Poetry, Wineries, and Other Passion-Driven Incomes

A couple of years ago, I visited Cassis—a harbour town on the French Riviera’s lesser-known western end. Fishing boats and the crystal-blue Mediterranean, yes. Langoustines and palest pink rose wine, yes. But the last thing I expected to find was a poetry shop.

Handwritten on marbled paper, the poet had hundreds of musings on love, life, and friendship to choose from. And his little shop was busy. Maybe the French have a deeper romantic streak than other nationalities, but I think he was tapping into nostalgia. In an age of computers, anything handwritten now has rarity value.

What a wonderful way to make a living. And as a frustrated poet, oh—how I envied him.

Here in Ireland, I’ve met people from overseas who also tapped into yearnings for gentler times—those times when almost everything was artisan-produced. And they’ve turned them into home-run businesses.

One English woman makes greetings cards decorated with pressed wildflowers—she grew them in her cottage garden. Outlets for the cards included craft centers and tourist offices, but she also sold a fair number to customers in the States.

Another English couple sold hard-to-grow herbs by mail order and ran courses in organic gardening.

Franziska, a Swiss girl with a passion for horses, transformed her passion into a small saddlery business, making hand-stitched bridles and head collars as well as doing saddle and harness repairs. It now must be almost 20 years since she moved to Ireland, and she’s still in business.

So is Rainer, a German guy who makes Tiffany-style lampshades, mirrors, sun catchers, and other objets d’art. He now also offers workshops in glass art in his home studio.

Moving overseas is a chance to go in a new direction in more ways than one. Whether it’s art, photography, writing—whatever—many hobbies can be turned into cash. And you can do it from just about anywhere.

Say you’ve a passion for photography—your pictures could be turned into greetings cards, calendars, and even place mats. Lots of people buy a memento of their travels. I still have place mats featuring photos of Martinique, in the French West Indies.

And it’s not just hobbies that can turn into money-spinning ventures. It’s never too late to try something new…something different.

During my last trip to southern Italy, I met Catherine and Brian Faris. They moved from Santa Cruz in California to the Itria Valley in sunny Puglia. Along with a home in the little baroque town of Martina Franca, they acquired an olive grove that produces high-quality artisanal olive oil. They market it under their own Pascarosa label, both to local stores and restaurants and online to customers back in the States.

If you’ve only ever tasted mass-produced olive oil before, the difference between that and artisan produced extra virgin oil from the locality is incredible. Their olive oil is almost peppery and gives a tiny pizzica bite to the back of the throat.

Catherine and Brian have a real passion for both Puglia and its cuisine, and they enjoy sharing it. With the olive oil business running smoothly, they have branched out into running insider food and wine tours where visitors get to meet artisan producers whose businesses often go back generations. Some are half-day tours, others full day, and their week-long tours coincide with the olive and grape harvests.

Again, I think it taps into nostalgia, a yearning for when travel was an adventure and involved meeting locals rooted in their landscapes—not contrived amusements such as zip-lining through trees, swimming with sharks, and pseudo-medieval banquets.

Don’t know about you…but taking guests to wineries and slow food restaurants that the smartphone apps haven’t discovered is my idea of a very pleasant way to spend a working day.

Doing what you love in a place that you love—what could be more rewarding?

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