Living in a cave with no running water or electricity would sound more like a punishment than a dream job to most people.
But divorced Belgian Stan Vanuytrecht had to fight off competition from 50 people to get the position as one of Europe’s last hermits in the Austrian town of Saalfelden.
The Mayor of Saalfeden, a town in the west of Austria near Salzburg, said they chose Mr Vanuytrecht, a Catholic deacon, because “his personality appealed to us”.
“He radiates calm and comes across as well-anchored,” said Erich Rohrmoser.
Mr Vanuytrecht, 58, is a retired surveying technician and former artillery officer from Belgium.
“I thought I didn’t have a chance,” Mr Vanuytrecht said to the Austria Press Agency, adding that he was instantly drawn to the job.
“When I read about the Saalfelden hermitage I thought to myself: that’s the place for me,” he said.
The 350-year-old hermitage is built into a cliff above the town and is open from April to November.
Its resident is not totally isolated as people often walk up to the hermitage to enjoy the view and confide in the hermit.
Mr Vanuytrecht said his previous experience working with the homeless, drug addicts and prisoners has provided him with the skills needed for the role.
“It’s important just to listen without talking oneself and without judging,” he said.
Mr Vanuytrecht said the poverty he experienced after his divorce from his ex-wife and her experiences with mental illness had also taught him crucial lessons.
His predecessor, former priest and psychotherapist Thomas Fieglmueller, said: “Life in the hermit’s cell is spartan but the nature is very beautiful. I met lots of nice people and had good conversations.”
Mr Fieglmueller has decided to return to Vienna to write after just one season in the hermitage.