I sometimes feel the need to pinch myself, is this really my life?
You see, this is how my life has been for the past few years:
I run a successful business but I don’t have a permanent office. I’ve spent the majority of the past three Australian winters cycling and hiking in the French Alps, working on my business from there and immersing myself in the small French village community.
The rest of the year I spend in the small but beautiful coastal village of Tathra on the Far South Coast of NSW, Australia. Here I fit my work life around the surf, cycling or simply walking on the beach rather than the other way around.
Now, here I am in 2016 and the Working From Anywhere concept has become such an important part of my life. It has given me freedom, choice, health and happiness. It was an awakening for me, it has created a passion in me to share and help others explore the concept for themselves.
Empowering people to think differently about work
I started dabbling in setting up my Working From Anywhere business 3 years ago, it was only dabbling though, it wasn’t really going anywhere. Then I decided it meant much more to me than a part time interest, I had the heartfelt desire for it to become my life focus.
I wanted to help other people to discover that they too can transition to a life with more freedom, choice, health and happiness. I wanted to empower people to think differently about work.
The questions I get asked?
So how am I able to do this? Why did I do this? How can I run a business and live a life without a winter? How do I get to set my own schedule? Is this lifestyle sustainable? Is it easy to set yourself to be able to live this lifestyle? Can anyone do it? What is the downside?
I’ll answer some of these questions here.
How, why, who?
The answer to these questions are much longer than most people would care to listen or read, so let’s keep it brief.
The past 16 years of my working life involved plenty of time travelling internationally with many hours in the air and waiting around at airports. More often than not I pick up a book at the airport on the way. It was here that I stumbled across, ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ by Timothy Ferriss. The tag line, ‘Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich’, attracted my attention.
This find literally changed my life. It wasn’t the 4 hour work week that attracted me it was the ‘live anywhere’ concept and the suggestion to ‘live more and work less’.
I really wasn’t a fan of the traditional, ‘Work hard for 45+ years in exchange for the hope that by the time you retire at the age of 65, you have enough good health to enjoy spending the nest egg you have sacrificed your whole life for’. I’m a risk taker but not with my life, it just didn’t make sense to me.
So Tim’s concept of having ‘mini retirements’ throughout your life seemed a no brainer to me. It fits in well with the mantra I live my life by “Carpe Diem” which translates to “Seize the Day”. We only get every moment of our life but once.
Finding Opportunity in Adversity
After a marriage break up of 18 years, life was feeling pretty dark with not much light to be seen. I had 2 choices, I could retreat into self-pity and world of depression or I could pick myself up and look for the opportunities.
I went with the latter and have never looked back.
I had already started transitioning my business based on the concept of the Tim Ferris’ model. I was very thankful that Kaycee, my staff member at the time, was totally on board and enthusiastic about the proposed venture into the unknown and also very supportive and tolerant of a boss on an emotional roller coaster.
We had begun transferring our files to the cloud using Microsoft Sharepoint. We bought Skype phone numbers for the business and a Skype subscription. The Skype subscription allowed us to call anywhere in the world as part of the one low subscription rate (currently a bargain at only $137.00 per user per year).
12 months later we had all of our files in the cloud, we had disconnected the server in the office, cancelled the phone lines, sold the phone systems and had had 12 months of getting used to the different way of working and communicating.
Let’s do this
The systems were in place, we had practiced, now it was time to test the theory in real life.
Not one to do things by halves, I booked a ticket to France for the full month of May 2013, a hire car for the duration and a little apartment in Allemont, a small village in the French Alps. I even managed to find someone to be my French teacher for my stay.
I arrived in France, picked up my car and somehow managed to get to my village driving on the right hand side of the road. Found my apartment, small, basic, very French, perfect!!
It took a few days to get used the change in time zone. It didn’t take too long to work out a schedule that worked, a mix of communicating with Kaycee in the office back in Australia (early morning France time= late afternoon Aust time) and time working interruption free in my new time zone.
What does a typical WFA day in the French Alps look like?
- Wake up early, check emails and chat online to my staff member back in Australia before she finishes her day (time zone difference).
- Stroll down to the local boulangerie (bakery) and pick up a fresh baguette and croissant.
- Wander back to my little apartment to enjoy breakfast on the deck as the sun comes up over the snowy peaks of the alps.
- Assess the weather and decide on a bike ride, hike or more work.
- Head up into the spectacular mountains for a ride or hike, stopping at a Patisserie for coffee and delicious French pastry somewhere en route.
- Back to my apartment for a stretch and shower, feeling great.
- Settle in for an afternoon of work, uninterrupted as my clients are all in bed over the other side of the world.
- Late afternoon walk down to the local store to grab some fresh ingredients for dinner (no weekly shopping here, it’s a daily thing).
- Stop by at the small local bar on the way home for a couple of ‘biere’s’ and a chat with the bar owner. This turns into a French lesson…It’s a win-win, I help her with her English, she helps me with my French.
- Home enjoying some bread, amazing French cheese and red wine on the deck while dinner cooks.
- Enjoy dinner, more bread and more wine, French music in the background as the light slowly, very slowly, (daylight until nearly 10pm) fades over the mountains
- Crawl into bed feeling happy, fit and accomplished.
2013 was just the beginning. My time in France increased to 2 months in 2014 and 3 months in 2015 (a winterless year for me).
That was it, my life had just changed forever!
Did it work out? Was it smooth sailing? Was it hard?
Yes, it worked out, it took a bit of getting used to but it definitely wasn’t hard.
There were challenges at the time. I had 2 conferences on the go for later in the year, both with 100+ delegates at each, in 2 separate destinations for 2 different companies. But not to worry, I’ve realised that life lived outside of your comfort zone is so much more fun.
Fast forward to 2016 and beyond
At the end of 2015 I made the BIG, and I mean BIG decision. I would take a step away from my main business to pursue what I really believe in.
So at age 55, I gave up the security of an established business that provided a steady and generous income, to create a new business from scratch.
I’ve found that your mindset changes as you move through life and what’s important also changes. I have discovered through living this lifestyle, that money is not the top priority anymore. Experiencing life, meeting new people, actually ‘doing stuff’ is so much richer than ‘having stuff’. The pleasure and satisfaction that I get from helping people far outweighs the monetary rewards for doing so.
It’s time to get serious
That’s it …. I had put everything else aside to focus on my vision for Working From Anywhere. I signed up for an intensive 3-month mentoring program and my sister Karen, who lives in Bali, came onboard and committed to being my business partner. The WFA.Life website was created and I was on the way to turning my vision into reality, my vision to empower people to think differently about work, take control of their work, time and start living life as a priority.
WFA.Life is a website that finds, filters, reviews and shares tools and resources to help people work from anywhere. We also have guest bloggers sharing their ‘Real Life Story’, on their Working From Anywhere Journey.
The next stage will be a regionally focused program that will bring people together to collaborate, share ideas and grow, working together in a space outside of their organisation that will be setup to co work, collaborate and learn. Watch this space for developments on this exciting project. Contact me if you are interested in being part of it, as a participant or a strategic partner.
I may have taken a risk stepping away from an established business to chase my passion but the feedback we get from the people; the people that let us know that their life has changed as a result of the information and resources that we share makes it more than worthwhile.
Would I change back? Not in a million years.
Andy spends his time away from the computer cycling or hiking up mountains or catching a wave on his SUP.