Last week the world lost another celebrity to suicide. Normally I don’t pay too much attention to celebrity deaths but this one is different. For years Anthony Bourdain has been my role model. My guru.
He often said he traveled the world on his belly, meaning he traveled to one exotic place after another and indulged in the local fare. He only ate local foods, only ate at local eateries, only ate with local people, and was always fascinated by how and why people cooked their native dishes. He experienced the best and worst of each location, placing a high premium on experiencing its authentic cuisine—whether that was dining on Peking Duck in a Michelin star Beijing restaurant or scarfing down a bowl of noodles from a Bangkok street vendor. And that’s the way I travel.
“Move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.” -Anthony Bourdain.
I both love and emulate his low-key traveling persona, willing to experience out of the way places, dirty places, places tourists don’t go. To him and to me, you don’t experience a place by taking in the postcard monuments and museums. And you don’t travel to a location in order to have fun. Traveling is not about seeing the top sites and having fun. It’s about merging with a different culture, and the more different the better. Travel is about learning about humanity in all its many varied forms. Travel is an eye-opening, live-changing, curiosity-appeasing quest.
“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... You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” — Anthony Bourdain