Danielle Hyams chose the road less traveled
I was supposed to talk to Danielle Hyams, our travel writer for The Bloq, for a half hour. So I was amazed when I looked at the clock and realized we’d been discussing the finer points of life for almost an hour. I have always been fascinated by the lifestyle that Danielle chose as a post-college career – and that is to say, she ditched a career and opted for a life of adventure and travel.
So many of us (myself included) state that “as soon as (insert debt going away, big deadline, huge life event) happens, I’m going to travel.” Danielle is living proof that choosing the tougher path, the “rocky road” and a life of financial uncertainty is more rewarding than anything a paycheck can provide.
It’s safe to say that Danielle has led a life most of us could only dream of. This 27-year-old world traveler and writer explains how this whole lifestyle choice began, “The first time I left the country I was 15. I went on a trip to Israel with my grandma. I really didn’t want to go because I only knew Israel from the news. I was like ‘I don’t want to leave my friends that hang out at the mall in Ohio.’”
That mindset changed instantly when she stepped off the plane. “I was just in love with everything. The different culture, the languages, the smells, the sights – everything. I was intoxicated by it.” She stayed in Israel for 10 days – and it was those 10 days that changed her life forever.
I asked Danielle to list some of the countries she’s visited and she rattled off Israel, Turkey, Croatia, Hungary, Egypt, Thailand, Uganda, Kenya, The Dominican Republic, Colombia, Cuba, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan…you get the idea. However, the life of the nomad didn’t immediately appeal to Danielle – after high school she enrolled in college at Ohio State, studying Journalism and International Development. Which is the perfect combo to snag a job that allows you to see the world. Danielle saw the world differently, though.
“I was always looking for free or cheap ways to travel.” While in college, Danielle studied abroad in Israel, again, this time for 6 months. Shortly after she found a volunteer service providing a trip to live and work in Uganda. It was at this pivotal moment, post college and pre-career choice that Danielle came to a crossroads. “I always wanted to go to Thailand. After I came back from the Uganda trip I was really lost for a while. I always felt like a career would just lead to me becoming stuck, so I got a waitress job.”
It was while waiting tables that Danielle stumbled upon her next step. “I found another opportunity for a long-term volunteer placement in Thailand.” The timing was perfect, as Danielle explains, at that point she wasn’t keen on having to make a career choice.
“While in Thailand I made friends with another American, Sylvia. We traveled together for six months and it was a life-changing experience for both of us.” She adds, “I think in a way it ruined both of us because we’re always going to get bored. This lifestyle definitely has its pros and cons. I do get a little anxiety now that I’m 27. Ideally I think I need to work on developing some kind of marketable skill that I could perform from anywhere.”
We discuss “digital nomads” – people who live by their laptop while they travel the world. I almost begin daydreaming about that life during our discussion. I can tell by her tone that Danielle is working toward this goal, whether she’s aware of it or not.
Choosing a non-traditional lifestyle like this does have its downfalls – I ask Danielle the big question about companionship. “I don’t have many opportunities to date people long-term. I’ll work myself up sometimes and become paranoid and ask ‘am I missing my chance to meet someone or am I going to be single forever?” She admits that’s a common feeling that everyone has, not just travelers, adding “I live in New York, on the coasts people aren’t rushing to get married – I mean, I would love to have that kind of companionship, but I don’t think I’m actively seeking it.”
As someone who has lived in the same city for almost 13 years, I’m curious to know if Danielle has lived anywhere long enough to consider it home, “New York, probably.” The fact that she doesn’t know seems foreign to me, and strangely admirable.
I find out she’s lived in New York for 10 months – hardly a long stretch, but she puts it into perspective, “Although, New York kind of feels like another stop for me. The truth is I don’t know if I’ll ever find a place I consider home. I have this yearning in me to keep moving.” I won’t let her off that easy so I ask if she had to settle down, anywhere in the world, where would it be. Without missing a beat, she says, “Israel. I’ve spent large chunks of time there, but never as a grown up person. But it’s not the easiest place to get a job and the cost of living is quite high.” I can’t help but think she’s got something in common with us working-class folk, after all.
Barring some miracle, Danielle doesn’t see herself settling down abroad just yet, “There are so many more trips I want to go on.” She lists Mongolia, India, Ethiopia and Morocco — so there’s no sign of her slowing down. As our conversation begins to disappear over the horizon she drops a valuable nugget at the end, explaining why she lives the life she lives.
“We talked a lot about anxiety and I feel like I get that anxiety when I’m in the U.S. But the second I put on my backpack in another country the anxiety evaporates. I feel like I can be exactly who I am. When you travel you don’t worry about what people are thinking of you. You don’t have to follow any social norms, that’s when I feel the most alive.” And it all clicks into place. Choosing the road less traveled is relative.
When you’re on the outside looking in, choosing the rocky road seems impossible. But the rocky road isn’t rocky forever – before her first visit to Israel, Danielle was opposed to travel, now it’s her livelihood. It wasn’t until she started down that path that her future fell into place. She sums it up best, “At the end of the day when I’m really old am I going to look back and say ‘I really regret not getting a job at 22’? I’m sure I’m going to struggle sometimes, but at the end of the day, your world is as big as you make it.”
Read all of Danielle’s travel writings for The Bloq through the links below: