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As a food blogger it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking if we just work more, we’ll be more successful. This type of mindset can lead to burnout, which can eventually lead to quitting altogether. Today’s guests, Sarah and Laura of The Wandercooks, talk about the importance of creating life balance with our work. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. These two suggest finding ways to enjoy your life along the journey.
About Sarah and Laura
Sarah and Laura left their jobs in the corporate world and set out on an adventure. Based in Australia, they decided to spend a year traveling the world. While doing so, they also began a food blog, The Wandercooks, where they shared recipes they discovered while traveling.
Now the food blog, combined with some other side hustles, is their full-time salary and they’re loving it!
Couch Surfing Travel
Sarah and Laura are not your typical, everyday travelers. They opted out of the touristy travel mode and decided to do what’s referred to as couch surfing, at least for some of their travel.
They wanted to experience real culture, not just what you see in the tourist hot spots. However, their couch surfing came with a caveat. They asked their hosts to share with them a meal and to allow them to share a meal back.
So, they cooked one meal for their host and the host cooked one meal for them. This gave them a chance to get to better understand the real culture. The experiences they had as a result were amazing!
Some of their favorite travel tips involved the local languages. These included:
- Learn how to say “yes” and “no” in the country
- Use Google to look up how to say, “what do you recommend?” in the local language so they could show their screen to waiters or others
- Learn how to say, “this is delicious” in the local language so they could compliment their hosts.
Food Blog Meets Travel Blog
The Wandercooks is part food blog and part travel blog. This has been quite fortunate for them because of the conditions in 2020 with so few people traveling. They’ve been able to showcase foods from different cultures and find ways to simplify the recipes for their audiences as well.
They quickly learned that most of their audience preferred simple recipes so finding easy substitutes for international ingredients was important. In addition, they learned quite a few ways to do photography while on the road too. Because they packed very minimally, so any props they used were found along the way.
Creating Life Balance
Sarah and Laura are advocates for creating life balance. They are minimalist in their belongings as a result of all their travels and they’re minimalist in the things they add to their lives too. In fact, they even got rid of their TV, choosing to spend evenings reading instead.
Sarah said that sometimes people may even wonder what they do for a living because they incorporate so much of what they love in their life every day. However, when time is well-managed, you can fit in time for the things you enjoy. In fact, Sarah and Laura look at as their work as opportunities to create even more flow in their lives.
Learn more about Sarah and Laura and their work, including creating life balance, on today’s episode of the Chopped Podcast. Here’s more of what was referenced in today’s show:
- Connect with Sarah and Laura on their site: Wandercooks
- Say thanks to our guest today with a shout-out on: Wandercooks on Instagram
- We talked about the Libby App, which allows you to connect with and borrow books from public libraries
- Related Post: Here’s Megan Clarke talking about SEO Myth Busters for Food Bloggers
- Connect with Chopped Academy Online: Instagram | Twitter
- Related Post: Get inspired about Work/life balance with this episode from Traci of Vanilla and Bean
- Connect with Marly: Namely Marly | Instagram | Twitter
- Today’s post production, music, graphic art & sound design by Shawn Beelman
- Subscribe below to be the first to hear about future Chopped Podcast episodes and get some awesome tips on food blogging. You can subscribe at the bottom of this page. You’ll be glad you did!
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Podcast Interview Transcript
[00:00:00]Marly McMillen: Hey, everyone. I’m happy to have on the show today, Sarah and Laura they’re of the site Wandercooks. Hi, Sarah and Laura. Welcome to the Chopped Podcast.
Sarah and Laura: Hi. Thanks for having us.
Marly McMillen: And you’re coming in from the land down under, is that right?
Sarah and Laura: That is, yeah, we’re based in Adelaide in Australia.
Marly McMillen: I I’ve never been there myself. It’s definitely on our list of places we would love to visit I hear wonderful things.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, and some people say that it’s, you know, scary and it has, crocodiles, but it’s definitely a nice, we’ve got the cool beaches and, yeah, it’s lots of nice nature and good for hikes and stuff like that. Yeah. It’s beautiful.
Marly McMillen: I mean, I think you’re going to find a little bit of scary everywhere you go. Right. I mean,
Sarah and Laura: Exactly.
Marly McMillen: I live in a house that has Brown recluse spiders. I don’t know if you’re familiar with what those are, but they are pretty nasty. And so what, but luckily they are called recluse for a reason because they are very reclusive, but it’s always freaky when we see one.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, that sounds [00:01:00] definitely scary. We have, spiders called Huntsman’s, which are, they don’t bite, but they’re very big and that’s scary enough.
Marly McMillen: Oh, I wonder if that’s similar to our Wolf spider. It’s a big spider, but I don’t think it’s poisonous to humans at all.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, I think it’s mainly just the bigness and the furriness of them.
Marly McMillen: Yes, exactly. I always wonder why it seems to me like people like to kill those creatures, kill spiders. We have a net, we always collect them and put them outside because I, the reason I, I find that interesting is because they actually eat other bugs. So they’re kind of nice to have around .
Sarah and Laura: That’s true. They’re like, and natural insect repellent kind of.
Marly McMillen: Yes, exactly. So, yeah. Anyway, we can talk about that some other time. So we are here to talk about food blogging and I love the name of your site. Wandercooks. I’m just curious. What was it that caused you to start your blog? And then I would love to hear how you got that name.
Sarah and Laura: So it started when we first started living together and we decided to cook a different meal. For six [00:02:00] months, which was definitely an interesting time. And we came up with a lot of different meals at that stage and realized how much we really did love cooking and love discovering new flavors. So we ended up, deciding to go overseas, which originally was going to be three months.
And our friends said to us, well, you know, why don’t you go longer? And we said, we can’t do that. And they said, well, why not? So we stopped in our tracks and said, ah, okay, maybe we can do this. So we ended up, going overseas for a year to stay with local people and, you know, go to the local markets and those sorts of things and places where we could find new recipes and start the Wandercooks. So, we ended up naming it, wondering as in w a N D, where we would walk around and cook everything and find food that way.
