure with every bump in the road … it just might become the highlight of the trip. We have plenty more tips on traveling as a pair—not just from us, but from 11 other globetrotting couples, across ages, nationalities, and travel styles. For every chapter, we feature a “power couple” sharing their absolute favorite place in the world, plus their secret to keeping your travels a breeze and romance on fire.
You’ve been traveling full time for over 2,000 days now. 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 the book.
Why should every couple own a copy of this book?
While this book would be a great engagement present, this is not just a book for honeymooners. Whether newlyweds, empty nesters, or parents that need a little more alone time, every travel- over needs something to feed their wanderlust. We want this to be on every couple’s shelf, so when they have a hankering to trek the mountains, meditate in ancient temples, swim among schools of tropical fish, wander exotic markets, or dine in a castle, they know where to turn.