“Living the dream” can mean a lot of different things. To some, it’s a life spent kicking back on a beach with an endless supply of Mai Tais. To others, it could be travelling all over the world, meeting new people, and experiencing a hundred different cultures. And to others, it is a dream job in which you get paid to do the things you love.
Whatever your concept of “living the dream,” we’ve come up with a list of people who are without a doubt living their dreams (and maybe yours, too).
The 15 people on this list have often taken extraordinary risks and worked hard to build lives that let them do what they always dreamed of, whether that’s shooting into space, playing video games all day, or living full-time in the wilderness.
Corey Adwar contributed reporting to a previous version of this story.
Matthew Berry was a Hollywood screenwriter for 10 years, writing for sitcoms like 'Married With Children' and movies like 'Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles.' For some, that's a dream come true. For him, it was awful.
'I was 35 years old and miserable and the only thing that made me happy was this dumb little fantasy sports website that I had started on the side,' Berry told Lifehacker last year.
In 2005, Berry went after his passion: fantasy sports. Appearances on radio and TV for ESPN and the NBA landed him in a meeting with ESPN vice president John Kosner. Berry persuaded Kosner to let him turn his hobby into a full-time job.
Now, Berry is ESPN's top fantasy sports analyst, spending his days playing in every type of league imaginable. The dream job has led Berry to tell Sports Business Daily, 'I like my salary. But I'd do it for free.'
Scott Leonard, founder and CEO of the boutique financial advisory firm Navigoe, spent the past three years travelling the Caribbean and South Pacific in his 50-foot-long catamaran sailboat with his wife, Mandi, and three sons -- all while continuing to manage his successful business.
During the time he was away enjoying quality time and scenic views with his family, his business grew its customer base and revenue. That was thanks to Leonard's careful preparation and occasional flights back home from ports for face-to-face meetings.
But mostly, Leonard embraced his long-held passion for sailing, while exploring new island locales with his family and working just 20 hours a week with a flexible schedule.
Matt Block, Seth Davies, and Gus Voelzel live in a Mexican resort city and make a living playing online poker.
Matt Block, Seth Davies, and Gus Voelzel are just a few of the many 20- and 30-something Americans living in the Mexican resort city of Playa Del Carmen. The three have been living in the area for years, making a living by playing online poker.
The poker junkies play relentless tournaments and cash games on poker websites like Full Tilt Poker, hang out on the beach, and sample the often-wild nightlife in Playa Del Carmen and nearby Cancun.
Rent in Playa is roughly $700 a month for a place just five minutes from famous beach clubs. Each player can easily pay that rent by routinely making thousands of dollars in a few hours on the poker sites. With an endless supply of tourists to party with and plenty of money to spend, the poker expats are essentially on an endless spring break.
Nigel Franklyn was working as a journalist and model when he attended a conference on spas that launched him on a new path as a spa consultant. Today, he stays at spas around the world for weeks at a time to advise spa managers on how to improve their services for guests, reports Yahoo reports.
Travelling 10 months out of the year, Franklyn covers all aspects of spa design. He has worked for the past eight years without a set plan, instead relying on instinct and attentiveness to meet the needs of his clients.
'I am living my dream, not because of the places I see, but because this is my absolute, genuine passion,' Franklyn told Business Insider. 'The spa industry and well-being and healing are things that fill my soul -- the level of luxury and beauty I am blessed to spend my life in is a byproduct of something that is much, much more grounded and rooted at my core.'
Swedish gamer Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg is YouTube's most popular star. At 24 years old, Kjellberg (also known as 'PewDiePie') has made a name for himself by playing various video games and filming his ridiculous and often hilarious reactions.
According to The Wall Street Journal, he earned $4 million last year from just his 'Let's Play' videos on YouTube, and a Variety survey found him to be the third-most influential figure to American teenagers. He gets all this recognition just for playing video games, something most people pay to do.
Multitalented Vanessa Selbst is the highest-earning female poker player of all time and a civil rights activist.
Vanessa Selbst is the highest earning female poker player of all time, having amassed $10.5 million in total winnings. But professional poker isn't her only strong suit. She took a break from poker to graduate from Yale Law School in 2012 and vowed to use her degree 'to fight for racial injustice and economic equality.'
When she isn't travelling and winning in poker, Selbst works with the foundation she established called Venture Justice, which supports racial justice, economic equality, and an end to police misconduct. She also serves on the board of the Urban Justice Center.
Ever since Donald Pettit saw John Glenn go to space, he knew he wanted to be an astronaut. One may think that, after spending 12 years as, literally, a rocket scientist, he was a natural choice for NASA's space program. Instead, it took Pettit 13 years and three rejections before he got into the program.
In 2002, Pettit got on his first mission, spending six months in space. The experience was everything he dreamed of and more.
Pettit brought his boundless creativity to space. As an avid photographer, Pettit took hundreds of thousands of photos of the Earth and interesting cosmic phenomena.
