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The Guest Perspective Of Glamping During 2020 Episode #037

Mike Anne Howard HoneyTrek

Anne and Mike Howard of HoneyTrek are on the worlds longest honeymoon. Recently they found themselves in a closed-down Europe during a pandemic so we had a chat about their recent glamping experiences across 3 different countries and 14 different camps during a very challenging year. Welcome to the glamping business podcast:

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The Business of Glamping And Unique Holiday Rentals, with Sarah Riley

The Guest Perspective Of Glamping

In this episode, I interview Anne and Mike Howard talking about the key ways glamping hosts have introduced creative solutions to keep glamping at it’s best in this new landscape and get a very interesting take on the guest perspective.

Since the pandemic began they have visited Portugal, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, their 50th State in the US and the iconic Route 66, which probably makes them one of the most travelled couples in a year when the rest of us simply stopped.

Check out our Instagram account where Anne and Mike give away one of their lovely books.

Today’s episode is brought to you by The Start Up And Grow Club, which offers an accelerator program and support group for those who want to set up their unique holiday rental or glamping businesses quickly.


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If you have something inspiring to offer the world of Glamping and Unique Holiday Rentals then get in touch with Sarah Riley and share it on the Podcast. For more information contact Sarah here.

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Mike and Anne Howard of HoneyTrek with Sarah Riley of Inspired Camping

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The Business of Glamping And Unique Holiday Rentals, with Sarah Riley


Sarah Riley: Anne and Mike Howard are on the world’s longest honeymoon. Recently, they found themselves in a closed-down Europe during a pandemic. So we had a chat about their glamping experiences across three different countries and 14 different camps during a very challenging year. Welcome to episode 37

Anne Howard: Being and unique holiday rentals are surging in popularity with the growing desire of customers to book holidays that deliver an experience. They are also the new business of choice for those wanting to improve their work-life balance. So how do you build a strong business like this that gives you the life you need and a great investment? I’m Sarah Riley. And I want to share what I’ve discovered after being immersed in this industry for over 20 years, to inspire you to find out more about what’s going on. Welcome. This is the business of glamping and unique holiday rentals. Hello, and thank you for joining me again. It’s fantastic to have you here today.

Sarah Riley: Hey, I’m sharing with you an interview, a chat more than an interview and informal chat I had with Mike and Anne of honey Trek. Now, Mike and Anne are friends of the show. They were in episode 20. If you want to go back and check out that first episode with them, they are the most amazing and agentic couple. They are lovers of all things, camping and glamping, and they seriously are putting the work in. They disappeared eight years ago on a honeymoon and they haven’t stopped. It’s an endless honeymoon that just keeps on going and it’s resulted in all kinds of things, including their amazing book about all things glamping called comfortably wild. And in this book, they dive into so many different experiences that we could all be having. If only we took some time out of our day job, the same as Mike and Anne.

Sarah Riley: Now, it was really lovely to have a chat with them and they were in an, in LA at the moment, although they have been all over the place. In fact, during the pandemic, they found themselves in a closed-down Europe. So we were having a chat about their experiences to all of that, but also about the different countries they visited in the different camps of which there were 14 separate camps. They seriously have been doing some travelling. And we talked about the key ways. Glamping hosts have introduced creative solutions to keep glamping at its best in this new landscape. And to really get an interesting take on the guests perspective from point of view, because they have visited so many camps. It’s a really great way of learning from others by speaking to those who had visited them. So since the pandemic began, they have visited Portugal, Netherlands, Poland, Germany, they’re now in their 50th state, in the US and travelling along the iconic route 66, which probably makes them one of the most travelled couples in a year when the rest of us have simply stopped.

Sarah Riley: So this is a really lovely informal chat that we had while they were based in LA. In fact, they had the Hollywood sign just behind them. It was crazy just off-camera. So you’re really gonna love this one. They’ve got so much energy, as I said, they’re really passionate about everything to do with camping and glamping. And it’s such a pleasure to have them on the show. In fact, if you go over and check out our links over on Instagram, you will find that we are doing a book giveaway from the couple who kindly gave one of the lovely books for a lucky follower of our Instagram channels. So all the links are in the show notes, as usual, that’s as this is episode 37. Enjoy and do, please leave a review on the podcast. Love to have your views. Also, if you have any questions for Anna Mike, go on over there to Instagram, fire away, they’re the most friendly couple I’m sure there’ll be really happy to speak to you. So without further ado, let’s hop on over to our chat. So I wondered if you were Airbnb or something like that as you’re going around, but you’re in the family home, in family territory.

Mike Howard: We’ve made it back. This is the first time we have been. We’ve seen her family since January, like before the pandemic, we, we left on our road trip, not our road trip, but we continued that we went down to Baja and then we got stuck in Europe and then drove across the US but we haven’t seen anybody in our family since January. So it’s been yeah,

Sarah Riley: Crazy year. It’s been, I mean, we have spoken, when you were stuck in Europe and how did that go I felt really worried for you actually. So how did it all go I mean,

Anne Howard: Turned out wonderfully in the end. I mean, it’s good that we’re sort of seasoned and heard and travellers where we’re like, yeah, sure. Every campground’s closed, can’t find water or can’t find power. Well, we’ll work it out. We’ll work it out. So we just like marched in Poland. Yeah. So it definitely tested our skills for sure. To be as independent as humanly possible. Cause like no one could really help us. And if we didn’t have the camper van, you know, we would have been out of luck. We would have just had to pay the $4,000 to fly home. Cause there are no hotels were accepting bookings. You know, Airbnb was shut down and they stayed in Poland. So thankfully we had the camper van and then the light at the end of the tunnel was that big project we did with Yala throughout the Netherlands.

