How Daniel Seddiqui was able to “Piece Together America”

Daniel Seddiqui
Amy Abdelsayed

A cross-country trip is nothing new in the United States, in fact, it’s quite popular to do. But 18 to 20 cities in 18 to 20 days, or, working 50 different jobs in 50 states is something a bit more unheard of… but that’s just a day in the life of author and speaker, Daniel Seddiqui.

In 2008, Seddiqui—who is also the director of an innovative career exploration program for college students—embarked on a journey across all 50 states to complete different jobs unique to different regions.

“I don’t know if you’d call it a career…But it’s definitely my passion and always has been. Curiosity is really what started it,” Seddiqui explains. During that year of travel and work, the author (who later wrote ’50 Jobs in 50 States’ about the experience) worked as a corn husker in Nebraska, a logger in Oregon, a cheese maker in Wisconsin, a surfing instructor in Hawaii—and the list goes on and on.

Daniel Seddiqui
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“Walls started coming down, and relationships started to be created…I just haven’t really stopped,” Seddiqui adds. Growing up in California, he always wondered what it would be like to grow up on the East Coast like his mom (who’s from New Jersey) or brother (who was raised in the Philly suburbs). His curiosity didn’t stop in the States, it also expanded globally (his father is from Afghanistan.) But when it came time to explore, 50 different territories was enough of a tall order.

After the success of ’50 Jobs in 50 States’, Seddiqui wanted something more… something tangible. In his want for keepsakes from his travels, his next idea formed: ‘A Piece of Your City.’ So, he decided to set out once again to different cities across the U.S. to learn an art or a craft, and make a keepsake to take home to remind him of the memories.

Years ago, Seddiqui was in Lancaster with the Amish building furniture, but for this go around, the author landed in Philadelphia—a city he loved even prior to his recent visit.

“Philadelphia’s history, I call it the Jerusalem of America because of all the sacred, historic sites we have there,” he explains. It was also the city’s green spaces that piqued his interests. “I love parks, and when I first discovered Fairmount Park, I was blown away. There was so much energy. I think I blogged about it saying that it should be illegal, that’s how much energy it had.”

For this specific venture, Seddiqui decided to visit the US Mint (Philly has the first and largest in the country), and he found someone who worked there through Instagram to get an in. After some clearance from their headquarters in D.C., Seddiqui spent a couple of hours at the facility (which was closed for tours at the time due to COVID) and came out with his very own trophy of Philly—a piece of currency with a special logo on it.

Daniel Seddiqui
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“What I found through all of these experiences is people just want to be understood and appreciated. So for them to have somebody come in and learn about them and their craft is something they really appreciate,” he explains. “It’s amazing to learn about how people get involved in something and how they take it to the next level to make a career. I guess that’s my craft—to learn everybody else’s.”

Seddiqui also made graffiti art in Brooklyn, a cigar in Tampa Bay, fortune cookies in San Fransisco, a model car in Detroit, a Scandinavian butter knife in Minneapolis, BBQ sauce in Kansas City, sand art in Miami, a Mardi Gras mask in New Orleans and even a tea chest to signify the Boston Tea Party in Beantown.

“That’s why we love traveling, so we can experience something different, really different regionally in this country. And you can experience local influences when you travel,” Seddiqui explains.

While in Philadelphia, the explorer of crafts also stopped by Grant BLVD, a sustainably sourced, socially conscious styled apparel brand committed to supporting currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. While there, he learned about their mission, and also, made a shirt to take home as a keepsake.

Daniel Seddiqui
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Philadelphians can read all about his stop in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond, when his book, ‘Piecing Together America’ comes out.

The book is set up like a cookbook with each city being named as something it’s known for—and it should come as no surprise that Philadelphia is dubbed the “Cheesesteak.” For the directions to the “recipe,” Seddiqui lists must-see spots in each city. But he doesn’t just go for the typical tourist attractions, he wants people to see the more “behind-the-scenes sides” to each city.

Just like when he explored Fairmount Park, which was bursting with activities—packed baseball fields, cherry blossoms in full bloom, botanical gardens and even tightrope walkers—Seddiqui highlighted some quintessential stops in Philly. And they give people a look at what the city has to offer culturally in a unique way.

“I’ve done a lot of studying and research,” Seddiqui continues. “I want to have people experience what’s in the books, connecting with locals and creating something together to make a part of the region memorable.” And you can do so with any of his books that explore different areas of the country in ’50 Jobs in 50 States,’ ‘Going the Extra Mile,’ and soon, ‘Piecing Together America.’

Daniel Seddiqui
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In the future, Seddiqui would also like to start a travel agency to show people what could happen if you don’t travel just to travel, but also to connect.

“Curiosity really brought me all over the map having intimate and meaningful experiences,” Seddiqui finishes.”I would say we should go out of our way to make more people a part of our life’s journey…That’s how we’re going to find unity.”

To find out more, visit livingthemap.com

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