Setting foot on our seventh continent, traveling to our 50th country together, starring in a Microsoft commercial, speaking at the Smithsonian, signing a book deal, housesitting in Europe, North and Central America…2016 was a big year in HoneyTrek Land! We’ll admit, we’ve been so busy we have not been the best about blogging, so here is quick recap on our travels across 10 countries and the highlights of 2016!
Housesitting became a wonderful thread through our year, starting with the dynamic cities in our old corner of the USA. From a loft in Brooklyn to a Victorian townhouse in Boston, we took on familiar and fresh territory, and made time to connect with family and friends wherever we could.
Highlight: Seeing the Big Air ski competition at Fenway Park and climbing inside the Green Monster.
We adore Argentina. Having spent five weeks at the beginning of HoneyTrek exploring the country from Iguazu Falls to Patagonia and zigzagging the Andes, we were so stoked to be back. Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America,” always has ooo-la-la written all over it with tango in the streets, lively antique markets, and Malbec on free flow. Venturing out of the city we discovered the wonders of gaucho country. We stayed on an estancia learning the ropes of wrangling cattle and galloping through the Pampas countryside. Then we hopped a flight to Usuaia: The End of the World and Gateway to Antarctica.
The White Continent, our Seventh Continent…it’s the holy grail for full-time travelers like us. Not to mention, we’re obsessed with icy landscapes and who doesn’t love penguins. Well, we made it to Antarctica and it blew our minds and wrote three photo- and video-filled blogs all about it.
Highlights: Stand-up paddleboarding around icebergs and having a penguin nibble on our camera strap.
When we heard our favorite dogs in Mexico needed a housesitter for the month of May, we couldn’t resist a return trip to Mazatlan. We walked the pups on the seaside promenade each morning, spent nights in Plaza Machado listening to live music, and celebrated Mike’s birthday at Las Labradas hunting for petroglyphs in the ocean surf and sipping micheladas into the sunset. When the housesit ended,we weren’t going to let a plane just zip us home. We rented a car and road tripped over the Sierra Madres to the Mexiquillo lunar landscape, Guanajuato mining labyrinth, San Miguel artist colony, Teotihuacan pyramids, and Mexico City to catch up with friends Ro & Majo. Then we flew from Mexico City to Houston for a wedding, followed by the TBEX blogging conference in Minneapolis, and ultimately the craziest stop of all in Hollywood…
Highlight: Starring in a TV Commercial
We still can’t believe Microsoft and Dell asked us to be in their Windows 10 ad campaign and that it ran on TV during the Olympics, the Tonight Show, Dancing with the Stars, the Democratic National Convention, all the major networks and then continued to do so overseas. We had friends everywhere from Belize to England to the DR reach out to tell us our commercial was playing on their national stations. Go behind-the-scenes of our commercial here.
My first experience living overseas was as teenager in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Staying the month with a local family and immersing myself in a new culture, may be the origin of my incurable travel bug. The country holds a special place in my heart so, of course, I wanted to share it with Mike. When we saw a housesit become available in Guanacaste, we applied without hesitation and, thankfully, Toni and Sheba the cat also thought we were a good fit. We had a grand time with our kitty and villa overlooking the Pacific, and bookended our stay with a couple weeks of adventures: river rafting the Pacuare, hiking the cloud forest of Monteverde, spotting caimans and toucans in Tortuguero, and celebrating Guanacaste Day with a few thousand Tico cowboys.
Less than a two -hour bus ride from our house in Costa Rica, the border was calling. We threw on the backpacks and hopped a bus to another bus to a tuk-tuk to Granada. A colonial city surrounded by volcanoes and the country’s biggest lake, it hits all the marks for culture and adventure (and it’s super affordable. Like 35-cent pupusas!). When night fell, we went to the top of Masaya Volcano to see the glow of its lava pool. It’s one of the few places in the world you can walk up to the rim and watch the red hot lava churn, bubble, and burst. As luck would have it, there was an eruption a few months prior so we saw the volcano at its most active since the 1980s!
Lake Nicaragua is filled with fascinating islands. The most famous being Ometepe: twin volcanoes connected by a spit of land and shooting up out of the lake. We spent a few days here motorbiking the cone’s circumference, romping around in the jungle looking for petroglyphs, and hanging out at the hippy farming communes (a big thing here). Though our favorite island was Zapatera–once a private island in the family of six Nicaraguan presidents and now a national park…without a single tourist. It was sacred to the Chorotega Indians, leaving extensive rock carvings and artifacts all over the island. We spent two nights here and dream of going back. Read all about it in our Glamping.com post.
A family wedding invitation brought us across the Atlantic to the magical Sintra, Portugal. Moorish castles, to medieval palaces to modern art museums, you can take in 1,000 years of history in day here (and you should try with this handy timeline guide we did for Travelocity). It was so nice to travel with family—Mike’s mom, brothers, soon-to-be sister in law, the Steeres, Schmids, and dozens of family friends! We based camp in the James Bond haunt of Monte Estoril, took beach walks to posh Cascais, rode the trolleys and hoofed the hills of Lisbon, and then after a fab 10 days together, we went to “our farm” in Central Portugal.
