The last few weeks leading up to the election led to stress across the country. Although the election of Biden has provided some relief, there are still a lot of deep-rooted concerns about the nature of systematic issues such as xenophobia, racism and nationalism.
One YouTuber, Damon Dominique, approaches this notion in videos about how other places around the globe respond to progressive ideas. As an American from Indiana who now lives in Paris, France, Dominique has shared his experience of once returning to the United States and feeling a sense of culture shock — despite having grown up there.
In the United States, it’s not uncommon to meet people with mixed backgrounds; American history is based upon immigration and the idea of the United States as a “melting pot.” However, once people are able to travel, it is often an eye-opening experience; the United States isn’t as nearly mindful or culturally diverse as those in their own cultural bubble think it is.
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“Americans have all these unnecessary identities for themselves that further … the perception of the United States as a whole,” said Dominique in his latest video about America during the election. “If people just opened their minds a little, then maybe they would realize their country isn’t all that.”
Dominique is a co-founder of a company called Shut Up And Go with Jo Franco, another travel YouTuber who is Brazilian but migrated to the United States when she was young. When they became friends, they began to travel the world together, exposing people to the customs and adventures people shouldn’t wait for.
“You don’t have to wait until retirement to do what you want. If you want to travel, save up some money and go do it. Shut up and go,” said Dominique in another video.
Although they have a joint channel, they have their individual ones as well. While Franco focuses on the more adventurous experiences of travel, Dominique features his life in Paris and searches for places that have a classic balance of progressiveness, human connection and aesthetics.
One of his documentaries features the Netherlands, focusing on topics that are usually taboo in the United States, such as sex, drugs, weed, gay rights and atheism. The Netherlands is ranked as one of the most tolerant and happy places in the world, so Dominique went out to understand the mindset of its citizens and how they thought Americans should broach certain topics.
“You are told at a young age that this is wrong, but once you grow up, you realize that it’s only one voice who tells you. There are hundreds more who will tell you that this is right,” said one of his friends in the video. They were discussing sexuality.
Dominique is explicit on his channel about being gay and even goes deep enough to share some of the experiences he’s had while traveling.
“It’s 2020, but not everyone accepts my sexuality globally. There are still people who see it as an act of evil. I am trying to find those places like the Netherlands and Berlin where their approach to life is entirely avant-garde.”
There are a few ideas Dominique likes to discuss in his videos when it comes to an aesthetic lifestyle. He lives sustainably — riding his bike across Paris and thrifting nearly every clothing item or furniture piece in his apartment — but however modern his ideas of relationships or travel may be, he borrows inspiration from a rustic style, respecting history and the places before him.
Anytime he travels to a new place, even if it is a German restaurant on the side of the highway or a random hotel in France, he makes an effort to understand the significance of it being there. He starts conversations with strangers and is not afraid to ask difficult questions.
With his bold actions and determined search to discover a culture accepting of all ideas, Dominique questions his own birthplace and what it truly means to call a place “home.” Constantly, he says that he experiences culture shock when he goes back to the United States because the ideas are stagnant compared to other places.
Even so, with such a global audience, Dominique is reinventing a more accepting mindset through his videos and influence on Instagram — focusing not on the latest fashion trends or perfection, but the small moments of life — the true value of living.
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“Society — not just America — has all [these] inventive concepts of time, success and happiness when in reality, there are bigger purposes for ourselves. If we could just learn to coexist with each other, then maybe we could actually get somewhere,” said Dominique on an Instagram post.
For Dominique, the standards of living do not include a fast-paced life, a work-for-success mindset or even the “American Dream.” Simply, he wants to enjoy what he can, living for himself and enjoying the company of others.
As the year comes to an end and a new presidency begins, Dominique will be pushing the boundaries of what is considered uncomfortable in America, questioning the status quo and what it means to be a figure of multiple cultures.
“Once you open your mind to a possibility, you can’t see it any other way. The United States has a lot of work to do in terms of being empathetic towards diverse voices and mindsets.”