- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

Daniel Seddiqui has an impressive resume for a 26-year-old.

His job experience includes everything from packaging hygiene kits for hurricane victims at a Mormon church in Utah to autographing female body parts as a bartender at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Last week, Mr. Seddiqui was working as a cook behind the takeout counter of a Phillips Seafood restaurant in Baltimore, the 38th stop in his “living the map” tour, a quest to work 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks.

He tries to find jobs that reflect each state’s character to help him understand its culture: a rodeo announcer in South Dakota, a high school football coach in Alabama, a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

Mr. Seddiqui graduated from the University of Southern California in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He failed to land a job and, after 40 interviews, he began to wonder what the future would bring. On a spring-break trip to Florida, however, someone offered him a job on a railroad, and he could not stop wondering what it would be like to work in the Sunshine State — and the other 49.

“I called up my best friend and said, ‘Guess what I’m going to do?’” he said.

Mr. Seddiqui’s family and friends said he was crazy, calling his quest “logistically impossible.” While finding work was sometimes difficult — he said he was rejected more than 5,000 times — his persistence paid off.

Daniel’s father, Fred Seddiqui, said he did not think his son would be able to get his tour off the ground.

“I couldn’t believe what he was telling me he wanted to do, so I ignored everything he said,” Mr. Seddiqui said from his home in Los Altos, Calif., where Daniel grew up. “It didn’t seem feasible for a kid that lived under your arm.”

Mr. Seddiqui said his son has become locally famous on the West Coast and that people who don’t know they are related will come up to him and talk to him about his son.

“People will say, ‘Have you heard about that guy who goes around to do the 50 jobs in the 50 states?’”

Randy Cruce, who was Daniel’s boss during his week in Missouri, was one of many people who decided to help make his dream a reality.

Mr. Cruce said that Mr. Seddiqui’s determination to “take the initiative” in finding a job convinced him and his co-workers to “support his endeavor to the maximum extent that we could.”

Mr. Seddiqui attended boilermaker training and shadowed a boilermaker while he worked.

Mr. Cruce said Mr. Seddiqui never sat around but always tried to see what he could do to help and fit in so well with his co-workers that he enjoyed pizza outings with them.

Not all of his jobs went so smoothly. While working as an auto mechanic in the 25th state, Michigan, Mr. Seddiqui worried he would not live past the halfway point of his quest.

“Some guy came into the shop asking me for money,” he said. “He looked like he was on crack, and he had a gun.”

Problems continued two weeks ago in West Virginia, when his host family kicked him out for writing unflattering things about the state on his blog, www.livingthemap.com. Mr. Seddiqui had to find a new place to stay and a new job. He was tempted to give up, but then he remembered something the father of his host family in Minnesota had told him: “If you’re facing obstacles and you’re driving, roll down the window and say, ‘Life is good.’”

Mr. Seddiqui found a place to stay at a reporter’s house and a new job as a coal miner — an interesting transition from his previous job as a fashion model in North Carolina. He laughed about the abrupt transition, one day being surrounded by women who obsessed about their appearance, the next day being surrounded by men who did not care how they looked.

Mr. Seddiqui said that staying with host families has been a good experience overall. He said he keeps in touch with them more than with his employers and that their free lodging and home-cooked meals make his trip affordable.

Mr. Seddiqui said his Maryland job has been one of the most challenging of the tour, citing the pressure of busy mealtimes and the hardship of working in a hot kitchen. This week he is in Delaware, working at a firm that incorporates businesses.

After his tour ends in September, Mr. Seddiqui plans to write a book about his experience. He said he has already signed over the rights for a Hollywood movie.

Mr. Seddiqui said his adventures are making this year the longest of his life because it’s monotony that makes time fly.

“If you want to live a long life, do something like this,” said Mr. Seddiqui, smiling from underneath his chef’s hat.

He said the experience has also given him the chance to learn about the different cultures of America’s states, something he says few people get the chance to do — but everyone should try.

“Before I started this, I didn’t know anything about the South,” Mr. Seddiqui said. “My goal is for people to understand each other, because how are we going to work with each other if we don’t understand each other?”

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