Enter our most ambitious housesit to date: A four-acre farm with six rabbits, ten chickens, and countless fruits and veggies! We were a little nervous our thumb would not be green enough for this place, but we found our farmer groove. We really enjoyed tending the crops and harvesting them for bountiful feasts! Our Tabua farm was beautifully situated along the Mondego River and an hour from the historic university town of Coimbra and two hours from the Portuguese wine capital of Porto…both of which we adored (see the Facebook galleries.)
Continuing the study-abroad-city pilgrimage, we went back to Spain to visit my old Sevilla roommate, Jessica, and her husband Antonio in Madrid. Mike also spent a good stint in España, but it was our first time in the country together…por fin! We had late-night dinner parties catching up on la vida loca and did a tapa-hop down the locals-only restaurant row of Calle Ponzano. On our last day, we met up with my dad’s dear film buddy Lourent in his apartment looking over the Real Madrid stadium, and then he was kind enough to whisk us to the airport.
We had a week to play with before our next housesit and a slew of good international airfares to choose from. A $52 ticket to the world-class city of Budapest? Two please! Every structure we roamed past…the opera houses, the neoclassical and Turkish spas, the bridges over the Danube, to the average intersection…seemed utterly regal. Though the contrast between the city’s history and its edgy ruin pubs, art scene and youthful air, tripled Budapest’s cool factor. We’ll be back, Hungary!
Remember when we listed a bunch of countries and asked, “Where we should spend October?” Well, you picked Croatia, so we made it happen! Let it be known it is not easy to get housesits in Croatia and we almost took one in Dubai because our prospects were looking slim, then a villa on the island of Losinj appeared. Dating back to the 13th-century with colorful houses and stone stairs crisscrossing the neighborhoods, the fishing villages of Losinj are a writer’s dream. We set up our office with views of the Adriatic and a cat on our lap and watched the sailboats bob as we wrote five more chapters of our book.
Croatia also marked our 50th country we’ve traveled to together.
Highlight: Our 50th Country
To celebrate our 50th country together, each nation, and its incredible people, we decided to post a photo every day for 50 days on Facebook and asked everyone chime in. We tried to share a variety of landscapes, cultural scenes, and unforgettable moments, and start a dialog on these inspiring places. See all 50 countries.
Mexico Part II
After three months in Europe, we made our way back to North America via Mexico for the Travelocity Gnomad Summit in Cancun, Cozumel & Tulum. We’re quite proud to be part of this elite group of travel bloggers and loved gathering with these creative minds for five days of brainstorming. As for greater Cancun, it’s a touristy place but a brilliant turquoise sea and Mayan ruins make everything better.
Highlight: Giving a Talk at the Smithsonian
Speaking for the Smithsonian has been one of our greatest honors. They asked us to give a talk on travel hacking, showing people how to travel longer for less and have more meaningful experiences along the way. It was magical night. We sold out the 280-person theater and people stayed for questions until the janitor kicked us out.
USA: Home for the Holidays
With so many wonderful friends and family members in the States, we like to come through the U.S. as often as we can. Extra adventures included being a groomsman in a gorgeous wedding in Hull, Massachusetts, running the 19th-annual Mike Howard Memorial charity golf tournament in the Poconos, and housesitting across the street from the DC National Zoo (watch this hysterical panda video) and a cottage in a foot of snow in Belfast, Maine. As for the holidays—they are the best with fam, so we spent Thanksgiving in Mike’s Pennsylvania hometown and then had Christmas with my family (including our adorable nieces) in California.
Highlight: HoneyTrek Goes Viral!
The Washington Post wrote an article about HoneyTrek and it opened a floodgate of international press! Pick your newspaper, magazine, and TV station of choice: CNN (Greece), MSN (USA) Daily Mail, The Sun & Mirror (UK), La Repubblica (Italy), Cosmopolitan (France. Yea, that Cosmo), Blick (Switzerland), Glamour & RTL Nieuws (Netherlands), Abola (Portugal), Stara (Finland), Tuổi Trẻ (Vietnam), Casa e Jardim (Brazil), NRG (Israel), Stirile Pro TV (Romania), AM 730 (China), PPTV (Thailand, Watch this one, it’s a proper TV newscast in Thai!)
The biggest of press of all was being invited on Sunrise, one of Australia’s biggest morning TV programs. They caught wind of our story and made it a part of their New Year’s Day Special.
We have a lot of exciting trips and projects cooking for 2017, here’s a sneak peek:
- Honeymooning the Cayman Islands and covering it for Lonely Planet on Snapchat
- Speaking at TBEX Israel
- Road Trip USA, celebrating the diversity and many nations within our own country!
- Book Tour! Our book, Ultimate Journeys for Two, will hit stores September 2017 and we’ll be traveling North America to do readings, signings, and talks through the fall.