Off the Eaten Path with Venice Bites

Let’s start off with a little thought experiment:

It’s Monday morning and you walk into the office. You go to your desk and turn on your computer. Then you get up for a cup of coffee and you start BSing with your co-worker about the stuff you did over the weekend.

When you walk back to your desk, there’s that damn screen saver. You know the one. It’s flashing pictures of beautiful places around the world. First, Rio de Janiero, then Phucket, Thailand, and then Venice, Italy…

Thoughts creep into your head, “What am I doing sitting in this cube? Fuck this place!” So, that day you up and quit. You go home, pack all your stuff into two big crates and ship them to the other side of the planet to start a new life in a place that you’ve dreamed about for years, all because of that damn screen saver.

Ever wanted that to happen? Wouldn’t it be amazing?

Introducing Maya

A few years ago I worked with Maya. She was the head of HR and we became close friends. When I got into work on Mondays I would get all the run down from her weekend and I would regale her with stories of debauchery from our weekend. And then one Monday morning she comes in with a special gleam in her eye… Uh Oh… She met Adam.

Maya and Adam hit it off from the beginning. They were a perfect match and in a matter of months, they were married.

Beauty & the Beast

For several years, Maya had been going to Venice, Italy on vacation. She loved the place and spent months there at a time, just wandering the canals, watching the people walk by and chatting with the local shop owners. It held a very special place in her heart.

Something was nagging her constantly and she couldn’t shake it, so she asked Adam if he wanted to go to Venice, just for vacation. He happily agreed, but this was more than just a vacation to Maya, she was introducing him to her other lover. She was hoping that he would fall in love as much as she had.

Adam fondly recalled an experience from that trip:

“I went out for a bottle of wine.  But, if you know anything about Venice, this is no easy task as the streets are a labyrinth.  Maya was back in the apartment cooking dinner.  So, she gave me directions, but since she had been there several times, I wanted to try and find my way there and back by myself.  Well, I made it, maybe not the most direct way, but I made it.  While I was in there browsing the bottles, the store owner asked me if I wanted to try something.  I happily obliged.  Well, some of his buddies joined us.  Two hours and many bottles later, I told them in my non-existent, broken Italian, that I needed to get home to my wife that was cooking me dinner.  So, they pointed me on my way with a bottle in my hand.  After I stumbled back to the apartment, and told the story to Maya, she just laughed.  It surprised her none, and I knew exactly why she fell in love with the place.”

After this encounter and two weeks for Adam to adjust,  Maya springs her original plan on him:

“What do you think about this place? Do you want to move here?”

She had thrown herself out there, not knowing really how he would react. His response:

“Let’s do it, Now!”

Once they returned to the states, Maya had a business trip to our company headquarters. At the end of the meeting, she promptly resigned. No job lined up. For the first time in her life.  A week after their talk, they began their escape.

When in Venice…

They had a reasonable amount of money saved, so they knew they had a safety net.  Looking at their budget, they knew they could last 2-3 years on their savings alone. Adam’s house was put on the market for rent, keeping it as a backup plan and for a little extra cash flow.

On December 1, 2014, they packed up their bags, including their 2 dogs and a cat and moved from Long Beach, California to Venice, Italy.  From a city with all the roads and all the cars, to one with none. The story of their move is something to behold.

But, what were they going to do there?  You can’t just wander around all day eating good food and drinking great wine… or can you?

Enter Venice Bites

They decided to start a walking food tour.  At first, they had nothing more than a website and a plan. They would walk the route every day practicing their script and networking with the local restaurants.

Food at a local Venetian Restaurant.

During a practice run, they came across a lady from Long Island, New York. She was looking for a bathroom, and they happened to be right outside of their apartment. They offered to let her use their restroom. A conversation started about where they were from and what they were doing living in Venice. She turned into their first paying customer, and Venice Bites was born.

From there the word started to spread. They booked more and more tours. In 3 months, they were filling one tour 6 days a week. When that schedule was fully booked, they started a second tour each day.

Their company grew to the point where all available tours were full.  If they wanted to keep going, they would need further help.  Their dream was taking off. It was becoming bigger than they could have ever imagined. They started looking into hiring some other guides, but just couldn’t find anyone that brought the same passion and enthusiasm.

This continued until they sat down and had a bit of a come to Jesus talk. (I wasn’t privy to the exact conversation, but allow me to improvise based on their description)

Maya: This is crazy, I can’t believe how big our tour has become!

Adam: I know, we’re so busy, we could have never imagined this.

M: Yeah, we really are busy huh?

A: We are, but is this why we packed up everything and moved here?

M: No, we moved here to live our dream. We left so we didn’t have to slave away and work until we dropped.

