We hosted Stephan & Simon, who both work for WONDROUS, last year at our Gran Canaria space. It’s safe to say that they picked up the remote working bug, and decided to embark on a 12-day road trip through western France this year while working and surfing. We caught up with them after our Zurich meet-up where they gave a talk, to get the lowdown on how it went!
Could you tell me a little bit about you both, where you’re from and what it is that you both do?
We’re two like-minded guys living and working in Basel, Switzerland. We work at WONDROUS, a full service digital agency, Simon (24) as an Interaction Designer and Stephan (29) as a Project Manager.
In our free time we love to travel the world and explore new places, making music or just going out for a few beers. ?
You guys recently took a 12-day road trip through western France, could you tell me a bit more about what that involved?
We took this road trip to work remotely out of a camper van. It was about being on the road, never staying at the same place twice, surfing, working wherever and whenever you like, just enjoying life and finding new, inspiring places while working.
What inspired the trip and why France?
Last year we stayed at the Surf Office Gran Canaria for 10 days and got infected by the idea to work, surf, and enjoy the sun at the same time. We researched a lot about working remotely and wanted to do this again, but this time on the road.
The Atlantic Coast in western France is well-known for its great surf spots, beautiful beaches, and the opportunity to stay in nature wherever you are.
Was it difficult sharing a van with each other for so long?!
No, not really. Sure we had disagreements from time to time, but nothing worth talking about in the long run. We are pretty like-minded, so most of the time we agreed with each other and enjoyed the trip. You should know each other pretty well to share a van 24/7 on 4m2. This could be very hard for some people, but we both worked pretty well together. We got to know each other on a whole new level, something that couldn’t happen in the daily office routine, and we wouldn’t want to miss that.
What did you do for the basics like food, showering etc?
We went shopping once a day for fresh food since we had no fridge, just a cool box. We kept our beer cold with ice cubes, which worked pretty well. Having a cold beer after a hard working day was one of the most important things on the trip!
On weekends we stayed in nature and used the showers right at the beach after swimming in the sea in the morning — that was sufficient. We used multiple power banks to charge our MacBook’s.
During the week we stayed on campsites because it’s more relaxed to work a whole day with a current power connection. Nice side effect: showering was much more convenient there!
What was your favorite part about the trip?
Reduced to the minimum, living and working with virtually nothing, and just enjoying life while working was certainly the most important experience.
What was your favorite place that you visited?
There wasn’t a favorite place for us. Rather the mix of all those places we’ve seen is what we keep in mind. The area around Messanges Plage is surely worth a visit.
How did you split up your time between working, traveling, and relaxing?
We enjoyed the weekends without working, just surfing, driving around, and connecting with people.
During the week we worked flexible. A lot of time we searched for new places or worked on our projects. The campsites located not directly at the coast were not that crowded so we stayed there.
Driving to the coast, renting the boards and everything took too much time for us. Basically we worked mostly in the afternoon and at night, in the morning we chilled or searched for a new spot. Sometimes in the evening we went for a swim in the sea for a working break.
Have you both done much remote working before? If you have, where is your favorite place in the world to work from?
We had just the experience from the Surf Office, which was awesome, but we will definitely do more remote trips in the future. Stay up to date ;)
How was it driving a van everywhere?
Just awesome. You could stay wherever you want, you got your home and bed always with you. That’s an incredible feeling. It’s so simple to explore nature and you feel free all the time.
What was the search for internet and good working spots like?
We had a portable Wi-Fi device. At most places we had a stable 4G internet connection. Sometimes it was a little bit difficult to get a strong signal, for example right at the beach or in the woods. So, the first action on a new spot was always was to check the signal on the device before building up our “office”.
How was the surfing and the beaches?
You’ve taken some awesome pictures of your trip — is photography a big hobby of yours?
Not that much, but we loved the idea of sharing our adventures with our loved ones. To be honest, you just need such incredible places, click the right buttons in Photoshop and you are halfway there.
Planning on doing more road trips anywhere? Where’s top of the list?
Next summer, Portugal for sure. We heard plenty of stories about the landscape, beautiful spots, and apparently the police are much more relaxed there. Not that we like getting in trouble or anything!
What advice could you give to anyone who wants to do a similar trip like yours?
Just do it! Forget your worries, convince your boss of the benefits of remote work and go for it. You won’t regret it!
How much did it cost you to rent the van? How much did you budget for the rest of the trip?
It was not that cheap, but the experience was worth more than the amount we paid for the whole trip. Don’t take the trip during high season, less people on campsites and living is much cheaper.
Any other tips you can give to anyone reading this about your road trip?
Power and a stable internet connection are the most important things for working in our business. Keep that in mind and try to find a good solution for it. We tried big power banks, but that’s not that practical. To charge two MacBook Pros to get through the day you will need a hell lot of power. After some research we found a power bank that is capable of charging a MacBook Pro more than once, but this thing was crazy expensive so we ordered just one. Without power connection on the campsites it would not have been possible at all.
The internet connection is also a tricky one. Data plans are expensive but we needed to be online all the time, so we made the decision to rent a MiFi device with unlimited data. As well not that cheap but definitely worth it.
Of course we could stay in coffee shops and other public places with Wi-Fi to work and charge our laptops, but it was our goal on this trip to be absolutely independent and it was worth it to pay a higher price.
You both presented at our meet-up in Zurich in September — what did you guys talk about?
We talked about working remotely from the road and our experiences during our trip in France. We shared the insights that we learnt and the pictures we took.