The late and great Anthony Bourdain was so much more than a chef. He was a teacher, a doer, an adventurer. Before his tragic suicide in the Summer of 2018, he taught us invaluable lessons on life, travel and food. Bourdain was not one to let the world pass him by; he was a risk-taker, a go-getter.
But as much as he loved risk and living on the edge, he also loved experiencing different cultures firsthand. If his show Parts Unknown is any indication, he was an adventurer through and through. Taking chances, waiting for no one and always on the hunt for something bigger, better and more exciting.
His travels across the world from tiny Mexican pueblos to bustling street vendors in Bangkok spread a message of travelling deeper and more meaningfully. Here are seven lessons Anthony Bourdain taught us about life, travel and food.
Anthony Bourdain’s Lessons on Life, Travel and Food
1. “I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find the perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without the constant willingness to experience a bad one.”
Everyone knows that local food in a hole in the wall restaurant is the best. But few are willing to try it. Don’t get so hung up on fancy-schmancy dinner reservations that you don’t take the time to try something new. 95% of the time, travellers skimp on the down-home local joints because they are afraid they won’t like it.
But also 95% of the time, it winds up being an incredible, memorable and irreplaceable meal. Stop going to Hard Rock Cafes and start going to tiny taquerias and street vendors.
2. “Sleep on the floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and at and cook. Learn from them.”
Five-star hotels, champagne afternoons and quick trips to the spa are just not the way to experience a different culture. Sure, we all want to relax on vacation and we are there to ‘getaway.’ But if you’re really on a mission to experience something new, learn from the locals. Okay, you don’t really have to sleep on the floor.
But swap that swanky hotel reservation for an Airbnb and trade the spa afternoon for a local cooking class. Get out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to experience something new.
3. “There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon. A not-too-cold pint, absolutely alone at the bar.”
Take time for yourself and enjoy the little things. Travel doesn’t have to be all bold adventure, wild parties and strange food. Sometimes it’s a few moments to yourself at a pub in the afternoon. Slightly day drunk, waxing over all of life’s little pleasures.
4. “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown”
One of the best parts of travelling is not so much the sites and the museums – but the unknown. Perfect itineraries and pencilled in days are great, but give yourself time to discover something. Let something go unplanned. Do something spontaneous. If something is cancelled? Walk down the street until you see something interesting. Let the winds of adventure take you somewhere new.
5. “Your body is not a temple. It’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
Life is too fragile to waste time worrying about the perfect body or being a picky eater. So when you are travelling, leave all your inhibitions at home. Eat the francesinha, have seconds of that Southern fried chicken, go in for another bratwurst. But whatever you do, don’t deprive yourself of delicious food.
6. “Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”
So many of the world’s best cuisines prioritise simple, natural ingredients to create incredible culturable dishes. Take Italy, for example; most Italian food is made up of the same primary ingredients. Pasta which is generally made up of only egg and flour, but comes in a million different shapes and sizes customised for the sauce and meal. It’s simple yet diverse.
This quote can be applied outside the world of food, too – with moments. The best, most special moments are often times the little ones. The small clips of a smile or a laugh, something exciting, something meaningful. They’re all quite simple.
7. “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
Anthony Bourdain was perhaps the most well-travelled person of our time. He traipsed all over the globe, eating his way in and out of cultures from Thailand to Peru. Despite this, though, he never lost his sense of wonder and the underlying feeling that all of this was bigger than him.
Want even more life lessons from Anthony Bourdain? Read some of his best quotes here.