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The Maldives is a dream holiday destination for many with its turquoise ocean, white sand and gorgeous weather.

But for some lucky literature fans, a resort group is offering people the chance to work as a bookseller on one of its atolls for a whole year.

Soneva, which runs luxury resorts Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, pays the barefoot booksellers around £620 a month to run its on-site bookshops – but you won’t have rent to pay as employees get to stay in accommodation provided on the island.

READ MORE: Luxury Maldives resort wants to hire someone to run its beach bookshop for a year

Georgie Polhill, 27, from the UK, spent the last 12 months working on Soneva Fushi after leaving her career in publishing to work with kids and adults in the bookshop and spend her spare time scuba diving.

Meanwhile, Marsa Maaz, from the Maldives, does the same role on Soneva Jani after finishing up university in Wales.

We spoke to the barefoot booksellers to discover the highs and lows of working in paradise – check out their answers below.

What made you apply for the role?

Georgie, who was 26 when she applied, told the Daily Star: " I saw it on Twitter, because I used to work in publishing and the person who had it before me was a publishing person at Penguin.

"I remember, it was in October last year and we’d just had that awful wet summer and I was sitting on a train and it was grey and raining.

" I'd just left publishing and was wondering what to do with my life and I saw that and thought… that looks amazing."

While Malsa explained: "I first came across the job ad in one of my book club groups on social media.

"The article headline was ‘dream job selling books in paradise’. I clicked on it only to realise it was based in the Maldives, my home country.

"It got me really excited, but I was still at university at the time. However, when I moved back home after finishing university, I saw the job ad again, and this time it said they were looking for a local candidate. It was like a dream come true. I didn’t wait a single second and applied immediately."

What work do you do as a barefoot bookseller?

Georgie, who worked on the Soneva Sushi resort on Kunfunadhoo island in Baa Atoll, paints a picture of a long day filled with excitement and creativity.

She explained: “We had this really cute little book TukTuk that was converted into bookshelves, like a mobile library and bookshop, and you’d drive that round at breakfast every morning and you’d chat to guests.

“You go to the bookshop at 9.30am, but then you have a break from two to five every day.

“You could chat to kids there which was really sweet – you’d have the bookish kids who came in and spent all day with you rather than go to the kids club.

“A lot of the work is getting all of our stock and you’ll talk to the London team and come up with the bookshop order for it. You’re also doing all the window displays, you’re hand-selling a lot of the books. It’s regular management of a bookshop.”

On top of this, the bookseller job means spending time helping out with other aspects of island life as well as events like the Jaipur Literary Festival which comes to the island in May each year.

Georgie noted: “A lot of the time you’re doing extra tourism work – so I did a lot of dolphin cruises and quizzes in the evening and a lot of dinner stuff as well.

“I have a bit of a background in drama so I did drama classes and acting classes and these little things that we called shelf discoveries which is where you would have a bespoke one-on-one session where you could meet with the bookseller to talk about what you’re interested in reading.

"I once dressed up as an Easter bunny too.

“It was like 12 hours a day and when we were doing the festivals it could be 16 hour days.”

Marsa, who says working in paradise surrounded by books is her “dream job” added: “My day starts off with a session called Breakfast with a Book where I engage with guests from around the world, talking about books I’ve read, or they’ve read recently.

“After breakfast, I open the bookshop, but no day is exactly the same.

“We always try to plan exciting events, for instance, I recently hosted a visiting author, Molly Oldfield, who is a bestselling children’s book author and award-winning podcast host.

“During her visit, she hosted many activities for children in-house such as trivia quiz nights.”

Do you get time to explore the island?

While the bookseller role is undoubtedly hard work the duo insist that there’s plenty of time to enjoy the perks of Maldivian life.

Marsa told the Travel team: “My weekly day off is on Saturday, and you’ll usually find me at the beach reading a book after a quick dip.

“We also do regular water sports activities like snorkelling or visit the spa for a relaxing massage or facial.”

“You have a break from two to five every day and a day off each week,” answered Georgie. “You definitely had time to swim and sunbathe and explore.

“We also got to use guest facilities so we had access to tennis courts and stuff like that which was great.

“I went scuba diving when I was out there – you’re just swimming in the sea and there’s octopuses and turtles swimming above you. That was special.”

What's the accommodation like?

While the bookesellers are surrounded by the glorious clear Indian Ocean and luxury villas, they did stay in staff accommodation.

Georgie explained: "You’re definitely not living in a villa.

“All the villas are on the sand surrounding the island, but in the middle of it is a tropical jungle and all the staff accommodation is hidden in the jungle.

“It’s not super luxury, it’s like a nice youth hostel – you wake up to the sound of Asian Koels [a type of bird] and coconuts falling on the tin roof.”

“I love every aspect of island life,” added Malsa. “Soneva Jani is located within a 5.6-kilometre lagoon and we are blessed with sparkling blues every day, but I never get tired of it.”

What's the best and worst part of the job?

Malsa noted: "“My favourite part would definitely be helping new readers make reading a hobby that they love or rekindle the love for reading for once avid readers.

“To see the passion in their eyes when they discuss a book they loved after a Shelf Discovery session is an amazing feeling.

“My least favourite part is that there isn’t enough time in the day – I wish I could just sit and read all day!”

While Georgie added: "I loved doing the Jaipur Literary Festival – not only is it in this beautiful place but you’re surrounded by people who love books. That was amazing.

“ My least – for us, by June, it’s monsoon season and its pretty rainy and you’re squelching through the mud and wet sand.”

Does the role give you more opportunities in life?

Georgie, who once worked in publishing is now back in London and employed by a theatre producer.

She said: " I just don’t think I would’ve got there without the Maldives."

While Malsa remains in the Madlives, she added: " Soneva is known around the world as a luxury resort and it has undoubtedly been the right decision to join Soneva.

"Despite being fresh in the workforce, I have had a lot of amazing opportunities come my way – and many more to come!"

Applications for the 2023 barefoot bookseller have now closed, but the position will re-open next year so keep your eyes on the Soneva website to see when you can next send in your CV here.

Marsa offered her advice for anyone wanting to bag the post.

She said: " Be creative, fun-loving, independent and bring with you lots of new ideas that would be readilyaccepted by Ultimate Library and Soneva."

Would you ever take up the chance to work in the Maldives? tell us in the comments…


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