As a constantly traveling couple, Anne and Mike Howard have slept everywhere, from camping tents in the Andes to five-star hotels in Zambia. They also have embraced the style of glamping, a trending travel term in which stays in nature involve lodging that is more refined than rugged.
Known by their online journal, “HoneyTrek,” which chronicles them having the “World’s Longest Honeymoon,” the Howards have put their knowledge about glamping to print with “Comfortably Wild: The Best Glamping Destinations in North America” (Falcon Guides, October 1, 2019). This paperback is written as a how-to for anyone who wants to have an outdoor getaway but don’t exactly want to sleep on the ground.
Recently, the Howards talked about how their book and how their advice on glamping is making a stay in the wilderness more accessible and well worrisome.
You both previously wrote “Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent,” a guide book published by National Geographic, on couples adventure travel across all seven continents. For your second book, why did you focus on glamping within North America?
Anne Howard: Ever since 2012, when we began of our seven-year journey around the world, we’ve been reviewing unique and romantic hotels for the website, Honeymoons.com. We quickly realized that glamping was our favorite style of accommodation. It brought us to remote and stunning places, gave us access to incredible adventures, and offered just enough luxury to savor it all.
Mike Howard: We were hooked on these immersive outdoor experiences and started to write about them more and more for other publications like Glamping.com, and National Geographic. Falcon Guides, our publisher, took notice of our work and passion for glamping and asked us to write the first destination guide on the topic for them.
Tell us about your first glamping trip. What did you take away from the experience?
Mike: When organizing a trip into the wild, the lodging options have traditionally been to pitch a tent and eat freeze-dried meals or get shuttled from the nearest hotel for day trips. This was not the way we wanted to experience Patagonia, or any wilderness area for that matter, so we did a bit of digging and found EcoCamp, back in 2012.
Anne: We were in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, directly in front of its iconic granite spires. This park’s off-the-grid geodesic dome glamping retreat was exactly where we wanted [our first glamping trip] to be. After trekking the mountain circuits, kayaking to glaciers, and horseback riding the pampas, we would end each day with pisco sour happy hours, three-course dinners and stargazing from our fluffy bed. From that point on, adventurous, luxurious and sustainable glamping completely won us over.
Why do you think glamping is getting more attention? What makes it appealing?
Anne: Glamping has been in the news for years but now that experiential travel and digital-detox vacations have gotten more attention, people are realizing that glamping is the perfect bend of these two trends.
Mike: In this tech-heavy world, there is a craving to get back to nature, stay in unique places, revel in little indulgences, connect with family and friends, and have experiences that inspire us. Glamping offers that in spades.
In the book, you list various lodging locations across the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. How did you pick them and how many have you stayed at?
Anne: When you Google “best glamping destinations,” there are over 13,000 results. There are so many beautiful, luxurious and beloved glamping destinations out there, but the listicles often tend to bring many of the same properties to the forefront. In writing Comfortably Wild, we wanted to go deeper than what looks pretty and popular and surface creative places that connect us with the outdoors, our families and ourselves. Each chapter [of our book] offers a unique way to vacation, ranging from boutique farmstays and wellness retreats, to wildlife experiences and action-packed journeys.
Mike: After we figured out our categories and did a year of intensive research to find a wide diversity of locations and price points, we plotted the best candidates on the map and personally visited 62 glamping destinations to see if they met our number one criteria — heart!
You also printed interviews with certain property owners. Why did you want to include them along with information on their properties?
Mike: The people behind these destinations are what make them sing. This book is about the dreamers and the doers. It’s about the individuals who had a crazy idea to create unconventional retreats in the most unlikely places. People who took incredible risks and poured their hearts into a property so they could share it with glampers like us. Some of the most inspiring folks we’ve ever met are the proprietors in this book.
Anne: The family behind Fronterra Farm in Ontario’s Prince Edward County has been brewing beer since the Middle Ages and they invite guests to join in harvesting heirloom hops and crafting beer from plow to pint. Not only did we interview the owners in person, we had them journal about their experience creating their properties. Roberto Fernandez was a Costa Rican river rafting guide who had a dream to protect the rainforest he paddled through. He started Pacuare Lodge with 5 acres and today has 2,075 acres—a hundred or so for their canopy suites, zipline course, and spa and another 2,000 to keep the Barbilla Biological Corridor, the indigenous Cabécar footpaths, and the endangered jaguar habitat as they were meant to be.
What has been the most interesting glamping location you’ve stayed at?
Anne: That’s like picking between children! They are all interesting in their own way. We’ve stayed at a Disc Golf Treehouse Resort, a cottage with a 1960s Coast Guard Chopper for a living room, an ice suite chiseled by a team of sculptors, a caboose in a long-lost train depot, and camps that pop up each night along your journey, be it by river raft, trekking boot, or covered wagon.
Mike: If it wasn’t interesting, we didn’t put them in the book.
Also in your book, you provide a chart on how to plan a glamping experience. If someone asked you for related advice, what would you say?
Anne: I’d start by asking, do you want more glamour or more camping? Glamping can be five-star wilderness resorts where morning pastries are delivered to your tent door and others that ignite your inner mountain man with cooking over the open fire. What month are you looking to travel? It’s also good to know that many of these outdoor accommodations are open seasonally.
Mike: Ask who’s on your guest list? If going solo, options like yoga retreats and group journeys will make you feel at ease. If you’re bringing children, know that some of these wild places have age minimums while others have robust kids programs. And last but not least, ask yourself what you’re craving and how you want to feel when you return.
How do you address any preconceived notions the readers may have about “glamping”?
Mike: Some people write off glamping because this “made-up” word sounds a little silly, but when they realize it means easy access to some of the most incredible outdoor experiences and interesting people in hospitality, we think they’ll change their minds.
Anne: Also, while “glamping” may have only been added to the dictionary in 2016, we want people to know that its roots are steeped in history (from the nomadic dwellings of Central Asia to medieval royalty traveling with mobile palaces) and that this travel “trend” is here to stay.
Are you two still glamping? If so, where are you heading to next?
Anne: We’ll always be glamping! This winter, we have our sights set on Camp Cecil in Isla Espíritu Santo and Baja’s Sea of Cortez— it’s home to 39 percent of the marine mammal species in the world. Heading out to SUP or snorkel often means swimming alongside sea lions, schools of tropical fish, and even whale sharks.
Mike: Oceanfront tents are outfitted like five-star suites. Margaritas and ceviche arrive on cue with the sunset, and their on-sand restaurant is said to be one of the finest in greater La Paz. Si, Señor!
Learn more about Mike & Anne Howard and their book, Comfortably Wild, here.