Marly McMillen: I just, I saw on your about page where you [00:03:00] said that for six months, you did not repeat the same recipe. I can’t even imagine that.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, it takes a lot of creativity, I think, to use ingredients in different ways, too. Find new recipes and, to learn a few different cooking styles as well. So, for us kind of happen naturally though, we’re really curious, and we are addicted to food can’t already tell. And, yeah, we’ve just, we just had so much fun with it and yeah, it was friends and family that said, you know, my God, you guys need to share this with everyone, you know, so inspiring with how you approach food.
So, that definitely helped kick us into gear as well.
Marly McMillen: And just the passion for traveling. And did you always have that passion for traveling?
Sarah and Laura: I think we we’d never done anything like that before. And, yeah. you know, the biggest travel that we’d done before, that was a few weeks in Japan, which was great and so much good food. but the idea of traveling for a year, only once, we kind of got used to that. It was, it was a personal challenge as well to, [00:04:00] to keep that momentum going, to keep finding new places to go, and discovering what we find along the way.
Marly McMillen: I mean, it’s one thing to be a wanderer around the planet and it’s another to, also be inquisitive about the local cuisine. I mean, I, if there can be some very strange things in certain areas, I mean, have you just been open to eating whatever.
Sarah and Laura: I would say mostly open. There’s a few things that we drew the line at. For me personally, I think we were traveling through Laos or Cambodia and we stopped on the bus – for a break – and there were these trays of tarantulas at this roadside market cooked tarantulas, ready to go. And there was something about that glistening black and furry looking spider on a plate that was just not appetizing for me personally. I couldn’t do that one. Maybe next time we go there.
I think another time we were in Vietnam and we’d only just arrived, [00:05:00] and we got to our hotel and out the front was a group of locals who were having a drink and having a good time. And, once we sat down, they actually offered to see if we wanted to try dog. And for me, that was also another line where I just couldn’t cross it, especially having a dog at home. It was just, it was too much. It’s a big cultural difference, I think there, and we’re happy to let, let them be.
Marly McMillen: Although I did see on your site that you ate crickets.
Sarah and Laura: Yes, actually, that was a really delicious surprise. We went to this little market and we were kind of, you know, you know, you don’t share a language with sometimes with people, but you communicate in other ways through your face, through your hands. And, And we kind of communicated to them that we wanted to try these crickets and they said, go for it.
And so we picked one up and we looked at each other and then we took that bite, and it was so surprising because it just tasted to me like popcorn chicken. It was salty, it was like a little bit [00:06:00] crispy and it was like surprisingly delicious. So I think that if we went back to Thailand, I would quite happily buy the whole bag of crickets and just munch on them as strange as that sounds.
Were they breaded?
No, they would just literally like crispy fried, I guess, like, not even battered, but just crispy crickets.
Marly McMillen: I see that I really admire that in you. However, that’s not something like I went to Greece and I wouldn’t even try black olives . Of course. I was in my twenties and I just hated, it was not a very adventurous eater at the time, but, you know, I think that’s impressive that you’re able to do that. And how cool is it that then you take that home and you’re creating recipes that you can share so, you know, people can try at home.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. I mean, yeah, it’s been so fun as well just having those memories to share with people and yeah. Kind of communicate that through the food and open that up for others to try. And we don’t yet have a recipe for the crickets, maybe one day.
Marly McMillen: Yeah, that’s right. So I’m just trying to [00:07:00] imagine you taking off on your trip, for, you know, the first time that you went for that year trip, did you have in your mind that this could turn into a food blog that’s based on travel recipes and that it would be your business?
Sarah and Laura: When we first left, we. I guess we just wanted to be open to it, seeing what happens with the blog. So we have started it as soon as we left, when we landed in Singapore. And at first it was more, I’m also talking about either restaurant reviews or I’m going to say the local markets and saying what food we ate there and, with a mix of recipes as well. But then as we kind of kept going then morphed into more of the recipe side of things, and then we stopped doing like all the reviews and, the places that we went to. Because we found that that’s what people were most interested in as well. And I think from there, that’s where we started to really hone in on the homestyle recipes, by staying with [00:08:00] local people and talking with chefs in restaurants or even random people on the streets. So yeah, it was definitely a discovery along the way.
Marly McMillen: And people love to talk about the way they cook. Right.
Sarah and Laura: Oh, lately.
Marly McMillen: That’s great. And I think personally that is the way to travel. I really do not like touristy travel. I think, you know, being able to stay in people’s houses and seeing how they cook that had to be so amazing.
Sarah and Laura: Oh, we have so many fun memories and fun friendships that came out of that experience. One in particular was we were staying with, well, a new friend through, couch surfing in Cappadoica, in Turkey and he took us on this amazing, incredible adventure. Like we had known him probably less than 24 hours, I would say.
And he’s like, We just, we have to, I have to share with you this experience. So yeah, we hopped in the car with him and he drove us out probably an hour away from the city out to this – what was it? It was like an abandoned monastery, like [00:09:00] ruins out in the countryside. This is at 10:30 at night. Only known him for a little while. It was pitch black.
Yeah. Well, I hope this ends up okay. The funny part was when he pulled out the blowtorch and we’re like, what is going on here? So what he had for us was he had these Turkish sausages and he found some sticks and he set up this fireplace that was there in these ruins that he obviously knew about and use the blowtorch to cook these sausages and, you know, the pitch black and, yeah, and then handed one to each of us. And then we wandered around munching on these sausages, looking through these ruins without torches without our phones. And you know, over here was where a saint was buried and over there was just this kind of stunning night view. You know, there was, the stars were so bright out there because we’re so far away from the city . And we sat there and we just talked for what felt like hours. And, and then we shared some, little sweets, Turkish sweets afterwards for dessert. So, well, you know, that these [00:10:00] kinds of adventures, you can’t plan, you can’t book, you know, they just happen spontaneously and yeah, I treasure that memory.
Marly McMillen: I imagine they were dates. Is that the Turkish sweets?
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. they were, the pastry does that has, the name has escaped me right now, but it was like a baklava, yet the Turkish version.
Marly McMillen: I’ve been to Turkey too. And it is just amazing, you know, I mean, like I say though, I was kind of, I was on a cruise, so it was like a vosot to Greece, Athens, and then a cruise of islands, including Turkey around the area. And, and you know, I was kind of stuck with being just stuck with the touristy areas.
