Would you go swimming with sharks if someone paid you to?
Well that's exactly what 32-year-old Daniel Botelho has been doing since he was 17, capturing some of the most breathtaking images of underwater inhabitants in the world.
How about tussling with alligators in the bayous of Florida?
We interviewed several individuals who we feel may have some of the world's coolest jobs. Click ahead to find out what drives them do what they do and what they enjoy most about their work.
By Jermaine Taylor
Posted 1 June 2013
Josh Blaylock's been a fan of comic books since he was 8-years-old and his father had a subscription to Conan. Today, Blaylock, the founder of Chicago-based Devil's Due Entertainment, may no longer be staying up late at night paging through issues of Conan, but he's no less excited about comics.
A graduate of the Cincinnati Academy of Design, Blaylock worked as an art director for a t-shirt company before leaping head first into comics full-time, using credit card debt to acquire the rights to stories like G.I. Joe and Voltron. "The key," he says, "is to find something that the people who own the rights to don't really understand the value of."
But Devil's Due soon expanded from licensing to creating new and interesting characters of its own. For this, Blaylock credits crowd-funding with changing the face of comics in a digital age. Crowd-funding, according to Blaylock, has given artists the ability to "monetize their fan base."
Indeed, Devil's Due has already sponsored three comic book projects through Kickstarter that have raised close to $100,000.
Wesley Klein's great entrepreneurial "aha moment" struck one morning two years ago while he was pouring maple syrup over a plate of French Toast and bacon. "The mix of sweat and salty was overwhelming," he says.
Klein, who at the time was making six-figures working at Best Buy—a company he had dropped out of college to work for 15 years before—decided to research bacon-centric offerings in New York and found there was none. That's when he got the idea to leverage his years of experience in retail to launch Baconery, a restaurant where, according to Klein, "It's all bacon all the time."
"I've always loved bacon and breakfast and wanted to bring the two together," Klein says of the creative spark behind Baconery, which first launched online in 2011 and later opened its first brick and mortar store at 911 Columbus Avenue in November 2012.
And the store, by his account, is doing well. With signature menu items like the Babe—bacon, egg and cheese—and the Wilbur—bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato—the Baconery has attracted native New Yorkers and visiting tourists whose hankering for bacon knows no bounds.
"Bacon's hot," says Klein. "It was hot two years ago, and it's even hotter today."
Damen Hurd's parents could always count on their son to bring home injured animals for them to help. The Port Huron, Michigan, native, who spent most of his childhood hiking and bird watching, always possessed a sense of wonderment about nature.
That's why he skipped out on college and moved from Michigan to Florida at age 22 to apprentice at Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary. There, he was able to learn from veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators who seemed capable of working miracles on even the most seemingly debilitated of animals.
"I've always had a passion for wildlife but wasn't really able to pursue it until I moved to Florida," he says. "Now I deal with everything from bobcats to bald eagles to deer to snakes."
For the past several years, Hurd has been a wildlife rescuer at the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center—or Wildlife Inc.—where he works to first capture and then rehabilitate a host of species, helping them recover from their injuries or illnesses before returning them to the wild.
"There's no better feeling than helping an animal that is injured and has nowhere else to go," he says.
Daniel Vaughn had always liked barbecue, but the Wooster, Ohio, native first fell in love with smoked meat in 2001, when a good friend welcomed him to Texas by taking him to Peggy Sue BBQ in Dallas. "The smoked flavor was intense and something that I constantly craved afterward," Vaughn says.
That craving stuck with him, sparking his own blog, Full Custom Gospel BBQ, and securing a book deal. It wasn't long after starting his blog that Vaughn became a must-read for Texas's "barbecue nerds."
In March, the Tulane University-educated architect, who by his own account was spending close to 40 hours a week researching and writing about barbecue anyway, was wooed away from architecture firm Good Fulton & Farrell to become the first ever barbecue editor at Texas Monthly magazine, where he blogs about everything from cuts of meat to grades of briquette.
Originally brought on by the magazine as a freelance barbecue expert in 2011 after the success of his blog came to Texas Monthly's attention, Vaughn was soon made an offer he couldn't refuse.
"I tell my editor my ultimate goal is to have the name changed from Texas Monthly to Texas Barbecue Monthly," he says.
Vaughn's book, "The Prophets of Smoked Meat," was published in May.
Since he was a boy living in Rio de Janeiro, Daniel Botelho enjoyed going out on the water. But it wasn't until he was out diving one day at 17 that he discovered his sense of amazement at what he found beneath the surface. "What moved me to pick up a camera was the desire to share those images with people," he says.
While Botelho studied photojournalism at PUC in Brazil, he says that his true education was going out on the water and trying to take new and interesting photographs each time.
"I learned much more from life than I ever did at university," he says. "There are no universities teaching what I do."
What he has done for the past 15 years is establish himself as one of the most sought-after nature photographers in the world. He regularly works for National Geographic and Walt Disney, and has had his work published in publications from the Telegraph in London to the New York Times.
While he says he enjoys the challenge of capturing images that have never been taken before, Botelho says it's the communion with the animals of the deep he most savors.
"What I love in my job is the contact I have with sharks, whales, being out at sea," he says.
Something happened when Noelani Schilling-Wheeler enrolled at the University of Hawaii over two decades ago that's often happens when outsiders discover the beauty of Hawaii and its people for the first time: she didn't want to leave.
Originally from Malaysia, Schilling-Wheeler, who studied finance and marketing before switching over to marketing and tourism management exclusively, hasn't looked back since. "Where better to get into that industry than here in Hawaii?" she says.
As the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing for the O'ahu Visitors Bureau, Schilling-Wheeler and her staff are responsible for test-driving some of the island's most desirable offerings, vetting them for prospective visitors from all over the world.
"To do my job well, I definitely need to be able to walk the talk," she says. "I've got to go out and experience the destinations."
Still, while the opportunities her job affords her to take advantage of a place she calls "paradise," Schilling-Wheeler says the most fulfilling part of her job is building bonds with the community and leveraging her connections to craft vacation experiences that are pleasing to visitors as well as respectful of the island's rich traditions.
"It's hard not to love a job like this," she says.