Mark and Camille met at a small church gathering. Little did they know, they would eventually be Mr. and Mrs. Villaflor. But this isn’t solely their love story—or at least, it’s not all there is to it. This is a story of love for the homes they’ve found on the road, until they decided to settle down and build a home of their own—not just in each other but also one which they would, in time, open and share to other people.
The common ground
They both love to travel, and by happenstance, their paths crossed. Having met through common friends at a church gathering where they got to witness and perform miracles, the couple believes this was an unbelievable way to start a friendship.
Mark recalls, “For the first few months of our friendship, we walked around in this new formed faith growing further in love with our surroundings and ourselves. Each day we witnessed people getting healed of broken bones, cancer, and saw the lame stand up and walk. I guess when we figured out a motto for travel and in life, it was easy to move with our saying ‘travel in love, love in travel’ wherever we go on our journey.”
And on to their journey, they went. First, separately. Then together, eventually.
“We absolutely hated the physical distance in our relationship and ended up meeting in Hong Kong for a proposal weekend. This was nearly the end of our long distance relationship as we ended up having a very short engagement and got married in July during a civil ceremony in Manila,” Mark shares. Camille then moved to Shanghai where Mark would be working as a teacher for the next four years. They bought a dog, and created a life together.
365 dates and beyond
Mark and Camille both admitted to having quite a tough transition into married life. “Given all the changes in our lives—the culture, the language barrier, new work environment, and completely different home setup… it was a complete 180 from the long distance relationship to being married so quickly.” They also knew they were quite literally complete opposites; that, sometimes made it difficult for them to navigate their relationship which is why perhaps a year-long honeymoon was what they needed exactly.
Mark recounts, “We saved enough money to fire our bosses and take off for at least a year. The idea of a week or two-week long honeymoon seemed absurd to me. If a short honeymoon is a grand, grand gesture of love then what more a honeymoon dubbed 365 travel dates. And given our love, ambition, and optimistic view of this world throughout the 365 days, it was only natural we extended it to over 500 days of honeymooning.”
On their more-than-a-year venture, they picked out their three most memorable memories:
1. “Our trip in Africa was incredible. We safaried through 7 different game parks and national parks tracking leopards, watching thousands of zebra and wildebeest graze, and seeing lions devour large carcasses were just a glimpse of what we saw. From there we beach bummed for 4 weeks in preparation for climbing to the roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. Six days of hiking up to the peak, 5,990 meters above sea level, taught us a lot about ourselves, our relationship, and our interaction with Mother Nature.”
2. “While in Central America we landed in Guatemala and took intensive Spanish language courses to get us ready for our trek down through Latin America. We made tons of friends, some of whom we’ve met throughout our continued travels. Guatemala, though very small, is a special country given its diversity in landscape, food, and people. One of our favorite memories was staying at Lake Atitlan a very spiritual place where we got into meditation, a practice we carry with us each day.”
3. “Living in Boquete, Panama, home to some of the best and most expensive coffee beans in the world. We felt the need to slow down and somewhere in between a boat ride, a hitchhike, a bus, walking across the border by foot, and another bus, we ended up deciding to stay. We found a 2 bedroom apartment in a local neighborhood and befriended a grandma and her son who were running an eco-farm and garden down the street. We relaxed with them each day, learning about the culture and way of life in Boquete, going on hikes, visiting the market, and experiencing a different type of routine in our travels. Our friends would always be hosting… To be able to create friendships like we had in Panama were some of the reasons we wanted to go on this year long honeymoon. What is love if it isn’t shared?”
Sky’s still the limit in settling down
“While taking dance lessons in the salsa capital of the world, Cali, Colombia, I was interviewing with different international schools and ended up getting offered a job in Austria.” But obtaining an Austrian work visa proved to be difficult than expected. Mark was denied a work visa after having flown to Europe. He then found himself back in the Philippines where he and Camille were able to go around Puerto Galera, Bicol, Siquijor, Dumaguete, and El Nido specifically.
Despite trying to make Austria work, there were lot of factors that made Mark quit the job even before he started. “We had just sold a condo in Manila and were looking for an investment to put that money in… we searched in El Nido knowing we would get a great return of investment and after a couple of trips between Manila and El Nido, we bought some land… The alternative, build a house and a hotel, live in one of the most beautiful places in the world and work for ourselves.” Thus, the birth of The Birdhouse El Nido.
Now if you’re traveling with your beau and wondering about settling down soon, Mark and Camille have some notes for you:
1. “If you’ve made it this far without killing each other and are in a place where you’re both settling down together, sky's the limit!”
2. “The hardest part of traveling together is insane amount of hours you’ve already spent on this intimate journey. Whatever is coming up ahead of you is going to be easy compared to any long-term travel you’ve done as a couple. You’ll already know that you are capable of so many things both individually and as a couple.”
3. “The best advice we can give is to dream bigger that the dreams you currently have. The transition from long-term travel into a more routine sort of lifestyle doesn’t have to be mundane. You’ve taken control of your lives by going out and seeing the world not as an act of rebellion but as an act of freedom. Continue to live that way. People will misunderstand who you are and what you do but that’s their problem not yours.”
ALSO READ: Look Up, Step Out: Take Your Relationship to The Next Level When You Go Places
Photographs from Instagram.com/365traveldates. Follow their adventures here.