Photo by Dmitrij Paskevic (Unsplash).
As we enter March, our thoughts turn to the deep greens of spring and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day.
Ireland is on our minds, with its romantic notions of cliffs and moors, the fog rolling in as a fire breaks through the cold morning air.
This is the stereotype of rural Ireland, and thousands are vying for a chance at making life there a reality – but do they really know what they’re in for?
In mid-January, a unique job offer was posted online.
Alice Hayes and Billy O’Connor are searching for a couple – or some very close friends – to serve as caretakers on a small Irish island for tourist season, April through October.
Duties include managing the island’s coffee shop and three cottages for vacationers, along with some light maintenance and upkeep.
Along with being a paid position, the job comes with free housing and food for the duration of the season.
Sounds like a dream come true, right?
Hayes and O’Connor couldn’t have dreamed how many responses they would receive. In fact, they were afraid no one would apply at all.
More than 25,000 and counting are begging for the chance to be caretakers on Great Blasket Island.
It’s perhaps a sign of how burned-out, stressed-out, and sick of the everyday rat race we have all become these days.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to run away to an isolated emerald island and escape the real world for a few months? Count me in.
Keeping local history alive…
Hayes and O’Connor live on the Dingle Peninsula, and the couple restored the island’s cottages after they fell into disrepair.
The island has long been uninhabited but is still a popular spot for tourists in the summer months, desperate for a few hours of untouched Irish scenery and some much-needed peace and quiet.
O’Connor runs the ferry tours that take tourists from the mainland to Great Blasket those few months out of the year.
The island was once home to a famous Irish author, Peig Sayers, whose autobiography is still recommended reading for Irish schoolchildren. She also serves as the namesake for O’Connor’s boat.
Throughout the twentieth century, the island’s population steadily declined – from more than 150 residents to none by the 1950s. No one has lived there permanently since.
Sayers, for one, chronicles her difficult and isolated life on the island in her book, and it was definitely not the stuff dreams are made of.
But that doesn’t seem to matter to the thousands of folks who would like to try out the lifestyle for themselves.
Hayes and O’Connor have a tough job ahead of them in finding just the right candidate, and some former caretakers may have inadvertently made their choice a little more difficult.
Last summer, the island’s caretakers were Gordon Bond and Lesley Kehoe, and like all good young couples do nowadays, they posted photos and stories of their time on the island all over social media.
These Instagram influencers and their stereotypical photos of a romantic and windswept Irish island in the middle of nowhere captivated people all over the world, and likely helped grow the avalanche of applications Hayes and O’Connor have received.
While Bond and Kehoe could not return for the 2020 season, they say they formed a permanent bond with the island and Hayes and O’Connor.
But it’s not all whiskey and roses…
There is a caveat to their social media love story with the island – and they want others to know what they’re getting into.
While the couple posted photos of the lush green landscape, sunrises and sunsets, and the wind blowing through their hair, they acknowledge that they only showed us the high points of the job.
Not pictured are the long lines of tourists – sometimes hundreds a day – desperate for caffeine at the coffee shop; the long hours of serving and cleaning duties between the shop and the cottages; and the one possible roadblock to absolute bliss…
…No WiFi and no electricity or running water (although Kehoe says you can usually make cell phone calls due to a nearby mainland tower).
For some – the burned-out and stressed-out amongst us — that is exactly what they’re looking for.
Hayes and O’Connor have yet to determine who will be the right fit, but it will be two people who have some basic survival skills, who like interacting with people (there goes half the list), and who have a realistic idea of what they’re taking on.
As usual, there are those who are critical of the international attention the employment ad has received.
They don’t want this little Irish gem commercialized or repopulated with permanent residents. They like things just the way they are.
But others applaud the efforts of Hayes and O’Connor. Without their tiny little dream village, the island would become a relic of the past, its few historic buildings in ruins.
While it’s not Naked and Afraid 2.0, rural island living without modern amenities would be hard on any couple – or a couple of friends.
You would have to have a very strong relationship and a whole lot of patience to get through this adventure.
But for those who are confident in themselves and their patience for their spouse or BFF, the beauty and tranquility – and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – would likely provide some unforgettable memories.
We can’t wait for the next round of Instagram posts from these lucky souls.
If you missed your chance to apply, don’t worry.
From free land to abandoned islands, this isn’t the first dream offer for adventurous spirits – and we’re sure it won’t be the last. Read more on Proud American Traveler!