Rosemary and Claire are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. Their goal is to inspire you to travel through food and explore the local flavors. They believe travelers can have deeper connections with a destination and people by opening up to the local tastes and flavors. And that’s exactly what they do themselves!
Learn more about their slow travel lifestyle and related career here.
How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?
Our project with Authentic Food Quest is to travel slow while exploring the local cuisine in various countries. On August 4th, 2015, we set off with one way tickets to Argentina, with the goal of spending six months exploring the authentic food specialities in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. Since then we’ve traveled to Southeast Asia, parts of Europe and the U.S.
In Southeast Asia, we explored the local cuisine in the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. So far in Europe, we’ve covered France and Portugal as well as a number of states in the U.S.
Before starting Authentic Food Quest, we traveled to many other countries using food as a lenses for travel. Together, we’ve been to 35 countries and 230+ cities.
Please describe what you do for income.
We have multiple sources of income. Our income streams have evolved since we took off and started working on the road in 2015.
Our website, Authentic Food Quest, brings us passive income through advertising and affiliate marketing. We also do sponsored content and social media outreach for brands and tourism boards.
We also have income from our products. We sell both kindle and paperback versions of our books, Authentic Food Quest Peru: A Guide to Eat Your Way Authentically Through Lima and Cusco and Authentic Food Quest Argentina, on Amazon. We also have Food Trails for Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Hanoi and Singapore, which we sell directly off our website.
As Authentic Food Quest was growing, we both picked up freelance work. Rosemary did freelance writing for magazines and hotels. And, Claire was doing lead generation for clients using Facebook advertising.
More recently, Rosemary has been focusing on generating income through our website due to increased demand for sponsored content and other partnerships. Meanwhile Claire is rethinking her Facebook advertising business. She is now setting up a new venture to help women entrepreneurs grow their business by creating strategies to plan and organize their activities.
In addition, last year, we started our own e-commerce site, selling products online. This has been an exciting journey learning to sell physical goods online.
Finally, we also have some personal investments that bring additional sources of revenue.
How many hours per week do you work on average?
Using the online tracking system, Toggl, we’ve been tracking every single hour we work. In the course of a week or about 5 ½ days, we work about 55 to 60 hours. This adds up to about 110 to 120 hours for the two of us.
We spend about 40% of our time on Authentic Food Quest, 40% on our e-commerce site and 20% on both our personal businesses, freelance writing and the new business activity. (Nora’s note: I use Toggl for time-tracking too! It’s free, and I love it. But it also makes me realize how much time I “waste” – ha ha)!
How much money do you make?
Our income has also evolved over the last three years.
Initially, our freelance work was bringing most of our income. We made from $600 to $2000 per month.
Now our website makes passive income for about $500 to $1000 per month depending on the month. Additional income from the website comes from the sponsored content and partnership which varies between $200 to $1000 per month.
And from our e-commerce site we make on average $9k per month.
Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?
When we started our quest in 2015, we used our savings to get us going. We had recently left our corporate careers and didn’t know much about how to make money online.
Through networking and attending conferences, we learned about various income generating techniques and started applying them immediately. Freelance writing was how we got started, followed by sponsored content and affiliate marketing.
Only in year three have we started making enough to support our lifestyle. We got by the first two years with a combination of our savings, our investments and the income generated from our website.
We also find ways to reduce our day-to-day expenses without compromising on activities we enjoy the most: connecting with people, eating and exercising. We house sit in countries where lodging is expensive. And, we travel slow which allows for lower transportation and lodging expenses.
What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?
Having the freedom to build our dreams and not helping build “other people’s dreams” as employees. This is what we enjoy the most about our new career and digital nomad lifestyle. This lifestyle has given us the flexibility to truly create the lives of our dreams.
With that though, comes great responsibility. We work long hours between our businesses. We also struggle with month-to-month inconsistency in our income. Many of our friends and family members don’t understand our lifestyle, and it is a constant challenge explaining what we do.
Even with all the challenges, we wouldn’t give give up this lifestyle. We are learning so much about ourselves individually, as well as to work and live on the road as a couple.
We truly enjoy connecting with locals wherever we travel and meeting other entrepreneurs on the road. Travel inspires us in more ways that we can describe. The sense of adventure, anticipation and connecting adds richness and fulfillment to our lives.
What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?
Each stage of the business brings new sets of challenges.
At first, it was primarily a mindset challenge. We had been employees for so long and we were starting on a completely new path. After being successful in our corporate career, we had to go back to the “beginning” and learn everything again. We are also in our 40s and not in our 20s forging an unconventional path and going against societal expectations.
We needed to adopt the new mindset of being an entrepreneur. We also had to learn to trust ourselves in the process. Working on our mindset is still a constant work-in-progress.
Being location independent and working on the road is also challenging. We’ve had to learn how to work and live together 24/7. (Nora’s Note: That can make or break a relationship – trust me, I know!)
We’ve also had to learn how to create a new routine while traveling slow and staying in one place for several months at a time. Staying fixed at one location for a few months not only allows us to save money but to also“resource within” before getting back on the road.
When we are exploring a new place, our routine might be looser and we have to make peace with that. This means being comfortable when working instead of exploring, or being comfortable with exploring instead of working.
On the personal end due to our different citizenships (French and U.S.), we’ve also had to contend with administrative constraints such as maintaining residency in the U.S.
One of our biggest challenges is having a work and life balance. We meditate on a daily basis and make an effort to take one day off and stay away from our computers.
Now that our businesses are growing, our challenges are around scaling our businesses, juggling the different activities and outsourcing our workload.
What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?
We chose to create our lives intentionally and become digital nomads. Because we were choosing to leave our successful careers, we wanted to create a life and lifestyle that would be sustainable. As such, we are focused on building businesses around our lifestyle and not the other way around.
Travel, being part of communities, as well as creating our own community are important aspects for us. Therefore, we see a lifestyle where we will continue to travel slow, possibly have multiple home bases, a solid community and network and the freedom to work from anywhere with a good internet connection.
Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?
First, be clear about where you are at financially and what you can live off once you start living on the road. Always overestimate your budget. You may even considering doubling your planned expenses so you can avoid any surprises.
Know your risk level. Are you the kind of person who is comfortable quitting your job and starting a new venture? Or do you prefer growing your side hustle while you are still bringing in an income at home? There is no one formula that fits all. Know yourself and make a decision.
Get yourself organized so you can manage your finances on the road. It might sound obvious but make sure you can have access to a phone number wherever you are. We have a Google number that allows us to receive text messages and necessary banking codes from our computers wherever we are on the globe.
We bank with Charles Schwab and use the Charles Schwab debit card for the main reason we can use any ATM machine around the world without having to pay the ATM fees. (See also: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Money)
If you already know what you want to do and how to make money online, you’re starting with a significant advantage. If you are like us where we didn’t know much about monetization before we set off, we recommend investing in training programs and joining digital nomad communities.
We joined Location Indie and followed training programs by Natalie Sisson (Suitcase Entrepreneur), Mike Dillard (List Grow) as well as a number of other online trainings.
The key is to get started and take action. Put yourself out there, embrace the fear and follow your dreams. Most importantly, be true to yourself. Don’t follow a “guru” to become a “mini-version” of them. Take the information, learn the systems and apply them to you and your unique business ventures.