Although we did get out a little bit from that, but you know, you see so much more of the country when you’re able to get out, like what you did.
Sarah and Laura: Absolutely. And especially when you do make friends with locals, they know where are those beautiful places to visit all of those stunning things that you just don’t see when you’re surrounded by a crowd of other tourists? So it’s definitely our preferred way of traveling [00:11:00] is to get out and see something a bit differently.
Marly McMillen: That said, the idea of, like, I imagine encouraging my daughter to go do something like this. And then I would think the idea that she would get and, you know, go with some stranger that, I mean, it just frealls my heart just pitter patters a little bit, but you
Sarah and Laura: I know.
Marly McMillen: but it all worked out.
Sarah and Laura: Our hearts or pitter pattering too. But I think that, you know, when we, cause we’d been traveling for so long, by that point, you kind of understand people a bit differently like that. You, you get to underst you get to know them a bit faster. You kind of understanding. Yeah. Yeah. you kind of go with your gut with these things.
And, I know when we were looking for who to stay with, because we mainly did do couch surfing. So we’d look at profiles and usually if they did mention that they had a love of food, then we’d be like, okay, these are our people. That was like the number one. And when we messaged them to ask, if we could stay, we’d actually say, look, we know that, you know, usually people do couch surf. We are a little different. We cook [00:12:00] surf. So we say that when we come and stay with you, we love to share a meal from our country and then they would share a meal that is their favorite. So that way we could really learn their cuisine and their culture and sit down with them for a meal. And that was just magic.
Marly McMillen: Oh, yeah. And you bond over food so much. So that’s just amazing. So, what did you do before? Like, you know, career wise? Did you, were you like straight out of college or what did you do?
Sarah and Laura: I think this was a few years after university for us. We both had jobs as kind of like that graphic design and marketing role. And then, yeah, it’s kind of totally different now. This experience of both traveling and starting the food blog definitely has taken us well beyond where we thought we would go in terms of career wise.
We still kept our skills of graphic design and the [00:13:00] marketing. And that’s definitely been very helpful with doing the food log as well. So I think before we left, yeah, we’d both been working in corporate for over five years each. And then decided, okay, when we get back, we actually set ourselves three months to start, like how, we do a graphic design and web site business. And we said, we’ll start that with alongside the food blog and see if that can pay the bills for the first three months. Let’s see if that happens. And it did. So ever since then, we’ve worked for ourselves between the blog and our other businesses.
Marly McMillen: That’s wonderful. And what I’m curious about is, as, as you’re on the road, then you’re doing food photography as you, as you travel?
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. So, we would take photos. well actually I should say Sarah would take the photos. I did, I did, did the writing for Wandercooks during the trip and Sarah would do the photography. And so, you know, she would be taking photos of the markets that we would go through and all the fresh vegetables and ingredients.
And when [00:14:00] we were cooking recipes with our new friends, she would be taking the food photography, so that we could share that on the blog. Yeah, it definitely led to some interesting situations where, obviously being on the road, you can’t have all of your props and, everything to go with your recipes.
So, we had to get very creative. There were some situations where, say in Cambodia, we decided to do fairy bread. And that was a huge adventure because fairy bread, it’s a very simple recipe. It’s literally bread, butter and sprinkles or hundreds and thousands, depending on what, which team you’re on. And we ended up walking for about five kilometers to a big department store and managed to track down these sprinkles in Cambodia. And then we get back and decide to shoot it and we’re looking around and there is not much at the accommodation that we’re in. So. Trying to get creative and make use of the natural light and the single window in our room.
We [00:15:00] spyed an ironing board and thought, you know what, that’s going to be perfect. So we set up the ironing board. I actually found a towel, which looking back now, it was not the best use of background texture, but we use what we can and yeah. Ended up doing our fairy breads on there. So that was very interesting.
Marly McMillen: Yeah. I mean, mother of invention, right? The necessity is.
Sarah and Laura: Exactly.
Marly McMillen: Do you find that when you got back home that you wanted to reshoot any of those, or did you love the fact that, you know, you, you know, the story behind that photo and you kept it the way it is?
Sarah and Laura: Actually, we haven’t re-shot that particular shoot. So if you want to have a look at the towel, you can have a, look it out, fairy bread online.
Marly McMillen: I do want to take a look at that.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, but at the moment, we’re actually, we are going through and reshooting a lot of our old content. And one in particular, which I’m about to post up shortly is for a French dish called – if I can [00:16:00] pronounce it correctly – Blanc Majer or Blanc Majay. Depends how you can get that French accent going. Yeah.
It’s like a French panacotta style dish. And, I, I think we’d just got off the bus after a 22 hour trip when we got thrown into the kitchen and we’re learning how to make this dish. And my photos are horrendous on the, artificial yellow lighting. And I cannot wait to put my new photos up for that one.
Marly McMillen: Oh, I bet. I bet they’re going to be gorgeous compared to, you know, like you say, dealing with the light that you have available to you when you’re traveling.
Sarah and Laura: Definitely that. And as well as just even the angles and all sorts of bad things, when you’re still learning how to do photography.
Marly McMillen: Yeah, exactly. I mean, food photography is, is a challenge. Even like, I say that, from somebody who has been in the same house for six years, I can’t imagine, you know, just being out and about you really have to figure it out on the fly.
Sarah and Laura: I think from using floors to [00:17:00] using bits and pieces in different houses or even in a hotel room. I think one time we found this ornamental platter that was perfect for one of our shots. And even taking advantage of, say, big drapes that are in some rooms to create some like nice shadow effects and all those sorts of things.
Marly McMillen: I heard somebody say recently that, after doing some worldwide travel that they thought France was the capital of all, you know, fine restaurants and good dining. But they felt like the most flavorful food was to be found in places like Cambodia or Korea. Would you agree with that?
Sarah and Laura: Oh, definitely. I think Korea in particular. I mean, the flavors that are in that cuisine and the heat, the spice is just mouthwatering. And just, I think we had just arrived there after spending maybe two months in Japan, which has a beautiful cuisine all its own. But it doesn’t usually make use of a lot of heat and spice.
