A couple who left everything behind to travel the world explains what it's like to start a business on the road

Wandertooth OaxacaMexicoCourtesy of Katie MatthewsKatie and Geoff Matthews in Oaxaca, Mexico where they came up with the idea to create adult colouring books from their travel photos.

The first time Katie and Geoff Matthews quit their jobs for a life of travel was in 2009.

They sold almost all their belongings, including their home and two cars, and left with no clear return date.

They were on the road for about two years, travelling to South America, Japan, and Taiwan before they returned home to Vancouver, Canada in 2011 for a “normal life.” But they realised soon realised life in Vancouver wasn’t the normal life they wanted.

In 2013, Geoff left his job in sales for the construction industry, Katie quit her public relations and corporate communications gig, and they set out once again.

Now, they live the expat life, running their own business creating adult colouring books based on their original photos. They document travel tips, tricks, and experiences on their website, Wandertooth, and their Instagram, @Wandertooth.

Here’s what it’s like to run their own business on the road:

'Living as expats in another culture, as we did as English teachers in Taiwan, can quickly ruin you for 'normal life,' because you know from experience there's an alternative to whatever version of normal you grew up with,' they write on their blog.


Barichara, Colombia.

Source: Wandertooth

'We both knew it was possible to live on a tropical island, making a decent income and having enough time to do what we wanted, because we'd done it before.'


Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Source: Wandertooth

Before they left, they put away retirement savings they refuse to touch. Making enough money to live comfortably without dipping into those savings was important for the couple, but so was having time for themselves to travel.

Courtesy of Katie Matthews
Guanajuato, Mexico.

'It wasn't so much that we wanted to make travelling our full-time job, but rather we wanted full-time jobs we could do while travelling,' Katie told Business Insider.


Prague.

'We knew we wanted to start a business. Freelancing wasn't meeting our financial goals, and wasn't very 'free' either, in that we were working all the time and were pretty much tethered to our laptops, no matter where we were,' Katie told Business Insider.

Courtesy of Katie Matthews
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

After going through several ideas, the couple finally decided on something in which they had both expertise and interest: travel and art.


San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato.

'Back when we left in 2013, I went and bought a tin of fancy pencil crayons with this idea that I'd sit in front of the Eiffel Tower and sketch it, and do the same in other places while travelling,' Kate said. 'It didn't happen because I was so busy freelancing and trying to hustle up clients, but also because I have no artistic talent.'


Oaxaca City, Mexico.

But despite the obstacles, they didn't give up on the idea.


Church of Saint Sava, Serbia.

'Those two things collided: being ready to start a product based business, and that old idea of sketching the places we visit, I came up with the idea of doing adult colouring book,' Katie told Business Insider.


Czech Republic.

'For our first book, we went through photos from about 10 years of travel, and made the book from what we had, and what we thought would make a good colouring page,' Katie told Business Insider.

Courtesy of Katie Matthews.
Monstanto, Portugal.

In May, the Washington Post dubbed adult colouring books 'the latest trend.' The Post cites a statistic from Neilsen Bookscan that found about 12 million adult colouring books were sold in the US last year. Fans champion their ability to help people overcome mental and physical challenges, comparing colouring to mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation.

Chichin, Kao-Hsiung, Taiwan.

Source: The Washington Post

'For the second book, and now subsequent books, we take the photos with the colouring page in mind,' Katie told Business Insider. A freelancer then traces the photos using an illustration program, they test-colour the images, and eventually they settle on the best format for each line drawing in the book.


Rome, Italy.

'We've learned that not all photos make a good colouring page, and now are quite specific in the types of photos we take ... at least when we're shooting for the books,' she said.


Rome, Italy.

The couple has sold about 500 books on Amazon and has some in select bookstores. 'We're selling more and more each month, which is really our barometer for success, and what keeps us going.'


Prague, Czech Republic.

'Beyond the numbers, we're building the business in a way that we think will bring the best success over time,' Katie said. 'We're a consumer-facing product business, however, we're also looking at building partnerships with destinations and brands.'


Lake Titicaca, Peru.

'We are definitely making less than we did before, but we knew that would be the case. The stress level is much higher, of course, as we're 900 responsible for bringing in the money.'


Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

'What lessens the stress somewhat is that we still have a few freelance clients, and we earn some affiliate revenue off our website,' Katie said. 'But definitely a lot of sleepless nights, which I'm sure is the same for any entrepreneur in the early stages of their business!'


Arrouquelas, Portugal.

When they left Canada in 2013, they had both had worked internationally and at home. Katie told Business Insider the skills they had gained then are the ones they're using to grow their business now.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

'You can't live this life unless you're ok with a certain degree of risk and a lot of uncertainty,' Katie told Business Insider. 'We don't know where we're sleeping three weeks from now, and still have to keep managing the business and moving forward.'

Courtesy of Katie Matthews
Stockholm, Sweden.

'I love our life, and will not trade it in unless I have to,' she said. 'Geoff's less comfortable with uncertainty and risk, which is a good thing, as we balance each other out. But I don't think either of us would say we wish we never did it!'


La Paz, Bolivia.

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