Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Sometimes doing things on a whim work out surprisingly well. Deciding to visit Tokyo three days before you fly out? Worked out well. Deciding to write a stand-alone-novel that turns into a popular online series? Worked out well. Deciding to apply for a role on an island resort because your friends shared the link in a chat for a joke? Well…
Honestly, I hadn’t heard of The Barefoot Bookseller role until a short while before the closing date. I was chatting with some friends – a group of current and past booksellers at Waterstones – discussing some changes to the cluster we all belonged to, and one of them shared the link. It was just a joke. Laughing about how one of us, who never wanted to leave his store and was being made to work in another, would be transferred out to Soneva next.
And I remember saying to them, once I’d scanned the description, ‘Haha, forget him! IIIII want this position!’
But I wasn’t sure I was really serious then. I know, trust me, I know. It’s a dream job. Six months paid to work out on a private resort, selling books in a culture where they promote healthy living and healthy mind. It’s certainly a 180 from the lives we’ve been living here in the UK.
But it’s also a total 180 from what I’d been doing over the lockdown.
I’ve been suffering from Long Covid for months, it’s as unamusing as all the media outlets claim it to be, and it’s very tiring to work through when there’s no known way to recover. So, when I looked at the job description – the notable one laid out by The Guardian that Nicola Sturgeon tweeted about – I thought to myself, ‘This could be it. This could be the change that gets me out of the stalemate I’ve found myself in since I first fell ill in March… ok, let’s just try for the sake of it.’
So, without much hope of actually getting the role, I readjusted my CV, outlined how I filled all the required and desired skills, dug out one of my favourite blog posts and sent off the application.
Getting the first interview invite was both a relief and also not a surprise. Is that arrogant to say? Getting the second interview invite was much the same. Getting the position before I even got home from the second interview was, however, a shock.
And then, of course, the panic set in. I didn’t think I would get it. There were 550 other applicants, most of whom were going to be amazing talents. And I got it? Me? Oh my gosh, what am I doing?! I’m flying half-way around the world in the middle of a pandemic to work in a bookshop on a desert island? Am I crazy!? (Yes, quite possibly, I’m a writer, we all are, but that’s another matter.)
Not to mention the personal duties I would have to give up. Being away from family. Trying to get everything together in a few short weeks. I can’t do this. No way, no way can I do this…
But I wasn’t going to actually say no to the post. Are you kidding? I’d scored an astonishing job in the middle of a pandemic. I would be working around books again. I would be working with customers again. 80% of the time when I was in Waterstones, I did actually enjoy working with the general public. I would see the sun and be drowned in Vit D – something that had been touted as being a great way to combat Covid. I’m being hired to be creative, to think of ways to engage with customers, teach creative writing, host book therapy sessions, sell the Barefoot Bookseller idea to other resorts. And I could focus on my health.
So many things that attracted me to the role in the first place and I was being given the chance to try them all out. No way was I giving up the role. That’s just the kind of adventurer I am. I come up with a crazy idea, panic like a flustered duck and then get it done. Like I said, I decided to fly to Japan one random day a few days before I flew out because I suddenly had the time. If I could survive that, I can survive a few weeks of intense planning before six months of running around an island with no shoes on.
Have to admit, while writing this – it’s now less than a week before I fly and I’m still trying to pull things together. Covid testing and new government guidelines have a way of making an already tricky trip trickier. Not to mention that I’m not entirely sure where in the country my shipment of new glasses and contacts currently are in the UK.
But no matter, these things always work themselves out in the end. Next time I update, I should be at the resort, through all the paperwork, extra tests and the shop should be set up! I shall let you know if I find myself a new reason to behave like a distressed goose in the next blog, but that one will probably be relating to books and that – as a bookseller – is a subject I know well. Let me just dust off those old skills!
The Barefoot Booksellers are back!
Aislinn (Ash) is one of two new barefoot booksellers. She'll be situated over in Soneva Fushi and will be hosting creative writing classes, book therapy sessions, reading sessions and more!
Follow along with her and Alice over at @barefootbookseller on instagram!