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Meet the Man Who Will Get Paid $60,000 to Explore Cancun for 6 Months

Ivan the Intrepid beat out 6,000 other applicants to become Cancun.com's new chief experience officer. Photo courtesy of Ivan Nanney


Ivan Nanney has trekked through Sri Lanka with not much more than a tent and a tuk tuk, co-hosted an adventure travel series on Amazon and hauled a 12,000-pound potato across the country to stir up spud publicity.

For his next career move, the native of Boise, Idaho, will earn $10,000 a month as the “Cancun experience officer” for Cancun.com. He’ll enmesh himself in the Yucatán peninsula to help promote tourism in the region for the next half year.

Out of 8,000 applicants for the position, Nanney cleared several rounds of voting to be chosen for the dream job.

In one video that would help him land him the job, Nanney explores downtown Boise during New Year’s Eve to show the world there’s more to the city than just ‘taters and blue stadium grass.

But, given his past jobs and travel experience, will it be just another day at the office?

The New Cancun.com CEO Just Landed the Ultimate Dream Job

We tracked down “Ivan the Intrepid” to grill him about how he tackled the contest and what makes him so “intrepid.” Please note that this interview was edited for content and space.

So you’ve tried out for similar roles in the past. What is it that draws you to these kinds of gigs?

Ultimately what I’ve discovered is that it’s that sense of freedom with knowing I can go where I want, be where I want and do what I want when I want. I’ve discovered freedom. Once you taste that freedom and you realize you don’t need the rat race from 9 to 5 — that has been my biggest motivator.

Who shoots your videos?

I do! My expectation for the job is I’d be the only one down there doing it, so I wanted to give them a realistic look of what it was like for me running and gunning and setting up my own shots, shooting my own stuff and creating my own interactions. So I was pretty much a one-man crew. [To learn], I just go to the University of YouTube, and I’ve experimented. I definitely have a lot more to learn.

What was your strategy in this contest?

I used Instagram stories, Facebook and I made a video showing… ways people could help me. One of the things that really helped me stand out is that last couple of days before they chose the top 10, I asked for 10 people on my Facebook to send Cancun.com a message telling them who their choice was for CEO and why. And from what I heard probably over 100 people ended up sending messages and some of them were very detailed and very in depth. There were people I knew from kindergarten writing in, people I’ve worked with, family and friends. That was really sweet. The social media team behind Cancun.com created a template people could copy and paste because they were getting so many long messages.

Are you worried this will just be another day at the office?

So far the office has been good, so it definitely wouldn’t be a bad thing. This is going to be different because usually I’m on the go a lot more, and I’ve craved the ability to be in one place and get to know it intimately cultural-wise and historically. Unfortunately with my personal YouTube and blog it’s definitely more of a labor of love, so having the financial ability to do what I love doing is going to be great.

Speaking of finances, how are you able to afford to live the way you do?

For one, I don’t have a lot of expenses. I don’t have a car payment and I don’t have a rent payment. I was always a budget traveler, and it’s actually cheaper to be traveling in certain countries than it was to be living here. I got really good at saving. Now obviously the goal is to have a revenue stream. I’m building a tiny house so that would accomplish the goals of creating a home base and getting that passive income stream. The potato money’s been good to me — I make good money traveling with the potato and that's been funding my tiny house build.

We’ve got to talk about the potato you hauled around the country for the Idaho Potato Commission. What was the most memorable moment from one of your tours hauling the potato?

We drove it down to Brooklyn and put it on a barge and floated it around the Statue of Liberty and through the harbor all morning. The ridiculousness of a 12,000-pound potato on a barge in front of the Statue of Liberty and using the Jet Skis to film it all was a good combination.

What would you say is the biggest hurdle you’ve faced while doing this type of work, and how did you overcome that?

It’s definitely not all sunrises and beaches. But, I think that the struggles and challenges of this kind of lifestyle are definitely some of the fun parts, and that’s where I experience the most growth. I think the hardest hurdle is the social pressure and expectation. I graduated from Boise State University summa cum laude, and I’ve always done well in school, and with that people expect certain things from you. You want to make people happy and live up to those expectations. But, I call myself a travel bum and that’s not the idea that a lot of people thought I’d be doing after I graduated. People always ask me, “When are you going to a real job?” and I’m like, “Hey I get paid — what’s not real about this?”

Is it a struggle to make relationships work?

The funny thing is I actually feel like my relationship with my family has improved. I feel like our interactions are a lot more engaging when we do talk. And I’ve accepted that there’s just a different dynamic to the relationships that I have and they just have to be a little more spread out. And that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.

If you had to take a 9-to-5 job, what would it be?

Ahhh you’re going to make me choose! I guess that means ruling out other fun, flexible jobs like being a fireman, entrepreneur or crocodile hunter. With those off of the table, I think I would have to get a job working for either an international non-profit or a local one that helps refugees settle in the area. It would be a way of traveling from home while also making a difference in people's lives.

What advice do you have for someone who would be totally stoked to live like you do?

I think the biggest thing is just putting yourself out there and overcoming that fear. There are a lot of things you can do to ease yourself into it. You don’t have to buy a flight for four months in India. In your hometown just go around and start exploring there and start slowly branching out from there. Find your voice. Your point of view and perspective is really all you need.

Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. He’s thinking the upcoming vacation in Iceland will be a little less interesting after talking to Ivan.

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