Anthony Bourdain made a life of traveling the world and tasting food from every corner of it. And perhaps his most important legacy is the knowledge he gained — and shared — from countless cultural exchanges. You see, Bourdain wasn’t the average journalist. And his no bullsh*t attitude offered a refreshingly honest glimpse into the world of food and travel.
Throughout each of his adventures abroad, Bourdain took the time to sit down with the locals. He interacted with them, shared ideas, and had real, honest conversations. In turn, Bourdain inspired millions to do the same. And he will be missed.
In the wake of his death, we look back on 10 of Bourdain’s most memorable quotes about travel, food, and life.
1. On trying new things
Bourdain made it his mission to experience far-flung places, trying anything and everything along the way. So, it’s no surprise he often spoke about the importance of doing just that. After all, a life without new experiences would be a boring one, indeed.
In his book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, he wrote,
Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, moribund.
Next: Go out and seek new experiences.
2. On the importance of moving
Leaving your comfort zone is, simultaneously, one of life’s most terrifying and rewarding moments. Moving is scary, and it often comes with feelings of abandonment. That said, it opens your mind and forces change. And Bourdain’s thoughts on the matter? Well, he was all about living outside your element. He said,
If I am an advocate for anything, it is to 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. It’s a plus for everybody.
Next: Don’t plan too much.
3. On happy accidents
If you know anything about Bourdain, you know he’d never dream of booking a trip through a travel agent. Never. Quite the opposite, he was an outspoken advocate for ditching the perfectly outlined itinerary for good reason. In fact, he said,
I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, I think, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.
Next: Always the humble celebrity
4. On knowing one’s place
Bourdain had an insatiable appetite for speaking the truth, and his passion for learning new things was always evident. Therefore, he spoke honestly about having had plenty of room for personal growth. Regarding his life’s journey, Bourdain said,
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.
Next: Don’t let fear paralyze you.
5. On living without fear
In a world where people seem to be afraid of everything — afraid of what could go wrong — Bourdain preferred to throw caution to the wind. Throughout his career, he told people to explore everything the world has to offer. And, more importantly, don’t let fear paralyze you.
Food poisoning from a street vendor, for example, was something Bourdain didn’t let get in his way. And that says a lot about his philosophy on life. In Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Bourdain wrote,
Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
Next: It’s not just about the food.
6. On sharing meals with strangers
A good meal is so much more than perfectly-cooked meats and appropriately-flavored sides. Bourdain, of course, knew that. In fact, he said,
Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.
Next: There’s so much to be gained from travel.
7. On the effects travel has on a person
Obviously, Bourdain had an overwhelming archive of wise travel quotes. One of the best came from his book, The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones. In it, he wrote,
Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.
Next: It’s your life — enjoy it.
8. On enjoying life to the fullest
Despite Bourdain’s collection of best-selling books, award-winning TV shows, and thought-provoking insights, there’s one thing the journalist would never do, and that was preach. Bourdain did not preach; he imparted wisdom based on his own experience. And if he could inspire others to leave home in search of soaking up the richest of other cultures, then he’d done his job. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed, not feared.
In his book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Bourdain wrote,
Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.
Next: No regrets
9. On regret and his career
When Bourdain died on June 8, 2018, the world truly lost an icon. Always outspoken, the best-selling author, TV personality, and renowned chef wouldn’t have taken anything back — not for a minute. Rocky roads and trying challenges aside, Bourdain lived — and died — doing what he loved. Of his wild journey, he said,
I’ll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Next: Never stop seeking the unknown.
10. On always being hungry to learn more
As mentioned, Bourdain was on a never-ending hunt for more. But it wasn’t for more money, more recognition, or more success. Quite the opposite, he searched for more experiences, more knowledge, more cultural exchanges. And that is some of the most valuable advice he left behind.
In Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, he wrote,
If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, and hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them, wherever you go.
Without a doubt, the world will miss Anthony Bourdain. We thank him for teaching us so much, showing us the world, and inspiring everyone to do the same.
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