Imagine swapping lockdown life in chilly England for a luxury resort in the Maldives.
Like many of us, Alice Spencer dreamed of having an adventure and seeing some new sights.
But she could never have imagined travelling 5,000 miles to run a bookshop on Medhufaru Island in the Maldives, which is what she now does.
Originally from Thornton in Bradford, the 26-year-old had been living in a shared house in lockdown London and working as a press officer at Penguin Random House.
She landed an incredible job as a Barefoot Bookseller after pipping over 600 other people who applied for one of two posts at island resorts in the Maldives.
Alice flew to the island’s Soneva Jani luxury resort at the end of November in order to set up and run a bookshop there.
She said: “After a turbulent year the last thing I imagined was that I’d be moving over 5,000 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 into a new experience even more.
“Living on a desert island of sandy beaches and crystal waters is the stuff dreams are made of and I am so excited to be the first Barefoot Bookseller on Soneva Jani.”
YorkshireLive caught up with Alice on New Year’s Day when she shared her thoughts on island life and what her new job involves.
She said: “Island life is hot and sandy, with a tight-knit group of staff and beautiful surroundings. I’m still in awe of the scenery.”
Work involves running a bookshop and doing online marketing work about life at the resort.
“I do the day-to-day of running a bookshop on top of planning events and sessions for guests and I join guest activities so that I can chat to them and spread the word about the bookshop,” she said.
“Together with my colleague Aislinn, I also do online marketing such as writing blogs and newsletters and running the Instagram account.”
And during her free time, she gets to go swimming in the Indian ocean, of course.
“I enjoy snorkeling, swimming, socialising with other hosts, and of course reading,” she added.
“There is a beach for hosts and we can borrow equipment from water sports when we like.”
The weather is hot and humid – a far cry from Yorkshire where it has been cold, grey and snowy.
Alice says: “It’s very tropical, hot and humid most of the time with some incredible downpours and windy storms.”
Guests stay in villas built on stilts over a lagoon, while staff such as Alice live in accommodation hidden among the forest and along winding lanes.
Alice is enjoying talking to guests about books and taking in the sun-kissed paradise.
Asked about the highlights so far, she said: “I’ve worked in publishing for a number of years but never been a bookseller so I’m loving talking to guests about books they enjoyed and recommending new ones.
“That and just living in this incredible place, I take a moment to appreciate my very fortunate situation every day.”
As for downsides, unsurprisingly there aren’t that many. Although sunburn might be a problem.
Alice says: “Living where you work can make it difficult to switch off but all the hosts support each other and we’re encouraged to take our days off properly.”
She spent New Year’s Eve at a staff party – while many folk back home had to make do with a few drinks in the living room.
“For New Year’s Eve, there was a party for staff in the staff bar with two countdowns!
“One for Soneva time (we have our time one hour ahead of the Maldives) and one for Maldives time.”
And for those wondering about Covid-19, Alice says the island is free from the virus and there is no need for masks or social distancing.
“Every guest is covid tested on arrival and quarantined in their villa until the results come back the following morning.
“Every staff member is covid tested on arrival and then again five days later and are in quarantine until the result of the second test comes back.
“This ensures that the island is covid free and no need for social distancing or masks (unless you are in contact with guests/ staff prior to test results)
“It’s quite the covid haven! We welcome visitors from anywhere.”
Alice is currently on sabbatical from her role and will be a Barefoot Bookseller for the 2020-2021 season.
The Barefoot Bookseller idea came about in 2018 through Sonu Shivdasani, founder of the company behind resort chain Soneva, and Philip Blackwell of Ultimate Library, a company that works to create book collections for hotels and resorts.
-- to www.examinerlive.co.uk