With a true traveller about to to win the dream job as our guest TV travel reporter, we caught up with Ben Southall, the original ‘Best Job in the World‘ winner. We wanted to find out what life’s been like since he won the dream job as Caretaker of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef islands in 2009, making millions of people across the world green with envy! With marathons, a world record and thousands of kilometres of travel under his belt, life definitely hasn’t been short of energy or adventure for Ben…
You won ‘Best Job in the World’ in 2009 – 5 years ago now! Tell us what you’ve been up to since you were the Great Barrier Reef islands’ caretaker?
Time has simply flown by but I can tell you I’ve been ridiculously busy having as many travel adventures and creating my own expeditions as I can…starting with a 1600km, 4 month kayak trip along the entire Great Barrier Reef. The Best Expedition in the World took a snapshot of life on the reef through my eyes, not those of a marketing company, to showcase the many faces of the reef both above and below the water – a real person’s view of life on the largest living organism in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to over 10 new countries with work including Cuba, Israel and China and all over Australia with the latest Best Jobs campaign for Tourism Australia. In 2013 I set a new world record to summit the highest mountain in each state in Australia in just 8 days. Life hasn’t been boring lets put it that way!
Where did your passion for travel begin?
1997, for sure. Up until then our family holidays had been pretty much restricted to long road trips to Scotland from the south coast of England in the cold of the British summer to see some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world…shrouded by rain and cloud! I visited South Africa for the first time with work in 1997 and adored the place. The rawness of the country, its diversity and the ever-changing landscape really gripped me and filled me with a desire to explore the rest of the continent. I spent eight years living in Southern Africa before taking a one year road trip all around Africa and by then my appetite for unusual travel was raging. I’ve never looked back and firmly believe the world is the best classroom in the world.
The ‘Best Job in the World’ was a groundbreaking tourism campaign, receiving lots of international attention. How did that experience change you/what did you learn from it?
I’d always been an adventurous traveller and the Best Job allowed me to continue that. All of a sudden someone wanted to pay me to have my adventures and document them through a website – much like I’d been doing in Africa the previous year! I suppose the added profile the role gave me allowed me to continue with my expeditions and adventures but instead of having to save up for them personally, I could seek out corporate support to make them happen that much sooner. The Best Job in the World proves that if you work hard at something you love, you can make a lifestyle out of it.
We have to ask – which is your favourite Queensland island?
One of the most popular questions and a simple answer for me – Lady Elliot Island. Eco-sensitive, incredible diving, a place where you really are privileged to take part in what nature has on offer. Every time I visit there’s something new to experience and the sunsets and sunrises are best spent in the water watching the marine life change as the light does. Epic.
You’ve just finished road tripping the stunning east coast of Australia with your wife Sophee and pug Chaos…what were some of your favourite places along the way? Any hidden gems?
We did yes, 3 weeks in Colonel Mustard (my Land Rover) travelling along the coast and loved it. Once you get off the beaten track (Christmas is a busy time for Australia’s campsites!) there are some beautiful lakes and waterways inland that are worth stopping off at. In NSW, Copeton Dam was a little gem to find and Bangalow reeks of old world charm, while Mystery Bay has some wonderful snorkelling. Victoria’s Gippsland and Mornington Peninsula are perfect drive destinations.
What’s your next big adventure?
I’m heading to New Zealand in a world record attempt to run 540km in nine days along the nine Great Walks which should be wonderful, if a little tiring. And then a month later packing up the Land Rover and driving across the north of Australia before shipping it to Singapore where we’ll meet it and then drive it 50,000km across Asia and Europe to the UK over eight months, filming a documentary about the people we meet along the way.
We’re taking a traveller to Chile with us in March to live their dream job of being a TV travel reporter…do you have any advice for them?
Although the world today, and my job especially, is all about social media and sharing your story with your audience, every so often put down the camera or iPhone and look at things through your own eyes. It reminds you of how important it is to witness those special experiences first hand.
And PWG’s 5 QUICK QUESTIONS for Ben…
1. I can’t travel without…my Leatherman multi-tool (I’m an engineer by degree).
2. The one place everyone needs to go to is…Leptis Magna in Libya, the most preserved Roman ruins in the world.
3. The best way to research a trip is…forums and first hand. Up to date local knowledge in advance, then more local knowledge on the road.
4. My travel philosophy is…nobody shoots you when you’ve got a smile on your face.
5. Still on my must-see list is…the Antarctic Ice from below, ice diving.
All images reproduced with permission from www.bensouthall.com