My Love/Hate Relationship with Anthony Bourdain
I awoke at 5am this morning and lay in bed for awhile. Some mornings I wake up at 5am and manage to get back to sleep for a few more minutes, but most mornings I fail. Today, I opened up my phone to see the headline that someone I have long admired had died. Then I looked further to find out that he had killed himself. I lost my breath.
My admittedly one sided relationship with Anthony Bourdain goes back over a decade. He didn’t really hit my radar until I left the corporate world in 2007 and began realizing my own dream of world travel. He seemed to travel in a way I wasn’t quite capable of. Yes, I am a “world traveler” (whatever that means) but he does it so much better.
While I was traveling back then it was easy to admire him. He showed me places and inspired me to visit them. Sometimes he would visit a place after I did and show me how it really should have been done. Yes, he had a production crew and cameramen, but he was the great storyteller. He told stories in ways that touched the almost crippling urge to travel that lives deep inside of me.
There were also times when I couldn’t stand to watch Anthony Bourdain. When I returned from my families’ around the world trip and went back into the corporate world I couldn’t watch his show. Seeing Anthony Bourdain travel and visit exotic places literally made me sick. His stories were as good as ever but I was trapped. My urge to travel suppressed.
So for many years I stopped watching and then something strange happened. My job wore me down, I began suffering from anxiety and during that recovery process my old friend was there to once again show me the world and tell me stories. I watched him day after day for quite some time before he and that urge lead me back to the road.
The closest I would ever come to Anthony Bourdain was about a year later in Kerala, India. After being inspired to re-start this blog and to hit the road again for awhile, I was selected for a 14 day press trip around the Indian state of Kerala. Naturally the state’s tourism department gave us the finest tour guide they had (Manoj). The same one they gave to Anthony Bourdain during his visit.
During that trip we did many of the same things that Bourdain did during his visit to Kerala. I was traveling in his footsteps. While I enjoyed the trip itself, I also couldn’t keep myself from peppering our guide with questions about him during the down times. I asked about his production staff and how it all worked. He told me the crew was small and that Bourdain was a kind and generous man who was professional but also loved what he was doing.
Since then I have continued my love/hate relationship with Bourdain. During times when I am busy and traveling less frequently his stories are too heartbreaking to see. But when my travel bug feels satisfied, I long to see and hear about the adventures of a man who does it the way I want to.
I’m so sad today because I have friends and family who have deeply been affected by depression, mental illness and suicide. I’m so sad today because I have lost someone who felt quite close despite never actually having been in my life. I’ll miss his stories, but am so grateful for everything he gave to this world and to the travel community specifically.
Be in peace my friend.