In Honor Of Bourdain: How Travel Makes You A Better Person
This took me by surprise but, I cried when I learned that Anthony Bourdain had passed away. It’s interesting—you can never predict which celebrity deaths will affect you. I love Prince’s music. I adore Robin Williams’ comedy. I grew up on Health Ledger Films. But none of these individuals’ deaths actually caused me to cry. I think I know why, too: while I loved their work, their real lives, or the stories they depicted in their works, didn’t quite pull at some unfulfilled desire in me the way Anthony Bourdain’s life did. I appreciated all of those celebrities: I wanted to walk in the shoes of Bourdain. I love how he immediately made everyone around him—of any culture—immediately at ease. I loved the way that he said yes to all kinds of experiences. I loved how imperfect he was, and how honest he was about that. So, in honor of Anthony Bourdain’s life, here are ways that travel makes you a better person.
You must ask for help
No matter how powerful you are in your hometown, when you travel, you lose it all. You have to ask for help. You don’t know the customs. You don’t know the rules. You need to ask questions and rely on the guidance of others or you could be ripped off at a market/never get a taxi/wind up in a bad part of town/eat something to which you’re deathly allergic. It’s good for people to ask for help. It’s humbling.
You learn to be flexible
If you travel often, you must become flexible. Flights are delayed. The restaurant you traveled hours for is out of the one thing you went there for. The room at the hostel that you thought was private actually, well, isn’t. You have to learn to be happy, even when things don’t go as planned.
You have little control
You have so little control when you travel. You expose yourself to all of these factors that you can’t possibly have any command over. It’s not like being in your own town where you can tell your Uber driver exactly which routes to take and give your server at the restaurant very specific instructions. So little is within your command. That is also humbling.
You learn what you take for granted
You learn how many things in your regular life you take for granted. Things like, organized and safe roads, reliable electricity, clean water, an apartment that’s larger than a sardine can etc.
You learn your blind spots
You also learn where your cultural blind spots are. There might be things in your own culture that you accept as normal that maybe…aren’t. Well, there is no such thing as normal but, perhaps you realize there are some things that bothered you that you learn you don’t need to tolerate. Other cultures don’t seem to.
You’re comfortable around strangers
You never fear going to a party alone again, or attending an event where you won’t know anybody. When you travel, every day is an event where you don’t know anybody.
You let go of expectations
It’s amazing how much better every day is if you let go of expectations. If your experiences don’t have to live up to some exact way you pictured them, they can actually be pretty great. When you travel, you’re forced to let go of expectations because you couldn’t possibly imagine what you’re walking into each day.
You learn to be accommodating
I just don’t know many globe trotters who are also very difficult, finicky, particular people. When you travel, you often need to accommodate someone else’s needs, preferences, culture, schedule, and more.
You appreciate the planet more
It’s strange to recycle to save the planet when, you don’t really see what’s worth saving. The rain forests seem so far away—they seem unreal. When you travel, you get to see some of the less-touched parts of our planet and become more passionate about preserving them.
You incorporate more vacation into every day
When you travel, you get the adventure bug—in a good way. You crave the ability to infuse something new and different into your life every day, even if that’s just in the city where you live and work.
You’re more open to new things
When you travel, you accept that everything will be new. So, out of necessity, you let go of your fear around the unknown. That’s a great quality to bring back home.
You release some toxic patriotism
Look, it’s great to be patriotic, but to believe that no other place has anything good to offer, well, that’s just silly and close-minded. When you travel, you start to feel more like a citizen of the world rather than just a citizen of your country. It has a way of making you feel more connected to people oceans away.
Humans become more human to you
When you watch the news and hear about things happening to people across the world, it’s hard to really connect to those people. They don’t seem real. But if you visit those places and meet those people, then hoards of strangers hundreds of miles away become human to you, and you may just become more invested in certain policies and changes.
You realize how small you are
When you travel the world, you get a grasp of just how small you are. But that’s healthy. You realize that there are so many people all over the world going about their busy lives—consumed with that date they went on or conversation they had with their boss or dinner they’ll make. When we realize how miniscule our plot—our troubles—really are, we actually become more empathetic to others.
You learn to live on little
You have to learn to live on little when you travel. You learn to turn three outfits into ten outfits because you must because baggage fees are out of control. You learn to stretch a hundred dollars into seven days worth of meals because you must.