Mike Howard: So we kept holding out hope. They were like, Oh, we’re not sure what the PA it was originally going to be seven countries all through Europe. We were going to do Spain, Croatia, Italy, and then all these places got ravaged. So then eventually it came to just the Netherlands, but it was such a godsend to have a little light at the end of the tunnel. We were like, if we can just make it to May, we can go do this project and have a little glamping and you know, socially distanced funds. So that was really nice. And then,

Anne Howard: And more about like how the Dutch were doing glamping. We went, Oh, it’s a tiny country, but we went to every corner of it and, and I think it was seven different camps there. So that was cool to see how the Dutch do glamping. And

Mike Howard: Then we got back to the States and kind of just continued. I mean, it’s our house. It’s not like we’ve really been travelling, you know, for fun or for work. It’s like, you know, we live on the road full time. So we picked up the camper and Texas and slow cruise and about a month and a half to get up to my mom’s house to see her for the first time and then hit our 50th state during that time. And then just drove all the route 66 back to LA. And that’s kind of where we’ve landed now.

Anne Howard: So you were in buddy Yes. You’ll camp van. Is that right Yep. Did you miss him while you were in Europe He’s a, he’s a, you know, it, Oh, I’m not going to lie. Our little night, 2019 Fiat had heat. So I was really enjoying the 21st century and camper van life. but no, of course, we miss buddy and he was good. The heating started back up and no squirrels had moved in. We’re always happy to see him. And he’s happy to take a rest right now. He was in the last, last 100 miles of route 66. He’s like, I’m done, I’m done. I’m leaking over here. I’m fuming over here. We’re like, Oh my God, we’re going to get you to a hospital. So he’s, he’s on vacation right now. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve I am a door classic camper, vans, caravans, all of that stuff, but they are hard work aren’t they And they really do need a lot of attention and quite a bit of this to get you quite a bit of money to keep them going. He’s just become like a crazy mechanic. He’s like, well, we’re leaking gas, it’s leaking into the propane area. That’s a special combustion blend. And he’s like, well, we’ve got to get back and I’ll just drop the gas tank myself here in this diner parking lot. I’m like what

Mike Howard: Like a, it’s like a puzzle, right These old cars. I mean, that’s what I like about the old ones that you can actually work on them. As the new cars everything’s computerized, every part is, you know, I have a hundred dollars for a new piece, but the old ones, it’s all pulleys and cables and bolts. And I can actually get under there and hop on YouTube, learn enough to be dangerous and then get under there and tinker with some stuff. No, there are no computers.

Anne Howard: They’re like, what’s a computer. Like it’s all very old school analogue. So

Sarah Riley: Yeah. And in the new ones that you say, if something electric goes wrong, let’s say the whole thing has gone down. And how do you, how do you deal with that You can, you can wind up the old one’s gone. Yeah. Yeah.

Anne Howard: Push it down a Hill and pop it in here and start it up. Yeah.

Sarah Riley: Yes. Well really good actually, but it’s, I don’t know if you know, in the UK at the moment, we’re at the end of our second lockdown. So we are now it’s yeah. It’s a struggle for everybody, especially in hospitality. That’s one of the hardest-hit industries, not the hardest, but one of the hardest and everyone’s really struggling. So everyone else is worried about what next year will bring. We’re hearing lots of stories about the recession and businesses going bust and, and all that kind of horrible stuff. And just before Christmas, I think it was only a week ago. We were given the go-ahead that most of us will be able to mix with our families at Christmas because there have been so many restrictions because the numbers were climbing so significantly. So it’s really quite a big deal. And be the UK in Europe, it’s really, really struggling. I don’t know if you heard much of the news when you were in Europe, but over all Europe’s been really bad.

Anne Howard: Yeah, I know. Yeah. I would keep an eye, keep an eye on you guys while we were there. And then, I mean, the ASRS was definitely like LA LA land. They had very few cases. I mean, not, that’s not entirely true. We had to do a test upon landing. Well, we had to do show up a negative test to board the plane, and then they kept track of us. And in six days we had to come back and do another test to stay. So like, but then mainland Portugal was in a much worse way. And, it was kinda like a little bubble. Yeah.

Sarah Riley: Yeah. So how did you find the whole thing of travelling during this time I mean, it’s, it was quite something to be caught in the middle of something that’s never happened before. No one expected it came upon us like a flash and kind of, how did you find all that It was okay. We bring you back to March. Yes. Going back to, yeah. When you were in the Netherlands in Portugal and you know, how, how did you find that whole thing Were you intending to do the whole of Europe at that point Well, the,

Anne Howard: You explained the initial Europe trip. We were flying for two travel conferences that got cancelled as we were flying to them. And we’re like, okay, now we’re in Europe with a two-month ticket. So we’re here and it’s not that bad. Right. Cause it’s only March 3rd. So like, it hadn’t really, it wasn’t really March 15th that everyone like the world stopped. so we were in Germany that that conference got cancelled, but we were like, Oh, you know, lemons into lemonade. Like nothing was going bad in Eastern Europe. And the camper van company was like, sure, like all these countries are open and we were going to do like a six-country tour of Eastern Europe and we got to country number two and the borders were closed. And like the closing around us, we had about a day to decide which line we’re going to fall on Swiss lock. Yeah. Poland, the Czech Republic. Like to go back to Germany, like in going back to the States, I just didn’t seem to be an option because it was like $4,000 between the two of us, like even get that flight seemed crazy. It was such a panic and were like, slow down, slow down. It’s not, and we don’t have to panic right.