He also created a series of YouTube videos called 'Saturday Morning Science,' where he tested experiments in space. His most memorable was probably a demonstration in which he used Angry Bird dolls to demonstrate parabolic force.
Photographer Brandon Stanton was a bond trader in Chicago before he lost his job in 2010. While working as a bond trader, Stanton had bought a camera and started photographing downtown Chicago in his spare time. After leaving finance, he got the idea to pursue photography full-time.
While doing a photo tour of the US, Stanton found New York to be an ideal photographic setting. He began the Facebook profile Humans of New York. Now Stanton runs Humans of New York full-time, having amassed more than 10 million likes and sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his 'Humans of New York' book. The UN recently sent Stanton to the Middle East to document people there.
Not bad for a supposed amateur.
Martine Rothblatt is the highest-paid female CEO in America, earning $38 million last year as head of United Therapeutics Corp. She's also transgender and a futurist.
Rothblatt transitioned from being a man to a woman halfway through her life with the support of her, wife, Bina, four children, and other professionals who saw her transgender status as proof of a self-made pioneer, reports New York Magazine.
When her youngest child was found to have a fatal disease constricting blood flow between her heart and lungs, Rothblatt founded and ran a pharmaceutical company that got FDA approval for a new pill that saved her daughter's life. Rothblatt is also an attorney and a founder of Sirius Radio.
Beyond her life in business, she takes a helicopter between her four homes, including beautiful getaway locations in Vermont and Quebec, where she entertains friends and keeps a talking robot replica of her wife.
Rothblatt loves life so much that she never wants it to end; she interweaves her business skills with her futurist passion for technologies that she hopes will one day keep loved ones alive after death as digital beings.
After entering his 30s, Mark Christy left behind a decade of experience as a creative director for commercial productions to lead a nomadic lifestyle with his wife, Nives, a makeup artist in the fashion industry.
The Philadelphia couple quit their day jobs, sold or donated nearly all their possessions, and spent two months building a camper atop an ex-military trailer to call their new home. They set out this summer because they became sick of the daily grind of city work.
'A lot of people don't start doing a bunch of consistent, long-term travelling until they retire because they can't with their work schedules,' Mark told Business Insider. 'We want to be able to do this stuff while we're still young enough to be active and explore places. At the same time, we realise we worked our asses off in our 20s, made a ton of money, and that money went right out the door on stuff that was fun but not really what we wanted to do in life.'
The pair and their dog typically set up camp for a couple weeks at a single location, surrounded by gorgeous views of nature as they cook and sleep out of their tiny camper. They don't venture too far off the grid, since they have begun making money from their website Camp Trend, where they profile long-term camping enthusiasts, write reviews of camping apparel and gear, and show off original photos of the outdoor lifestyle. To supplement their income, the couple occasionally freelance in their old lines of work.
The life Erik Salitan has carved out for himself 67 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska may not seem like much of a dream at first glance, but it's everything he could have hoped for when he moved to Alaska at 18 to escape the monotony of a factory job.
He eats only meat he hunts and harvests himself and heats his home solely with firewood he chops from surrounding trees.
'I just go with it,' Salitan told National Geographic, which features his lifestyle on its show 'Life Below Zero.' 'You beat to your own drummer and make your own hours up here.'
He has turned his dream into a business as owner and operator of Bushwhack Alaska Guiding and Outfitting, offering hunts and year-round wilderness adventures for clients.
'Alaska presents real challenges, but Erik is living his dream,' writes National Geographic in the channel's profile of Salitan. 'A successful day to Erik is a day spent doing his favourite things: walking around, looking at animals, climbing a hill, sitting on the edge of a mountain, and taking in the beautiful scenery.'
It may be hard to remember, but Guy Fieri was not always a wildly successful television personality. When Fieri first made it onto the Food Network's 'Next Food Network Star,' he was just a restaurant owner in California. He was successful, but, before winning the show, he was not well-known.
Fast-forward to now, and Fieri is one of the best-known celebrity chefs. He has an avid national fan base, has written multiple best-selling books, and owns a number of hugely popular restaurants.
Fieri may get tons of flack from the cultural elite for his decidedly low-brow style. After all, he has bleach-blonde hair, wears bowling shirts, and was called 'the Chef-Dude' in The New York Times. But it's hard to argue that a guy whose living is based around stuffing his face with some of the greasiest guilty pleasures isn't living the dream.
Charlo Greene was working as a reporter for the CBS affiliate in Anchorage, Alaska, last month when she quit on air during a segment about the marijuana club that she revealed she operated. She later said her decision was about 'advocating for freedom and awareness' and ending the prohibition on marijuana.
'There comes a time in each and every one of our lives where we must choose to continue to spectate or stand up for what's right,' she said in a YouTube video she released.
She is already seeing positive results since her dramatic career decision. She runs the Alaska Cannabis Club, a resource for Alaskans with medical marijuana cards. In the days after her very public job resignation, that club raised more than $5,000 in support of a ballot initiative to legalise marijuana in the state.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.