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Danielle DeSimone

Author Interview - Danielle DeSimone

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Danielle DeSimone is a Third Culture Kid: she spent her formative years growing up in Italy and has been passionate living abroad ever since. Danielle attended the University of Mary Washington where she earned degrees in Creative Writing and Italian Studies. Currently, she lives in Washington DC where she works as the Social Media Manager and Assistant Editor at the National Italian American Foundation. 

"I think it’s important to approach travel...with curiosity, a willingness to learn, and unbridled excitement everything."

Tell us your most cherished travel memory and why it is so special to you. What did you learn?

My most cherished travel memory occurred when I was studying abroad in Italy, and I taught English at a local elementary school. I was placed in a third grade class, which was the exact same grade I had entered Italian school when I was eight years old. I spent five months with that rowdy class, and it was an incredible experience to teach them English, but also teach them myself, my family, and life in the United States. 

On my last day in the classroom, I announced that I would be leaving and returning home. The entire room went silent except for two girls and a boy, who started crying. Then the most difficult student of them all - the one who had fought me on every assignment, all semester - leapt up from his seat and announced, “We’ll just come visit you in America!” The entire class started cheering and they all jumped out of their seats, surrounded me, and hugged me. All 13 of them. It was like a scene out of a movie. I count myself endlessly lucky to have been able to not only teach those children, but to have learned from them as well. It’s so easy to knock down cultural barriers and prejudices when you’re a child, and I think it’s important to approach travel with that same mindset: with curiosity, a willingness to learn, and unbridled excitement everything.

What is the strangest, most unexpected life lessons you’ve learned while traveling? 

Read the fine print! I’ve bought bleach instead of laundry detergent, foot cream instead of hand soap, and a smorgasbord of haggis instead of a meat pie, just because I didn’t know the language or didn’t read the menu thoroughly. I have also gotten lost in some rough neighborhoods of one of the toughest cities in Western Europe because I didn’t read my directions as well as I should have! Moral of the story: I now always make it a priority to learn a bit of the language of each place I travel to, so that I can successfully navigate my way through that country. 

Since this seems to be the great travel dichotomy: would you describe yourself as mountains or beach, and why? (Maybe neither?!)

That’s a tough one, but I’ll have to say beach. I’ve spent almost my entire life growing up on coastlines, so I associate with the sea more than anything else. I love the idea that venturing off the beach and out into the ocean was the first big frontier for travel and exploration, and anytime I’m on a coast I’m reminded of how many others have been brave enough to step aboard a ship and leave all that’s familiar behind. 

If we lived in a world where you could only travel one-way, once (a horrifying thought, we know), where would you go spend your life? 

This is an impossible question and I feel like I’m betraying myself by even admitting that I’d stay in one place for the rest of my life, but my answer is: Positano, Italy. My Italian obsession runs deep. Positano is a beautiful little town hugging the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast, with whitewashed, stucco buildings and lemon trees everywhere. Although these days it’s mostly overrun with tourists, there’s something exquisitely serene the town in the late hours of the day, when the tour buses have all left and everything settles into its usual pace: the elderly shuffling into the Byzantine church, the waves steadily lapping against the rocky beaches, the smell of lemons wafting along the alleyways...and, of course, mozzarella and pasta available at every single meal.