Katie Matthews, 35, and her husband, Geoff, 40, who live nomadically and have visited 50 countries together, make travel guides, videos and travel-themed coloring books for adults. The Canadian couple, who blog about their adventures at Wandertooth.com, just released a coloring book on Rome, their third in the “Travel Between the Lines” series. Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Katie Matthews.
Q. Where are you now, and where are you off to next?
A. We’re in Germany. We came for the Frankfurt Book Fair, and then we’re headed to Scotland for a month. We’ll go to Amsterdam for Christmas and New Year’s, and then to the Balkans until it warms up. Before Germany, we were in Ukraine for three months. We stay one to three months in most places, usually housesitting or through Airbnb. We travel much slower now than we did in the beginning, which gives us more time to manage the business. Also, we’re getting older.
Q. Let’s hear the story of how you met and started traveling.
A. We met in 2005 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, at a bar run by a Canadian and sort of an expat hangout. I was studying Chinese and Geoff was teaching English. We went to Calgary for corporate jobs, bought a house, got married. At one point we said, ‘Hey, we used to live on a tropical island. Why are we here right now?’ In 2009, we sold everything and traveled through South America and Taiwan. In 2012, back in Canada, in corporate jobs again, we decided that travel was the thing that was driving us.
Q. What did you do before you became the coloring book couple?
A. We had the blog for mostly informative stuff and travel stories. Also, I did a lot of career ghostwriting — my background is corporate communications and recruiting. Geoff did freelance video editing. Now, 97 percent of our work is for the blog or the books. Last year, both started to generate an income.
Q. What inspired you to publish travel-themed coloring books?
A. In October 2015, we were based in Oaxaca, Mexico, and we realized that freelancing was the wrong direction. We weren’t making enough money and we were glued to computers. It was the go-big-or-go-home moment. We started looking into what we wanted to do and thought, well, we have a blog that’s travel related. I was vaguely aware that adult coloring was a thing. Also, back in 2013, I’d bought expensive pencil crayons and sketchbooks, thinking I’d sit in front of places like the Eiffel Tower and Cinque Terre and sketch. But I had no time and, frankly, no talent. But I could color.
Q. How does one go about producing a coloring book?
A. Initially, we had no idea. We looked at some of the trade articles and reached out to freelancers to transform our photos to show real time and place.
Q. Your first book includes 47 illustrations in 30 countries, while later ones are based on one country or even one city. Were your initial photos well organized?
A. Oh, no. It took hours upon hours of sorting through them. We’re much better now. The other thing was figuring out what would make a good coloring-book image. When perspective gets narrower, it’s more difficult. Now, we take photos with coloring books in mind. We did our Mexico book with friends and fellow bloggers Pete and Dalene Heck because they had a lot more photos of Mexico than we did.
Q. What was the reaction when you published your first one in late 2015?
A. We were very happy they sold right off the bat. People say coloring is meditative and relaxing. I think it’s really good for stay-at-home moms who used to travel a lot, and this is something they can do with their kids. Personally, I’ve become a nervous flier and have found them to be helpful to relax when I’m in the air.
Q. Do people notice you?
A. Oh, yeah. Lots of people. Either they think it’s really cool or they’re completely bewildered.
Q. What’s next for the coloring books?
A. We’re now working on getting international distributors so we can be in local stores. We’re also working with sponsors. “Coloring Rome” was sponsored by Context, who does tours there.
Q. You also produce free city guides. Is that separate from the coloring books?
A. Totally. We’re focused on Europe for Americans who want a combination of indie and group travel, with things to do and where to stay, with a focus on neighborhoods.
Q. It sounds like you’re still glued to your computers. What makes it tolerable now?
A. We are insanely busy, but we feel really energized. Financially, we’re in a similar place, but we see a steep growth curve over the next 12 months. We feel we’re on the right track with the coloring books and we also know that travel-themed line art can be purposed in different ways, so we’re looking into a lot of possibilities.
Q. Do you have time to enjoy the travel aspect of living around the world?
A. Much more so now than we did when we were freelancing — we can better manage our schedules. I’m a newness junkie, so I love switching out the environment and I love the observations you see and the creativity you get out of that while developing the story or the book angle or the video. And it’s so nice that we’re doing it together.
Daniel is a freelance writer based in the Netherlands. Her website is Bydianedaniel.com .
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