Is it just us, or was 2021 somehow harder than 2020? That first stroke of midnight 364 days ago felt like a fresh start for the world…but instead, it became a waiting game of “When will this get better?” Upon realizing there wasn’t going to be an “end date,” we got vaccinated and moved forward with caution. Buddy the Camper continued to be our rock, as did housesitting, to keep exploring while having a safe haven. We RVed 11,366 miles around the US, visited our 44th national park, backpacked Mexico for two months, and took to the sea in French Polynesia. We took on challenging new projects, like launching an NFT Art & Gear Collection, reviewing two books, learning to crew a sailboat, and leading a #RecreateReponsibly campaign for new outdoor enthusiasts. And while 2021 wasn’t likely anyone’s favorite year on record, we’re excited to share this annual highlights blog and say that nothing can stop the magic of travel.
SoCal Home Turf Road Trip
I grew up in Southern California but had no idea how much there was to see within a half-day drive of my childhood home. In January, Mike and I took three weeks to explore the Mojave National Preserve Desert, Alabama Hills, Death Valley, Red Rock Canyon State Park, Fossil Falls, and Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, and we were blown away by their geological wonders and how few people know about this side of California. The best part about the trip was that we didn’t cover too much distance and took time to savor each place. For example at the incredible Fossil Falls, we moved our camping spot each night, but never more than a half-mile. Looking at its cinder cone and fossilized waterfalls from slightly different angles and times of day reminded us that discovering new things may just mean looking a little closer.
10th Wedding Anniversary in Mendocino
March 12, 2021 marked 10 years since we tied the knot! For our anniversary, we road tripped up the PCH and returned to one of our favorite spots in California…Mendocino County! North of the Bay Area, the redwood forests become thicker, the coast more rugged, wine country more familial, and everything more down to earth. We stayed at the innovative Stanford Inn, one of the country’s first sustainable and vegan hotels—and having organic, homegrown, plant-based cuisine delivered to our ocean-view balcony each morning was a slice of heaven! From our Mendocino basecamp, we had all sorts of adventures along the coast—canoeing, rail biking, volunteer gardening, whale watching, and lots more…see this gallery.
Becoming Glamping Magazine Columnists
In spring 2020, International Glamping Business Magazine released their “Who’s Who of Glamping” issue and guess which peeps made the cover? Writing the first book on glamping in North America certainly got their attention, but our more recent work consulting for glamping camps gave them the idea to not just feature us in that issue, but invite us to be regular columnists for their magazine. We published one article per quarter in Glamping Business Americas, sharing takeaways from our 200+ boutique hotel & glamping stays around the world and how property owners can create an unforgettable guest experience. Check out these articles on the Art of the Check-in, Rooms to Remember, and Facilitating Fun.
Living in “The World’s Best City”
Mexico is a place we could see ourselves living someday, so when we got invited to housesit a villa in San Miguel de Allende this spring, we said ¡Si, Señor! Not just among the country’s finest, it was named 2021’s “World’s Best City” by Travel & Leisure. We spent a month here, enjoying everything this UNESCO World Heritage Site, artist colony, and heartland city have to offer. Highlights included, impromptu beer making at an underground brewery, my mom joining us for Easter festivities, geodesic dome glamping, exploring the street art culture, and having the most beautiful kitchen to hone my Mexican vegan cooking. Cactus tacos anyone? Check out more of our adventures in San Miguel and the surrounding state of Guanajuato in this blog and the rest of our Mexico journey through Jalisco, Morelia, Guerrerro, Oaxaca, and Chiapas on our Instagram.
Our Closest Brush with Death
As if driving Oaxaca’s Highway 175, with its hundreds of hairpin turns over an 8,000-foot mountain pass (without seat belts or guardrails) wasn’t harrowing enough, it was pouring rain and our minibus driver was vying for a speed record. Turns out he was no match for the slick roads, and hydroplaned to the left, then whipped the steering wheel to the right, and sent us careening toward the cliff. I saw the bottom of the ravine approaching and time slowed just enough to contemplate death or dismemberment, then—WHACK! We slammed square into a telephone pole. It snapped in half and our transmission dragged along the remaining stump of jagged wood until it brought us to a halt—a few feet over the edge. We scrambled to the back of the van to keep it from tipping forward and hopped out the rear door. Thankfully no one was injured and dozens of locals stopped to bring our car back to safety (with a rope, a chainsaw, and brute strength), but this experience certainly spent one of our nine lives. For happier tales from Oaxaca , check out our travel guide to explore this state’s colonial cities, ancient ruins, mezcal country, and gorgeous beaches.