So going to Korea literally [00:18:00] blew our taste buds out of the water. Spice in the noodles, even like a cold noodle dish would just have us sweating with the heat. It was amazing. And I remember one night we went and found this Korean fried chicken and we ordered the garlic version and the chili version, because we thought that the garlic might temper the chili a little bit, but we were wrong.
Okay. Thankfully that cool glass of beer helped us get through that dish, but wow. Korean fried chicken, the real stuff. It’s amazing.
Marly McMillen: I had a foreign exchange student from Thailand and she would, as she was eating, she would be fanning her mouth because she was putting so much hot sauce on it.
Sarah and Laura: Wow. Yeah, I think they call that the natural air conditioning, because as you start to eat this hot food, you start to sweat. And obviously if you’re sitting outside in Thailand and at a marketplace, would that cool breeze washing over you to starting to sweat? Like that would be the way to cool down.
Marly McMillen: I love spicy food. Do you, did you go there loving spicy food already?
[00:19:00] Sarah and Laura: I think that we developed a love for spicy food over our trip. I think we developed a tolerance more and more over that trip. Definitely going through Korea.
And even, and as you mentioned, Thailand as well, when we were over there, I remember we went to the night markets. And, we were talking with this mum and daughter, who had, this noodle dish that they were making up.
And, they, when they were putting it together for us, they asked, Oh, you know how much chili? And I said, Oh, the normal amount. And they said, Oh, like my amount? And we said, yeah, like how much do you have? And they said, Oh, that’s that’s too much for you. And we said, no, no, we’ll be okay. Like you put that much in. Oh my, that was the spiciest meal of our life.
I think we, we struggled a lot with that one. But, the flavors paired with the heat, it still works and I don’t regret it, but it was hot.
We thought we were pros by that point. We thought we’d been everywhere. We’ve tried every spicy dish. We can [00:20:00] tackle this one. And we were almost defeated.
Marly McMillen: You made it through.
Sarah and Laura: Exactly. I still have the daughters like giggle in my head as she was like pouring in the chili, looking at us like, yeah, you have fun with this .
Marly McMillen: Probably that young daughter can handle spicy food because they’re exposed to it at so young, you know.
Sarah and Laura: Yes. Yeah. I mean, I remember we were in Vietnam and, in the morning we would go down to the local restaurant where they did bowls, big bowls of Vietnamese pho. And I remember there was a kid that was maybe one or two and he had his own ball. He had his chopsticks and he was holding down on those noodles like there was no tomorrow, which I found fascinating. I was impressed.
Marly McMillen: That’s impressive because I think I’m imagining my daughter. I think she was like having a hard time with the pincer grip to get some Cheerios.
Sarah and Laura: Oh yeah. That’s yeah, definitely some skill involved over there.
Marly McMillen: Yeah, exactly. So how did you decide where you were going to, [00:21:00] like, you know, you’re traveling for a year, how did you decide how many, how many countries are going to go to? How long are we in this day? I mean, did you have a plan or do you just kind of go along as you felt it?
Sarah and Laura: I’d say when we first left, I mean, you know, we’d floated the idea of a year, but we, we bought a one way ticket to Singapore and then I think, you know, maybe a connecting flight to Japan. And other than that, we didn’t have any kind of set plans. It kind of grew organically along the way. So, you know, we’d gone through Singapore, we’d gone through Japan, we’d gone through Korea and then a friend was like, hey, do you want to come and visit us in Paris?
Okay. Let’s have a look at the flights and we found this ridiculously cheap flight. I can’t remember the price now, but we were astounded. And so we caught that flight from Korea over to Paris and yeah, caught up with some friends over there. And that’s how we ended up in Europe. We had no plan on being in Europe.
At that point, we thought we would be spending the whole year going through Asia. But I’m not exactly sure the final finalized route or anything.
[00:22:00] And I think after we were looking at the weather, at the time that we were there, which was, I think about April – May, I think it was heading into some monsoon season.
So we thought it would actually be good to be in Europe for a few months, and then come back to Southeast Asia afterwards. Yeah. Yeah. So we ended up going on this kind of loop, this crazy loop. If you look at the map, it looks crazy. Through Europe, through, down to Italy and across the Slovenia and up through Germany and then made a hop over to the UK.
We got a ridiculously cheap, special for a car hire for a couple of weeks going through Scotland. And that coincided with my birthday. So we found this cute little, cottage or bed and breakfast to spend my birthday in over there and then made the hop back over to Europe and then made our way across, down into Asia again.
I think we, yeah, we got as far as Turkey and then found another flight, which led us over to Thailand and that’s how we got back over to Southeast Asia. So [00:23:00] yeah, we were hopping from one side of the world to the other.
Marly McMillen: And when the year was up, did you know? It was like, okay, it’s time to go home. We’re ready.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, we definitely did. I think, you know, traveling, we were traveling quite fast for most of that time. A lot of the time we would be in one city for maybe two to three nights before we’d be shifting along to the next one. and so it takes a lot of energy to keep up the planning and the logistics and trying to make sure that you see lots of the sites and eat lots of the food. And, and it’s a big, long holiday, like that can really wear you out.
Yeah. So our, one of our last destinations was Bali in Indonesia. Because it’s quite a short hop there from there to home. And by that time we were, we were ready. We were ready to come home after being away for so long. You start to not appreciate that the act of being away on holiday, you know, it does because almost like a job.
And we would even joke that some days we were busier [00:24:00] than when we had our previous jobs back in the corporate world. So, yeah, it was a nice time to come back and then appreciate the comforts of being home to then work out or where are we going to go next. And then appreciate that holiday again.
Also, it was nice to have things like wardrobes, to not be living out of a backpack and to kind of experience, after so long that kind of being in one place and finding that feeling of being settled again, it was very nice.
Marly McMillen: I think though for many food bloggers, we’re kind of stuck in the same place and trapped behind our computers. And I just feel like that travel model that you have, it’s probably yields such creative writing because you have so many great stories. It’s not just, here’s the recipe. It’s, you know, Oh my gawd, I was in this village and Cambodia and here’s what happened. I mean, that’s amazing.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. Yeah, it was, it was so beautiful to have those experiences and I, I really do treasure them. I was gonna say it was, we were quite lucky that Laura actually kept [00:25:00] a daily journal of everything that we did and the kind of conversations we had. So we do have a record of everything that we can go back to.
