Camille and Mark started their around the world honeymoon on the East Coast of the United States. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
Name: Mark and Camille Villaflor
Where: The Philippines
Relationship status: Married
They say that traveling is the best way to test your marriage. People get stressed on the road, and the way you navigate the stresses of traveling just might determine the way you deal with obstacles in life. One couple decided to test this theory immediately by taking a 365 day honeymoon around the world.
After finishing his masters degree, Mark Villaflor got a job at a school in the Philippines. As he immersed himself in a new job and city, he decided to get involved in the community by joining a church. That’s where he met Camille.
The two hit it off immediately, and spent the next eight months hanging out and getting to know each other. Mark felt like Camille was something special, but had to leave the Philippines for a job in Saudi Arabia. Even though the two were 5,000 miles apart, they kept in touch through Facebook messenger and email. For Mark, he fell in love with Camille during their time apart, and decided that he needed to be with her.
After meeting in church, Mark fell for Camille when he was living 5,000 miles away. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
“Life was difficult in Saudi Arabia, and all I wanted to do was be with Camille,” Mark told Yahoo Travel. “So I quit my job and told all of my friends and colleagues that I was going to the Philippines to be with the girl I planned to marry.”
Mark headed back to the Philippines, and before he got there, he asked Camille on their first official date — to his aunt and uncles 25th wedding anniversary.
“I was nervous because his entire family was going to be there,” said Camille. “But it ended up being a wonderful time with him and his family.”
Over the next few months, while Mark looked for a job, the couple went on dates and traveled around the Philippines to Bicol, Cebu, Pangasinan, Tagaytay. The next fall, Mark got a job in China and Camille got job in Singapore, so the pair embarked on a long distance relationship that would last seven months.
During one romantic weekend, the couple met up in Hong Kong and Mark greeted her with little notes and gifts. When they got to their room at the W Hotel, it was filled with rose petals, candles and chocolate. Mark proposed, and Camille said yes!
“It was the best and worst weekend, because we were so happy to be engaged, but then we had to go to separate homes the next day.”
Just two months later, Mark and Camille were married in a small civil ceremony in the Philippines, and they started a life together in Shanghai.
During their visit to Tanzania, the couple climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
Mark had always dreamed of traveling the globe, and thought an around the world honeymoon would be the perfect opportunity. Camille wasn’t convinced. So to sway her, a year after their marriage, the couple took a 40-day honeymoon throughout Southwest China and Cambodia. They backpacked, hiked, and stayed in some less than desirable accommodations…including hostels with no bathrooms.
“I was surprised with how well I handled everything,” Camille laughs. “ The 40-day trip was fun, so I agreed to do the 365-day journey.”
Mark and Camille approached their trip preparation like a business, keeping track of their finances and saving every cent they could. During the day, Camille was an interior designer, but during the evenings she would tutor and sell baked goods.
In addition to saving, the couple also used credit cards to pay for their travel.
“Most of the flights were free because we were travel hacking by using credit card bonuses,” said Mark. “For instance, we would open an American Airlines credit card, get 50,000 bonus points after spending the required $3,000 in 3 months, and then we’d buy our tickets.”
Overtime the couple had a stack of 10-15 credit cards, which they closed after redeeming the free points.
Driving through Portland. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
When it came to selecting locations, the duo was a bit more free spirited.
“We just looked at a map and said ‘I want to go there, I want to go here, I want to go there,’” says Mark. “We decided that we wanted to go to the United States, Central America, South America, and Africa.”
Once they selected the general locations, they pinpointed specific places and calculated the best time of year to go. The plan was to try and experience summer at every stop, not winter or the rainy season.
They started off with 2.5 months in the United States and chronicled their journey on their blog 365 Travel Dates. The first month was spent on the East Coast and then the couple hopped in a car and road tripped to the West coast, hitting some national parks along the way. While in the states, they bought their plane ticket to the next stop — Africa.
Relaxing on San Blas Island in Panama. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
They arrived in Africa and then quickly jetted up to Dubai to check out the middle east. Ater that, they spent a month in Kenya on safari, and then headed to Zanibar.
In Zanzibar they couple encountered the scariest moment of their trip, when they were robbed by strangers in a car.
“It was horrible. They took our stuff and then withdrew money from our accounts,” said Camille. “I don’t think they had weapons, but at that point, we were just so scared.”
After the robbery, the couple went to Tanzania and climbed Mt. Kilimanjoro before heading back to the states for Thanksgiving.
After their close-call in Africa, their family warned them about visiting Guatemala which had been in the news for increased violence, but they decided to go anyway.
In Antigua, Guatemala. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
“The people were so nice and friendly in Guatemala,” said Mark. “ We had such a great time, we didn’t feel unsafe at all.
After Guatemala, they went to El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. They rented a place in the coffee reigon of Panama, and spent and month living and exploring the area. Up next was Colombia, where they spent two months soaking in the culture before heading off to Ecuador.
In Ecuador, Mark heard back about a job he had previously applied for in Austria. The next day they had plans to take a bus to Peru, but instead, they booked flights and headed back to the United States to prepare for their move to Europe.
Eventually, Mark headed to Austria while Camille went back to the Philippines to get her Visa. At that point, the couple has been together for 392 days straight.
Although the honeymoon is over, Mark and Camille say that travel will always be a part of their life. (Photo: Camille and Mark Villaflor)
In September, Mark will start his job in Austria, and the honeymoon will officially be over. But the couple is glad that they embarked on such an ambitious journey together.
“We like being around each other, and our year-long honeymoon was a wonderful experience,” says Camille. “It’s been great to have these experiences with someone I love, and these memories are something we are going to pass down to our children.”
“We’ve gotten message from people who follow our blog and they say that we inspire them,” says Mark. “So we just want to empower people to dream the impossible and even if they fall short, they still did something incredible.”