Travel Obsessions and What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

My plan for this rainy Saturday was to sit here at my desk and write about my newfound obsession with planning travel adventures. But Anthony Bourdain died yesterday. And that changes everything.

Anthony Bourdain is the reason I have travel dreams at all. My introduction to his show, “No Reservations,” changed me and the way I look at the world.

“I have long maintained a theory that Anthony Bourdain—who died on Friday, at the age of sixty-one, of an apparent suicide—was the best-known celebrity in America. There are, I realize, actual ways to measure this sort of thing, but the intimacy that Bourdain cultivated with his fans was of a sort that transcended Q scores and approval polls.”

Rosner, Helen. “Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 9 June 2018, www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/anthony-bourdain-and-the-power-of-telling-the-truth.

I am so grateful someone like Anthony Bourdain touched my life. I will not comment on his passing but instead will focus on how glad I am that he lived.

Like so many others, I changed because of him.

Anthony Bourdain honored the places that he visited for his show. You could see a true respect for fellow humans, for the culture and traditions of the places that he would immerse himself in. I loved him for that.

He seemed willing to go anywhere, to eat anything, to meet anyone. He dived into the new and the different. To Bourdain, the world was not a place to be feared, ridiculed or approached with trepidation or disgust. He did not look down on the foreign places he visited. …Instead, Bourdain seemed to have a curiosity, openness and respectful desire to learn and understand that should shame many a journalist — and a president or two.

Abouzeid, Rania. “Perspective | Anthony Bourdain Showed the Middle East I Know and Love.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 June 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/06/08/anthony-bourdain-showed-the-middle-east-that-i-know-and-love/.

I love the beauty and passion that I would see in a place when I saw it through his eyes. He would connect with the environment in a way that I envied. I don’t know if I envied it because I thought myself incapable of it or because I was in my living room and not there with him, but he sparked in me a desire to share his experiences.

Oh my, and the food. Watching him eat was a glorious delight of the visual senses. Once upon a time, I was an incredibly picky eater. Anthony Bourdain inspired me to try new foods and have no fear. I wanted what he was having, whatever it might be. Now I will happily give something a taste, regardless of what it might be, to explore the sensation of eating it and determine whether it is something I enjoy.

I have him to thank for how much I delight in and respect food both as an art form and for its cultural significance.

He made the world seem smaller, more manageable, less large and scary and much more accessible and real.

Because of him, I knew that I would someday travel. I want to experience the places that he has gone. I don’t only want to see the world’s most photographed tourist destinations, but to see the world the way that he did. He would immerse with locals and not just learn, but experience the local traditions and norms. Anthony Bourdain inspires me to want the same.

Anthony Bourdain makes me want to step outside my comfort zone and leave the traditions and norms of my own upbringing behind.

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I honored Anthony Bourdain last night with my “Big Joe” wine glass, a completely unpretentious red blend, and a travel book on Ireland. Plus, a revisit of the Ireland episode of No Reservations.

Because of him, I am inspired to overcome my fears and venture to new lands. I want to see the world. I want to taste new flavors. I want to meet and get to know new people. I want to experience life outside of what I am used to.

And now, some dozen-odd years after seeing my first episodes of No Reservations, I am making plans to do just that. It is not something that I thought I would ever have the option of doing, or courage to do. I thought my life would follow a much different trajectory. And yet, here we are. It is time for me to see the world. I’m not jumping in with both feet just yet; I’m starting small, dipping my toe in, having a “mini-adventure” but still getting outside my comfort zone. It’s a start, though. Bigger adventures will follow.

Through the simple act of sharing meals, he showcased both the extraordinary diversity of cultures and cuisines, yet how much we all have in common.

Stelter, Brian. “CNN’s Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 June 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/06/08/us/anthony-bourdain-obit/index.html.

Which brings me to the topic I initially thought I was going to write about today. I have become obsessed with planning trips. It is glorious and I am so happy to do it. For every one location I admire, a dozen more are brought into my consciousness as places I desire to see. And I plan on seeing them all.

Until I got news of Anthony Bourdain’s death, this post was going to be about travel and running away from emotions and my current life. I feared that my travel obsession was a reflection of a desire to escape.

In some ways, I think it might be. But I do not see it as something unhealthy. Doesn’t everybody need vacations? The truth is, I have had relatively few of them in my life. My family is on the opposite side of the country and my vacation time is often used visiting them.

Anthony Bourdain’s death has reminded me though, that I am not necessarily running away from my current world, from my recovery from abuse, from my depression or from my anxiety. Or if I am, I am simultaneously running towards new worlds. I am leaping with my arms wide open towards new experiences and I am doing it without fear. And it is because of him.

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RIP, Anthony Bourdain. You were appreciated, you were loved, and you will be remembered with great honor and gratitude.

3 thoughts on “Travel Obsessions and What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

  1. I’ve been thinking about Bourdain and how he travelled a lot recently. He really opened my eyes to the whole experience of how you travel, from sharing a meal with strangers to wandering the streets, being uncomfortable, and having memories both good and bad to return home with. I think travelling makes us all humble, and gives us all a grander appreciation for things. Thank you, and may you rest with a full stomach, Anthony.

  2. I haven’t written posts on celebrity suicides even though, like a lot of others, Linkin Park will forever be on my playlist on my worst days. I never know what to say. I might write one just for Anthony Bourdain, though, because travel and food are so much a part of me and so much of what I think of when I try to remember the “good” in the midst of times lime I’m having now. I travel every year – now with my partner – over the holidays. It’s my own holiday tradition since going back to my family isn’t healthy for me anytime other than when I must to address crap pulled by the system. I loved how Anthony Bourdain’s show always reminded me that if nothing else, no matter how bad it got, there was always more places to see – and things to eat – in the world. I’ve told myself lately “just get through until September to see where you are going this year.” (International tickets for Christmas time are ALWAYS cheapest in September, so it’s my own mini Christmas to go to skyscanner and Google airline search and work out what random place I can afford to go to each year.) I always could tell Anthony Bourdain kind of had the same outlook to travel as therapy. I’d love to have met him and told him his show always helped justify that the expense was worth it because travel counterbalanced the dark times, and anything that does is worth it. I bet he’d have understood that sentiment.

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