If we do forget some things, I think it spans about six notebooks and because we couldn’t carry everything with us, when we traveled, occasionally we had to send them home. And I was so scared putting them into the postboxes and hoping that they would be there when we got home. And thankfully every one of those journals made at home.
So I’m very grateful.
Marly McMillen: So are there some recipes that, you know, you try and you think, even though you liked it, it’s not something that’s going to go on the, on the blog for whatever reason, maybe it’s just too hard – too hard to get the ingredients or it’s something nobody’s going to be searching for. How do you decide what then goes on the blog?
Sarah and Laura: I think it does come down to, we find that our readers like recipes that are on the easier side. And they do like to substitute. So sometimes for example, there might be recipes that include harder to find ingredients like star [00:26:00] fruit, for example. it can be harder to track down depending on where you live.
So. we will either modify a recipe to say, for example, use lemon juice or lime juice instead of the star fruit. Or if we find that it just has too many ingredients that a bit hard to find, then we will make the choice to not publish that one on the blog.
Yeah. In particular, I think, for example, our chicken mole is, definitely one that has been very, very simplified because especially in Australia, Mexican cuisine is not as popular. I think we have, especially in Adelaide, like one Mexican specific supermarket that we could go to.
So trying to get, you know, all the different chilies and that sort of thing we try to simplify that so people can recreate it and still get as close as possible to having that dish and having those memories without going to like the super excess of going to 10 different stores to achieve that.
Marly McMillen: Yeah. So I think having that criteria is probably helpful. I mean, I find the same thing is [00:27:00] that people really love easy recipes. So I can see where you’ve been there, you’ve traveled, you’ve experienced the traditional version of the recipe. And now you can figure out ways to simplify it and get the same effect.
Sarah and Laura: Exactly. And it is amazing. I think when we were, or because we were staying with a lot of local families instead of getting the restaurant versions of the dish, which could sometimes be a little fancier, you would get their home-style versions, which usually would use those simpler or more pantry staple items, which made it a lot easier for us to then replicate it and pop that onto the blog. So, I found that that was definitely a plus side of staying with locals.
Marly McMillen: And, how smart though, to make your – it’s almost like you have a travel blog and a recipe blog that have, you know, smushed together. You know, like right now travel blogs with the pandemic going on are just, I think my understanding is they’re decimated there. They’re not getting [00:28:00] the traffic.
They’re really struggling and you’ve got the best of both worlds. Cause it’s, it’s, like I said, you’re doing the recipe side of it.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, definitely. It’s funny you say that because we, we just saw a comment on one of our Pinterest pins where a person had tagged in someone else and said, you’re going to love this book because it’s part travel and part recipe. And it’s, it’s funny because I do think of it as more of a recipe blog now, but it has its roots and its heart in travel and getting out there and experiencing the world and making those connections with other cultures.
You know, we didn’t always know the language when we were traveling, but we did try and make an effort to learn a few key phrases. Whether that was, you know, please and thank you, and yes, no. And always wherever we went, I would try and learn the word for delicious so that we could express our appreciation for whatever it was that we were eating.
Another thing we would do is we would use Google translate to find the way of saying, what do you [00:29:00] recommend? And, sometimes take a screenshot of that and show that to, you know, maybe another patron at a restaurant or, you know, someone on the street.
And, we would be led to some amazing surprises using that method. Yeah, definitely.
Marly McMillen: How often do you travel now? Do you do, are you on a calendar or are you on a, like a plan for your next trip? Or how often do you try to try to travel?
Sarah and Laura: So we dedicate, every June to usually going away for a month. And, we found that, at least over here, you know, we’re in the middle of winter, so it’s, yeah, quite, yeah, depressing to be home. So it’s a good time to get out and get away from the rain and the cold. So we’d usually take off for a month and we’re hoping to be in Canada next month, but unfortunately, yeah, our plans are on hold at the moment.
So, we’ll postpone that. And then hopefully once everything is back to normal, we’ll be able to go there as our next destination.
Marly McMillen: And do you have enough content [00:30:00] backlog or whatever that you feel? In other words, do you rely on the travel for your editorial planning or how, how do you do that?
Sarah and Laura: I think that we use our previous travel experiences as our inspiration for our editorial calendar, but it’s not reliant on us, necessarily going out and having the new travel adventures to create the new recipes. We’re still, we do have a bit of a backlog of recipes that we have learned. We haven’t got through them all yet.
And so, at the moment, you know, editorial calendar is part republishing old recipes with the new photography, and building new recipe videos as well, which we weren’t doing previously. And then, yeah, introducing a few of those new recipes, into the mix as well.
Marly McMillen: I love it. I was going to ask you actually about video. How has that been incorporating that into your blog?
Sarah and Laura: For me, I do the recipe video creation, Sarah films, and I do the editing. And, I was a bit scared at first to tackle this. I [00:31:00] imagined it would be so difficult, to put it together, but over time it’s definitely become a lot easier. And we’ve now created about 40 videos. and we’ve definitely nailed our kind of style of that.
Whether some people love it, some people don’t with that tasty overhead style of recipe video. we like to use it as a quick overview of the dish so people can see, exactly the steps that are involved and then head to the blog for the full recipe and the full instructions.
Marly McMillen: Yes. I love that. I can almost see though, like, you know, if you were shooting video, as you’re traveling, you could almost do like a mini documentary about the piece, about the recipe and you know, maybe its background and how you learned it. And a little bit about the village that it comes from, that would be kind of cool.
Sarah and Laura: That would have been so cool. I think that we were way too afraid of, the idea of videos when we were traveling to attempt that , but I think maybe next time we’re out and about it could happen.
Marly McMillen: Now you gotta replicate the trip.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, I think we’ll just have to do that. [00:32:00] Marly. If we have to, like, we’ll go, we’ll have to just go.
Marly McMillen: know the sacrifices
Sarah and Laura: iyou make!
Marly McMillen: Maybe if you want somebody to like carry your luggage, I can go with.
