“Since I was probably fifteen, I knew I wanted to do something in travel. I wanted to see the world. Like when all is said and done, don’t care if I’m rich or poor, I just wanted to see the world.”
Damon Dominique always knew he wanted travelling to be a big part of his life, and lucky for us, he’s taking us along for the ride. Damon’s known for his fun, aesthetically pleasing, and coffee-fueled travel videos on YouTube, where he’s brought his audience through the streets of Paris, to excursions in Milan and The Netherlands, to the French countryside to discuss life with glasses of red wine and fresh bread. He also covers lifestyle content and language tips. His videos are all not only binge-able, they’ve got a romantic quality to them defined as a zest for life. You want Damon to be your travel buddy, because he makes it look easy.
Damon’s lifestyle suits him not only because he’s a practiced and engaging content creator, but because he’s literally always on the go. And that doesn’t just mean travelling. For Damon, his lifestyle is about doing. He explores cities – or jump-hops into them – just as he would a new hobby, and he’s experienced plenty of both. He spoke with me over the phone from his home in Paris, and we discussed travelling, independence, and the self-confidence that builds as you explore the world.
In terms of travelling alone and starting a YouTube, were you nervous at all before you started?
“I guess no. Maybe that does make me a little weird or odd. It never really freaked me out; it excited me. Like, I think there are two kinds of personalities. Some people, it does make them a little bit anxious, they ask themselves what’s going to happen, what if, what if. But I think I always kind of trusted myself,” he says. “I think people just need to believe in themselves a little bit more. It’ll be less scary. As long as you know that no matter what happens, even if the worst-case scenario happens, you’ll figure it out. Even today, if I go somewhere new, I’m like alright don’t know where I’m going, don’t know how to do this, but I will figure it out. When have I not?”
Do you ever feel lonely while you’re travelling alone? I think a lot of people worry about that when they think about travelling solo.
“I think that the thing is, when you go solo travelling, you’re never alone really. You’re actually with more people in a sense. Because since you are alone, you’re more approachable to strangers, you’re talking to waiters, you’re talking to bartenders, and of course it would get lonely if you stayed in your room, but that’s the antithesis of travel you know? You’re doing this because you want to expand your mind or get to know who you are, and I think by getting out and talking to people is the way to hammer in who you are.”
Of course, we know you have an eternal love for the city of Paris. But back before you were known for your cinematic YouTube content, what inspired your decision to move to Paris in the first place?
“There’s a magic about Paris. Right now, actually, if I were to walk outside, the lights haven’t kicked on yet, there’s this magical yellow haze in the streets, and people are walking down the streets walking their dogs or holding hands, or you hear a little kid laughing around the corner. There’s a sense of magic here that I can’t capture anywhere else. I guess what I always say is if I have to be here on Earth, I at least want it to be beautiful. I want my life to be like a movie, and here, things happen.”
So, how do you find your balance between work and life as a content creator? Do you find yourself having to take breaks from filming and photographing life?
“I don’t want to be on my phone more than I have to be on my phone. Because my job is on my phone, you know? And so the last thing I want to do when I want to connect with my friends is to look at a screen. That’s the last place, since the rest of my life is virtual. Before this even, I put my phone in my pocket, fastened the button, and I kept it there and I went and got a matcha tea latte. And of course the walk wasn’t that interesting, but I was like, Damon you need these moments off-screen to be real. I read this book once that said it’s so hard for us as humans to stay in reality. And I thought that was interesting. Because we’re always—whether it’s with a book, or a TV show, or Instagram scrolling—we’re always trying to escape the present moment. It’s so hard to stay in the present moment without your mind going elsewhere.
Here, when they’re off work, they’re off work. They’re like alright, let’s get a drink—and they actually go get a drink. In the states I feel like you get off work and you’re like ‘Let’s go get a drink,’ and your friend’s like, ‘Oh I have Spanish class and then my yoga class.’ Like people are so busy all the time! I don’t know what’s better, but I just like that here, people are more liberated in their own lives.”
If you could live anywhere else in the world next, where would it be?
“London, hands down. I think about that every day actually. London really has the best of both Europe and the United States for me. People there have the work ethic of Americans, like they know how to get shit done. They know how to hustle. They have ambition. But they also know how to, when work is done, go to the pub and get lit. I may love Paris, but I’m a traveller at heart! I need to go live in other places as well. Tokyo would be cool, I want to go back and live in New York again [too].”
I have to ask: What don’t you love about Paris?
“I recently was in Berlin and Milan, and I had this epiphany that in some cities, it’s cool to be friendly. Just like be outgoing and be welcoming and have small talk and have a smile on your face. And in other cities, it’s not so cool to be friendly, and I think Paris is one of those cities. It’s kind of ‘cooler’ to be more reserved, to kind of question everybody. It’s not like a friendly culture … and we don’t need this false ego. You’re a human, I’m a human, we speak the same language, let’s talk. There’s no reason for any of this weird grumpiness. So I think some French people are a little too grumpy for me sometimes.”
What makes the experience of Paris so special? What should be on our itinerary?
“Most people ask: what should I do when I go to Paris and how do I have the ‘Damon Dominique Paris experience,’” he says. “And this is the mistake: people come here, and there are so many cool things to do. The tourist attractions here? Lit. They’re actually worth going to. I go to them still. And I think that’s the issue, because people come here with a packed itinerary, and they miss out on the magic, because that’s [all] in the in-between moments. And those are things you can’t plan. You literally just have to spend hours walking down these labyrinths of streets and just kind of like, being here. And waiting for that thing to happen to you that’s magical. I think people come here with a packed itinerary and that’s not the way to do Paris.”
What’s the advice you’d give to someone visiting Paris for the first time?
“Listen to the people in the café, and the coffees clinking on the table, and people lighting up a cigarette. I think that’s part of the experience, and if we kind of just block it out via Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP, we’re not getting the experience!”
What’s the best part of travelling solo for you?
“You don’t have to answer to anybody. You want to go to this museum? Ok! You go to this museum. You want to go home early because the museum is boring? You don’t have to pretend that it was interesting. You don’t have to annoy people with your vegetarian meal preferences like I do! So you can do what you want. And I guess another thing I’ll say about that is when you go travel you’re searching for this sense of freedom, and a lot of time this sense of freedom is kind of lost because you have to be nice and cater to all your friends’ wants and wishes for the day. And so you aren’t exactly as free as you once hoped. So I think going alone, you are truly liberated.”
What have you learned about yourself during your travels so far?
“I guess this is a boring answer, but that I fully trust myself in no matter what situation I get myself in. And I think—again I don’t want to brag or sound vain here—but a lot of times I get comments that are like, ‘I wish I could be as confident as Damon,’ or ‘be as social and outgoing as Damon,’ and I think it’s not something that I try to do. It’s literally putting myself in those situations where I was solo, [and] I figured it out.”
You have a huge following on YouTube. Was it difficult to get started on building a larger audience?
“Oh, absolutely. I would say to get to your first 8000—I don’t know why I always say 8000—but to get to your first 8000 [subscribers] is like almost impossible! Because that’s like, you have to convince your friends and family that you’re somewhat worthy, it’s a little awkward because you’re making jokes that you wouldn’t make and your friends and family are watching it, so it’s really about pushing past that … for me I feel like this is a lifestyle. Like I want to watch these videos, so they better be entertaining Damon! Like you better make it entertaining, because you’re going to be watching too.”
And in true Damon Dominique-style, he informs me that he has a philosophy class to attend right after our call. Like any explorer, the quest for knowledge and experience truly doesn’t stop for Damon, and if you’re looking for inspiration to begin your own travels, his content is the place to start.