Mike Howard: Camper. We live in a camper in the US anyway. So our choice is either live in a camper in a sweet country, like Poland that was taking it very seriously and masks everywhere.

Anne Howard: And he is Polish roots. So that was kind of like oddly a nice excuse to be like, okay, we’re just going to Poland. That’s the perfect place to be. And,

Mike Howard: The unique things, that Poland did, and I’m not sure, if they do this in the UK, but they certainly don’t do it here in the States is when they make a new national rule, which we really don’t have any national rules here in the States. It’s kind of wild West. Everybody chooses their own States path, but in Poland, they would make a new rule. And they would say today, you know, grocery stores are limiting capacity and everyone must work where I’m asking the grocery store. And it would literally at eight in the morning, get disseminated to every cell phone in Poland. You would wake up and see your alert and you would know that. And then the next, you know, maybe five days later, they would say, now everybody’s doing masks on the streets. So anytime you’re in public, even if you’re with your family, you got to wear a mask, you get a text, we’d wake up and everybody would do it.

Mike Howard: You’d walk down the street. And like the, you know, the mechanics and the, you know, random kids, you know, teenagers were all messed up. So everybody really followed the rules and it was nice how they just disseminated it via text. There was no like go to this CDC website and decipher some code. It was just showed up and it said, wear a mask to the store or where I’m asking the parks is nice that it was very clean and simple. We obviously had to use Google translate to figure those things out, but it was a helpful way too, to, pass the message along.

Anne Howard: Yeah. Thank goodness for Google translate. And we do without it. Yeah.

Mike Howard: I definitely learned some mechanic terms and in Polish, you know, trying to get our camper jump-started,

Anne Howard: it means, cable jumper in Polish because we broke down a lot. Well, we push our battery too hard and be like, yep. Do it again. We’re hard to make new friends in a pandemic standing on the side of the road. It’s really, you know, challenging

Mike Howard: As for flights, like just to kind of get back, I’m sure a lot of your audience and just people, in general, want to know how it is flying and travelling, you know, the way normal people do where they don’t live in a cameraman in the woods in Poland, but taking flights, which we’ve, we took one flight back from Poland, since the pen or since, the pandemic started from Europe. And then we just recently got invited to help the reopening of the Azores. so we just did a round trip flight from the States there. And while kind of seeing like in the pandemic

Anne Howard: From March to June and then again in October and to November. So like, you know, some things did change. We all have like to evolve in some ways. And then otherwise we’re, we haven’t changed the,

Mike Howard: Yeah. And I would say, well, the caveat is we weren’t travelling for fun. Really. Either time, both were, well, one was pandemic. Like we need to get out of Europe because our shank and visa was expiring. And then the most recent one was for work. you know, because honey Trek is how we make our living and we were helping with the tourism board there. So both were four weeks. So we w we don’t recommend people going out on, you know, pleasure flights quite yet, but it was surprisingly safe. I mean, a hundred per cent of people in the terminal on the aeroplane is masked up completely there, every plane we get on, they give you, usually, they give you a little kit to sanitize your seat and, you know, your whole area there. What are some other interesting things we got tested actually before we flew to the Azores?

Mike Howard: and I know a couple of other airlines are doing this. We needed to bring a, you, we needed to bring a negative test to the airport. We needed to get tested within 72 hours of our flight. And then in the ASRS, once we landed, if we were going to stay more than six days, we need to get tested again locally and prove to the government that, we were negative. You came back positive, they would quarantine you on the Island for 14 days. But, thankfully we were negative. So then we were able to stay. We ended up staying for about 18 days of exploring there.

Anne Howard: And there were some interesting, we did some great glamping in the Azores, and it was a property that was just about a year old called CAPA Rica on the Island and etc. And it was very cool. They were kind of like the sort of hybrid tree house, mod cabins, you know, we’re working with the hillside stilted cabins. And they were really, really lovely. And it was just kind of setback from the sea and this nice Valley going up is very volcanic islands. So, it was

Mike Howard: Eco-friendly too. Like they have solar, they had solar, their rain catchment, they were growing a lot of their own food on site. Ours is, ours is just amazing for agriculture and vegetables and dairy. They’re huge. Yeah.

Anne Howard: Yeah. I love that. The whole like bedroom wall just slid open into the forest on this side. And then I had a fantastic balcony overlooking the Valley and the sea. And, it was, it was quiet. Like there weren’t, there, there really weren’t many guests at this time is that everyone is, is there are so many flight restrictions and whatnot. We saw in a super quiet state, but, it was, yeah, it was absolutely. And just feels like, yes, don’t, you know, glamping as much as, has, has, as you know, like has fared better than most of every other piece of hospitality, that’s out there. So, and even at the point where I thought this was so interesting and the Netherlands was that when we were there, this is back in May and pretty much everything shut in April. But then as they were starting to roll things back out like who is to open, this is too extreme to keep every accommodation closed.

