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‘From the moment I met Ben I knew he was the man for the highly sought-after Best Job in the World. He is a memorable character who grabs your attention and opportunities with both hands. A consummate storyteller, who has an incredible ability to engage with people, a raw energy and zest for life. His passion for Queensland was apparent from the outset and his commitment to continue to share the story of our destination with the world through initiatives such as the Best Expedition and other digital marketing has sustained global interest in Queensland.’

— Steve McRoberts, Tourism and Events
Queensland Group Executive, Marketing

THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD

HOW TO MAKE A LIVING FROM
FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS



BEN SOUTHALL









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About the author

Ben Southall was born in 1975, the son of Margaret and Duncan Southall. Educated at Ropley and Perins schools, Ben went on to study his A levels at Alton College before moving to Kingston University, where he gained a BSc in Automotive Systems Engineering.

Ben spent the next few years swapping between the northern and southern hemispheres on a mission to follow summer around the globe, working for Mumm Champagne as an event manager, promoting the brand at major sporting events such as Cowes Week sailing, Lords cricket, Wimbledon tennis, Henley rowing, Ascot racing, Silverstone F1 and the Round-the-World Yacht Race in Cape Town.

From this posting in South Africa his love of the African continent grew, with extended travels along the coastline being the best place to spend the UK winter … and his hard-earned cash. Having found a base in the town of Port Edward, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Ben worked as a tour guide for Wild Coast Tours taking backpackers and tourists on local adventures.

In 2000, Ben embarked on his first overland expedition to witness a total solar eclipse in Mozambique, followed by another a year later in Botswana — enough to whet the appetite for later expeditions. While working at the Royal Star & Garter Home in Richmond as an event manager, Ben developed a love of running and endurance events, creating the Charlie Hankins 24hr Challenge in 2006.

In 2008 Ben departed on his solo adventure, Afritrex — an ambitious overland expedition to circumnavigate Africa in his trusty Land Rover, Colonel Mustard. Together they travelled over 65 000 km through 38 countries. His return to the UK was short-lived however. Ben won Tourism Queensland's internationally acclaimed Best Job in the World, beating 35 000 other applicants from around the world to the title of Island Caretaker. He spent six months living on Hamilton Island while exploring every metre of Queensland's coastline and diving the length of the Great Barrier Reef, filming, photographing and blogging about his experiences.

2011 saw Ben embark on his next challenge: the Best Expedition in the World — a four-month, 1600 km kayak along the Great Barrier Reef retracing the route of Captain Cook back in 1770.

In 2013 Ben, Luke Edwards and Pat Kinsella set a world record for the fastest ascent of the tallest mountain in each state in Australia — the Aussie 8. The subsequent 42-minute documentary aired in Australia on Channel 7.

Ben has worked with television, radio and print media from around the world, including the BBC, CNN, Sky, ABC and Oprah Winfrey. He holds the unofficial world record for the most interviews in a 24 hour period — 124!

Ben has completed over 15 marathons to date, in Morocco, Kenya, Australia, the US, Japan and Scotland and England, including two 90 km Comrades races in South Africa. Ben is an Ambassador for Alton College, University of Queensland Business School, Tourism Queensland and Alpina Watches, and the Patron of Sailability.

He is a keen supporter of the Royal Star & Garter Homes, FARM-Africa, IDE-UK, ZigZag Foundation and Sailability. Ben married his sweetheart, Sophee, in 2012 after meeting her while emceeing an awards ceremony in the Whitsundays, Queensland, in 2010.

Acknowledgements

Life is full of ‘stepping stone moments’ that have helped me jump from one chapter to the next. Some have been good and some bad, but they've all helped shape and steer my direction through life.

Over the years the incredible support of my friends and family has allowed me to take full advantage of the opportunities that have come my way. By nodding positively as I reel off my plans for the next adventure, supporting my ludicrous ideas and firmly believing I'll succeed, they've given me the confidence to think big and fully embrace life.

If only everyone had friends and family as wonderful as mine, the world would be a much better place.

To my darling Sophee. The moment you walked into my life it became a much better place. Having someone to share the world and its wonders with, to bring me back down to earth when my internal chaos takes over and to be the rock in my brilliantly stupid life needs someone with your inner beauty, intelligence and understanding. I can't thank you enough for standing by me and being my wonderful wife and best friend.

Mum and Dad — simply the Best Parents in the World — you gave Becky and me a childhood to cherish. Nothing was ever too much hassle, you instilled morals in us I still value today and you were always there to pick up the pieces whenever I screwed up! Words fail to explain how much you mean to me.

To my sister Becky, I may have been a brat of a brother but as long as you know how important you've been throughout life as my little sister, a voice of reason, my shoulder to cry on and mother to the most wonderful nephews and niece I could hope for, then I'm happy.

