Focusing on…Allan Dixon
Allan Dixon is no ordinary selfie expert. In fact, he very possibly pioneered selfies with wildlife. Today, social media fame and a competition by a tourism bureau have made this Irishman an advocate of wildlife conservation and an inspiration to those who aspire to lead a digital nomad way of life.
For wildlife fans on Instagram and Facebook, Allan Dixon probably doesn’t need an introduction. He invented ‘Happy Quokka Monday!’ and has caused a 300 per cent increase of animal selfies around the world. All because he takes selfies with animals such as quokkas (of course), kangaroos, lamb, sea creatures, skateboarding cats (yes, you read that one right), elephants and, basically, around 100 others. His selfies, though fun and cute, it’s a canvas for an underlying important and very current issue: conservation.
However, let’s stop, rewind and get to know him a little, well, more.
‘People love shopping, here,’ he observes. ‘Or maybe it’s so hot that they want to enjoy the air-conditioning in the shopping malls. I’m a little saddened by the fact that, I feel, the only epicentres [in KL], they’re all based on material things as opposed to community.
Allan was in Kuala Lumpur a few days ago and the WIEF team invited him to pop by our office for a little selfie with the local ‘wildlife’ and a quick interview. He arrived on our doorstep on the dot and looking very tall. The night before our interview, we saw evidence of his popularity in Malaysia by the many selfies snapped with locals around Suria KLCC mall and park.
‘People love shopping, here,’ he observes. ‘Or maybe it’s so hot that they want to enjoy the air-conditioning in the shopping malls. I’m a little saddened by the fact that, I feel, the only epicentres [in KL], they’re all based on material things as opposed to community. The commercialisation and materialism that have permeated cities have broken and divided the community aspect of humans.’
Best job in the world
Basically, 31-year-old Allan grew up in Ireland and has been living in Australia the past four years. ‘I went to Australia because I won the “Best Job in the World” competition,’ he recalls. What happened was, he won the role of Outback Adventurer in Tourism Australia’s ‘Best Job in the World’ competition in 2013. He beat 600,000 other applicants for the job by launching massive media campaign via Facebook, Twitter and his own website.
By that time, Allan had been making videos for 10 years. ‘Finally, this was a chance to get paid for what I enjoy doing,’ he says. Furthermore, the role or job that the competition awarded paid well. In true fact, he’s an engineer who received first class honours in computer science from Dublin City University. As you can see, his success, alas, lies elsewhere and his destiny, at least for now, is to raise awareness of wildlife conservation.
Allan started on social media in 2005. ‘I always had this love for the outdoors and nature. When I was making videos 10 years ago, the content of the videos I’m making now, it never had any direction. Nobody told you or had envisioned that this is what people will consume today,’ he admits. ‘Now, because of the “Best Job in the World” competition, it swayed my passion over to a career, connecting the dots as to how the tourism industry and brands need advertising and how I can also push my passion for wildlife and conservation.’
Basically, the pieces of the puzzle fit and looking at him, perfectly at that. ‘Work is [now] all about building a community and not a bank account.’
Following his passion
Despite his collectively more than half a million followers on social media, Allan endorses no products and dances to no advertisers’ tune but his own.
To those aiming social media success such as his, Allan advises them to follow their passion. ‘Whatever you do, you just need to document everything you do because there’s someone out there who wants to do exactly what you do but doesn’t know how and you might be 10 times further than they are. And if you made a video or tutorial, on how it is you do what you do, then people will go towards knowledge and education,’ he adds.
‘[At the start], I wasn’t touching on real conservation [of wildlife]. I was having fun. Now, it’s to a point where I can have fun but also educate people and teach [them about conservation]. If you’ve got that audience, give them advice, give them help. Raise more awareness instead of using the influence for evil,’ he reminds.
Success follows passion
‘So, what has happened now is, I’d been doing and creating so much content and so much stuff as I’ve been travelling, and people are taking notice. The right people are taking notice,’ he says.
‘[For example], in Hong Kong, all the selfies with animals showcased the connection between humans and animals, to show that animals have the same emotions and feeling and if they feel the love they’ll return that with love. We’re all kind of “as one”. I was trying to capture the feeling of the animal with me. Now, with my reach [on social media], big companies are taking notice and I can push on [raising awareness of animals and their conservation],’ he explains.
At the time of publication, he’s in Sabah, East Malaysia. A state of lush rainforest and an impressive collection of wildlife. If you check through his Instagram, you’ll see Allan monkeying (pardon the pun) with our proboscis monkeys, raising awareness on the need for their conservation.
Next, he’ll be off to Japan to visit the animal shelters there, then to Perth and home to Ireland for Christmas. ‘I haven’t been home in two years,’ he says. A digital nomad, everything he owns fits into a 25kg luggage. For now, wherever he lays his hat, it’s home. ‘I’m about openness and freedom, I’ve multiple addresses [currently],’ he says, punctuated by his signature sunny smile.
However, he’s not a guy without a whisper of a plan. Right now, a book is in the pipeline and it’s scheduled to be on the shelves by the first quarter of 2018. It’ll be a book on quokka. ‘I went on the crowdfunding route [to publish my book] twice before but failed,’ he admits but now, it’s going ahead with a Japanese concern. The many photos Allan has of selfies with quokkas sparked the idea for the book. Known as a real-life Dr Doolittle, his book compiles those happy, cute photos.
‘I’m not materialistic. I barely have any clothes. Ideally, I prefer to keep single tools. For me, [it’s all about] the experience of meeting people and the actual journey. So, if I can get by with the basic needs, then…,’ he concludes with a shrug and, you guessed it, the Allan Dixon sunny smile.
7 things you probably didn’t know about Allan Dixon:
1. ‘I’m not a city person at all. In Ireland, I live in a little town by the seaside with a population of 10,000 people called Arklow.’ His parents still live there.
2. Allan’s a middle child with an older brother and a younger sister.
3. His favourite animals are lions and quokkas. ‘One for strength and the other for cuteness,’ he explains.
4. He’s half Canadian and currently, not married.
5. He stands at 185cm (or thereabouts).
6. He really does smile, pretty much, all the time.
7. He’s fully capable of being still for a long time till an animal is comfortable to take a selfie.
Photo Credit: @Daxon