Sarah and Laura: I’m sure. There’s room in our suitcase. We can make it work. We travel pretty light Al we usually, we will always just carry on. So I think we only had about seven kilos between us. No, it was a bit more than that. I think it was seven kilos each. Oh yes.
But at one point we were carrying, we had many laptops each we had Sarah’s photography equipment. I know that for a long time there I was. I carried a saucepan because we weren’t always sure what ingredients or what equipment we were going to have access to. I carried a small bowl that we can always have breakfast in.
And often we carried oats with us because sometimes we weren’t sure exactly where we were going to be. How far from a market or restaurant we would be. So carrying a few little, ingredients like that. just. Gave us [00:33:00] this sense of, confidence. I think that we would never go hungry that we wouldn’t, you know, at the very least we could have oats and water until we found our next food opportunity.
Marly McMillen: It always cracked me up in the corporate world when I would, you know, it’d be traveling with my colleagues and most of them will be men and I would, I would have just the carry on and then we’d be like checking in their luggage. I’m like, what’s going on here? This is no strange. I was, I like to be a blight travel light traveler.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, definitely. I think there were times where, you know, because we had our backpacks and then we had a small day pack on the front, and there were times where we would look over at others, carrying along with their giant suitcases and struggling with cobblestones. And we were just jointly walking alone.
I say that, but there’s, sometimes those bags were very heavy, especially after a very long walk. I remember that we spent about eight hours walking through London one day. We only had the one day we were getting around to see everything we could, but there was nowhere that we could leave out bags because we [00:34:00] went heading back in the same direction.
And after that full day of chasing squirrles through the park and wandering around, I literally did put my back out and, at our next stop, after a very long and painful bus ride, I was out of action for a couple of days there until my back came back together, which I’m glad it did.
Marly McMillen: feet hurt just hearing that. Yeah.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. It was tough sometimes some days in particular, but definitely worth it.
Marly McMillen: I noticed that you have another blog and it’s on frugal living. I think that’s really cool. And it seems like those two would combine the fact that you can pack frugally and live frugally is important.
Sarah and Laura: Absolutely. this is the brainchild of Sarah. She is definitely the, the money, the numbers, the thinking kind of a half of the partnership. The frugal queen. Yes. and just introducing these little things that we have along the way have had such a cumulative impact on our finances, on our lifestyle, that, you know, it feels like things [00:35:00] haven’t changed, but then we look back to how we were even if he is a go and it’s remarkable how far we’ve come.
I think the biggest thing was when, you know, we’ve been living together for a year before we left and packed up all of our stuff. And when we got back, because we’ve been living for a whole year with just a backpack, you know, you forget everything that you own and realize how much things don’t matter.
It is all about experiences. And it was so interesting coming back and looking at the stuff that you owned with new eyes. And we actually didn’t like anything that we had. So, we sold almost all of our stuff and kind of started again. And yeah, we do live quite minimally and frugally because it’s just, I dunno, it’s become our way of life and it’s really satisfying.
And I feel like, we read about a challenge one day. It was, you know, get rid of a hundred items over a month. And I think that we got so into the moment with decluttering that we got rid of a hundred items in one day. It’s addictive [00:36:00] after a while. So yeah, we have paired things back quite a bit.
Not super minimal, but you know, quite, quite pared back. Yeah.
Marly McMillen: It’s very freeing. Isn’t it? Like, I, I feel that myself, I’m, I’m, I’m just the beginning. I’m not, you know, down the road, like you all are with this kind of lifestyle, but I’m, I, I do feel free when I get rid of stuff.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. It’s like, each of those items kind of holds an emotional weight of some kind and, and sometimes that’s a positive thing. So the item you might keep because of the way it makes you feel and others you might get rid of for the exact same reason. And I think that when you do get rid of all of that emotional burden, it really is a freeing experience for sure.
Marly McMillen: Yes. And then, you know, as far as living frugally, I’m curious if you have some favorite tips. Like, I mean, for example, we have Ziploc bags. I don’t know if you have those there in Australia, but we wash those out and we reuse our Ziploc bags.
Sarah and Laura: That is great. I don’t think we have yet, but now I really want to, because I have, [00:37:00] really kind of tried to be aware of how much plastic that we are using and, and trying to minimize that as well. Every, every part of our life needs to have a flow and effect into a new thing. So, you know, from, you know, the travel to the minimalism to sustainability now, we’ve really tried to be conscious of that.
And you know, it’s been a few weeks since we have put out our landfill bin because we’re trying so hard to recycle and, compost and all of that. So yeah. In terms of frugal tips, I think one of the biggest things for us has been actually, when we tracked the money and, in terms of our discretionary spends like, you know, where was all that money going?
When you actually write that down or just it just to have a look at where it is, you’re like, Oh, wow. Like I spent $300 on takeaways, you know, last month. Whereas, when you know what you’re spending, I think it really makes a big difference in, just monitoring that and being aware of your spending rather than just spending freely.
Marly McMillen: Oh, I love that I’m actually taking this [00:38:00] course. It’s called the Happiness Course. It’s it was from an instructor that is at Yale university. And she offered the course basically for Yale students. And it was so popular that they had to move it into an ampitheater. You know, he theater theater place at, at Yale, and now they offer it it’s online. It’s for free. I’ll leave a link in the show notes page, but she actually says that most of the things that we think are going to bring us happiness, do not bring us happiness.
It’s like our brains play tricks on us. So like we think more money would make us happy or more things would make us happy, but they don’t. What you’re saying is so true, I think, you know, if the freedom that you get from realizing that if I make, you know, $500,000, that’s not actually gonna make me happy. So then you learn to realize, Oh, I should be, you know, I could be free to enjoy my life instead of working all the time and not being happy.
Sarah and Laura: Yes. Exactly. I think a lot of people, they forget to enjoy the journey the whole time. They’re just trying to get to this end point and it’s like, well, [00:39:00] why can’t you be happy now? Why do you have to hold off your happy and wait until the end. What’s the point in that?