Anne Howard: We need to start reopening. And glamping was one of the first to reopen if you had a bathroom. So that was the caveat. They weren’t, they didn’t want like hotel rooms ha had their problems of shared hallways and elevators, but glamping had their problems in that there was a bathhouse, but if you had private bathrooms, you were, you were ready to open way before everybody else. So that was exciting to see that there was a way and a path for glamping to move forward. And maybe somebody to think about if you are a property owner, is that, that you never know what’s going to happen anymore. And as independent as you can make your units, like having your own bathroom, having some way to cook for yourself, will keep you, out of trouble, I think with, you know, unpredictable shutdowns. So how do you think people like yourself who, tourists travelling around, did you see people making any significant changes to what they were doing

Mike Howard: As far as property owners or other, or they’re tourists or locals

Anne Howard: Tourists. I’m sure that they will. We’ll talk about the property owners in a minute, but yeah. Other tourists, did you see them Did they look afraid or were they doing certain things set and behaviours in, in the campsite glampsite kind of situation Or did you only people who were from that country in all of Europe

Mike Howard: True, but there’d be local. Yeah. There were local tourists in, in all the places we went, not obviously in droves. And I think people never seemed scared. people might be a little bit more trepidatious about interactions, you know So everyone kind of, I mean, it’s actually pretty like chilling and like just everyone understands that there’s a risk they’re out there. They’re exploring they’re, they’re supporting these local business owners, but they’re not, you know, right next to you at the check-in counter, everyone gives each other well, more than the three meters or two meters of space that’s required. You know, it’s more like six meters of space. And when you’re outside of somebody’s by the pool, it’s like, okay, we’ll come back later. We’ll let that person like, have the pool all to themselves. You know, they’re not lining up and

Anne Howard: A new set of rules for dislike, common courtesy. People are just giving that much of a wider berth. Still, to say, you know, let me give you your extra space. But that said, we’ve also driven around what 24 States this summer. Cause because to explain, we have a camper ran as our, as our, as our place of residence, but it’s, it’s a house on wheels. It’s always moving. And so we figured, Hey, we can’t leave the States this summer. Let’s do it. Let’s finish out our 50th state. So we, we did a whole journey to, through the great lakes where I’m missing States. So Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and then North Dakota, all added up to our 50th state and is very different state to state like the US is it, Mike was saying it is very wild West and there are governors are having to make calls that a president should be making, but we’re having to figure it out themselves.

Anne Howard: And each state has been wildly different. Like I would say, you know, say like California is like, no question, absolutely every person in the state is running a mass, Oklahoma. It seems like they have no idea what’s happening. Like it’s like the word hasn’t gotten out that like, we even overheard a conversation that was horrifying because we quickly went into a library and we’ve been in a number of libraries because it felt very safe. There were always rules about how many people could be in there. They had, you know, taken away 50% of the chairs and we would just, you know, had to upload a video. So we went to the library quickly. No one’s wearing masks and live people. And the lady behind, you know, it was an elderly lady behind the desk. She’s like, Oh, we’ll get this. Just something going around. I’m like, we’re an episode of the Twilight zone we need to leave immediately. And so it’s, it’s pretty amazing, like the different reactions state to state. So I’ve put that into your considerations of where you travel and what the local rules are always because you want stricter rules because people are going to fall away from them anyway. So you want to go for stricter the better.

Mike Howard: but we haven’t seen any glamping properties we’ve clamped to about fifth, I think 15, 14 or 15 times since the pandemic hit. And we haven’t seen a single glamping owner that hasn’t been taking it so seriously. And also the guests, like every guest, I mean, what she’s talking about in Oklahoma, like, you know, random gas station interactions, where people are going to make their own choice. And I’m sure in Europe the same thing like people are, some people are going to choose not to wear a mask because they don’t want to believe it, or they want to fight the system. and you can usually avoid those people, but all the glamping properties have been so good about cleanliness. And so that side of it

Anne Howard: Interesting changes like, so places that we know from, you know, we wrote comfortably wild and this was released in fall 2019. And fortunately, glamping as you know, like had this social distancing component that we didn’t all see as a benefit that we’re like, wow, we didn’t think of so many benefits, but none of us would have used the word social distancing as one of them in 2019. And, who knew, but yes, fantastic. It’s all about having being, you know, having private accommodations wide, open spaces, fresh air, connecting with your family, having a romantic getaway, all these things, that don’t involve like the buffet line and the, and the using elevators. These were huge benefits that we didn’t know how much we could embrace in a pandemic situation. but you know, even still like, say, for example, all our friends were in firelight camps in Ithaca who are featuring completely wild.

Anne Howard: I know we looked at how they were handling it, which was really exciting. And it was a very social place right before they had a big fire pit. Everyone gathered around every evening, they did music one day a week. They bring in food trucks and they do a grape buffet in the morning. They were like, well, we don’t want to change the spirit of Gampy glamping. We’re just going to have to adjust. Right. So now that fabulous breakfast they do is a breakfast delivery that goes into the cabins, the Lovell inviting fire, but they have, they invested a bit more and got individual fire pits for each of the tents. So those two wonderful things they did could continue in a safer way. So that’s, you know, even we can’t, we can’t rest on our laurels that like glamping is inherently safer. We might all have to make a few adjustments to, to do so, but the good news is it can still be as lovely as, as it was before.

