The beach and books: two of our favorite things. Now imagine a job that combines the two. Reading and selling books on a remote island in the Maldives where temperatures average at about 80F all year. That's the reality for two publishing professionals who just gave up their house-shares in London for a dream job in paradise.
Every year since 2018, Ultimate Library, along with the luxury five-star Soneva Fushi resort, seek a temporary Barefoot Bookseller to run a pop-up bookshop in Baa Atoll. The role typically lasts six months and sees the lucky candidate sell books, curate libraries, host creative writing classes and author events, and blog about their experiences on the Barefoot Bookseller website and Instagram.
This year the role went to two people for the first time: Alice Spencer (27) and Aislinn Shivakumar (29), who arrived in the Maldives in November after undergoing COVID-19 tests, in addition to beating 600 other candidates to bag the roles. Alice, who is originally from Bradford, is on sabbatical from her job as senior press officer at Penguin Random House. While Aislinn, a writer from Ireland who was living in London, has previously worked as a bookseller at HarperCollins and Waterstones. Aislinn is overseeing the bookshop at the Soneva Fushi resort, and Alice has set up the bookshop on the sister resort of Soneva Jani for the first time.
"After a turbulent year the last thing I imagined was that I’d be moving over 5000 miles around the world to the Maldives to set up and run a bookshop. But if anything, the strange year made me want to jump in to a new experience even more," says Alice. While Aislinn, who also experienced a tough 2020, said she knew she had to apply as soon as she came across the position in a group chat.
"I had recently finished my MA and a position with HarperCollins in the digital marketing and e-commerce team and, after the year we’ve had, when I saw I had all the requirements and desired skills, I threw my lot in and flew out a few weeks later," she says. "From returning to the joy of bookselling, to finding the time to once again work on my writing, it’s absolutely one of the world’s dream jobs."
While on Baa Atoll, the Barefoot Booksellers will have plenty of opportunity to enjoy everything the paradise island has to offer from yoga classes on the beach to swimming and scuba diving in the sea, sunset dolphin cruises, and films under the stars at the resort's open-air cinema.
"It's a chance in a lifetime," adds Aislinn. "To work in a bookshop on a luxury resort in the Maldives, surrounded by incredible views, leading sustainability research and a fantastic cast of colleagues and guests."