We don’t think it’s a stretch to say Anthony Bourdain was one of the most interesting characters of our time. He effortlessly taught a generation of otherwise wet-behind-the-eared youths how to sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. He taught us how to bridge the gaps between the culinary extravagance of things like Russian caviar and French oysters, and a pastrami sandwich on rye at Pastrami Queen. And because of that, he taught us that we—all 7 billion of us—ain’t that different. He was wise, but that didn’t stop him from using hashtags like #NewYorkMotherFuckinCity.
Luckily for us starry-eyed wanderers and mileage-counting journeyers, he also imparted timeless wisdom about what—and what not—to do while on life’s lonesome highways. Here are our 10 favorite travel tips from the man, the myth, and the legend himself, the late Anthony Bourdain:
Don’t Eat Airplane Food—Always Arrive Hungry
In an interview Bourdain did with Bon Appétit, he said that he never eats on the plane to anywhere. His first point, which is obvious and to which we can personally attest, was that no one ever really feels good after eating plane food. It’s plane food. But his second point was that he’s a food guy, and since going to interesting culinary destinations was his job, he always liked to arrive somewhere hungry.
Be a Traveler; Not a Tourist
Are you headed to Paris? Do everything but stand atop the Eiffel Tower, because according to Bourdain, it’s lethal to your soul. Drawing yourself up an action-packed itinerary? Don’t. It’ll ruin your trip, and everything else you thought you were looking for when you decided to leave home. Stay off TripAdvisor and Yelp, and just go do the damn thing. Be the Parts Unknown you want to see in the world.
Don’t Preface Your Experiences Around Safety or Cleanliness
When you sit back and ask yourself why you want to travel, there are generally two types of people: Those who want to be somewhere; somewhere they’ve seen in a movie, or on some reputed travel website, or while scrolling through the #EarthPorn Instagram hashtag. And those who want to adventure somewhere; those who want to get out into the world, grab it by the short and curlies, and be astounded by just how significant it all is. Bourdain was an adventurer, and in that same Time interview, he notes that people are over concerned about things like safety and cleanliness in ways that often inhibit their ability to experience new things. Adventuring, by design, is sometimes dangerous and often dirty. But that’s kind of the point. Do it for the thrill of it all.
Harness The Power of “Food Nerd Fury”
Many avid travelers and foodies—Bourdain included—often condemn food review websites or travel websites, but by his own words, Bourdain told Shermans Travel that with a little tact and cunning, they can be used for good. His advice was, “Say you’re going to a new place; go online and find any old reference on Google for a good restaurant. Before you go, post about that restaurant on a local food forum and say that you had the best [region/country’s specialty] there. Inevitably, it will spark rage in the locals and they’ll tell you where their favorite spot is and how it’s so much better.” Was this guy a fucking genius, or what? We bet Reddit works well.
Read Novels By People Who Spent Time In These Places—Not Bona Fide Guide Books
Literary nerds, rejoice! Bourdain also told Shermans Travel that the best way for travelers to get a general feel for or vibe of a new place isn’t to seek out the typical guide books for tourists, but to read novels written by people who spent actual time in the places you want to go. “Ex-intelligence officers, NGO workers. It doesn’t matter how old the book is, it’ll give you a sense of how a place smells, feels, the little intricacies, annoyances, and delights of a place.” For instance, if you’re traveling to the Australian Outback, consider The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin. Or if Paris is your destination, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast will make you want to walk through every charming Parisian street your feet will allow. These books incense and and create longing in us in ways the ordinary travel guide can’t.
“Just Be Nice”
Over the years, we’ve read dozens of Q&A’s and interviews with Bourdain, and it seems a common theme in every single one of them was, “Don’t be a dickhead.” In an interview he did with The New York Times in 2017, Bourdain summed up his thoughts in one sentence: “Just be nice.” Don’t worry, he also elaborated: “Getting angry and frustrated in much of the world doesn’t help at all. It’s incomprehensible, you lose face, it makes you look ridiculous.” AKA, don’t be a dick, right?
Don’t Eat Mussels Unless You Know Where They Came From
Bourdain was known ‘round the world as the guy who’d eat anything you put in front of him. He once ate the still-beating heart of a cobra in China, a rotten fetal duck egg in Vietnam, and he even braved Iceland’s infamous cultural “delicacy,” fermented shark. But one thing he advised against on numerous occasions, including an interview with The Guardian, is that no matter where in the world you are, never eat mussels unless you either know the chef personally, or have verifiable proof of how they’re stored.
Don’t Travel Solely For Good Times
In his sixth book, released as a companion to his show of the same name, No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, Bourdain offers up a ton of excellent advice to any would-be or aspiring traveler willing to thumb the pages. Of the wisdom he imparts, this quote is probably our favorite:
“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 mark on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
Here, Bourdain isn’t talking about cockroaches in a sleeping cabin or a severe case of traveler’s diarrhea. He’s talking about the fact that we come from a first-world country, and most of our problems are distinctly first-world ones. When you leave the comfort of your warm homes, with comfortable sofas and full refrigerators, you enter a world that is still cold and often cruel. But as human beings, we owe it to ourselves to experience these things firsthand when and where we can. When we do open ourselves up to these sometimes uncomfortable experiences, we grow from them.
You Don’t Have To Visit Big Cities To Have a Good Time
If you know anything about Anthony Bourdain, it’s that he was excited to go anywhere and everywhere. He’d be as comfortable in a high-end Hungarian hotel as in a bullet-hole ridden hotel in Beirut, and it was this mentality that we believe contributed mostly to his infectious storytelling and lust for travel. He frequently advised people to take the path less traveled, and visit places less visited, like Oman, for instance.
Drink. A Lot. With Everybody.
What more can we say about this one, a tip Bourdain gave to the folks over at Bootsnall.com? The best stories we have from the road, the best people we’ve met, the best conversations we’ve had, all have started with a drink or five. We back Bourdain’s advice here 100%.