Official Book Reviewers
Though we don’t write about vanlife too much, we’re proud that we’ve earned some street cred as long-time RVers and authors and were asked to review not one but two fabulous books on the topic: RV Hacks and The Falcon Guide to Van Life. In both books, we got HoneyTrek quotes on the backcover and were even asked to contribute a section. These are must-reads for happy campers, check them out and support these stellar authors!
Four Years in a Camper
Buddy joined our HoneyTrek in 2017 and has become the hero of our nomadic lifestyle. Home, office, and adventure mobile, our quirky camper has allowed us to explore North America on a budget (under $30 per day) while living life to the fullest! To celebrate his 4th year in the family and shed some light on why we decided to become RVers, we made this video (above) about our life on wheels. Complete with footage from our first days campervanning New Zealand and a recent interior tour of our 1985 Sunrader, it’s a look at four years of full-time RV travel in under five minutes.
Riding the Seattle Heat Wave with a Treehouse-sit
During the hottest days of summer, we try to give Buddy (and ourselves) a break, and thought we had found the perfect hideaway…a two-week housesit with an Architect-designed treehouse and two Corgi showdogs on Bainbridge Island, Washington. It sounded like a fool-proof plan, but then this corner of the Pacific Northwest had its hottest temperatures in recorded history—for the duration of our stay! We made the best of it, kayaking in the Puget Sound, taking slow walks under the shade of the cedar and fir forest, working on show-dog tricks, and hanging in the kiddy pool with our talented pups. And Buddy was thrilled to not be driving (without AC) in the 108-degree weather!
Losing My Cousin to Covid
My cousin Bobby had a vaccination appointment on April 12th, 2021 and the week prior, he got infected with Covid. A born athlete and 45 years young, he was not in the at-risk category, nor did anyone know he had lung abnormalities. He was in the hospital for three months, mostly in an induced coma and breathing through a grip of machines, until he passed away on June 30th. He left behind a 10-year old son, a lovely wife, my Thumel family, and countless friends who miss him dearly. After going to the memorial service in Denver, we returned to Washington State, only to find out his wife and son were coming to Lake Chelan, WA to scatter his ashes. She invited us to join, so we cleared our schedule at the drop of a hat and drove across the state to spend a week with them. Together we celebrated Bobby’s life, swimming, cliff-jumping, wine-drinking, bocce balling, and having fun in his honor…will always love you, cuz!
Of all the work we’ve done for tourism boards, we’re most proud of our recent #RecreateResponsibly campaign for Glacier Country, Montana. In light of the pandemic’s call for wide-open spaces, Western Montana didn’t need more tourists—they needed more mindful ones. So they asked us to take what we know as eco-conscious vanlifers, who’ve spent hundreds of days camping in public lands, and show people how to leave the forest better than they find it. Over the course of a 12-day road trip, we shared the ways we find approved boondocking spots, properly put out a fire, clean up camp, check our kayak and boots for invasive species, and volunteer and donate wherever we can to conservation orgs. We wrote this blog about the road trip (you’ll love the International Chainsaw Carving Competition and the tipi glamping we did on the Flathead Reservation) and a Responsible Boondocking article for GlacierMT.com (coming soon).
Launching an NFT Art & Travel Gear Collection
I can’t believe we did this, partly because it was so on-trend (we’re never that cool) and it was such freaking hard work, but we launched an NFT art collection! Uniquely blending the crypto+art+fashion worlds, our friends at Wearable NFT Art invited us to collaborate with their resident artist to interpret the HoneyTrek story into three unique pieces of digital art, with a matching product line. We brainstormed, sketched, and dreamt up three artworks with the talented Argentinian artist Santi Soulas and feel they truly speak to our 3,500-day journey and what we love about travel. We’re so proud to have sold all 30 pieces of art, raised over $200 for charity (NRDC, FLYTE, & The Bee Conservancy), and created gear we love.
Speaking at the Travel & Adventure Show
The leading consumer travel show in the US has invited us to join their speaker circuit! Presenting alongside some of the industry’s biggest names (Places to Love’s Samantha Brown, CBS’s Peter Greenberg, Discovery Channel’s Josh Gates, Patricia Schultz of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, Frommer’s Pauline Frommer, and more!), we’re coming together to help you plan better trips. At the fall event in California, we spoke about RVing and Glamping and this January we’ll be in New York to lead a panel on sustainable travel. We hope you can join us at one of the upcoming Travel & Adventure Shows across the country, plus get in on all their deals, giveaways, cultural performances, hands-on activities, and more fun happenings.