Anne Howard: It’s really interesting. We’re calling it the two-meter economy. So some businesses are able to cope with the new restrictions of the two-meter economy and they’re flourishing and others really are not. And those are the ones that really struggling at the moment and they need to pivot and change. Otherwise, they will probably go out the wind day because the pandemic is going to stay around for a little while, even with a good vaccination that is safe and people are happy to take. It’s still going to take for logistics a good year to get a significant amount of the population covered. So,

Mike Howard: And people’s mind too, like it’s not going to, even if it is like totally eradicated in your mind, you’ll still be like a little thinking different than about where you want to eat dinner and where you want it to travel to. So it’ll be, I think it will be lasting that, the mental side of it. Yeah,

Anne Howard: Absolutely. Think one of the things that we’re a bit more worried about than anything is how is this affecting our children We were having a discussion this morning about, you know, our, our children rather than, you know, you have the baby boomers and you have the house boomers, those people who benefited from the economy of houses increasing in value. And now you’ve got the children of the, of the virus, you know, how is this going to affect them as they grow up Are they going to have more anxiety Are they going to make different decisions about what they do in the future for their, you know, luxury time, their holiday time and leisure time How is that going to change things And I think we need to be thinking about the future, and what you’re doing through bringing the attention to glamping is fantastic.

Anne Howard: I believe, and yeah, your book as well. And I was just wondering if there was anything that you’ve seen in the industry now, in terms of people becoming interested as hosts, are you seeing more people kind of rushing to find more information from you about how to set up in the US and other places Is that something you’ve sensed Yeah, we didn’t, we actually did start a glamping consulting side thing because people were asking us about it and our focus is less on permitting and that’s not in our realm, but the fact that we stayed at like over 200 different glamping style accommodations, and we have a good wrap around our heads wrapped around like the guest experience and little differences that can make a huge difference. There are little changes that can really impact. will you book again Like what, what made it a memorable stay in down from like the layout of a place to like the little, little details next to your pillow can all kind of add up to people going that place was absolutely unforgettable? And I want to come back and I want to spread the word to my other friends. We started doing that for more budding camps.

Mike Howard: I’ve actually had multiple clients to like, get right to your question. Like we’ve had multiple clients that were either working in San Francisco or one was working a job in Austin, but flying, I think he was flying to Washington and like away from his friends, his family for every single week on business. And both of them, both of those clients were like, we just need to, it was all since the pandemic, they were like, we just need to kind of get back to our roots. Our family has this piece of land. Another one, the one in Austin actually went shopping for land. And they’re in the middle of building and camp because both of them, even though they still had their jobs, which many white-collar workers were able to work remotely, but just the stress of it and then, maybe the fulfilment wasn’t there or kind of woke them up that, Hey, maybe now is a good time for a switch to, to try something new, maybe a new challenge or maybe something I’ve always wanted to do, or maybe to get back to nature and back to the land and not be doing this rat race just to make money and buy a bigger house and try and build my 401k.

Mike Howard: And so I think when we’ve been hearing a lot more stories than these two, that we’ve felt, personally, but it’s definitely there. It’s definitely a real shift in the mentality. I think of what people are doing. So they are getting into glamping and we’ve met a few people through hip camp. We’ve done some hip camp stays this year and a few properties there that were new since the pandemic, as we’re driving around the country. And people are like, well, I’m home now, so I can keep an eye on.

Anne Howard: Or how will this land once again, you know, how do I

Mike Howard: Is barn into a wedding venue And he’s like, I think, I don’t know, top five, most popular ones on Ohio. And he just launched like within the last year. So people are definitely seeing it as an opportunity.

Anne Howard: Well, as we know with cities, many people, we used to live in New York City and we went back recently and half of our friends are gone. They just literally have often left. So because they don’t see the future in it, or even if they don’t want to put themselves in that situation a lot, you know, a lot of our friends have just recently had kids and that kind of thing. So maybe they were on the cusp of that. Anyway, we’ve clearly, it all got sped up because why wait around you now is the time to get a little more space and, and have a yard and that kind of thing, and be closer to nature. So I think there’s a real benefit that while we know it’s going to take a while for the New York City hotels to come back, like people still want to vacation, right

Anne Howard: So, but they’re not going to cities. They’re looking more into this huge potential and agritourism and just, you know, even that one cabin on a property now has a chance because it isn’t people don’t want the community vibe right now. I hope they will. I love that about glamping. I think he brings like-minded people together and there’s still a way to do it because you have enough space to yourselves and there’s still a way to safely do that. But even the one-off blabbing camps that just have the individual unit, have a real chance of success because privacy is paramount right now. Yeah, absolutely. And, and you were touching on there about the guest experience and really that

Sarah Riley: Is such a big part of it, isn’t it And, and that I think will probably, whereas maybe some of those businesses that haven’t been offering such an amazing service when things calm down a little bit. So they’ve been filling up because of the panic about having a holiday, but when things do start calming down, that’s where they will lose out. When we have lots of competition coming in, people wanting a lifestyle shift, like the person you were speaking to, and all those kinds of things are going to change how businesses and hosts in this industry need to be responding. Absolutely. The guest must come first without a doubt. And when you were going, travelling around, did you pick up any specific kind of tips that you thought, wow, now that’s really inspired and wowed me as a guest. What, what, what did you experience that kind of gave you that moment

Anne Howard: It’s, it’s always thoughtfulness. I’ve always said like thoughtfulness is a new luxury and to feel really taken care of as a guest. And we say to one that was just, it was quirky. Right. And we didn’t know who we’re kind of getting into, but it was so passionate. This is a North Dakota, which doesn’t do a lot of glamping, but they just opened up on, it was a historic Fort, the Fort sewer from the 18 hundreds. And the soldiers had set up there to protect the railroad. And then they took the camp with them hunt like, Oh 140 years ago. or, and, but there’s a passionate group of people who were like the Fort Seward historical society that wanted to keep the memory of that place alive. And they built, they always had a, had a little museum and they do reenactments, but you know,

