Winner of 'The Best Job in the World'
In 2009 a job vacancy was posted by the Queensland tourism board. It attracted rather a lot of attention. The world’s attention, to be precise.
At a glance, the job – now better known as ‘The Best Job in the World’ – seemed quite ordinary: a caretaker was needed. But there were some perks. The caretaker would be required to look after a paradise island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef for six months, receive $150,000 for doing so and live rent-free in a $3.5m villa for the duration. The job advert also stated that the successful applicant would work just 12 hours a month. But this is something that Ben Southall, who won the competition, is keen to put to rest.
“Ha! This is so wrong! My role really could have been called ‘The Busiest Job in the World’. I was up at 6.00 a.m. almost every day to go for a run, then spent the day doing fun stuff, like sailing, bushwalking and diving. The evenings were always spent with hotel managers, politicians and tourism representatives. At around 9.00 p.m. I’d start work on the blog, writing and editing photos and videos.”
The blog to which Ben refers was also part of the deal: he essentially became a tourism ambassador for Queensland, sampling everything the region had to offer and promoting it to the rest of the world. He describes the experience as “six months of ‘money can’t buy’ adventures”, some of which included diving all along the Great Barrier Reef, four-wheel-driving through the Outback and skydiving over the Whitsunday Islands.
He says that one of the best things to come from the experience was meeting people throughout Queensland who truly believed that they also had the best job in the world, from dive masters to chefs to helicopter pilots. “After living in the UK where there was a much more negative view of work and the roles people have in life this was great to see.”
Ben was based on Hamilton Island, which is part of the Whitsunday chain, and had his fair share of wildlife encounters. With just three days left on his contract he was stung by an Irukandji jellyfish, which are extremely venomous (sometimes deadly), and spent the next eight hours in hospital having what he describes as “a pretty uncomfortable experience”, which one suspects is something of an understatement. Happily, however, other encounters with the region’s marine creatures were more positive. He says his favourite experience happened on a catamaran when three whales suddenly popped up next to the boat: “It was one of those moments that will stay with me forever, and I didn’t have a camera with me…but it’s all stored as a great memory in my head!”
Adventure runs in Ben’s blood and is something which helped make him such an endearing candidate to Tourism Queensland in the first place. Before entering the competition he travelled independently around Africa on a year-long road trip and climbed the five highest mountains on the continent, blogging religiously as he went. Since winning the competition he has kayaked the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef and is currently planning on setting a new world record to be the fastest to ascend the highest mountain in each of the eight states of Australia.
“Life to me is all about new experiences and pushing what I can achieve to the limit,” Ben says. “After losing two friends in accidents around the world I realised that you only get one chance on Planet Earth and we have to use it as best we can.”
This is a philosophy no doubt shared by many of the entrants to My Destination’s Biggest Baddest Bucket List, the winner of which will receive six months of free travel around the world and a $50,000 cash prize at the end of it all. Ben will be acting as a guest judge for the closing stages of the competition, and when asked about the kind of qualities which will impress, he says: “I’ll be looking for the sort of individual who’s fun, friendly and honest. They need to be able to embrace other people, cultures and whatever situation is thrown at them. That’s what travel is all about.”
He goes on to say: “Travelling around the world is the best classroom anyone, whatever age, should study in. It opens people’s minds to other ways of thinking, integrates cultures and helps the more privileged of us to remember not to take things for granted in our normal lives.”
Entrants to The Biggest Baddest Bucket List must upload a video of a destination they love and write a blog post about their most memorable travel experience. If Ben were able to enter, he says he would film his video in Africa: “I’ve got a love for the people, the places, the wildlife and the rawness of what’s on offer.” And for his most memorable travel experience he concedes that there are many to choose from, but he would have to opt for an occasion in Mauritania, when he drunk freshly squeezed camel milk. And had to make for the toilet soon after…
You could be forgiven for thinking there isn’t much left on Ben’s personal bucket list, but he’s quick to clarify. “There’s so much! I’ve only dipped my toes into the Asian continent and would love to move there for a couple of years. Then there’s the stunning, diverse landmass of South America, and of course Antarctica, one of my dead-set favourites – I really want to dive under the icepack.
“You have to give things a go in life. Be a doer, not a thinker, and remember that sleep is for dreamers, so fulfil your potential every day.”
Sound advice indeed for those of you who are still not sure whether or not to enter the Biggest Baddest Bucket List!
Be a doer, not a thinker, and remember that sleep is for dreamers
"I haven't been everywhere, but it’s on my list" - Susan Sontag