“I want to travel. I want to plan a trip with no return. I want to go to Asia. I want to see the world without having an end date in sight.”
My name is Danielle. I’m a 28 year old, funny, geeky blonde who believes in magic, talks too much and almost always has a camera in hand.
I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida and raised on a huge farm in Maryland overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. From summer road trips up and down the eastern US coast, RV camping in the Florida Keys, and twelve years exploring a 150 acre frontier (aka my backyard), adventure and travel have always been a part of my soul.
What was your life like before you started to travel the world?
I know that we all create our own destiny. But what is that destiny? No one knows until the path is clear. A little over two years ago, I moved to San Diego from the East Coast with one goal in mind: start a successful business in the photography industry.
What I didn’t realize then and do now, is that I had no idea what to focus on. So for almost two years, with high hopes and seizing great opportunities, I still struggled to create a clear identity for my business. I have many talents in the photography field, but no clue what it meant to create focus and purpose with my passions.
In the spring of 2014, I started to find myself. The real me became aware of the power I had to create whatever I wanted. And I wanted pure happiness, joy and excitement all the time. I wanted to love doing what I do everyday and I wanted to be able to do it anywhere in the world.
Basically I wanted freedom.
Why did you decide to leave your life behind in San Diego and travel the world, then eventually end up in Bali? Tell me the story.
As I started to spend more time getting to know myself, that meant meditating a lot, making the choice to be alone more often and declaring out loud some serious affirmations.
“I want to travel. I want to plan a trip with no return. I want to go to Asia. I want to see the world without having an end date in sight.”
These were my new thought patterns, where as before it was always, “I have to make money. I have to get that client. I have to work hard and be smart and responsible to be successful.”
This shift was powerful.
I started to truly believe that what I was feeling, what my intuition was saying, was most important to me, I actually deserved to have.
When we declare our intentions and are in alignment with our true purpose, the universe will always conspire in our favor. This was proven to me when the manifestations just started to occur at every turn.
I left my boyfriend of 6 years, I chose to give up my home, my dog and all my stuff and spend 7 months living out of my convertible, crashing on couches and trading my talents for a bed, food and any other resources I needed.
I had no idea what life was going to throw at me, I was scared, but I was free. I had wiped my slate clean, cleared my guilt, my shame, my old habits and was ready to begin a new journey.
The first manifestation of travel came from my cousin (whom I had traveled with many times before). She was living in Hong Kong and had just received an email about a private yoga retreat her local yoga studio was doing in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Knowing that I loved yoga as much as she did, she thought of me, knew I was in a new space in my life and asked if I wanted to come to Hong Kong, stay with her and go together to this retreat!?
I hesitated about the money for about a week. Then I told her, that my heart said yes, but my wallet was saying no. Her response, “don’t worry. I’ll pay for it. Just pay me back when you get here.” So I had 8 months to save up $2,000 and my first trip to Asia was already in the books!
The second manifestation came only a few days later…
In the right place at the right time, I was informed about a glitch on Priceline.com where the multi-city search feature wasn’t pricing some flights correctly.
Along with about 50 other people, I spontaneously booked a one way, 5-leg ticket from NYC to Milan to Prague to Paris to Bangkok for $177. And the most amazing part was that I would flying back from my first trip just a week before, already planning to be in Maryland to visit family (just 2 hours from NYC.)
So there you have it. 7 months of saving money, developing my business and financial goals, becoming a digital nomad (I already was homeless at the time) and spending my time with people who cared about me, loved my passion and supported my choices, I was already creating the destiny I wanted. I also fell in love. When your heart is open, your mind is free to have an imagination that you believe in, you also open yourself up to other beautiful souls around you.
Opportunities aren’t always obvious. Actually they are quite often whispering to you from the sideline. That’s what happened when I met Robert in June just 3 months after I began my new journey. The rest of my time in California was a beautiful roller coast of almost impossible challenges and some of the biggest highs in my life ever.
I left on Sept 22, 2014 for Hong Kong, and never looked back.
Robert joined me on the “Magic Glitch Trip” to Europe and Asia after I returned from the yoga retreat with my cousin. He’s still by my side 8 months later 🙂
We couch-surfed our way through central Europe visiting 17 cities by way of the trusty Panda Fiat. Once in Thailand couch-surfed in Chiang Mai and met up with other glitch ticket travelers. That was surreal. Seeing friends on the other side of the world who also were going through a transformational experience.
As the planned part of the trip (5-legs) came to a close in early November, I continued to listen to my intuition. I wasn’t ready to go home.