Mike Howard: The canvas tents that the soldiers used to be in, but not for staying in,

Anne Howard: But then really like the Sibley tent is, you know, has, has roots in, you know, the military would use very similar to what our glamping tents. And so they had historic glamping and they really did it so well. And it was, you know, they had the cast iron, you know, pots to cook on and they had the lanterns even had straw rope beds. I was like, wow,

Mike Howard: Like the mattress was made of steel, all wrapped with cotton. And then the, you know, the bed when they say like, you know, tighten, what do they church-key Or what’s the, when you make your bed a good night, sleep tight. Right. We learned this from tightening up the ropes under your bed, which was the original box spring. So it was,

Anne Howard: It was done. It was done so beautifully and with such heart. And I still think that is what sets glamping camps apart. It wasn’t the fanciest place we started. There were, you know, it by a mile, but it was that they had put so much love into it. They had a little welcome care package with things like colloidal silver, and I’ll let what the heck is colonial silver, but like a little remedy drank that they would have used in the 18 hundreds and jams from the garden that they were using heirloom vegetables. And

Mike Howard: They would make like they used to, Oh, and then these dolls, we, we got ’em in a little gift shop and their daughter was making rag dolls out of the left. Cause they also make their own clothing for these reenactments and the daughters made little rag dolls. So we got some of those. Yeah.

Anne Howard: Like the pioneers with like taught their kids how to sew and making ragdoll. So it was really thought through on every level. And I think is intentional. You can be in the vision for your camp is to carry it through even to the smallest details. so we, we were really struck by that place and it was, and they were just getting started. So we had a really nice chat with her for some ideas on how to like, grow that out and get the word out as well. So yeah, I think still thoughtfulness is what’s going, gonna keep people apart. Cause like we know it’s not just about fancy beds. It’s about, how it makes you feel when you’re there. And if it was, designed with the guest in mind and taking fancy beds, do you think that once people have gone to and stayed in a few fancy bedrooms and glamping sites, do you think it’s going to be much more about a different level of experience as those things become a bit more normal because that’s what I’m starting to see in the industry as guests go glamping more often, they’re like, Oh yeah, I’ve stayed in.

Anne Howard: As far as 10, I’ve stayed in a battle 10, you know, I’ve done all of that. So now what’s next for sure. We’ve always thought it was about the experience. And when, when choosing the destinations were comfortably wild, like we, you know, we were, of course, we looked at the existing top 10 lists out there and it w and it was a lot of the like five-star places, but a lot of it was didn’t have the human behind it. Right. It didn’t feel a lot of those like kind of gimme number one, places didn’t sometimes have the heart and it had to be about the experience and not the fancy bed, because yeah, that doesn’t, that’s not why I’m going, I’m going for memories and I’m going for new experiences. And, how I slept last night, I sleep every night. That’s not new to me. versus how I’m, you know, maybe how we’re having a meal, maybe it’s, you know, having, you know, snowshoeing to, to a little spot in the woods or setting up little experiences that make you go wow. Versus like, Oh, it’s just meeting my basic needs of sleeping and eating and,

Mike Howard: And being in a treehouse. Well, yeah, like I did that once. I don’t need to go to a treehouse again next year and like, tell that same story to my friends on Instagram or my family on Facebook

Anne Howard: To that treehouse. It would be a different

Mike Howard: Term. And another thing aside from the story, which is very important to have that experience, to have that connection to the owner. We love when the owners onsite, maybe we meet them once or twice throughout that makes us feel really connected to a place. But the other thing, which a lot of camps overlook is having fun activities on site. Cause everyone thinks, okay, I’m going to build this glamping camp. And it’s going to be amazing because it’s got a Safari tent. People are just going to keep coming. But the places to us, at least that don’t have those activities, like the hikes or a few lawn games, or even a little scavenger hunt for the kids or a guide in the room of what to do nearby that just rest on their laurels, I guess might come once, but they’re not going to come back again or they’re not going to bring their friends back to me. I love that the activities that you can do around a property, small hiking maps, or a little fishing rod. And upon that, you can go to just little things too, to pass the time and make it more than just a photo of you in the tent. And then,

Anne Howard: Yeah, and that, you know, you as a glamming camp owner or a local, and there’s always something in the whole travel world, which, you know, glamping is a huge piece of our world, but we’re, we’ve always kind of been in the global travel circuit of travel writers and it’s local has always been, you know, that local insider perspective, you are a local, if you want a glamping camp and what are, what are the favourite things about where, you know, where you’re from in that area that you could share and to give your guests that insider tip. Cause you know, sometimes guests she’ll have a vacation brain and they’re turning it off and they don’t want to work that hard to find the fun stuff to do. You have to make it easy for them. And sometimes it can be really basic things.

Anne Howard: It doesn’t need to be, go to the water park down the street like that, like could probably find any brochure, but think about what you love about your area and sharing that with your guests. Even if it’s something as small as like specific market that makes you happy for, to do their permission or, secret surfing spots, that’s like the best tree ever that makes you feel good. And it’s perfect for photos and just hanging and having a picnic. It could be very basic like that, but I think still sharing a piece of your always be sharing a piece of your world with your guests. And it will remember your place as unlike any others because it will be a reflection

Mike Howard: And that special tree, one tangible, or another tangible, hopefully, take away is to have a map of your property. We’re showing all the tents and a lot of some people do it. But, as I said, that special tree or the lookout spot, the best place to watch the sunset, or this is the open field where you can set up your blanket and watch the stars to put a map with those little fun things on it. Or, you know, secret hiding spot for the kids that we built a little fort in the woods, these little things that are so affordable to build or not even build like this, the tree swing, you know, where there’s a rope swing in the tree or the lookout where to see a sunset. If you put those on a map, people immediately think, Oh wow, there is more to do here.

