Sunday 19 August 2018

What it feels like to... leave the best job in the world

With the support of Bear Grylls, Wicklow native Allan Dixon (31) saw off competition from 330,000 others to win 'The Best Job in the World' in 2013, scooping a prize of AUS$100,000 and six months in Australia working as an 'Outback Adventurer'. But what happened next?

Adventure: Allan Dixon travels the world taking photos and videos. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Adventure: Allan Dixon travels the world taking photos and videos. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. There was a sense of being awestruck by it all, I had all these figures coming at me about the amount of money I'd won and the fact that I'd be spending six months in Australia. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed at the time.

Back when I won one of six places to be an 'Outback Adventurer', the whole 'Best Job in the World' thing was only beginning. Now there's loads of people doing them. But because it was only starting out as a concept, I had no idea of what they wanted and they didn't really either. It was totally up to me to figure out how my personality could make the most out of the opportunity.

From the outset I was 100pc on taking as many photos and videos as possible. I picked what National Parks I wanted to go to, when I wanted to go camping or when I wanted to organise a helicopter pub crawl. That's all obviously amazing. But it's a bit like anything, when it's all the time, sometimes you feel like a break. Most people work too hard and want a break, but I was travelling too hard and just wanted to sit down sometimes.

I was on a paid holiday and from an outside perspective people think that's unbelievable - and don't get me wrong, it really was - but from an inside perspective: you're still working. It's still a job. I was always having to think 'how can I make what I'm doing into an amazing story?', 'how can I capture as many picture-perfect stories as possible?', 'how can I turn this into content that could go viral?'. There was definitely a bit of pressure there.

As the end of the 'Best Job in the World' six months got closer, I didn't feel sad or anxious because I had other offers lined up and I was already excited about doing something new. I started doing the same sort of work creating content for Queensland Australia and then moved on to Western Australia.

Now, I'm not based anywhere. I travel the world as a content creator. When I was in the Outback I was meeting a lot of animals and that focused me on wildlife and conservation. Basically I travel the world taking selfies with animals! I've done a TEDx talk, had the privilege to meet incredible people on the way and I feel my creative skill set is valued.

Bear Grylls endorsed Allan’s bid online
Bear Grylls endorsed Allan’s bid online

I still love coming home to Ireland and my own bed - it's a great bed! - but other than that and friends, there's not much I miss. I was moving around a lot doing the Best Job in the World and there wasn't much point having anything with me other than the tools I needed to survive and create content, so it's made me become pretty much non-materialistic.

The idea that I could do what I'm doing as a career was a big discovery for me and one that I wouldn't have made without winning the Best Job in the World. Before that I felt as if I was being brainwashed into following my path of education in Computer Science and Engineering as well as my parents' pressure of telling me to get a real job.

Now, after several years of my parents telling me to go and get a real job, I think they finally realise that when you work for free for months at the start, it all pays off in the end. I have two books coming out in Japan, a documentary and lots of random projects coming up. My Instagram (@daxon) has 559k followers and I make money through sponsors, tourism boards - if they want me to showcase their destination - or through image licensing or talks or teaching workshops. It's a mix of things. With the audience I have, I've basically become another form of advertising. I've got eyeballs and people want to be in front of those eyeballs.

To be honest, I kind of feel like I'm living the best job in the world every day. But it's a hustle. Yes, you get to wake up whenever you want and visit amazing places, but the responsibility is always on you to deliver. When you're out there on your own trying to work on content, it's hard. I need to have a lot of self-motivation.

Ultimately I think that label of 'the best job in the world' could be anything. Winning the competition wasn't a golden ticket, it came down to what you made of the opportunity. To make it work you had to be someone passionate about media, storytelling and entertaining. Out of the six winners in my year there were people who kept on in careers creating photos and videos and there were others who went back to their normal lives. One guy had a kid and just went back to England to raise his family.

I think if you're passionate about what you do then you'll wake up every morning glad you can do it, otherwise it's not the job you should be doing. The 'best job in the world' doesn't come down to money or other people's perceptions of the perfect job, it's about your inner peace and happiness in doing what you do. Even the smallest job can be the best job ever if it makes you happy.

I wouldn't be doing what I am now without the Best Job in the World. It was like the world punching me in the face to say 'cop on and follow your dreams'. I don't think I could ever go back to a normal nine-to-five.

In conversation with Chrissie Russell

Irish Independent

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