Road tripping 22,036 miles around North America, hiking 20 national parks, housesitting 37 pets, backpacking 4 European countries, donating $720 to local non-profits, and publishing a 256-page coffee table book…2019 was a mover and a shaker! Considering Buddy the Camper had already traversed the continental divide, summited 10,000-foot mountain passes, and off-roaded his way across the States, he was ready for The Last Frontier. He took on the 2,319-mile trek from Washington to Alaska like a boss and one-upped it with an unpaved victory lap in the Arctic Circle. Giving Buddy a break, we hopped a plane for three weeks in Europe. We explored four countries until it was time to come home for our seven-city book tour. Of all our achievements this decade, publishing Comfortably Wild was one of the biggest. This book was the constant thread of our 2019 (and 2018) from glamping, writing, researching, editing, promoting, and celebrating the first book ever written on glamping in North America. We’re incredibly proud of it and even more excited that the Associated Press, Forbes, Lonely Planet, Pure Wow, Family Travel Association, and tons of glampers like it too. Thank you to everyone for supporting our journey this year and all the years before. We hope you enjoy these highlights from 2019 and a taste of HoneyTrek 2020.
Ski House Reunion in Vermont
When we started dating in 2006, we joined a ski house in Killington, Vermont and spent winter weekends there for the next five years. For Anne’s birthday, we fired up the Hot Tub Time Machine for a weekend of shredding the gnar, dancing at the Wobbly Barn, playing basement Beirut, hot tubbing at all hours, and getting silly with old friends.
Landing on North America’s Tallest Mountain
Our Alaska road trip holds so many epic experiences, but if we had to choose a favorite it would be Denali Basecamp. From our prop plane, we watched the scenery change from lush forest to rivers of ice to a fortress of glaciated peaks. Then we landed on the glacier and hopped out to frolic in the footsteps of mountain-climbing legends. See our other 11 favorite AK adventures in this blog.
Every year more than 6,000 people attend the US Travel Association’s IPW conference and man, do they throw it down! We were honored to be among a handful of domestic media invited for this five-day meeting of the minds and phenomenal lineup of events. The week was filled with huge musical acts, including Snoop Dogg, Jason Derulo, The Beach Boys, Natasha Bedingfield, and three Broadway casts. They rented out Knott’s Berry Farm AND Disneyland (the week Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge ride opened) just for our group. Though the best part of IPW is the people! Loved catching up with some of our favorite writers and connecting with inspiring travelers from around the world. More photos here.
Art Exhibit of the Year
We took an awesome ten-day road trip through California’s San Luis Obispo County (aka “SLO CAL”), cruising the PCH, wine country, charming little towns, and the coolest art installation we’ve ever seen. British Artist Bruce Munro’s largest work to date, Field of Light covers 15 acres with 58,000 stemmed fiber-optic bulbs for an electric super bloom. Walking the valley from twilight to nightfall, the colors intensified with every minute, while the oak tree silhouettes grew gnarlier. More than an art exhibit, it was a full-body experience that we can’t recommend enough. Good news is that due to its overwhelming popularity the exhibit has been extended through June 2020.
While out on a fantastic seven-day southeast Alaska expedition with UnCruise, we hit the grand-slam of whale watching: bubble-net feeding! It’s a collaborative process where humpbacks encircle a school of fish while blowing a “net” of fine bubbles, then simultaneously shooting to the surface with mouths agape to swallow them in one dramatic swoop. Watch this video to see how this phenomenon played out with seven whales—not once, but nine times!!! For more photos, check out this gallery.
Partnering with Nalgene
You guys know we gave up single-use plastic water bottles back in 2012 and we don’t travel anywhere without our reusable bottle…well, Nalgene took notice! We share the common goal of preventing billions of single-use plastic bottles from clogging our landfills and oceans (see this Nat Geo Facebook Live we hosted for World Water Day) so when they asked to join forces, we gave a resounding YES! We did a big Instagram campaign for them over the summer and its success sparked another one this winter! Keep an eye out for our posts on their sweet new custom bottles, clean water fund, and more.
Coastal Brown Bear Photo Safari
Researching our glamping book over the past three years has been one the greatest joys of our HoneyTrek journey. And the last property of the 60 we reviewed closed this project out with a bang. BearCamp, a former homestead-turned-glamping-camp in Lake Clark National Park, is surrounded by clam-laden beaches, a river with multiple salmon runs, and forests full of protein-rich sedge and bountiful berry bushes—read: heaven for coastal brown bears and safari-goers alike. Watch the video for the raw magic and power of bears.
Reaching the Arctic Circle
The Dempster Highway, a 458-mile shale and dirt road leading to the Arctic Ocean, is general reserved for 18-wheelers and German overlanders, but Buddy had come too far to stop short of the Arctic Circle. After scaling the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, taking the historic Alaska Highway and following the Yukon Gold Rush routes, he carried on to Canada’s Northwest Territories. For three days we averaged 15mph, trying not to fall apart at the seams (and the washboard road still shook our oven door off its hinge!), but those are the sacrifices Buddy makes to be our hero. See more photos from our Yukon and NWT adventures.
Sometimes it’s the little moments that create the greatest travel memories. We have dozens of heart-warmers to share, but they were getting lost in our long-form travelogues so we started a new series, “#ITravelBecause” sponsored by Allianz. Read this story about a heart-warming pupusa-making lesson in the “Murder Capital of the World” and our New Zealand couchsurfing experience that inspired a seven-year international ping-pong match of giving.
