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article imageTelecommute: Frenchman runs business from deserted remote island

By Anne Sewell     Nov 29, 2013 in Business
Lille - Last year a French businessman, Gauthier Toulemonde, had a wild idea. He wanted to try and run his company from a remote island, thousands of miles away from France. He just got back home.
Toulemonde, 54, is a publisher and journalist hailing from Lille in northern France. He has just returned home after an interesting experiment.
Following his bright idea last year, Toulemonde set off in the middle of October for a 40-day telecommute on a remote, deserted island in Indonesia.
He called his project "WebRobinson" (after the Robinson Crusoe story) and apparently he came up with the idea to not only “fulfill a boyhood dream,” but also to test whether it's possible to work remotely and still run his business successfully.
When the media asked him why he would do such a thing, Toulemonde said that it was the daily commute that finally got to be too much for him.
“I found myself in Gare Saint Lazare [in Paris] last December, watching the continuous flood of people going by,” he told Paris Match live from the island.
“They had this sad look on them, even though they were carrying Christmas presents. My idea had been growing for a while, but I decided on that day to leave.”
Toulemonde said that it took him around six months to locate the ideal island, suitable for a six-week stay, and he did have problems with the Indonesian government on several occasions. In fact, the government has told him that by law, he must not reveal the exact location of the 700-by-500-meter island, one of 17,000 in the Indonesian archipelago.
Planning his supplies was the next difficulty, but he started the trip with just a tent, four solar panels, a phone, most importantly his laptop and some rice and pasta. He allowed himself a budget of €10,000 for the whole adventure, and €20 a day to keep his essential Internet connection going.
His tent was reportedly strong enough to keep out the torrential rain which came down for several days during his stay, and he had to just do his best to keep the snakes, rats and lizards out of his temporary home.
Toulemonde put in six average weeks of work. During his stay his company, Timbopresse, managed to publish two editions of Stamps Magazine all by the normal deadlines. At first he used the phone to make a few calls, but found this was too expensive and stopped, sending emails back and forth with his 10 employees on a regular basis.
As to his daily schedule, he awoke at 5 a.m. each day and usually hit the sack at around midnight.
Having only rice and pasta, Toulemonde had to scavenge for his food supplies, finding vegetables on the island and fishing in the sea.
Despite being productive and getting the work done, the media asked him what it was like spending six weeks without seeing or speaking to another human being.
“Those 40 days, for me it was like being in quarantine,” Toulemonde told Le Figaro (in French). “I used the time as a detox from modern life.”
He told Paris Match, “What gave me most joy was living – stripped bare – in the closest possible contact with nature. Every day was magical.”
French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian isla...
French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian island.
My TF1 News reported (French language) that when he was asked what the worst thing was about the whole experience he said, while not really liking all the rats and snakes on the island, his worst fear was to lose his Internet connection. He did miss seeing other people though, and he missed his normal food.
Toulemonde did, however, say that the experiment was a success and that telecommuting does in fact work — it was just the lack of human contact that spoiled it a little.
“Telecommuting really works but doing everything virtually has its limits,” he said. “Working from distance might be doable, but nothing can replace human contact.”
It has to be said that Toulemonde's office during his stay on the island was pretty remarkable and he couldn't complain about the commute to work!
French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian isla...
French businessman Gauthier Toulemonde experimented with telecommuting from a remote Indonesian island.
The video above shows an interview with Toulemonde on the island, for anyone that understands French.
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