Marly McMillen: Exactly. I feel like I’ve bought it hook, line and sinker. I was all in on these goal, this goal mindset. I haven’t actually got to the part of the course where she goes into what are the things that you can do to make you happy? But I do know that there’s some gratitude there’s like you were saying, just kind of being present and enjoying the moment is, is really important.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, I think, you know, it’s important to have goals, especially financially, but, what we like to do is, is we have thought very carefully about our values, our lifestyle values as well. And so it’s not just about that financial goal, but it’s about having the lifestyle values and enjoying that time that we have right now and yeah, as Sarah said not waiting until the end.
So, you know, a lot of people would say, Oh, you don’t appear to work very hard sometimes because we have changed our lifestyle that we do have quite a bit of time to do our own things that aren’t just [00:40:00] related to work. And I think, yeah, having, or creating that kind of lifestyle balance is so essential for just feeling good.
Marly McMillen: Yes. Maybe it’s reading a book or maybe it’s the gardening or the things that you, that you do that make you happy rather than just working all the time. I mean, I, I totally understand, you know, there’s some careers that probably take more time if you’re a surgeon or whatever, and if you have that desire for quality. If you’re passionately following a value, like you say, I think that probably does provide more happiness than say the goal of, I want to have a million pageviews a month. Does that make sense?
Sarah and Laura: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it’s like you said about being happy along the way, and, you know, whether that’s through just taking things slightly slower sometimes, or whether it’s turning your daily life into a part ritual, you can work really hard, but you can still feel really satisfied.
At the same time and really happy. and that’s the balance that we try and find, you [00:41:00] know, obviously there’s going to be hard days or really tough emotional days, but, you know, for the most part we work and live very happily.
Marly McMillen: I love that. That is so good. Okay. So I’d like, I like to ask a few questions at the end of the interview that are just kind of fun. Are you, are you all open to that?
Sarah and Laura: Oh, totally.
Marly McMillen: Okay. Let’s do it. Okay. So I want to hear from each of you, what is your favorite food?
Sarah and Laura: Oh, that is so hard.
Marly McMillen: I know.
Sarah and Laura: Okay. We have narrowed it down to two favorite cuisines. So, Japanese and Vietnamese food on equal place. Number one for us. So, for the Vietnamese food, I would say that our all-time favorite is pho. That noodle soup is amazing, especially with the Vietnamese spicy saute sauce that you popped into it.
And for the Japanese side, gosh, that’s a hard one that is tricky. We cook a lot of Japanese at home. I mean, we do cook a lot of sushi. That’s probably up there, but, our other favorite is [00:42:00] actually okonomiyaki, which sounds funny, but it is a savory pancake. It’s got a thin batter and a little bit of cabbage and usually some bacon or seafood or whatever you like.
And on top is the, okonomiyaki sauce, which is kind of like a barbecue sauce with their Kewpie mayonnaise, which I love that.
Marly McMillen: It sounds good. It sounds like a mixture of sweet and spicy and salty.
Sarah and Laura: it is a bit, yeah. Especially with that barbecue sauce that brings in the sweet element. and then it’s topped with a bit of, Japanese seaweed powder and then, bonito flakes, which, bring in that real savory umami element to it.
Marly McMillen: Yes. I love that. I I’ve recently mentioned sushi. I’ve recently, not recently over the last year or two have been making my own vegan sushi and Oh my gawd, it’s so satisfying. Isn’t it just like rolling them and slicing them. There’s just something very particular and satisfying about it.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, it’s almost meditative, isn’t it. And as you start to roll it off and try and [00:43:00] get it all nice and perfect. And yeah. Yes. Sushi is the best. We actually do a “cheats” sushi where we don’t actually use the bamboo mat. It was one we were taught while away and you just roll it up almost in your hands, like a cone shape, and then eat it from then.
That’s been a nice little trick that we learned. That’s like casual, easy mode sushi.
Marly McMillen: That’s how they eat it at home. Not at the restaurant?
Sarah and Laura: It is exactly. Yeah. It’s like party sushi. You can, you can set everything out on like little platters in the middle of the table and take a small piece of the Nori seaweed. And everyone just helps themselves to build out their sushi just the way they like it. And then roll it up and get stuck in.
Marly McMillen: When I was in Brazil, I noticed that, people will, when they would, there was a pizza place that we went to and they would roll up the pizza slices, like what you were just saying. Have you seen that?
Sarah and Laura: No. I haven’t. It sounds great.
Marly McMillen: I’ve never seen anybody eat pizza like that, but, it’s obviously it was very normal to them.
Sarah and Laura: wow. Did you try that [00:44:00] style?
Marly McMillen: I did, yeah, it was good. I mean, I was there for a reason and that is because I, again, I was not very adventurous with my food, so I needed something normal. And so pizza was that for me.
Sarah and Laura: That’s fantastic. Did you like the way that it was rolled out? Did you think it tasted better or just a different experience?
Marly McMillen: It was just a different experience. Totally. But I wouldn’t say that I thought it tasted better. It was just, I think it was kind of a unique way to eat it. I’ve never seen anybody eating that way and it was kind of cool.
Sarah and Laura: It reminds me a little bit of how they eat it in Italy with the thinner style, like wood oven style basis, where they kind of fold it up half, almost in half before chowing down.
Marly McMillen: Ah, that’s cool. Yeah, that’s what I think is interesting too, is just like, you know, you were just saying when you eat food at people’s home versus, or different places that you travel, it may be the same things. It’s just eaten differently and that’s kind of fun too.
Sarah and Laura: Definitely. It’s so fun to learn. Yeah, the different way that people approach food, and what’s considered a breakfast item. This is what’s [00:45:00] considered a dinner item, you know, eating, that Vietnamese noodle soup for breakfast and getting used to having that savory style. Whereas, you know, back home, it was more like having cereal for breakfast.
So, yeah, I definitely developed a love for that. while we were traveling through Vietnam.
Marly McMillen: Have you traveled much to South America?
Sarah and Laura: No, that is, that is still on the list of to go to, we haven’t made it over there or any of the Americas actually. which is why we’re excited to head over to Canada for this year. And, yeah, it’ll just have to be next year, I guess.
Marly McMillen: Yes, absolutely. I’ve been to Brazil and Argentina and Uruguay and yeah, it’s just, it’s beautiful. It’s it’s probably got a European feel, I think to it, but yeah, definitely some great cuisine.