Together Robert and I worked our way south through the islands of Thailand and into Malaysia. And after hearing about WorkAway.info from a fellow traveler, I decided it was time to find a beautiful place to call home for a while, where I could still explore but also unpack my bags. Volunteering was a perfect trade off.
And I knew the offer the second I saw it. I contacted the owner of a beautiful custom designed open air villa in Bali whose dream was to turn it into an international creative center where locals and international artists could collaborate and learn about the Balinese Culture.
The details aside, on day one, Robert and I committed to managing the entire project and helping get the volunteer program up and running.
6 months of volunteering, adventure learning Bahasa Indonesia and falling in love with this magical island of the gods, I look back now and shake my head: Was that a dream? Yes, and it came true.
Still, I am still listening to my intuition. In early June, I organized the biggest, best surprise I have every created. My best friend from California had a trip planned to Thailand for her birthday and I knew her last few nights would be spent in Singapore. Coordinating with her boyfriend (who lives there), I surprised her and flew to Singapore to spend her last day together. It was magical. I was almost broke, didn’t have a plan, but knew that I had to follow my heart and see her. Instead of going back to Bali, I stayed. I found another amazing host couchsurfing.com who has now become a life long friend.
In the past two weeks, I’ve fallen in love with another place. Singapore is a complete contrast to Bali, but I love knowing that I can love it all. In a jungle or amongst skyscrapers, I can see the beauty in all places of the world. Robert recently joined me in Singapore with business opportunities awaiting him. We have spent the last 8 months traveling together and I couldn’t have done it without him by my side.
The magic continues to empower me. As I share this story with you today, I feel the serendipitous alignment of life. Just hours ago I bought a plane ticket to America. I am coming home, for now 😉
For the past few days I have felt this urge, this longing, this weight of pressure inside me. And I had to get it out. So once again, listening to my truth, I had to admit that I missed home. And not just home as in my own country and culture, but home as in the town I grew up in. The town I haven’t lived in in over 10 years. So I return to St. Michaels, Maryland in just two days. This is true alignment as I see it. I am given the opportunity to share this story with you, and just days before it goes live, I had to add this curve ball to the story! Also, I receive a Facebook message that my 10 year high school reunion is next week. So I’ll be home just in time for that. Seriously? You can’t make this shit up.
I call it unplanned planning. I don’t ask why or how, I just ask myself the what. What do I want right now in this moment? The only thing I worry about is the now. What’s next? Who knows. That mystery is the best part of this lifestyle.
How do you fund your travels?
I am a photographer and writer at heart. But the talents that fund my travels are graphic design and portrait retouching. Both skills that I have been developing for over 10 years, I have multiple photography clients all over the world that I work with. They shoot, I edit and retouch.
It’s a beautiful balance of work and play. I get to enjoy adventure and travel, photography, writing and creating resources through talents that most photographers don’t enjoy.
Now, going back to America, I am also developing my photography workshops and retreats. I’ve already planned events in Maryland, Florida and California. I am so excited. Teaching is a huge passion of mine. And with these workshops, I’ll be sharing my passion for photography with everyone.
Where have you been? What’s been your favorite place? Tell me the story.
In my life I’ve been to over 12 countries in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Canada, 25 states in the USA, and Mexico.
In the past 9 months, I’ve traveled to 17 cities in Europe, Chiang Mai, Thailand twice, Kanchanaburi, Thailand and many islands in southern Thailand. I also visited Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Singapore and I can tell you all the secret places to see in Bali, Indonesia!
My favorite place is the coast line of northern Italy. Its a lot like California but with more islands, history and culture. Lerici, Sestre Levante, Portofio, and Cinque Terre are some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen. I guess I am a bias Italian, but the food and the people are so authentic and real. I can see myself living there one day.
Though, everywhere I go, I find something special that makes me fall in love with every place. The cultures, the cities and villages, the landscapes, the food and the people, they all have something unique to offer anyone who chooses to step foot in their part of the world.
What has life in Bali been like?
This is a place that either sucks you in or spits you out. And it definitely sucked me in. It’s my home forever. It’s the first place I learned a new language It’s the first place I learned to drive a motorbike, and it’s the first place that I’ve felt like I became that somebody that I always wanted to be. Confident, true to myself and unwavering in my choices with an open mind to be in awe of every new experience I receive.
I could feel the difference between being a traveler, a tourist and being a local. I was able to stand out and fit in all at once. I fell in love with the culture, the rituals, the locals and their addictive surface happiness.
