What is your ultimate dream job? Getting paid to travel the world? Running a bookshop on a tropical island? Spreading positivity? Or anything that gets you out of the office? We caught up with three people who landed their dream job in 2019 to find out what the dream actually looks like in reality. Spoiler: it's pretty sweet.


Drone shot of woman walking on a white sand beach with a book in hand
Chrissy Ryan, the Barefoot Bookseller ©Ultimate Library

Chrissy Ryan had been working in London as a communications director for an independent publishing house when she came across a Lonely Planet article that took her halfway around the world for her dream job. The article described how Ultimate Library (a company that does bespoke book collections and libraries for hotels and homes) along with the five-star Soneva Fushi resort in the Maldives, had created a pop-up bookshop. They were looking for a 'Barefoot Bookseller' to come to run the shop in the luxury resort in Baa Atoll for six months.

“A friend sent me the link to the article in Lonely Planet, saying she thought of me as soon as she saw it and I knew I had to apply" says Chrissy, who describes herself as a driven person with an adventurous side. She had the right experience for the job and the right personality for island life and began working as the Barefoot Bookseller in November, where her daily commute is a two-minute bike ride through tropical jungle. Days are spent chatting to guests about books, writing blog posts, hosting creative writing classes and curating libraries for other Ultimate Library bookshops in the Maldives.

Split screen shot of woman posing with books under a tree and in a bookshop
Chrissy at work in Soneva Fushi in the Maldives ©Ultimate Library

But she’s not tied to the bookshop. Work also takes her around the island. "After lunch, I go to the children's club - a magnificent 'tree house' in the jungle - to read stories to the children. I have a couple of hours off in the afternoon so I might have a swim and a snorkel, read on the beach, do some yoga or go scuba diving," she says of her daily routine. In the evening, Chrissy returns to the bookshop and sometimes hosts sunset dolphin cruises, or introduces a film at the island's cinema under the stars. After work, she might join a cocktail party, meet friends for dinner or curl up with a book.

The dream is short-lived as Ultimate Library will seek a new Barefoot Bookseller in May for 2020 as Chrissy's placement comes to an end. She plans to return to London then, though remains open-minded about what comes next. "If you'd asked me six months ago where I'd be now, I never for a second would have thought I'd be living on a remote island in the Maldives. For now, I'm taking each day as it comes and enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience."


Young man on a busy street in India
The rugby player tested new experiences for Royal Caribbean ©Harry McNulty

Harry McNulty, a rugby player from Ireland beat 37,000 applicants to take part in Royal Caribbean's "shore explorer apprentice-ship". He spent three weeks travelling the world to test, and document, land-based experiences and was paid £6000 for the trouble. "I was sent the application from my aunt Siobhán who messaged me saying, 'you are perfect for this.' I thought what is there to lose?" he tells Lonely Planet. Fortunately for Harry, travel dates fell outside of rugby season so it was perfect timing, too.

All of his transfers, meals and accommodation were paid for. The experience included a cruise to Paris and Bruges on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, walking Alaska’s glaciers, touring Osaka and riding the world’s longest zipline. "No two days were the same," says Harry. "Dog sledding on top of a glacier in Alaska, temple hopping in Japan, dune buggy bashing in Dubai.

"Every day had an activity that was already locked into the schedule. I would be collected from the hotel by a tour operator and make my way to the assigned meet point. In Japan and Norway I had a private car or tour guide due to the language barrier and or time constraint. It was then up to me to experience each activity as I saw fit as well as try to capture brilliant content along the way."

The apprenticeship is now over, and Harry is back at the day job, playing full-time professional Rugby Sevens for the Irish national team. He's currently in Dubai ahead of the first game of the series but he's still thinking about ways in which he can travel and document his adventures. "Being able to be on the ground exploring new cultures, food, sights - life,” he says of his goals. “Showcasing to people what is happening in the world.”


A young woman stands in front of a sunflower field on a sunny day
Queena Bergen won $100,000 from sustainable clothing brand prAna to pursue her passion ©prAna

Queena Bergen from Franklin, New Jersey, quit her steady job as a software engineer earlier this year to become a professional poet and public speaker. She took the leap by applying to sustainable clothing brand PrAna's dream job contest. The company called for applicants to submit a short video explaining what their current job is, and how $100,000 would allow them to quit and pursue their passion. Queena won and bagged the cash, just by pitching her dream job.

"I’ve been writing and performing for over 10 years with no large financial success, so entering this competition was a no-brainer,” says Queena. With the funding from PrAna, the poet will embark on a cross-country tour, blending technology with her love of poetry to give her audiences a really unique experience. "I want my audience to feel like they are worth something, I want them to feel like they can be something, I want to help people develop the tools within themselves that brought me to this very point in my life."

Queena’s advice to anyone stuck in a career rut is to figure out what they want to do and ask themselves if they’re willing to work for it. “Try, fail, succeed, and even change your mind. There is no blueprint to success, ideas never come out fully formed, they only begin to take shape as you begin to mold them. Pick something, anything and commit to it, work for it. Nothing changes if nothing changes,” she says .

Looking ahead to 2020, Queena hopes to bring her message to cities like Los Angeles, Hawaii or even New York but really she'd wants to travel wherever the universe takes her to inspire. "I love it when people can hear my pieces but it is truly a profound compliment when someone says they feel my message." 

You might also enjoy: 
The A-Z of accommodation costs around the world
Where to go when: the best places to visit through 2020    
Trips for travellers who want to learn something new

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter. Make the most of your travel with sightseeing tours and activities from our trusted partners.

This article was first published December 2019 and updated January 2020

Explore related stories

Remote workers on their laptops on a jetty by a lake

Digital Nomad

Move over digital nomads, the anywhere worker has arrived

May 10, 2022 • 5 min read