anthony bourdain

'Travel isn’t always pretty': Life lessons from Anthony Bourdain

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.
— Anthony Bourdain, “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach”

The travel community and the world at large lost an icon on Friday. Anthony Bourdain, the host of CNN's "Parts Unknown," was found dead in his hotel room in France after an apparent suicide. 

During the weekend, people in the travel community reflected on Bourdain's legacy of not "Columbus-ing" other cultures and for always keeping it real. The former is essential -- Bourdain frequently chopped it up at the Waffle House and in kitchens in Hong Kong -- but the latter is what I want to talk about.

Bourdain said in "No Reservations" that traveling isn't always pretty. Curated Instagram posts and YouTube vlogs may make us feel otherwise, but Bourdain was correct. It isn't always pretty. In fact, at times it can be downright nasty.

I'm thinking back to a trip I took some time ago. I planned the trip almost a year in advance. I did my due diligence and made sure I registered with the State Department before leaving. I thought I was about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. But when I got on the ground, it all fell apart. And when I say fell apart, I mean that the entire trip blew up in my face. Without going too much into specifics, I'll say that the trip involved a lot of tears, broken glass, and the strange feeling that I was being watched. 

That's the ugly side of traveling. It's the side no one tells you about -- of ruined plans and feeling like your life could potentially be in danger. I'm guilty of romanticizing trips myself. I'm guilty of using a lot of Instagram filters and posting dozens of hashtags of me in front of tourists spots faking like I'm having a good time.

It's been some time since that trip, and I'm still affected by it. It made me look at people differently. I lost some friends but got closer to others. I lost a lot of money. I'll even say that trip changed the way I approach traveling. 

But one of the upsides to the trip was that I got to connect with the local culture and people more. That trip, filled with heartache as it was, took me out of my comfort zone more than anything. It also taught me a crucial life lesson that I don't have to make everything look pretty for other people's sake. 

Rest, Anthony. And thank you.