How Anthony Bourdain Inspired Us to Be Better Travelers

Following the June 2018 death of the beloved chef, writer, and TV host, AFAR editors reflect on the valuable lessons Bourdain taught through his enduring appetite for culture.

How Anthony Bourdain Inspired Us to Be Better Travelers

Following Anthony Bourdain’s passing in June 2018, flowers, photos, and notes were placed in front of Brasserie Les Halles, the New York City restaurant where he once worked as executive chef.

Photo by Donald Bowers Photography / Shutterstock

On June 8, 2018, the world was shocked by the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death. People around the globe posted online tributes and shared stories of the celebrity chef, best-selling author, and award-winning TV personality, outlining the myriad ways in which Bourdain left a lasting impact on them, whether directly or indirectly.

Through collective grief over Bourdain’s death, it became clear that he was a role model to people around the world, both for those who knew him personally and those who’d only been acquainted with him through a screen or on a page.

The captivating stories Bourdain shared with the world detailing his food and travel exploits (from his New York Times best seller Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly to the Emmy Award–winning series No Reservations on the Travel Channel and Parts Unknown on CNN) played an important role in encouraging travelers everywhere to think more critically about the ways we understand people, cultures, and places unfamiliar to us.

While June 8 marks the anniversary of Bourdain’s death, two of his longtime friends, chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés, have chosen to honor Bourdain’s life on different day of the month. In a tweet sent on May 30, 2019, the chefs declared that they would recognize June 25 (Bourdain’s birthday) as “Bourdain Day.” In the video, posted by Ripert, the two call June “a very important month” and encourage people around the world to share their own tributes to Bourdain using the hashtag #BourdainDay.

When AFAR first wrote the blueprint for what our publication would become back in 2009, Anthony Bourdain was a huge influence. His openness to the world, his unending interest in talking to people of all backgrounds, and his ability to discover stories at every turn were inspirations. Here, a few AFAR editors share the lessons they learned from Bourdain, in the spirit of celebrating his lasting legacy throughout the month of June and beyond.

“I still remember the Lebanon episode of No Reservations. Shortly after Anthony Bourdain and his crew arrived in Beirut, a conflict broke out and bound them to the hotel. It would have been easy to hole up in a suite until the coast was clear, but instead, Bourdain went to the kitchen. He talked to people who lived and worked in this vibrant and sometimes hostile environment. He listened to their stories, he cooked alongside them and unified everyone at the hotel—guests and staff alike—for a meal. He strove to find grounding in the chaos. While that particular situation was more severe than most, the lesson translates to all travel: Do more than simply visit a place. Engage with the world.” —Nicole Antonio, AFAR managing editor

“I met Anthony Bourdain in New York City a few years ago at an event that celebrated Singapore’s iconic street food heritage—a humble cuisine that became a bucket list travel experience for people around the world, thanks to him. Last week I happened to be in Singapore and spent time with a dear friend of Bourdain’s: KF Seetoh, the go-to authority on Singaporean street food. As Seetoh shared Bourdain’s awe for the delicious tradition of hawker dining culture in Singapore—and told the world why we should elevate this cuisine—I was reminded of the depths of Bourdain’s empathy, which he took with him everywhere he went. Here was an individual who was truly able to walk a mile in another person’s shoes and who inspired the world to do the same.” —Jennifer Flowers, AFAR deputy editor

“Bourdain was completely fearless in his travels. There was no destination too daunting, no food item too weird. He cannonballed into a place feet first and soaked up everything its people had to offer. He treated getting to know a place like the privilege it is and in so doing uncovered its essence. If I can be half as intrepid in my daily life and in my journeys abroad, I’ll consider it a lesson well learned from the man who elevated travel to an art.” —Kate Sommers-Dawes, AFAR deputy digital editor

“More than anything, Anthony Bourdain taught me to embrace the unknown. He was always so at ease when he traveled, never afraid of unfamiliar places, or people, or food; he just dove in head first. I’m always trying to be more like that. Travel can be intimidating, but thanks to Bourdain, I know that I’m only cheating myself if I don’t go beyond my comfort zone.” —Natalie Beauregard, AFAR guides editor

“I often felt that No Reservations should have been called ‘No Bullshit.’ That’s the side of Bourdain I most appreciated: He’d go into a city he’d never been to and seek out real people. He was ‘authentic’ before it was co-opted by marketers. He could appreciate the high and the low, and I got the sense that he could see people for who they really were, beyond any glitz or glamour. He used his books and shows to speak truth and celebrate the shared humanity that exists across this big, messy world we all call home.”—Julia Cosgrove, AFAR editor in chief

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out. In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

>>Next: Making the World Better, One Traveler at a Time

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