When in Europe, you’ve gotta make the most of it! Our invitation to the Adventure Travel World Summit in Sweden inspired an 18-day, 1,400-km, 4-country adventure. In Sweden, Mike and I actually went on different “Pre-Summit Adventures.” While he was off on a moose and beaver safari and foraging for wild mushrooms, I was biking the country’s first national bike route from Helsingborg to Gothenburg. After a fantastic conference, we hopped a ferry to Helsingør, Denmark to explore the castle that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet, followed by three days in the dynamic city of Copenhagen—then Oktoberfest called us to Germany. While Hamburg is no Munich, we found a neighborhood northeast of the city that was throwin’ it down with traditional music, lederhosen, pretzels, and plenty of Hofbräu’s finest. The grand finale was a stay with our dear friend Jessica at her new home in Amsterdam. Unlike any other European city, it feels like a series of charming villages that flow from one canal to the next.
Releasing Our New Book, Comfortably Wild
In summer 2016, Falcon asked us to write the first travel guide on glamping North America. So why did it take three years to release? We wanted to do right by this misunderstood travel style and personally visit the properties, meet the owners, test the local adventures, and get to the heart of glamping. The result is a 256-page guide-meets-coffee-table-book full of places, people, and stories we could not be more proud of. To celebrate we went on a cross-country book tour, including an NYC launch party, bookstore talks in Seattle, San Francisco, and Boulder, an LA family soiree, and The Glamping Summit (where Buddy the Camper was a booth in a blizzard). Catch some of the launch day excitement with this Facebook Live and photo gallery from the tour.
HoneyTrek in the News
Between our eight-year honeymoon, Nat Geo book, glamping quest and our travel expertise, HoneyTrek continues to get some nice press and we could not be more grateful. This year we were interviewed by the AP, CBS News Radio, Lonely Planet, Forbes, and more; plus, our books were featured in 38 gift guides, from Pure Wow to Publisher’s Weekly. While these features are always flattering, our main hope is that our tips and stories inspire more people to make life an adventure!
Playing Park Rangers & Farmers in Utah
A couple that read Ultimate Journeys for Two reached out for extra housesitting tips, then came out and asked, “Do you want to be our housesitters?” They said, “we live within two hours of six national parks and monuments, have a view of the Abajo Mountains, and are backed up to a red rock canyon and pond. Plus, we are park rangers so you can come early and we’ll show you the best hikes and hidden archeology sites.” Sounded amazing to us! Then came the part about their 2 dogs, 3 cats, 7 turkeys, 24 chickens, and 100,000+ honeybees. We aren’t intimidated by much but 36 pets and two beehives gave us pause. We looked at each other as the silence grew louder on the call, then said “What the heck, let’s do it!” It turned out to be a fantastic month getting to know the complex inner workings of Bears Ears National Monument, the Morman-Navajo towns of San Juan County, and life as a semi-homesteader. Blog coming soon on this fun and fascinating housesit; until then, watch this comical video from our stay.
20 National Parks & Monuments
National parks and monuments have been a big part of our 2.5-year USA road trip, but they were a focal point of 2019. We visited Yosemite, Mesa Verde, Bryce Canyon, Great Basin, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Glen Canyon, Arches, Glacier Bay, Canyonlands, Kenai Fjords, Lake Clark, Wrangell-St. Elias, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Gateway Arch, Bears Ears, Grand Staircase Escalante, Natural Bridges, and Mojave National Preserve, making a total of 20 parks this year under 1 America the Beautiful pass…it’s the best thing we own!
Bloggers Give Back
Realizing how fortunate we are to work with tourism boards on a regular basis, we decided to make a concerted effort to give back to the regions we explore. As of June 2019, we began donating 5% of our earnings from each campaign to local non-profits! It’s been exciting to discover so many awesome environmental and social causes—from the Juneau Icefield Research Program to the Friends of the Elephant Seal. More than just giving money, we’re also sharing awesome altruistic travel experiences, whether it be a ranger-led hike that also does trail maintenance or dining at a social-good restaurant. We are excited to continue giving, volunteering, and sharing how awesome sustainable travel can be.
A new decade of HoneyTrek begins with…
Baja Road Trip: Buddy is heading south of the border this February! We’re taking the month to travel the length of the 760-mile peninsula, chill in beach pueblos, watch the great grey whale migration, and practica español. Travel Conferences Galore: Yes, we’re going to a crazy volume of conferences this year, but we love our travel community so much and can’t resist a good meeting of the minds!
IMM & New York Times Travel Show: Every January we dive into four days of networking and speed dating with destinations from across the globe, followed by co-hosting the 5th Annual Blogger Throwdown.
ITB Berlin: This is the world’s largest tourism trade fair and it’s about time we attend and check out this hip German city.
TBEX Sicily: We’re excited to be returning speakers at TBEX Europe! This is always a fantastic travel blogging conference and will be particularly fab in its host city of Catania, Italy!
TravelCon New Orleans: Another fab travel media conference, TravelCon is where we’ll be speaking about RVTravel and how to succeed on the road.
Camp Indie: Part travel conference and part summer camp, Camp Indie will be three days of workshops and playing on a lake in Connecticut. It’s billed as the “The World’s Most Fun Travel Conference,” so if you are considering becoming a digital nomad or are an entrepreneur building their side-hustle, you should join us!!
Spring in Europe: We may only be doing a week of travel conferences on the continent but that doesn’t mean we’re rushing home. Where should we go after Italy…Malta, Greece, Spain, Austria? We have two months to explore. East-Coast Road Trip: The Whole Enchilada. After New Orleans and some much-needed niece time in Memphis, we’ll head up the East Coast through Maine and into Canada. Quebec, New Brunswick, Labrador, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland…it’s all new and exciting to us. If you have tips for this summer road trip, let us know! Completing the 50 States: We’ve been to 47 States and are missing one of the most beautiful pockets of the country, especially in autumn. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota here we come!
Happy New Year!
What was your favorite thing that happened in 2019 or that you’re most excited about for 2020?