BOISE, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
On a recent Tuesday, Daniel Seddiqui cooked up clams, shrimp and chorizo at a restaurant near Boise's Basque Block.
The next day, he chiseled rocks and dirt away from 16 million-year-old crocodile fossils in Utah.
No, he's not a professional chef or a paleontologist. He merely tip-toes into their worlds while touring the country on a mission to create, taste and discover the unique and intricate details that contribute to the character of each city.
Seddiqui, whose exploits have been featured in national publications and on television, visited Boise last week during his 'A Piece of Your City' excursion that has led him to more than 50 large and mid-sized cities across the U.S. At each stop, he crafts "mementos that characterize the city's culture and industry." He's created graffiti in Brooklyn, New York; learned to polka dance in Milwaukee; forged a knife from a railroad spike in Birmingham, Alabama; and much more since he began his voyage in April.
By the time Seddiqui completes his adventure, he'll have visited 65 cities.
"It's been an incredible way of experiencing a city, this very unique angle of learning something new to craft, and then just creating a memento and always having a piece of that city," Seddiqui told the Idaho Press. "It's cool because I get to have authentic connections with a local through their pride and passion."
He had never tried Basque food before his meeting with Dan Ansotegui, co-owner of Ansots Basque Chorizos & Catering on 560 W Main St. Seddiqui, a self-proclaimed kitchen novice, helped Ansotegui prepare clams and chorizo motzak, a dish comprised of clams, shrimp, chorizo, garlic, pimientos, clam broth and white wine — a simple yet popular menu item and, for Seddiqui, a memento that took about 4 minutes to make.
Plus another few minutes to eat.
"It was one of the tastiest things I've ever had," Seddiqui said.
Seddiqui stayed at Hotel 43 in downtown Boise, and packed his two-night stopover with visits to Camel's Back Park, Hyde Park and the North End, Eighth Street — "where it's always popping," he noted — the Boise State University campus and the Basque Museum & Cultural Center. He took particular fascination with the downtown traffic box art and was awestruck by the stonework and "Gothic-type" architecture, as he described it, that distinguish some of the city's oldest edifices, many of which were blueprinted by architects John E. Tourtellotte and Charles F. Hummel. They also designed the Idaho State Capitol building.
"Some of the tops of the buildings have this Transylvania influence, those cone-shape-top buildings," Seddiqui said. "I've seen that in Idaho and only in Idaho. Super unique to the state."
This isn't the first time Seddiqui has scaled the American map, or visited Boise.
From September 2008 to September 2009, he worked 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks, indulging his curiosity in faraway places and people, but also serving a need — despite graduating from the University of Southern California with an economics degree, Seddiqui struggled to land a job for three years after college.
A native of San Jose, California, Seddiqui worked as a corn farmer in Nebraska, a wedding coordinator in Las Vegas, a peanut sheller in Georgia and a model in North Carolina, among other gigs. He even had a successful stint selling real estate in Boise, assisting in the sale of "three or four" homes during his week on the job.
He still remembers his real estate partner from those years ago.
"Her name is Megan Schomer. She was 19 at the time and she was a total go-getter," Seddiqui recalled. "It was awesome for me to shadow her and learn about the industry in Boise."
Seddiqui has toured the country a few other times. He thought dabbling in 50 professions would quench his yearning for learning, but it sparked more.
His 'American Bucket List Challenge' checked off culturally authentic experiences in all 50 states, "to better understand people and their passions." He sang with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square in Utah, judged a barbecue contest in Missouri and shot archery with citizens of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, among other activities.
He addressed and sought to understand problems plaguing communities, such as unemployment in South Dakota, gang violence in Chicago and obesity in Mississippi, during his 'Going the Extra Mile' project.
Seddiqui has published multiple books and has given motivational speeches that document his experiences.
"I love learning something new. And in these cases I'm learning something every day," Seddiqui said. "My whole adulthood has been mostly with strangers."
But after he wraps up this trip, in Reno, Nevada, by Feb. 1, Seddiqui may put a bow on his altruistic adventures — for now, anyway. He's 39, and a wife and 11-month-old child await his return in Bend, Oregon.
He has a job, too, in employer relations. He helps college students find work so they don't have to find a new job in a new state every week.
But maybe they'll want to someday.
"There should never be an excuse not to do it. You can come up with any excuse not to go for it," he said. "You just try to find a balance to fit your passion in. That's definitely necessary for a fulfilled life."
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