How to Profit From Your Love of Food and Travel in Semi-Retirement
Bonjour! I recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the French Alps, a gift to my husband in celebration of a milestone birthday. The photo above shows me leading an impromptu workshop about second-act careers for our fellow travelers – unquestionably the nicest setting I’ll ever “work” in.
Because my husband loves good cheeses, we decided to travel with CheeseJourneys.com, a unique tour company that creates “unforgettable food travel opportunities that allow you to share in their passion for artisan cheeses, the individuals who create them and the cultures that nourish them.”
As advertised, the trip proved unforgettable. But for me, one of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity to get to know my fellow boomer-generation travelers – several of whom enjoy food and travel related second-act careers. Let me briefly share a bit about their stories in the hope that they will inspire your own second-act shift:
Chuck Kellner – Formerly a technology executive in the banking industry, Chuck now works as a cheesemonger at the famed Cowgirl Creamery in California.
From the CheeseJourneys.com website: “Chuck’s “aha moment” in cheese came during a presentation in Napa by Oxbow cheesemonger Lassa Skinner, cofounder of Culture Magazine. Listening to Lassa talk, he realized that the same cheeses he knew and loved tasted quite different, and much more complex, when he knew about the farmers, their animals and the back story. His desire to share his love for all things cheese by educating others as to the unique story behind each cheese became his passion.”
After leaving his banking career, Chuck completed the UC Berkeley Extension/College of Marin Artisan Cheesemaking Certificate Program, enrolled in the Master Intensive Cheese Education Program at the San Francisco Cheese School, and ultimately joined Cowgirl as a cheesemonger and cheese educator. An avid traveler, Chuck seeks out local artisan cheesemakers wherever he travels to hear their unique stories and learn more about the fine art of cheese making around the world.
John and Kathleen Riegler (a.k.a. The Cheese Lady) – Kathleen and her husband John are the founders of The Cheese Lady shop in Muskegon, Michigan, and now oversee a network of Cheese Lady “franchises” throughout their state. Kathleen explains her transition from corporate America to entrepreneur on her website as follows,
“In July of 2004 I resigned my real job. I had grown tired of the road. After over 20 years of driving and selling, it was time for a change. Tongue in cheek I suggested to my husband John, that I go to the Muskegon Farmers’ Market and sell cheese. The previous April we had been in Provence, France. I loved the open-air markets more than anything and we spent countless hours wandering and watching the vendors. Because I was in the cheese business, the cheese vendors particularly intrigued me. John encouraged me to try it. And In less than 3 weeks I had a name, a Department of Agriculture license and a sign. I was The Cheese Lady. I bought $500. worth of cheese from the company I had just left and went to market. I sold out.”
“When I started all those years ago at the Muskegon Farmers Market, I had no vision for this business that has, literally, taken on a life of it’s own. These special people have become family. We downplay the franchise aspect because each store has the freedom to become it’s own personality. And they have. We are a sisterhood, of mostly women, who help and support each other.”
Teresa Kaufmann – Although Teresa was not part of our group, she joined us as our guide for a day. A writer, photographer, author and tour guide, Teresa Kaufmann fell in love with France years ago, eventually making it her permanent home. Today, she hosts photo walks through the beautiful Chamonix area of France, and her charming cat – travel photographs have led to a series of more than 55 articles for the popular British feline journal Your Cat Magazine, as well as several photo exhibits.
Anna Juhl – The founder of CheeseJourneys.com boasts an eclectic background that includes stints as both a hospice nurse and a cheese shop owner. Anna says she spent years pondering the idea of creating CheeseJourneys.com and four years ago decided to give it a go. Initially she planned to build two different tour styles — a more intense tour for cheese professionals and a more leisurely tour for food enthusiasts. However, over time, she found that her tours attracted both groups so her tours now include a mix of cheese enthusiasts, cheese producers and cheese retailers. (It’s interesting to note that the fastest growing segment in tourism is food tourism). You can learn more about Anna’s story and Cheese Journeys here.
Tenaya Darlington -Finally, although she’s not a boomer, I want to give a shout-out to Tenaya Darlington, one of our wonderful trip hosts. A college professor by day, Tenaya is the creator of the Madame Fromage cheese blog, where she shares stories of cheese makers, offers recipes and highlights interesting artisan cheeses from around the globe. She recently co-authored a delightful new book, The New Cocktail Hour with her brother Andre’ (yes, we got to test-out some of her delicious recipes on the trip – lucky us!). And in her “spare” time she freelances for magazines, teaches tasting workshops, collaborates with illustrators, develops recipes for cookbooks and companies, and leads cheese enthusiasts (like my husband) on journeys around the world.
Is your mouth – and imagination – watering yet? I hope these stories have provided you with some food for thought. Please let me know in the comments section below if you know of other great food or travel related second-act stories you’d like to share (and do be sure to check out the many related posts I have on this site about travel-related careers). Bon Appetit and Happy Trails!