The average length of a honeymoon is eight days, but Mike and Anne Howard aren't your average couple. With inspiration from another couple they met at Oktoberfest in Munich, the newlyweds began saving and planning for what would eventually become a 675-day honeymoon.
Months after Mike and Anne exchanged vows at an intimate mountaintop setting within snow-covered Central Vermont in March 2011, they left their New York City jobs in digital media, rented out their apartment and set out for what was originally a 500-day globetrotting journey, while documenting their trip through their website - HoneyTrek.com. The result was 675 days, six continents, 33 countries, 302 places, 125,675 miles and 226,152 breathtaking photographs, in addition to other interesting stats like 46 jars of peanut butter, 41 safaris, 39 scuba dives and countless memories, all in a single honeymoon.
Culminating with a final stop in Istanbul last November, the Howards returned to New York City. However they say their honeymoon isn't over and liken stateside as an extension of their celebration. Now busy working with their new online travel business, HoneyTrek/Trip Coach, making appearances and participating in more interviews, Mike and Anne took a few moments to answer some questions about their not-so-average journey.
How did you come up with this idea?
It all started at Oktoberfest in Munich when a couple told us they just completed a 12-month journey around the world, spending $34k for their entire trip. The idea of two people circumnavigating the world for less than the cost of a mid-sized sedan seemed unfathomable, yet it affixed itself to our brains. When it came to thinking about where we wanted to honeymoon, we didn't have enough paper to list our dream destinations, and that German couple's trip kept crossing our mind. Then about six months before our wedding, we started seriously talking it out. "We've got some money saved, we don't have kids, there's a lot of world to see, and we're only young once...will there ever be a better time to travel than now?" That night we decided to turn our honeymoon into the adventure of a lifetime.
How much did you spend along the way?
We did our 675-day trip around the world for just under $40 per person per day, including flights, food, lodging, activities…the works. This is an average of the pricier countries like Japan, Australia and Norway ($75 per day) with the less expensive places like Bolivia and Southeast Asia ($20 per day). Traveling around the world turned out to be less expensive than the mortgage on our apartment.
What were your most memorable moments?
We could rattle off 60 but we'll start with six.
1. We hiked into the thick of the Amazon Jungle, slept in hammocks strung between trees, caught piranhas for dinner, then showered in the same place we caught the flesh-eating fish. This was an ambitious but exhilarating first stop out of cubicle land.
2. Getting pulled out of our car by a band of elderly Peruvians to join their cliffside dance party. They had us holding hands doing a communal jig, drinking homemade brew from a shared mug and playing tunes on exotic instruments well into the evening.
3. Teaching English in a tribal Red Tzao village outside of Sapa, Vietnam during the week of Tết New Year. The students thanked us with invitations to pre-Tết dinners, sacrificial rituals and a very exclusive New Year's spirit cleansing ceremony. To be accepted into this community during one of the most familial and celebrated times of year was unforgettable.
4. Having a cheetah jump on top of our open-roof safari vehicle in the Maasai Mara, Kenya. It was scouting the grassland for food but we thought it was eying us up for lunch instead.
5. Wreck diving the WWII ships in Coron, Philippines. Swimming through the wheelhouse past schools of tropical fish and corals honestly felt like we were in a National Geographic special.
6. Watching the Northern Lights from the Arctic Circle in Norway. It was a seven-day boat trip from Bergen to the border of Russia and the views of the fjords were spectacular by day but the views of the neon night sky kept us mesmerized deep into the night.
What countries would you be interested in visiting again?
This answer largely comes down to the people. We've seen so many beautiful places on this trip but it is the kindness and warmth of the locals that keep us longing to return. If we had to pick a few places where the sights and people really struck us, it would be the Philippines, Brazil, Nepal, Turkey and especially Myanmar. We have never met friendlier people than in Myanmar— kids and grandmas alike blow you kisses as you pass by, strangers invite you over for tea and proud locals offer to show you around in exchange for nothing but your company.
What advice can you offer others interested in following a similar journey?
The world is massive and it cannot be seen solely on 10-day vacations. You have to carve out the time to experience it, open your mind and go. As for tips, there are so many things you need to know before you leave on a trip like this. Have two separate credit and debit card accounts in case one disappears. Pack the right technology; it's the hardest thing to get on the road. Buy your flights as you go--the around-the-world plane ticket will cost more and severely limit your flexibility. We have learned so much from our trip and are so passionate about the benefits of long-term travel that we started HoneyTrek Trip Coach. If you're wondering how you can mobilize your dreams of exploring the world, reach out to us and ask us anything!
All photos courtesy of Anne and Mike Howard.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.
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