But I also felt deeply for the dark truth that holds it all together. Corruption is at every doorstep. I decided to manage a volunteer program for someone who has lived in Bali for over 25 years, and learned all about how things really work.
What hurts the most is not the corruption itself, corruption pervades every country. What hurts is seeing how destructive indifference and apathy can be. To hide behind the over-zealous tourist industry that is taking over the island and destroying the beautiful culture and history. And I witnessed that every day, either by the locals who need the tourism to survive or the tourists who don’t care because they can just throw money at everything when their on vacation.
There is obviously a bigger story here, I will tell it in full one day. For now know that Bali is forever changing and growing way too fast. And watching it grow while I grew with it, made me realize that I will never look at anyone or anything as separate again. We are all connected, every action we take, everyone we touch, we are all connected.
Bali was a beautiful place to learn from. I know I will return someday soon.
Tell me about the moment when you realized “this is it.” Has your dream come true and what was it like?
I continue to realize this everyday as I follow my heart, listen to my feelings and declare what I want in life now in this moment as well as in the future.
Freedom. That’s the dream. It started when the manifestations started. I realized it when Bali began to feel like home and I started to receive positive feedback on my blog stories. I was beginning to inspire others and I felt that power move inside of me.
I have the freedom to be me always. To choose. To change. And to make any dream I desire become my reality.
Tell me about a time in your life when you had doubts. What type of fears did you have and how do you deal with them?
Doubts?! They are our greatest teachers! Along with traveling the world.
Without fear, we can not find our path. It is our fears that challenge our existence, our purpose. They are the best lessons life has to offer. I have to remind myself of that each time they arise. And then I meditate. I make time for myself. I have to. It’s the only way I can control that fear.
And soon as I remember I am always supported, I am always loved. I can imagine the worst case scenario and laugh. I know that will not happen. I will create what I want.
So what do I want? That clarity only comes when I am calm and open, ready to listen to those fears. Look them in the face and dance with them, not battle against them.
A great example of this is how we have managed to travel all this time without paying for more than a few nights of accommodations. Couchsurfing.com has been the most amazing resource.
I’ve had moments of serious fear that I didn’t know where I would be sleeping that night or the next and I was in a foreign country! But as soon as I recognize the fear and move through it, I remember that I am going to be just fine. I can create ease and grace in my life anytime I want. I’m not kidding you when I tell you that I declare exactly the type of host I want, the exact type of experience I want to create, and it happens. Like magic.
In Singapore, I’ve met an amazing new best friend I will have forever (she is from India, another place I am manifesting in my life), and Robert has met amazing men who are successful running businesses here in Singapore and all over the Asia market. These connections we’ve developed are pure mirrors of ourselves. They are the exact type of people we have called into our lives.
All three hosts have been a beautiful reflection of us creating exactly what we want – everlasting friendships with people who see the value in us as much as we see the value in them, and its not just about a place to sleep. It’s about connection and expanding our knowledge about the world and the people in it.
We’ve actually never slept on a couch. We’ve always been offered a bed, and sometimes a private room. Sometimes we get taken out for drinks and dinner and other times our hosts cook us amazing home made meals. This online community is a great place to overcome fears and challenge yourself to experience the real culture of the places you travel too. I love CS!
What do you tell others when they are afraid? What is it we’re afraid of, do you think?
I know that we are not afraid of failure. We fail all the time. We are afraid of success.
I believe subconsciously we look forward to failure because that just means we are where we’ve always been, in the same place, where its familiar and safe. It is a known place.
What we are afraid of is the power that we hold inside, that power that if we let it out, will bring us to more success than we could ever imagine. We are afraid of it for one reason only – it is unknown territory.
The funny thing is, ask any brilliantly successful person how they got where they are and they’ll all give you the same answer – by taking risks, facing their fears and letting go of familiarity. They actually started to believe that they had the power to achieve more than their dreams could ever imagine.
Once they believe, they can prove it little by little and that power grows exponentially.
Anything else that you’ve learned?
I think you know by now, Danny, that I could write or talk on this subject forever! Thats why I had to start the blog. My motto is always changing, but it comes down to the simple thought process:
I want to always be inspired to inspire. And I get to make that choice.
I make every choice based on my feelings, not my external experiences. I’m learning to understand myself better, therefore when I listen to my feelings, my intuition, my soul, I can trust it and follow the path that is my unique purpose in life.
And I don’t need to know why or how it will all come together. I just need to know what I want. When we believe in what we want, we allow our fears to help guide our compass. This is how we steer our path of life as it is never straight and always changing directions.
You can follow Danielle’s adventures around the world at LiveWonderful.com