June 14, 2018, by Michael Erving
We lost a giant in the worlds of travel and cuisine on Friday. Anthony Bourdain was, to many, more than just a lovable, profane, traveling chef who sought out all corners of the world and wanted to engage with them (especially if “engaging” meant chowing down on something).
Bourdain also showed us a great deal of what it meant to travel (or at least how he liked to travel), and how travel should—and will—change you. He was honest, authentic, and opinionated, and to say that he will be missed is a vast understatement. Among countless life lessons, cooking techniques, and ways/things to drink (and cure a hangover) here’s just a glimmer of what he taught us about travel:
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel—as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them—wherever you go.”
Sometimes, getting out is the hardest part of traveling (especially if you’re no longer 22/impervious to sleeping on floors). The fear of the unknown is a real thing, and, especially with all the chaos happening in certain places, it’s easy to be afraid. But sometimes all it takes is booking that flight, hotel, tour, or reservation to get the ball rolling—and if you can keep that ball rolling (and keep an open mind when you’re there), you’ll come out the other side a changed person.
“The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
Speaking of Chaos: Roll with the Punches and Wing It
“I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one.”
While it’s our goal as a company to minimize negative travel experiences as much as possible, sometimes, it just happens. You get sick, your server spills a plate of food on your lap, the weather is exactly the opposite of what you were expecting. In a lot of ways, this kind of stuff can make for some of the best (or most memorable, anyway), most authentic travel experiences. Sure, these foibles might not be ideal, but there’s something bigger to be heard here: take a risk; give yourself more credit for what you think you can handle. Whether it’s a spontaneous skydive, a treatment at a Turkish bath, or a game of street food roulette, we say go for it.
When You’re There, Go All In
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
Bourdain was famous for many things, but this might be what he’s most famous for. When he traveled, he really went for it—like really, really went for it. He leaned hard into wherever he was and tried to find the good, even if it wasn’t necessarily his notion of what “good” was. This is a guy who’d get pie-eyed in Thailand, and go to a strip club in Atlanta with Alton Brown (just to name a few things). And when he when, he brought an open mind and a willingness to engage with people that we can—and probably should—all take with us when we travel.
“To be treated well in places where you don’t expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with, well that can’t be a bad thing.”
This willingness to engage with people—even if they’re very dissimilar to him on paper—was one of the most respectable qualities Bourdain carried with him wherever he went. One of the more genuine ways this was exemplified was in his relationship with Ted Nugent. On paper, they were as politically opposite as they come (as Bourdain put it “I don’t think we’re going to be hugging it out at the Democratic National Convention any time soon.”). But when it came to eating piles of grilled meat and drinking a beer, political differences didn’t matter; what mattered was the relationship. And however different they were, they still stood on common ground—however small a sliver it was—and shared the same food and the same experiences. And having these kinds of experiences is what travel is all about.
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
RIP, Tony. You, your work, and your love of travel, food, and profanity will be deeply missed
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