Africa. The birthplace of my sense of adventure. Without its rawness, beauty and addictive personality I wouldn't have embarked on a personal journey of exploration that continues today.

My friends in Port Edward, of which there are too many to name. My second home and somewhere I cherish and think about all the time. Happy days and even happier nights!

Without the team at Tourism Queensland and Hamilton Island, the Best Job in the World would never have happened and consequently I'd never have met Sophee. Your vision and creativity to produce a campaign that gripped the world's media, all 34 684 of the applicants and especially the 15 other finalists has gone down in the history books as one of a kind.

Thank you to all the friends who've come on parts of this journey with me. Owen for being both the most brilliant and useless friend at the same time. Luke for just being you. Josie, Rosie, Zoe and Alison for being the splendiferous sunshine friends who helped my Best Job campaign get through to the final.

And to those dearly departed friends who left Planet Earth far too early — Guy Kilgallon, Charlotte and Alan Jones. Your friendship, zest for life and stories of travel and adventure sit with me every step of the way as I continue to push myself on to yet greater goals. Your lives were not in vain.

Jay Byrde — I miss you.

INTRODUCTION
Am I dreaming?

I covered my face with my hands and stifled a gasp, frozen to the spot by the shock of what had just happened. For a moment time stood still.

Then came the crush. Hands grasped me, arms wrapped around me, hugs forced the air from my chest. I struggled to stay upright as more people joined in and the sound in the room got louder. A throng of blue t-shirts surrounded me.

I took a deep breath and felt a kiss on my cheek that woke me from my stupor. I focused on the people around me. They were all grinning from ear to ear, jumping up and down, celebrating — and I was the centre of attention!

The other finalists cheered and showered me with congratulations, the sound of their voices merging into one. Slowly they separated and fell back into line as a microphone was thrust into my hand. I walked towards the lectern, lifting my gaze to the audience before me and outwards to the line of cameras at the back of the room. The media was watching.

How on earth did I get here? Twelve months ago I was covered in sweat and mud in equatorial Gabon rebuilding a broken bridge on my journey around Africa. Now here I was on Hamilton Island in front of the world's media, winner of ‘the best job in the world’.

After five months of hard campaigning I'd beaten 34 684 other contestants vying for the job of ‘Caretaker of the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef’. Behind me on the stage stood the 15 others who'd made it all the way through to the final.

I had no idea what the next few months would bring — apart from a change of country, a salary of $150 000 and a $3.5 million luxury villa to live in. With 2300 kilometres of coral reefs and more than 600 islands to explore there'd be travel, and lots of it.

‘Wow! Ladies and gentlemen, we've all been involved in a marketing campaign that has been an enormous worldwide success. To all of the candidates standing behind me … everyone is an absolute winner and I think we've had the most incredible three days of our lives — thank you!’

With my brief acceptance speech out of the way the media interviews began. I worked my way out into the bright spring sunshine, ready to face the paparazzi.

‘How does it feel to have won the “best job in the world”, Ben?’ one journalist asked.

‘It's absolutely crazy if I'm honest. I can't wait to get started,’ I replied, almost bursting with excitement.

‘How lucky do you feel right now, moving from the outhouse to the penthouse?’ she came back.

I worked through the question in my mind. How ‘lucky’ did I feel? Had luck really played any part in the last five months of hard work or the 10 years of expeditions, training and logistics before that?

The reason I was standing there giving that interview wasn't down to luck, but to the hard work I'd put into each and every one of the projects I'd been involved with. Taking a dream and turning it into reality was something I'd become used to doing, following the age-old adage that ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get’. So the ‘best job’ didn't just fall into my lap by chance; there was application and strategy involved at every stage of the process.

* * *

Over the years I've read many travel and adventure books written by inspiring people who've completed outrageous journeys around the planet. From driving a pink tuk-tuk across Africa to skateboarding across Australia to running a marathon on every continent in seven days — all of them have challenged the human spirit and confirmed the theory that life is there for the taking.

With this book I want to offer more than just a chronicle of my travels. There are writers who wrap their travel stories in beautiful words and conjure up breathtaking images of life on the road and their experiences along the way.

Unfortunately I don't have that kind of creative or artistic mind, and I often struggle to find ingenious words to summarise an escapade. But what I can share are the many lessons I've learned planning, executing and delivering successful projects in far-off corners of the world. Threaded through my stories of travel and adventure you will find the tools you need to turn your own ‘could-do’ journey into a ‘have-done’ adventure!

The Best Job in the World: How to make a living from following your dreams is my story, but it is also a guide that can help you make key decisions when planning your own journey or adventure. My hope is that it will inspire you to live your dream while also providing you with practical advice on how to get there — from turning an idea into a plan, to gaining sponsors and partners, to using digital and social media platforms to build an audience and tell your story.