A: Maybe we should scale this back until we are enjoying ourselves?

M: Yeah, you’re so brilliant!

They decided slaving away over their budding business wasn’t what they moved across the globe for.  The tours were scaled back to 4 days with 2 and one on Fridays, sometimes more or less, if they feel like it.  They now make sure to keep some days open to simply enjoy Venice or traveling around other parts of Europe.

Enjoying The Good Life!

They’re comfortable. They claim it’s not going to make them rich, but they’re good at it, so really who knows.  Currently, the tours are paying for their living expenses, so they don’t have to touch their savings.

And while they may not be 100% FI, three years later, they’re living their dream.  What more could they really ask for?

Enjoying Carnival as Locals

Wrap Up

We’ve wanted to write this story for quite a while. Maya and Adam are a topic of discussion in the Kingdom of Waffles on a regular basis. While we miss them dearly, we couldn’t be happier for them. In fact, this interview was planned for an hour and it turned into a 3 hour wine and beer fest over Skype across 9 time zones and ~6,000 miles.

We’re hoping to soon be able to experience their tour in person. I can tell you when we were in Venice (before they moved) their recommendations were phenomenal!  We ended up eating two dinners in one night, since those were the only available reservations.  We have even offered to become guides for them, if they ever want to go back down that route and manage two knuckleheads.

If you’re ever in Venice, please make sure to stop by and say hi to Maya and Adam.  Trust me, you won’t regret it! Be sure to let them know the Wow’s sent you. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you there…

See you Guys Soon!!!

Check them out and support them here: https://www.venicebitesfoodtours.com/ or on TripAdvisor

26 Comments

  • Mr. SSC November 1, 2017 at 6:15 am

    That’s awesome that they were able to make that change and have it work out so well. I get asked a similar thing about what my side hustle is going to be out at Canyon Lake and I’m like, “I don’t know, I’m not even sure what niches need filling out there because I don’t live there yet.”

    There doesn’t always have to be a plan. Just a plan to find a niche and fill it and the rest will come. Or just “be retired”, but I think I’d get bored of that pretty quickly. I’ll be looking for my niche, just like they found theirs.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…I Found My Tribe! FinCon 2017My Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 1, 2017 at 7:25 am

      Flexibility is a virtue. You need to have your eyes open and you need to be able to see what is needed around you. I’m sure you will do just fine. Keep your ears to the ground and find it. It’s hard work and I know Maya & Adam put a lot of effort into where they are now, but it was worth every grueling second.

      Reply
  • Mrs. Picky Pincher November 1, 2017 at 6:23 am

    This sounds SO cool. And what an inspiring story. 🙂 I’m hungry for some Venetian grub right about now. 🙂
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…The Picky Pincher October Budget ReportMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 1, 2017 at 7:26 am

      Oh the places we went on their recommendations were AMAZING!!!! So good. And they are the best people ever. You MUST make it to Venice, and you MUST visit them!!

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach November 1, 2017 at 6:28 am

    What a great story!! I’m holding on to that for inspiration. It would be sad for me to sit here and say, “oh it must be nice that they had ____ bla bla (rental income, two people for support, etc.) or say, “I used to be that brave.” But that would be a disservice to myself. I have just as many tools to make something like happen in my own life. Thanks for this!
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…October Rewind: Pumpkins Behaving BadlyMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 1, 2017 at 7:28 am

      I vividly remember when they were going through this. Thinking “holy shit, they’re actually serious.” You hear about these things on the news and think exactly what you’re saying: “Oh, they won millions in the lottery” or “They knew people there to hook them up.” Nope, they just rolled the dice and everything worked out better than they could have even imagined. Keep it in mind!!

      Reply
  • FIRECracker November 1, 2017 at 9:09 am

    Wow, what a great story! We’ll have to check out their tour next time we’re in Venice 😀 It’s amazing how many cool people with unconventional lives you meet out there in the world isn’t it? Clearly, these guys didn’t let fear hold them back. Thanks for sharing their inspirational story!
    FIRECracker recently posted…Scaling the Wall of FearMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 1, 2017 at 9:31 pm

      Please do!! They are great folks and they are a ton of fun. People really are a fascinating bunch! Especially when you get talking to them about more than just the regular “what do you do for a living?” crap.

      Reply
  • Mr. Need2save November 1, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    It’s great to hear that their unexpected success didn’t derail them from the initial dream. Not that I even have a side hustle or post FI work planned, but I do worry about falling into over-committing my time towards ‘work’.
    Mr. Need2save recently posted…Crafting Your Exit PlanMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      Yeah, they realized they didn’t move there to work. They moved there to enjoy. I think it’s important to keep your eye on the prize. Don’t let things derail that.

