Planning the ideal round the world trip (RTW) is no easy feat. Those who have done it will tell you that it takes longer than imagined, more than they budgeted for and it’s harder than just booking flight tickets. Those who have done it will have a list of travel hacks and lessons to share on how to reduce expenses, stretch the dollar and get the most of a destination.
Lovebirds, Anne and Mike Howard have traveled 6 continents, over 32 countries and 302 places, and they chose their honeymoon for their RTW. While most honeymooners don’t think twice about booking a holiday on an idyllic beach and spa-worthy destination, Anne and Mike decided that it was too “normal” and instead they went for the unconventional. They planned a 2-year long honeymoon around the world to celebrate life together. I checked in for a quick chat with them and got some travel tips from the globetrotters.
Ardent Traveler (AT): You guys are probably the only people I know who spent 2-year honeymooning around the world with no break in between. Who’s idea was it?
Mike & Anne (M&A): A German friend-of-a-friend told us he and his girlfriend just returned from a one-year journey around the world. The concept seemed unfathomable yet it affixed itself to our brains. In thinking about where we wanted to spend our honeymoon we didn’t have enough paper to list all the places we wanted to visit and this couple’s RTW 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…maybe we turn our honeymoon into the greatest excuse to quit our jobs and travel…” Then we set the dream in motion.
AT: You also made a really bold step by quitting your jobs to travel the world. Was it hard for you? Is it workable?
M&A: It was a little scary leaving stable jobs, but the risk of not following our dream seemed far more frightening. Travel is the greatest learning experience imaginable and it can also be a resume builder. Immersing yourself in other cultures and throwing yourself into new environments sharpens your skills from communication to negotiation, problem-solving to global thinking…a good employer will definitely value those skills. Imagine the stories you will have for your interviews when you return home!
AT: Where did you start when it comes to planning a 2-year trip? Which countries to go to:
M&A: Our travel philosophy has always been to go places too far to visit while we have jobs and too rugged to tackle when we’re old. That meant skipping Central America and most of Europe and focusing on all the places we’d dreamed of visiting in South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Here is the country by country breakdown:
- South America: Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru
- Africa: South Africa, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya
- Asia: Nepal, China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines and Indonesia
- Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
- Europe: Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, England, Norway and Turkey
AT: How much time to spend in each country?
M&A: We aim for 3-4 weeks in each country and 2-3 nights in each location. This is a fairly fast pace in each town but the fact that we get to experience so many regions within each country keeps us energized and excited to keep exploring every single day. With 675 days to travel it actually would have been easy to visit more countries, but we like to stay close to a month in each country so that we can get a stronger sense of the people, customs, and character of a place.
M&A: We did our 675-day trip around the world for just under $40 per person per day, including flights, ground transportation, food, lodging, activities, gear…the works. This is an average of the pricier countries like Japan, Australia, and Norway (~$75+ pppd) with the less expensive places like Bolivia and Southeast Asia (under $20 pppd). We learned all sorts of ways to save money with mileage hacking, homestays, and tons of other travel tricks to to keep our budget low and fun levels high. You’d think we were millionaires (far from it!) but traveling around the world turned out to be less expensive than just the mortgage on our apartment.
AT: I’m sure you stored a million memories from the epic trip. Was a particular event or destination that you would call “life changing”?
M&A: I think the overwhelming kindness of strangers impacted us profoundly. Like the time our motorbike broke down in rural Thailand and a family picked us up and took us into their home for two days, making us a bed in their living room and cooking us three meals a day. Or when we asked a local guy directions in Hangzhou, China and when he couldn’t explain it in English, he took the bus 20 minutes in the wrong direction to make sure we got to our destination safely. Incredible instances of kindness happened to us in ALL 33 countries and these experiences always remind us to be open-hearted and pay it forward.
AT: Tell me a funny story from your travels… One that you will tell your friends over dinner and have a good laugh:)
M&A: We were driving in the mountains above Colca Canyon, Peru when we see a big group of locals all in traditional garb throwing a party in the middle of the road. We creep forward thinking they’d move to let us pass but instead this lady knocks on our window and says in Spanish, “Come dance! You can’t pass until you dance!” The next thing you know Anne is being pulled out of the car into a circle of elderly ladies doing a Peruvian jig. Mike is being poured mystery shots from a communal jug and sent to play in the band. We rocked out with our new best friends well into the evening…it was the best traffic jam we’ve ever been in.
AT: After your 2-year honeymoon, did you settle back into a regular job? What happened after the big trip?
M&A: Well…we may not be done with our honeymoon just yet. We are currently planning a road-trip honeymoon to all 50 states…as an interactive travel show. We are actually in Hollywood right now pitching the show, and continuing to focus on HoneyTrek. Basically it’s a one-on-one service (via skype) where we share our best tips and takeaways from our 675 days on the road. From how to save thousands of dollars on flights to backing up a terrabyte of photos from a Vietnamese internet cafe. We want to give more people the confidence and skills to mobilize their own epic journey. Even if you are even remotely thinking about long-term travel, please reach out to us at TripCoach@HoneyTrek.com.
AT: As a frequent traveler, share with me some tips or travel hacks that will help reduce travel costs.
M&A: School yourself in the art of mileage hacking. We read books, blogs, and even signed up for a course to learn how to maximize our miles and we were able to earn 430,000 frequent flier miles in the eight months leading up to the trip. It was no small task but considering it saved us more than $9,000 in flights, it was well worth it! One thing that can help keep your miles organized is AwardWallet.com (paired with a detailed excel spreadsheet)…and we have tons of tips on the topic and actually offer a Trip Coach mileage hacking course specifically for if you want to know more!
AT: Can travel be sustainable? What are your thoughts after visiting 6 continents, 33 countries and 302 places?
M&A: We know people who’ve been traveling for as long as 18 years! There all sorts of ways to travel affordably or make a living on the road; plus, the cost of living in the vast majority of the world is cheaper than the States– so if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! With an open-mind and an adventurous spirit, long-term travel is entirely possible and a pretty amazing way to live.