Interview by Lauren Ash
I met DaniElle BeWell in February at a Black Girl In Om yoga, art and wellness session in collaboration with Alexandria Eregbu of the Finding Ijeoma Project at the Chicago Cultural Center in February. Immediately, her energy was beautiful and her light was visible. When I shared with DaniElle that I had recently quit my 9-5, she indicated that she had done so almost exactly one year prior. I took this as a nod from the universe that I was on the right path. This self-actualization strategist, yoga instructor and wellness enthusiast is special in that she travels. A lot. And just like with our last Wanderlust feature, I was curious about how DaniElle BeWell cultivates self-care while jetting from one place to the other. I’m happy to be able to share the inspiring ways DaniElle eats, sleeps and breathes holistic wellness while traveling across continents. Be sure to follow DanieElle on Instagram (@daniellebewell) for further encouragement on your wellness journey and, if you can, join her in Costa Rica in June for Thrive Transformative Retreat.
LA: Can you speak generally to who you are and what you’re doing in life in this moment?
DB: I’ve actually been asked this question a lot lately. Every opportunity I get to try to communicate that is another learning opportunity for me. I’m a nature-lover. I’m becoming a global citizen. I’m a native daughter. I’m a self-actualization strategist. I really work to think of ways to help myself and help others realize their highest selves. I’m also a holistic lifestyle enthusiast. Traveling is an easy way for me to get a sense of different ways of living in the world. There’s not one way. I’m interested in thinking of different ways of living, in ways that are more holistic.
LA: When I met you I shared that I recently quit my 9-5 and I discovered that you had done the same almost an exact year prior and decided to begin to live authentically from your core passions and beliefs. Tell us more about that decision.
DB: Authentically. That is the word! My life has changed so much. Even friends of mine tell me “wow, you’re such a different person. I can’t believe the growth and things you have experienced in the past year!” When I was working at my 9-5 job, I was working at a university, behind a desk, 40 hours a week. There was nothing wrong with the job, it was wonderful, I’m really grateful for the experience. It taught me a lot, but I felt stuck. There was something that was keeping me there. I was at a place in my life where I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and was experiencing dis-ease mentally, physically and spiritually. I now realize that the desk job I had been working was no longer in alignment with who I really was and what I really wanted in life. I remember thinking to myself, there is so much more that I have to share with the world and I'm not sure what it is but I know I'm not able to do it from behind this desk 40 hours a week. The fact that I didn't have a clear idea of what the next step was, was a very scary thing for me. I was stuck because I was just waiting for the right opportunity to appear.
I finally got the courage to take a leap of faith. I quit my job to go to Costa Rica to volunteer to work and teach at a yoga hostel. Since then wonderful opportunities have continued to show up for me that support my passions and my growth. Now I feel like my life is in alignment because I am no longer just working to live; my work is finding and creating my ideal life and inspiring others to do the same. Each day I learn more about what that looks and feels like for me, which makes me feel alive.
LA: Beautiful. So, you're currently abroad, with no tangible plans on coming back to the United States. Where have you traveled?
DB: Since I decided to travel: Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. This year I’ve been to Czech Republic in Europe. Now I’m in Thailand. And I’ll be traveling throughout parts of Southeast Asia during the next six months.
LA: And you’ve been traveling and doing a lot of yoga and holistic wellness activities, as well, yes?
DB: That has been one of the most amazing parts of my travels. It seems like now my life is more in alignment with wellness. Mentally, physically, spiritually, because I’ve been traveling to places that are closely connected to nature. That really allows me to incorporate more raw foods into my diet and to be more connected with nature cycles. Whether waking up with the sunrise and coming in when the sunsets or focusing on the moon and just all of the wonderful reminders nature has to offer. I feel as if nature is one of my greatest teachers. I’ve learned a lot of the indigenous remedies and practices in some of the places I’ve been living.
I was in Costa Rica for a long time. There is a large Jamaican population there. I was staying at a wellness center. And the woman who owns it is an herbalist. She has over 100 different plant species in the yard. I was making teas and tinctures; and cooking with the different plants that are in the yard. And really holistically—what I was eating and what I was putting into my body—I could talk to the plant and thank the plant for offering me this wonderful gift. That’s been really amazing.
Of course I’ve really focused a lot on daily ritual. Because when you’re traveling, when you’re doing all sorts of travel, you kind of lose touch with some of the things that you may do when you’re in a home base. But I’ve found that a few things to hone in on every day helps keep me well and focused and moving forward with my goals.
LA: So, why travel for a living?
DB: I believe that travel helps to expand your imagination of what is possible. You are able to experience different ways of life and creating a lifestyle that really works for you. I have learned a lot about myself by finding myself in new situations and I am getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Living in the United States, I felt that I was exposed to a somewhat limited western way of thinking and of living. Traveling helps me to know myself outside of these systems that can be very limiting. Traveling allows me to learn more about different cultures, belief systems and ways of life that are, often times, more simple than the more stressful lives that many of us are living in the United States. I am continually amazed and inspired when I learn about the lives that people are living in other parts of the world. And while traveling I have discovered that I am able to live in some of the most beautiful, naturally-rich and abundant places in the world for a fraction of the price that I was paying to live in the big city. You realize that you need less, not that you have to live with less but it is a relief to know that what you really need is actually much less than you thought.
LA: What wellness practices do you cultivate as you're jetsetting from one place to the other?
DB: I have learned a lot about various indigenous practices and plant medicines, I have incorporated more raw food, daily ritual into my everyday life, and have deepened my connection to nature.
LA: What countries have you been to in the past year? What countries will you be visiting in the next year?
DB: I have been to the U.S., Central America, including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the Czech Republic and Thailand. I plan to go Indonesia, India, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru in the next six months and to some countries in Europe and Africa in 2016.
LA: What is your favorite travel memory?
DB: That is a difficult question! My favorite travel memories involve discovering places where I can just be and exist peacefully in nature. But my most favorite memory recently was snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand. Snorkeling is such a meditative experience, because you must breathe through your nose and you have the opportunity to witness the beauty of nature under the sea!
LA: You have an exciting holistic wellness retreat coming up. What was your motivation for manifesting this retreat and what do you hope participants will gain from it?
DB: Yes, we're offering Thrive Transformative Retreat from June 10-17 in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is now my second home and I wanted to share my transformative experience living there with others. I want to offer folks an opportunity to get out of the U.S. and their comfort zones. Nature is my greatest inspiration. I want others to have the opportunity to intentionally disconnect from their day to day routines and connect to nature and to themselves in order to get a more clear idea of what they want to see and experience in their everyday lives.
LA: What advice do you offer to those who may want to consider traveling more, but feel as if they can't afford it or believe that they can't fit it into their current lifestyle?
DB: If you want to travel, do it! Don't make excuses or put it off, it is one of the best things that you can do for yourself to open you up to new ways of seeing yourself and the world. Instead of buying that new outfit or going out to dinner six nights of the week, save the cash and invest in yourself by traveling. Quit your day job! Create a lifestyle that is more in alignment with what you really want! If you want to connect to this, then come to the Thrive Transformative Retreat. When you invest in yourself you will receive priceless results. Travel is an investment in your potential to thrive and grow in ways that you can not imagine.
I found a live/work trade position at a yoga studio and hostel. I began teaching there, then I was offered a house sitting opportunity. Now I have been offered additional opportunities to house sit again this year and am hosting my first yoga retreat in that same place! I am an example that when you want something and take action towards making it a reality the universe will conspire to make it happen, but the first step is to just go!
Photos by Josef Cacek, DaniElle BeWell, and Aaron Silc Manzanillo, respectively.