When I was younger, my dad used to drive trucks. My parents divorced early in my life and I ended up staying with him for about two or three years. He didn’t know how to take care of me well, and he was gone a lot on the road. Instead of staying in unwelcome places…I frequently went along with him. The end of third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade I traveled around the country in a tractor trailer – missing a ton of school. I met so many kind people and immersed myself in so many different cultures. It was a very unhappy period in my life, but that is the one experience I treasure out of that time in my life.
I watched the Travel Channel a lot growing up. I felt nostalgic about my experiences and in 2005 I stumbled upon a TV show called Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. And I think the sun came out for the first time. Here on TV was this brash, funny, absolutely authentic man talking about food, its relation to culture and traveling. I started thinking…maybe, just maybe I could actually achieve my goals. Maybe I would someday travel the world.
I had an old world map that I stuck thumbtacks in. I used to just sit and stare at it for hours, imagining what my life could be like once I was able to explore.
After High School I didn’t magically have the opportunities to just take off, but in college I started small. I started roaming the streets of New York City – every back alley, little coffee spot, off the cuff specialty store – and started seeing the city for the first time.
Graduating College, at the ceremony in our gowns, I joked with a friend about wanting to travel and maybe create a show later in life. She remarked that I could be like the next Anthony Bourdain. I laughed and shrugged it off, but how do you tell someone that you had a picture of a middle-aged chef on your wall for inspiration?
You don’t. With these things, I think it’s deeply personal. I eventually stopped watching the Travel Channel because it had gone to hell, and was delighted to see Tony back in action on CNN’s Parts Unknown. Years later, the same authentic voice that I trusted was back. I thought about all of the experiences that really stuck out to me – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Missing the talking statues in Caesar’s Palace, Tall rides at Jazzland (is that still a thing?), Seeing rams butt heads going across the Hoover Dam, searching for black bears in the countryside, deciding not to stay at a hotel in a bad storm and on the way back seeing it was destroyed by a tornado…and I felt reaffirmed to make my dreams come true.
Two days ago I took a very long walk to a place I often go to clear my head. I sat down and stared at the ocean for hours; taking stock of my life and reaffirming what I would like to accomplish. Now, this morning I’m awoken to my mom’s voice telling me a stranger – someone I would never meet but knowingly (dare I say) loved – was gone from this world. It may sound cruel, but ‘celebrity’ deaths usually do not impact me. I think it’s sad for a moment and then go about my day as usual. However this time, I jumped out of bed and stayed where I currently am now – in front of the TV waiting to see a tribute assembled. It feels like a small part of me, something that has become a part of my collective, has died. One of the few determining factors of inspiration that I keep buried deep in my heart.
May Mr. Tony Bourdain find whatever he was searching for in this life, in the next one. I hope he knew how many people his work truly touched. I hope to see the Vietnam he loved. I hope we realize just how important it is to live and accomplish our goals. Our dreams. Our aspirations. I hope we never feel the fear of jumping out of our comfort zone to try something new. And I hope we all continue to travel. Best wishes, and stay safe everyone.