Mike Howard: Like I just look outside and I see trees. But when I look at the map, there’s this little secret rock garden, or there’s this labyrinth, you know, where I can meditate and then it puts it in their mind, Oh, tomorrow I’m going to do that. And I’m going to go read my book at the sunrise spot and watch the sunrise. And then at night, we’re going to have cocktails, but they might otherwise not think to do that. You know, they’re not going to explore your property as much as you think they will because you know, these amazing spots. But if you give that suggestion, yeah,

Anne Howard: I have a little bench there or maybe a hammock at that one or something. Yeah.

Mike Howard: And that mapped in the room, I think puts it in their mind, like, okay, I need to do this tomorrow.

Anne Howard: The cute little hand-drawn map hand-drawn is even better. So, that makes you ask suddenly your property feel that much more special in that a much robust. So looking back over the last year from a glamping perspective, from your perspective as a guest, what was your most memorable and an amazing experience that you’ve had, or it doesn’t even have to be a wow. It just has to be something that really got you that you really remember.

Mike Howard: Yeah. So we did a project with, with Yala, experiencing all their yellow lodges in Holland and, and the Netherlands. And there was a property in the South, called Terra Spiegel and it was a caravan park. So, you know, it’s mostly an RV park, but they’ve been getting into glamping. Obviously they, they see that’s where the future. And even if some people are in their RVs, you know, they want to,

Anne Howard: It’s a huge property too. So it’s totally separate from the RV area.

Mike Howard: One thing they did, which was just amazing. They had a big Lake and usually, there’s a lot of RV parks or are a lot of RV, parking area around it. But they took one corner of the Lake that was very wooded and private and they put about seven, glamping tents, right. right up to the water. But then they built the deck out over the water and they put a little, net hammock there over the water and a grill right next to the hammock. And when we first got to the property we pulled in and we just saw all these RVs and we were like, Oh no, like, this is not for us. Like, even though, you know, we live in an RV full-time, we’re not so much into the campgrounds. And we thought, Oh, how are they going to like jam a tent in between all these RVs But back in the corner, as I said, it was really wooded and there were ducks swimming and, you know, flying in all the time. But just being over the water, having your tent right up to the water, and then they built a little deck out. Like I said, in sitting in that little hammock and watching the sunrise, watching the sunset,

Anne Howard: You may like this area of Southern Holland because it was like an over-water bungalow. It didn’t matter. We were just kind of in a random rural area of the Netherlands. It felt instantly exotic because you were over the water and having that time, you know, in that net just felt like it could be at sea. It really was like, had a fantasy about it. And I love multi-story glamping camps where units are, was a, it was a two-level by level a glamping tent. So, and it was kind of a wild little narrow ladder to get to the top, but it felt like a little clubhouse for the kids up there. And it felt very grand from the downstairs because you had these very high ceilings. And that was a very cool place. And when you have any water feature, like the light changes all day and suddenly it feels like a new space, you know, by the time, you know, morning to sunset, like the light is always evolving and it makes you draws you outside. So anytime you can build on the water, even if it’s just like a pond, like

Mike Howard: Crowds really put a tent there, build a deck onto the pond, have a little canoe there, or maybe a hammock. It doesn’t need to be a full over-water, you know, mesh netting, but that’s a good tip for anybody. Who’s got a water feature.

Anne Howard: I remembered my, my, chair. Okay. So this was, in Wisconsin and it was, it was really funny. Cause, this lady, we have, our phone number listed on honey and we get a phone call. We don’t get too many phone calls. People don’t even, I don’t even call my own sister anymore. I’m saying like the phone isn’t even a thing as often. Or we get a phone call out of nowhere and she goes, hi, my name’s Jane Milroy. And I have a glib in camp and I think you should come to stay in it. We’re like, hello, Jane. where are you And who are you And what’s happening And she’s like, I’m in Wisconsin. I was like, I don’t know when we’re getting to Wisconsin, but you thank you for calling we’ll, we’ll take a look at your place. And then flash forward, seven months, we are in Wisconsin.

Anne Howard: It’s actually our 50th state and the tourism board goes, this lady Jane is looking for like starting to get concerned. I was like, Oh wait, no, I do. I do know Jane. And it was basically they’ve turned, what is a fifth-generation farm So her husband has been an Irish hay farmer in this area of Wisconsin since the early 18 hundreds. And, they see that basically, agricultural family farms are really struggling in the US and a lot of the Western world and the world over. and it’s really her mission to like, just kind of share the joy of small family farms and traditional, you know, permaculture and, you know, earth crafting and, treat, you know, making traditional ingredients in crafts. And so we’re like, yes, we’d love to come to stay with you and her unit there. she had one that was a ferry cabin that was totally off-grid.

Anne Howard: And that’s always an experience where you go, Oh, am I going to take the one without the power I don’t know. But once you can get people’s head around that, you know, you’re not, I know tonight we are just gonna eat by candlelight and watch the stars and like make, you know, force yourself to unplug. so we did a night in the, in the ferry cabin, but then we also did, which had a pond and it made a Scot on the little, she had a little rickety boat. Didn’t matter. We want it to just be on the pod, admirer our cabin. But then the second, which I thought was very cool. If you have a farm or you have a greenhouse, it was her other rooms opened right into the greenhouse. So like when you were in the morning, it was like, Oh, I’m surrounded by these vegetables. And it’s warm in there. And I would gather our little veggies and fruits for our meals. And it was just so cool to have that experience immediately attached to our glamping cabin, just like open my door and be in a greenhouse so that those were both very cool things that she had it motorized Irish shaker and just so much heart it’s so much hard there.

