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Australia: O.C. man's work is all play (mostly) in New South Wales

Los Angeles Times Travel editor

You might describe Andrew Smith’s job this way: His work is all play. As the Chief Funster for New South Wales, Australia, his job is to attend festivals and events, even take the occasional jump out of an airplane and then tell the world about it through social media.

If you’re thinking, “That’s the job for me,” know that you would have been among 124,000 others who also thought the six-month appointment was their destiny. The funster job was one of six such gigs that were part of Tourism Australia’s Best Jobs in the World competition, which include park ranger, wildlife caretaker and taste master. The chance to live the extraordinary drew 330,000 applications from 196 countries.

To get his job, Smith, who grew up in Orange County and is now based in Sydney, Australia, had to rise and shine above a crowd that was whittled down to 25, then three.

His foot in the door was a 30-second video assembled from clips he acquired working on the Dubai One YouTube Series “Peeta Planet,”  described as a “social media travel series."

His decision to throw his hat in the ring was spur of the moment, and he ended up doing voice-overs for his video in a hotel room and editing on an airplane.

One of the last crucial elements in the scrum to become Funster was to generate buzz for oneself. But in the days leading up to the selection, he was tangled up in other projects that took him to Nairobi, Kenya, and Buenos Aires, among other places. He was, he said, effectively “off the grid.”

He turned to social media--he has more than 70,000 Instagram followers--and with help from his virtual fan base, encouraged people to promote his candidacy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #pickandrew.

He got help along the way from a #pickandrew theme song and from
celebs such as Chandler Massey, known for his role on “Days of Our Lives.”

He’s now three months into his new job, which he describes as telling the story of the eastern Australian state. 

It isn't “the Andrew Smith Show,” he said.

“Let me be the vessel,” he said, for getting the word out about a region that’s home to about a quarter of the country’s population of about 23 million.

Telling that story has led him to the tandem skydive, paddle board, and to the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, where he met Cate Blanchett, whose performance in "Blue Jasmine" won this year's Oscar for the Australian native.

He may be at the Dodgers versus Diamondbacks matchup this weekend. Major League Baseball opens its season Saturday with the first of two games between the rivals.  But, he acknowledges, he grew up an Angels fan. Still, a chance to see this historic contest? It’s all part of the fun of his job.

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