Anthony Bourdain’s death was a gut punch for me. I found out about his passing through an NPR notification in my peripheral while in the middle of slurping down some beef noodles. We don’t get too many good noodle places in rural North Carolina. Before I moved to China, most of what I knew about noodles as a culinary genre came from Bourdain and his shows. It was something I was excited to dive into the second I stepped off the plane, and I did.
You don’t really comprehend the amount of pull and influence someone has had in your life until they are taken away as abruptly as Bourdain was. His programming captivated me before I had even left the country for the first time and was the source of much wanderlust, daydreaming, and general restlessness that almost certainly played a role in my first passport application.
I watched Bourdain’s Iceland episode before I ever found myself digging ditches with my future wife under the shadow of its prehistoric geology, and I saw him freezing his ass off in Harbin before China was ever on my radar. A couple of years later, I was freezing my ass off there, too.
It’s obviously very easy to say he inspired me to travel like so many other millennials I know. But that’s not the most important thing I took away from Bourdain’s work. Traveling itself is quite easy, provided you have the funds. It’s another thing entirely to make the most of that experience once you’re there and take something meaningful back home with you. That’s not so easy as entering your credit card details on Expedia.
Bourdain taught me to say yes. If I have the choice between trying barbecued lamb testicles for the first time or not at all, it’s better to say yes and walk away with the experience. Sure, sheep balls may not be great, but it’s good to know for sure rather than listening to the naysayers who, by the way…ARE WRONG!
You learn a hell of a lot more about a place by saying yes to strangers and accepting invitations. This doesn’t exactly sound like your parents’ advice, but traveling has no point if you remain cemented into your comfort zone for the duration of your trip. Saying yes has lead me to some interesting places, questionable dishes, precarious situations, and volatile libations. Each has in turn lead me to a small shard of enlightenment that would have been unobtainable otherwise.
For this tool of saying yes, I’m grateful to Anthony Bourdain. I only wish it didn’t take something like this to remind me of this valuable tool, dust it off, and use it as much as possible while I can.