Sarah and Laura: No, it sounds delicious. I think some cultures just have like a different connection to their food. Sometimes Western style, it’s kind of just a bit more distant. I dunno, there’s some, there’s some, some life to it in some cultures, the way that they approach [00:46:00] their food. And I think that that really has helped spark and maintain that passion for food that we have.
Marly McMillen: Yes. It was an experience too. Like they won’t bring you the check unless you ask for it. Whereas in the United States, at least I feel like, you know, there’s a number in your head and they’re like, ready. They’re just churning you through. We’ve got to make a profit here. I’ll get you out of here.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I was gonna say, I think with, or in Australia at least I think it’s maybe more that laid back ish style depending on the restaurant, but generally speaking, I think we can, yeah. Go ask for the check. Yeah. Like gives you that time to linger a little bit more and have that social element as well, where you can sit and talk with your friends or, you know, consider whether you’re going to have that dessert or not. I think that’s what they’re most pushy about. Are you having dessert. Spend more money.
Marly McMillen: True. I like dining to be an experience like that. I think it’s more enjoyable, so, yeah.
Sarah and Laura: Nice.
Marly McMillen: okay. So tell me about a favorite app on your phone.
[00:47:00] Sarah and Laura: Ooh. See, I’ve been trying to minimize my usage of my phone. yeah. So, I might have to hand that one to Sarah. I’d say I’ve been using the Libby app at the moment, which is the online library app. Which has come in handy while our libraries are closed. So I always have a book on the go and, yeah, that has been such a fantastic app for both audio books and regular eBooks to just keep on reading as much as I can.
Marly McMillen: That’s amazing. Is that an international or is that just an Australia?
Sarah and Laura: It is international actually. So I think as long as you have a library card and, a pin, you can just sign in online and put, well, in Australia, you can pull up to, I think, 10 books on hold and borrow 10 books at a time. So, they have a really, really good selection.
Marly McMillen: Nice. I’m a big fan of the library, but of course right now it’s all closed. So I didn’t even know about that. That’s awesome.
Sarah and Laura: Oh, yeah. Fantastic. Well, hopefully you can get on and get some free books [00:48:00] and keep reading.
Marly McMillen: It, I was going to ask you, my next question is, do you have time for TV or reading at all? And if you do so, tell me what’s your favorite.
Sarah and Laura: Okay. So we don’t have a TV. When we were going through our real decluttering and minimalization spree, we realized that we did have this big black TV in our lounge room and we were watching it less and less. And we just decided to get rid of it. And we actually gave it to Sarah’s brother and his girlfriend and said, look, can you just hold onto this for us?
Because they had a tiny TV themselves and that we’re very happy to have it. And we said, oh, you know, we’ll decide whether or not we want it back. And, once it was gone, we covered our TV unit with these beautiful plants and this collage of photos, from our wedding and it’s become kind of this, I dunno, like an ode to relaxation and, life and happiness.
So yeah. so no TV, but, we do have so much time to read. We are avid readers. We’re so addicted to it. [00:49:00] Yeah.
Marly McMillen: Do you watch shows on your computer ever or just no, no, no shows like that.
Sarah and Laura: We do . So we do sometimes watch a movie or a documentary on Netflix sometimes, but, generally speaking, yeah, I’d say definitely reading is probably 80% and every now and then, a movie or a TV show.
Marly McMillen: I like that. I think it’s like a, you know, it’s a forced quit time, right? Like, you know, it’s like it’s having like a small package of, of Doritos in the, in the living room or in the kitchen, you know, you’re not, you’re not gonna like pig out on him because you don’t have available. So if you’ve got a small computer screen, it’s fun to watch a show, but then you’re done.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah, I think it definitely broke the habit and it was so odd because. Before, you know, you’d go sit down on the couch. And so the first thing you do is grab the remote and turn the TV on. Whereas when it’s not there, it, your mind kind of stops and goes, huh? What do I do? So I want to do, what do I feel like doing, you know?
So I’ve been doing like lots more yoga in the evenings and, you know, we just sit on the couch [00:50:00] together and talk and plan and daydream and, snuggle our puppy and it’s really nice. It’s that evening time. It’s really like, I’m all about relaxation.
Marly McMillen: I bet. And so tell me about, is there a favorite book that you’ve been reading lately?
Sarah and Laura: I’ve been reading a guilty pleasure series. it’s the first book starts with “Dead Witch Walking. It is a fantasy series about witches and vampires and is thoroughly addictive. And each book is about 12 hours long ,so it’s been keeping me very busy.
Marly McMillen: Yes, that sounds very good.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. And I’ve been reading, I read a lot of, business finance and self-help books.
So, I’ve been channeling through those, the last couple of months. And I think at the moment I am reading “Cheapskate Next Door,” which is very similar to, the millionaire next door, where they interview a whole bunch of frugal people and, you know, all the habits that they have and that sort of thing.
So I’ve been really enjoying, just reading through his humorous writing.
[00:51:00] Marly McMillen: Ah, that sounds very good. Have you found some good tips in there that you’re, you’re going to try.
Sarah and Laura: Actually, yeah, there was a new one that I hadn’t heard of that was reading just this morning, which was talking about, the quote, you know, you should always measure twice and cut once. And this is then, these two guys in particular were doing, you save twice and pay once, which is the idea that say, if you wanted to save up for a book or a car or anything, you saved twice the amount of money you need and then pay for the car or whatever is the item. And then you have half that money left over so that it doesn’t feel like you’ve just spent all of your money and then you put that away in savings. So, yeah, that was interesting.
Marly McMillen: That’s a great tip. I love that.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah.
Marly McMillen: Oh, that’s a really good one. I would have to check out that book. That sounds very good.
Sarah and Laura: Yeah. It’s an easy read as well.
Marly McMillen: I like that. Okay. So how can people find you online?
Sarah and Laura: So you can find us on Instagram [00:52:00] at Instagram slash Wandercooks.
Marly McMillen: Sarah and Laura, I have had a really wonderful time talking with you today. So thanks for joining me.
Sarah and Laura: Thank you for having us. It was so fun chatting with you.