Sarah Riley: So that’s you in the past year So what now about the future What have you got ahead of you What are you doing Are you thinking about any other books or are you doing any more stays or you just going to hunker down for a little while and just see this one out and see where it will go.

Anne Howard: This is a great mystery, but at the same time, I do think, you know, we all have an opportunity in travel to go, okay, how are we going to rebuild Right. If we are going, you know, the tourism going to survive, this is going to be, it has to really be thinking more about the environment and the planet and the community in a more sustainable way. And I think there’s a real opportunity there to build back better. And I know this is a mantra you have as well, and what fully supports you in this. And, and so

Mike Howard: We’re been working with some travel bloggers to try and change the change of the message there changed the way that people work with tourism boards and operators, and kind of demand more from them environmentally. you know, so you have to try and be better as storytellers and

Anne Howard: He’s seeking that. And, you know, I know he’s a friend of yours as well with David Levinthal with regenerative, resorts. And, is, you know, we in a chapter of comfortably while we, you know, we, we, we chose, we tried to have the whole book be about sustainability, but there are places who go beyond just kind of having minimal impact, but instead improving, the communities improving the land and, you know, this concept of regenerative travel. So, you know, thinking about who is doing that and how could we can help more people think that way, rather than just kind of popping up something and as quickly as possible through do things with intention. And because if we saw anything with this pandemic is that like mother nature was like, I am giving you all a SmackDown. Like you have been so up badly behaved, you are just crowding in spaces and you are not caring for the planet.

Anne Howard: And the second everything stopped, the sky got bluer. Animals were coming out for the first time that, you know, in areas that they hadn’t, and, and we really hope it will be all took that to heart, to go, wow, look how beautiful the world can be if we treated better. And so I thought that was amazing how quickly we all got on board and how quickly we saw results. So I want us to remember that time in spring of 2020 to go, how blue was at the sky, like how nice was it to not have so many cars running around and, and yeah, and keep it that way.

Sarah Riley: Oh, you took the words right out of my mouth. That’s perfect. Because absolutely just seeing those blue skies, it was, it was a memory that will stay. And I want to see that again. And so we need to be making better choices about how we spend our time. Don’t we, and there are some really interesting courses doing the rounds at the moment around sustainable tourism and over-tourism. So maybe I’ll share a few of those links. If you, in mind sharing some of the links to the glamping sites that you talked about there, that’d be fabulous. And I’m sure that everyone will have lots of questions for you. You’re going to be doing another book. we shall see

Mike Howard: Yeah. Maybe an update to comfortably wild New York. Yeah.

Anne Howard: We also, because we wrote ultimate journeys for, to basically at the moment that we started, we finished all the drawings for two and started completely while they literally overlapped. So writing books for five years and over like, you know, we’re just kind of see what opportunities are out there and kind of grow our side businesses, be it, some of the glamping consulting and glad, and photography been really fun. We’ve done a number of projects around that, where we help between our social media, which is pretty big and photography, which Mike is very good at, help camps kind of get the word out. So that’s been fun to do some of the consulting, but also just some of the guests experience stuff, where we stay, we photograph it, we do a social media storytelling around it. So that would be intriguing. And if any, you know, people in this world are interested in that, reach out to us about that. Cause that’s, that’s fun for us and made a difference.

Sarah Riley: Absolutely. I’ve been telling people about how to work with influencers like yourself, and it’s a fantastic way of really hitting the ground running if they’re launching a new business or if they’re trying to wake up a tired business. I think that that’s a really good plan. It’s been so lovely chatting to you today. Really amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with everybody.

Anne Howard: Yeah. Always lovely time with you, Sarah, and yeah, I know. Keep a billable work on your end as well. And I do think like we are in a good space and it’s a really rough time for everybody, but, you know, we should, before we realize how fortunate we are, that glamping is, you know, on the rise more than ever and with all the good reasons

Mike Howard: And let’s get those kids outside, right. We all know about screen time. And, you know, especially now everybody’s watching Netflix and kind of in their little bubble, but like, yeah, your class is outside and go to the glamping camp and do your, your wilderness training out there for your kids and just, just get them outside in the trees and enjoying nature and learning to love it as much as we all did growing up outside. So

Sarah Riley: Absolutely. And we all know that if you, if you love something, then you’ll work hard to protect it. Thank you so much, guys. Lovely to see you today.

Mike Howard: Yeah. Thanks

Sarah Riley: You so much for joining us and to Mike and Anne for keeping us inspired about all things, glamping and inspired camping. This is what we love. This is what gets us fired up and so nice to have someone else who talks about it in the same way. So everything that Mike and Ann mentioned in the interview or in the show notes, they do hop on over there to So there are plenty more inspirations where that came from more things do on the podcast. Got some really exciting interviews lined up. So do please subscribe, leave a review. Let me know what you think. And if you’ve got any thoughts about things that you’d like to hear about on the podcast, any topics, any questions that you have in fact, you know, just send those questions to me and I’ll answer them directly on the podcast. I’d really love to hear from you, get your feedback, hear your reviews. So make sure you come back and visit us again.

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