Hands up if you’d like to work in the French Alps for three months a year
Andy Willis spends three months of the year cycling and hiking in the French Alps and running his business from there too. How did he set his life up to allow for this? Here’s his story ...
Where it all started
For 16 years my working life involved plenty of time travelling internationally with many hours spent in the air and waiting around at airports. It was on one of those many trips that I picked up The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. The tagline 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 idea that attracted me either – it was the ‘live anywhere’ concept and the suggestion to ‘live more and work less’.
I’d never been a fan of the traditional, ‘Work hard for 45+ years in 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’ thing to be honest. But no one had ever shown me an alternative.
‘Till Tim that is.
His concept of having ‘mini-retirements’ throughout your life seemed a no-brainer to me. It fit in well with the Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) mantra I prefer to live my life by.
"Not one to do things by halves I booked a ticket to France, a hire car and a little apartment in Allemont for a month in 2013 "
Finding opportunity in adversity
After my marriage of 18 years broke up, life was feeling pretty dark and there was no real light on the horizon. I had two choices, I could retreat into self-pity and a 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 Tim Ferriss’ 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. Not to mention very supportive and tolerant of a boss on an emotional roller coaster.
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We began 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 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, had disconnected the server in the office, cancelled the phone lines, sold the phone systems and had 12 months of getting used to the different way of working and communicating.
Let’s do this
The systems were in place; we’d practised, now it was time to test the theory in real life.
Not one to do things by halves I booked a ticket to France, a hire car and a little apartment in Allemont, (a small village in the French Alps) for the full month of May 2013. 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. I then quickly found my apartment: small, basic, very French, perfect!!
While it took a few days to get used the change in time zone, it didn’t take too long to figure out a schedule that worked. It was a mix of communicating with Kaycee in the office back in Australia (early morning France time= late afternoon Australia time) and having the lovely ability to work interruption-free in my new time zone.
My days in the French Alps quickly settled into a nice rhythm where I’d:
- Wake up early, check emails and chat online to Kaycee back in Australia before she finished her day.
- 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 came up over the snowy peaks of the French Alps.
- Assess the weather and decide whether to go for a bike ride, hike or do 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 were 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 ‘bieres’ and a chat with the bar owner. (These would always turns into a French lesson; a win-win situation where I’d help her with her English and she’d help me with my French.)
- Home to enjoy some bread, amazing French cheese and red wine on the deck while dinner
- Enjoy dinner, more bread and more wine, French music in the background as the light slowly, very slowly, (daylight until nearly 10pm) faded over the mountains
- Crawl into bed feeling happy, fit and accomplished.
2013 was just the beginning.
My time in France increased to two months in 2014 and three months in 2015 (a winterless year for me).
And just like that, my life had changed forever.
Today I’m healthier, happier and living every moment of every day. And I’m loving that I now get to help other people do the same.