The Story of a Remote CPA in Indonesia with No Internet Connection

Certainly there is a massive trend towards working remotely. If you’re a remote CPA reading this, you may fully understand what I’m saying. But when you think about working remotely, for the most part, you think about working from home or from a coffee shop. Australian CPA, George Paterson, who I met on my travels in Indonesia this August, takes this to a whole new level. He works from a remote island off the coast of West Timor, Indonesia that has no internet provider. In fact, they barely had electricity where he was until very recent.

During my travels with my wife, we visited the Indonesian island of Rote where we stayed at Kampug Kakak, a lovely, basic, little 4 bungalow resort (emphasis on the word “basic”, which is exactly what we like!) right on the beach of this remote, surf destination. For those that know of Bali, this place seemed liked Bali decades ago before the tourists invaded it. Very little infrastructure, dirt roads everywhere, barely any tourists and not especially easy to get to. Oh ya, and no WiFi or internet service, which happens to be one of the reasons why I travelled there 🙂

This is where I met George, a CPA who sold several of his surf and skate retail stores and relocated to Rote for a large chunk of the year to live his dream of surfing in paradise day-in, day-out about 15 years ago. He bought some land (which he described as a process likely quite similar to how business was transacted hundreds of years ago), built a few bungalows for him, his family and friends to spend time in during the year and then transformed the property about 2 years ago, with the help of the local villagers, into something that catered more to travellers looking to get away from it all.

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After speaking with George, I found out that he was a CPA and actually, he works from his bungalow as a remote CPA servicing clients while he’s in Rote. Being someone that likes to work remotely myself, I didn’t really question this, until the thought came to mind as to how he does this seeing as they literally had no electricity there until recently and seeing as there is no internet connection. So how does he do it? He tethers his phone to his laptop 100% of the time where he can then access his client records, Xero (which he loves) and Australia’s online tax platform. He may be off the grid but he’s still able to get data coverage on his mobile device.

George starts his day at around 5am. He gets up, walks down to the beach, climbs into his small boat and seeks out where the waves are. He surfs for a few hours, comes back and then starts his day. Some days he might be doing maintenance on his property and other days he may be catering to some of guests. On some days however, he’s working as a remote CPA, helping his clients with tax planning and financial advice, 100% remotely from Rote with nothing more than email and a tethered laptop.

Since 1975, George owned up to 20 skate & surf shops at its peak in Australia with his business partner. All they ever wanted to do was surf and opening up surf shops just made sense to them. The stores developed and grew and in 2005 they sold off their skate shops. Following that, George started his dream of casting off to a surf destination when he bought up some property on Rote where he would go during the winters to spend time with friends and family. About a decade later, he sold off his surf shops and converted the property into something geared for travellers.

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To be clear, George describes himself as a “non-conformist” accountant. He never fit into the big firms and he always had a passion for technology and charting his own path. He’s also clearly a forward-thinker. He opened his surf shops when surfing wasn’t even really a thing. In fact, professional surfing only really started in 1975, the year George and his partner opened their first surf shop. In addition, in the early days of the internet and e-commerce, he wrote HTML code from scratch and developed a small online business in 1997 to sell surf videos online with roundabout ways of collecting money from global customers. This kind of mindset is what has propelled him to where he is today.

So why does George continue doing consulting and continue working as a remote CPA from paradise when he clearly doesn’t need to? Well, it’s not about the money. George does it, “for the love of the intellect” and because he “[doesn’t] want to play golf all day long”. He also explained that he loves helping people, which is a common theme that I see among accountants. But while he does enjoy providing services as a remote CPA, his love for the surf definitely takes the cake.

I wanted to write this blog post to demonstrate 2 things:

  1. To show that in this day and age, with technology and with changing customers expectations, you do not need to be tied to any physical location. You can live your dreams and work from almost literally anywhere in the world (George likes to say that the only place more remote to work from than Rote would be the moon) and still make a living and still make clients happy.
  2. That being ahead of the curve is important to open up opportunities and possibilities that usually aren’t available to those on the standard path. Being ahead of the curve comes down to adopting the latest technology and a forward-thinking mindset.

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The Story of a Remote CPA in Indonesia with No Internet Connection

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