      Reply
  • Erik November 2, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Wow that’s a fantastic story. You only live once and it’s inspiring to see people who are actually doing this and don’t care what others think…

    Thanks for sharing
    Erik recently posted…There was Something Just so Enjoyable about This VacationMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 2, 2017 at 11:10 am

      They are definitely living life their way! They threw off the chains and rolled the dice.

      So, so many people worry about what could go wrong… And never stop to think, What could go right?

      They definitely make us question ourselves often. And they certainly make us question our restaurant choices!!

      Just think. We’re slaving away and they’re just walking around, talking to folks drinking wine and eating good food. Like right this second.

      Reply
  • Mr. Groovy November 3, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Holy crap! This is the best damn post I’ve read all week. Thank you Mr. WoW for telling us about Maya and Adam. They are true inspirations.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW November 3, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      They really are. We were actually really glad this article forced us to get in touch with them again.

      We’re jealous and inspired by them regularly. If you make it there, make sure to say Hi!

      Reply
  • Miss Mazuma November 3, 2017 at 8:53 am

    LOVE this…

    Ok, I am so confused. Did we talk about this on our Deep Ellum pub crawl or is it my imagination I also talked to Gwen about a similar story. Shit for real is messed up in my brain after 4 nights of no sleep and copious amounts of adult beverages. Either way, AMAZING story. Any chance you guys are planning to go to Chautauqua next year (rumor has it in Greece??) then plan a little detour to Venice after (or before)?? I would totally be game!!
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…Frugal Fix – Get Your Faded Jeans Back to Black (or blue, pink, purple, etc)!My Profile

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  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials November 3, 2017 at 9:31 am

    So now that you wrote your report, can you send me the contact info so we can have an awesome vino filled chat for the podcast??
    Gwen @ Fiery Millennials recently posted…Monthly Status Report: October 2017My Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 3, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Sure thing I’ll try to get you guys in touch. I believe there’s contact info on their site as well. But, glad you liked it. Let us know we’ll just drink along!

      Reply
  • Mike November 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Proving again that financial freedom has many forms. Incredible, motivating, Inspirational! Thank you.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW November 4, 2017 at 7:40 am

      It sure does have many forms, and many outcomes. All of which are fantastic.

      Everyone needs to blaze their own trail and figure it out for themselves.

      Glad you enjoyed their story.

      Reply
  • Mr. Tako November 9, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Phenomenal story! Loved it Mr.Wow!

    We’re going to have to get to Italy for some adventure soon. We just spend a month in Japan and Mrs. Tako *still* has a month of vacation left to burn….

    Hmm maybe Italy next? FIRE is awesome!
    Mr. Tako recently posted…Does FIRE Have Longevity Advantages?My Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

      We’re super jealous. Asia is on our list next.

      Another goal of ours is to head back over to visit them.

      It sure is great huh? Really gives you freedom, which you can’t put a price on.

      Reply
  • Mr. PIE November 10, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Happy Friday, WOW’s!

    Just back from a business trip to San Diego and of course on those trips, I think of traveling everywhere EXCEPT to a place for a 5-day meeting with 20,000 other medical professionals. On the flights, I always enjoy the “Three Perfect days in……” – insert the travel destination – Phuket, Rio, Sydney, anywhere but the bloody office.

    Anyway, your post reminds me of a school trip I took as a 13-year old to Italy. We were supposed to be skiing in the Dolomites but snow conditions were shit. So we spent time in Venice, Verona. I’ll never forget that wonderful magical feeling of being transported to a place that I only ever saw on TV, magazines. To make that dream happen with somebody close to you and live/work there is another level of excitement.

    PS – did you know that nobody has f***ing Venetian blinds in Venice??
    Mr. PIE recently posted…Finding Your Simple – The Joy and Pain of Work, Managing Mental Health Issues and Having Fun on the Road to Early RetirementMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 10, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Yeah, I think we’ve all day dreamt about that. In fact I’m doing it right now… at my desk!

      Your business trip sounds interesting, but not super fun. Hopefully you’ll get to go to another fun one soon!

      I did not know this. But I have to imagine, it’s a bit like French Toast?

      Reply
  • Mrs Doodlepop November 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Such an awesome story! Really shows the power of healthy savings and the pay off of taking a chance on yourself. I love hearing about people intentionally choosing their path and going against the norm to live their ideal life. Now I’m craving some real italian pizza and gnocchi!
    Mrs Doodlepop recently posted…The Art of the Finance Date NightMy Profile

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    • Mr WoW November 17, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      It sure is great! That power is really something else. The freedom of options is something that everyone should cherish.

      I’m hungry now too. Hmmmm gnocchi!

      Reply

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