Most couples wish that their honeymoon would last forever, but few take the leap to see if it really could. When Mike and Anne Howard began planning their dream trip ten years ago, they asked each other — well, what would it look like to add a few more weeks here, another month there?
"We had a map with Post-it notes on it and it was pretty much just a yellow wall of three weeks here, three weeks there, and it was crazy. You couldn't see the map," Mike tells PEOPLE.
"It wasn't going to add up to a two week vacation, that's for sure," quips Anne.
After much deliberation, budgeting and planning, the pair set out on Jan. 22, 2012 for what was initially meant to be a year-long honeymoon adventure — and haven't stopped moving since.
They've been cataloguing their journey to 63 countries across all seven continents over the last 3,652 days on their blog HoneyTrek. Throughout their travels, they've seen all 50 states of America in their RV, flown around the world 11.5 times for free using frequent flyer miles, stayed at over 200 luxury hotels and glamping sites, gone on 36 safaris and much, much more.
To mark their tenth anniversary, the couple chatted with PEOPLE about the lessons they've learned on the road, their money-saving travel hacks and what's next on their HoneyTrek.
The Howards tied the knot after they were introduced by a mutual friend while they were living in New York City — but they were initially set up as volleyball partners, not romantic ones. That distinction didn't last for long though, Anne recalls.
"I was like, we're volleyball teammates. And then he just made the summer amazing. We were going on adventures to Vermont and taking road trips and doing rafting trips. I was like, okay, you're really kind of amazing and I love you. We ultimately hit it off and got married."
When it came to their wedding registry, the pair requested that in lieu of traditional home items, they'd prefer their loved ones to chip in on experiences for them around the world — a choose-your-own-adventure gift.
"It was great because our family and friends were really supportive. We brought them into the process," says Anne. "They were kind of sending us out into the world. We did all our thank you notes as postcards from [wherever they'd sent us]. We tried to fulfill dreams of the people that we love and we will always have those shared places, even if they weren't actually with us. We had their blessing to get out there."
Their first stop was Manaus, in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest. "We went from the concrete jungle to the Amazon jungle," jokes Mike.
Speaking about their decision to commit to a longer trip, Mike explains, "We kind of had a realization that we could do a big trip when we were 65, maybe, if we didn't have two grandkids and a bad hip and a third house and this job that we still needed to maintain because we were still paying our mortgage like many parents are at 65. Or you could lose your spouse. There's so many things that happen that fail that trip," he says. "But let's say none of those things happen. What if everything went perfect and you could do the same trip at 65 that you're going to do now? Which would you be a better person, more fulfilled, more compassionate, more worldly for?"
These were the sort of questions the pair talked through before setting off. In the decade since, they've learned a variety of new skills and countless lessons along their journey. One of the most meaningful takeaways is that "there are many ways to live and be happy and find success," says Anne.
"You get out into the world and you see so many more examples and models that you never thought of. I think it's taught us a lot of humility and compassion for other cultures," she adds.
Another of their main takeaways is to roll with the punches, she shares. "You never know what's coming your way," says Anne. "So it's a general attitude that you're going to have bumps in the road and you need to know how to turn it into an adventure and laugh and roll with it, because everything will go awry at some point. That stopped stressing us out. We just took that as the new normal of 'Yeah, you never know what the world's going to throw at you. Bring it on.'"
Many of the pair's hard-won tips and tricks to getting the most out of couples travel are featured in their National Geographic best seller, Ultimate Journeys For Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent. The book is "a primer for couples that really want to get out there and have experiences," Anne says. "Not just honeymooning, but a life of adventure together." It also features their conversations with 10 other nomadic couples, including suggestions on the best destinations and tips for couples travel.
One thing that has worked well for them is making sure both of them participate in planning each step of their adventure. "In each city or region that you visit, have each of you plan one activity or one adventure or one trip to the museum or something so that both people feel like they've got one thing that they really want to do," suggests Mike. "You're both bringing something, you're both doing a little research."
"You're both more invested in the trip when you find something that you're passionate about," adds Anne.
Part of the planning process is budgeting, of course. "It's not a vacation anymore, it's a new way to live," says Anne. While they make an income on the road thanks to their blog, books and Trip Coach program, they still stick to a tight daily budget — $50 per day, total — as a guideline to help them prioritize experiences over material goods.
"There are so many wonderful things that are for free anyway," says Anne. "Just walking a local market, or striking up a conversation with someone at the park and just learning and observing. A lot of fun, we realized, didn't have to be expensive."
That being said, the pair never want to miss out on something special. "If there was something truly epic — like, this is the spot you should absolutely try bungee jumping — we'll pony up the cash to do it. You balance it for what's going to be worth it," she adds.
One of their main money-saving tips is slow travel. "Once we get to a continent we stay for a while," says Anne. Adds Mike, "We rarely fly within a country — we'll always do buses, trains, taxi cab, whatever's the most local way to get around a destination to try and reduce our impact."
Another way the sustainably-minded pair try to reduce their environmental impact is by never purchasing water bottles. "We've been drinking out of Nalgenes and purifying our own water since early 2012," says Mike. As a result, they save nearly $1,000 per year.
House-sitting is another great way to keep cost down while traveling. The couple suggest Trusted House Sitters and checking local Facebook pages and message boards.
As for what's next, the adventurous duo have big plans to celebrate their 10th honeymoon anniversary.
"We're looking to do 10 honeymoons to celebrate," says Anne. "We want to sort of see how far we can push honeymooning toward sustainability. To have luxury does not have to be this wasteful, indulgent thing," she explains. "You could actually, if you choose wisely, have tourism be helping all the communities and supporting different environments. We're going to really push that as far as we can because we know it's possible," she says, adding, "The honeymoon is not ending at 10 years — it's just another year of adventures."
You can follow along with Anne and Mike's adventures on their HoneyTrek blog and on their Instagram, and check out their most recent book, Comfortably Wild: The Best Glamping Destinations in North America, here.