Island Hopping French Polynesia
The islands of the South Pacific have long been calling our name, so we are super excited to finally be in French Polynesia for a two-month adventure! It’s a place with more than just postcard-perfect islands, it’s the center of the Polynesian Triangle and rich with culture and incredibly friendly people. Though to make the most of this magical yet pricey series of archipelagos, we’ve had to get crafty…hitchhiking, couch-surfing, working for room & board, vegan cooking with an electric kettle, and bartering a few honeymoon-worthy experiences. See our photo gallery from Rangiroa (one of the biggest atolls in the world), video from scuba diving the legendary Tiputa Pass, dreamy pics from The Blue Lagoon, and all our travels—including our upcoming sailing trip through the stunning Society Islands (Moorea and Bora Bora to name a few) and exploring the tiki-clad Marquesas—in this Instagram highlight reel.
Learning to Sail
One of the big highlights of French Polynesia (and perhaps HoneyTrek overall) was crewing a sailboat in the Tuamotu archipelago. It was a shot in the dark, but posting our rookie skills on the French Poly Cruisers Facebook Group found us our perfect captain: Jasna Tuta…a certified sailing instructor, published author on French Polynesia, and all-around badass lady. With one video chat, we instantly connected as nomads and made a plan to sail the length of Fakarava, a stunning atoll and lagoon with UNESCO Biosphere status. We came aboard her luxurious Oyster 56 monohull and quickly realized how much we had to learn…sailing principles, vocabulary, mechanics, navigation, and the necessary maintenance of a million-dollar yacht. It was a little intimidating, but Jasna was such a natural teacher and let us learn trial by fire. She had us hoisting sails, setting anchors, checking valves, fixing bilge pumps, cleaning mildew, polishing chrome, and scuba-dive-scrubbing the hull…and we loved every minute of it! We gained so much from our week together, and while we may not always remember how to tie a sheet bend, we’ll never forget our time under sail in French Polynesia. Watch the video above of tropical paradise and see how this pair of landlubbers faired at sea.
HoneyTrek in the News
We’re honored that media outlets look to us as travel experts on a wide variety of topics. Here are a few of our favorite clips from 2021:
- The Knot, the venerable bridal magazine, posed the question, “How long is a honeymoon” and we said…100-day minimum Just kidding, see the article for our answers…
- National Geographic Travel noticed the huge uptick in glamping this summer and asked for our insights and favorite places in this fascinating feature on how “Glamping is helping ‘indoorsy’ families get outside.”
- RM World Travel, America’s #1 Travel Radio Show, brought us back on for their “Personal Connection” segment to chat about our latest news and thoughts from the road.
- Wildpreuners, an inspirational site and active community of dream-chasers, inquired about our unconventional path, covering everything from honeymoons to Trip Coach to Comfortably Wild and our perfect day at work.
- Vacation Mavens interviewed Anne for her best tips on our 1,000-mile Grand Circle sojourn.
- We let it all hang loose on one of the leading travel podcasts, Extra Pack of Peanuts, dishing on our biggest travel mishap, our penchant for closing out parties, and behind-the-scenes tales from our glamping journey.
- The Polish newspapers got wind (a little late) that we were trapped in their country for the first seven weeks of Covid.
- The Camper Report Show did a video interview with us about full-timing with Buddy.
- The Estonian business newspaper, Aripaev, asked some very personal questions about how we succeed as digital nomads.
- We were named one of the Top 40 Travel Blogs of 2021 by Let’s Roam. Check out the list for tons of awesome content creators to follow in the New Year.
- The OG Travel Website, Go Nomad , picked our brain on housesitting for a comprehensive guide.
- Outside Magazine’s resident gear guy was reviewing glamping tents and wanted the couple who wrote the book on this travel style to chime in. Coming Soon.
Ultimate Journeys for Two: The Quest for a Second Edition Continues
Throughout this year, we’ve put together a bunch of videos, articles, giveaways, and interviews about Ultimate Journeys for Two. And you probably know why by now…Nat Geo said they’d greenlight a second edition if we can show an uptick in holiday sales! With the help of our HoneyTrek fans we made a good dent this December (thanks to anyone that supported!) but we still don’t know if it was enough. Eek! We have until January 20th, so it’s not too late to get copies of this timeless coffee-table book (it just went on sale for $14 btw) and help us make our New Year’s dream come true!
2022 Preview: 10 Honeymoons for 10 Years
January 22nd 2022 marks a full decade on honeymoon! We left home to explore the world for 16 months, and ten years later we’re still going. Ever since 2014, it’s been called the “world’s longest honeymoon,” so while we didn’t have a Guinness World Records guy following us around (because that’d just be creepy) to validate our 10 years of honeymooning, it’s certainly a milestone worth celebrating! To do that, we’re planning 10 honeymoons to celebrate our 10th year. To us, a fabulous honeymoon is a mix of romance and adventure—without sacrificing sustainability. We have a few destinations and experiences in mind…but we would LOVE to hear your suggestions.
Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey over the years and we look forward to having you along for another exciting year!