In April 2008, almost ten years ago, I came back to the UK from a nine month working holiday in Australia. In the second half of the trip, my then-boyfriend and I had rented a house in the suburbs of Melbourne and commuted into the city for work. We explored Victoria at the weekends, and felt like we were having a real taste of another life.
The experience cemented my love of Australia, and started a burning desire to do more travelling and see as much of the world as I could.
The challenge, as it is for most people, was how to finance my travels? I’d temped at Deloitte in Adelaide, and I knew that sometimes their staff got the opportunity to work in an office in another country, so I had a vague plan to get a job at a multi-national, or save up my salary to pay for future trips.
Of course, I came home to the recession and had no job security for a year. When I did get back to work, I found myself dissatisfied with my roles, my environment and the lack of autonomy and flexibility. My plans were never going to happen while I was an employee.
Being my own Boss
Today, I’ve been self-employed for five years and working as a copywriter for half that time. I’m slowly and steadily building my business, and as I started to get regular work, I decided it was time to try remote working.
I’m fortunate, of course, that I set my own hours and, although I have meetings with my clients, these are done via Skype or Zoom. I don’t work in client offices, and so long as I can send emails, download audio files and upload documents, I don’t HAVE to be anywhere in particular.
So, my husband took a sabbatical from his job for three months, with a plan to focus on his own writing and poker playing, and the two of us packed up the car (which we bought second-hand the week before we left!) and headed to a farmhouse in rural Brittany, North West France.
There were several factors which influenced our choice of location. Primarily, we came here because we knew the house was set up with everything we needed, so we weren’t going to be living on McDonald’s and trying to find a launderette every few days.
We also have relatively low living costs – we have to pay for food, petrol and make a token contribution for electricity – and we knew we weren’t going to struggle to pay for accommodation if the work dried up. And the biggest requirement – Wi-Fi – was solved because the farmhouse has reasonably good internet and my work goes on largely uninterrupted.
How it’s Been
We’ve set up a desk each, so we have our own workspace, and we’ve settled into a loose routine for most of the day separately, but having lunch together. There are only a few neighbours, and this is farming country, so people are out in the fields early, and it’s very peaceful.
It definitely isn’t a holiday – another advantage of coming here is that we already know the area, so we’re not tempted to bunk off and go exploring! The nearest bar is a walk away, but it’s pitch black on the main road (no street lights), and pub-hopping isn’t possible. There aren’t taxis or takeaways, and even the supermarket is several miles away, so we’re not constantly distracted like we are at home. And it IS January, so there’s not much happening anywhere.
Really, it’s been more like a retreat, with the opportunity to reflect on my business, think about what my goals are for 2018 (and beyond). I’ve done some writing, a lot of reading, and I intend to do more. I’m listening to podcasts and learning new things from webinars, as well as doing client work.
I hope that by the time we leave at the end of March, I’ve got a lot more clarity and focus, and a plan to travel somewhere else and take my work with me. In fact, I’m already looking for suggestions and ideas for later on in the year!