My Love/Hate Relationship with Anthony Bourdain

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Kerala Blog Express
The Kerala backwaters. In the footsteps of Bourdain.

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.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Love/Hate what a terrible way to post your blog! I have read your blog and it is sincere by using “love/hate” you make it about yourself! This is not a moment to make it about your feelings about watching him. A.B. obviously had many demons and all that really should be said is that it is truly a “sad moment” and refer your followers to the national suicide hotline!! 1-800-273-8255. You made it about yourself..such a shame

    • Thanks for reading. You clearly haven’t read my writing for a long time nor did you read what I wrote. I’m sorry if you didn’t care to read beyond the title but this was not about me but instead about his effect on the world. Please read that last paragraph. Read it again. Then read it a 3rd and 4th time. A 5th even! Nothing in this post was about me.

  2. i read it all. so wrong with choice of the title. By recounting your experiences, you made it about yourself because you talked about your “evolution” with A.B. The man has just committed suicide; all you had to do is to talk about his contributions rather than you talking about your “evolution” from “love to hate”

  3. It isn’t an issue of your “writing style”. i am pretty sure that you have never addressed “suicide” on your blog.
    Someone killing them self should never had “love/hate” in the title. I have re read your blog and still don’t see the need to use the word “hate” just after someone had committed suicide. You could have used a better title, but then again its all about the “shock value” which brings people to your blog. Your title made me wonder why you would use the word “hate” as it related to someone committing suicide and so, I “clicked’ on the article because of the title. It is all about “web traffic” What a shame, because I have enjoyed your articles.

    • Tobyk, I beg to differ without having your bile thrown at me. Very unfortunate that you’re inflicting your own deeply felt pain now and trying to hurt Shawn with it. By contrast, I fully and easily comprehended Shawn’s post, and I found it moving, personal, and quite appropriate in the tragic moment at hand…. Shawn on the one hand could share with us his admiration for Bordain’s work (the “love”) and yet also the envy at not being able to be in Bordain’s footsteps…. (a light hearted way of saying “hate” — I’m sure the salty Bordain would quite comprehend

      Happens I worked at a mental hospital complex for some time, then later a year in Kuwait, five years after the occupation, studying the effects of societal wide ptsd…. — I know well the power, the horror of depression…. have lost friends and associates to it… I didn’t take Shawn’s post as unduly insensitive. Rather, it’s his own personal reflection….

      In this case, I sincerely have trouble believing that Bordain, of all the courageous, brilliant, empathetic souls out there, could take his own life…… Happens he made a lot “enemies” over the years, precisely for his spectacularly “independent” films from Iran, from Vietnam, and yes, even from Gaza…. (about the “holy trinity” of bad guys in the American media refrains of late…. whipped up by angry, vicious voices from certain networks….. But Bordain in his usual engaging, empathic, independent way, cut past that….)

      For those trapped in their corporate worlds, unable to do what truly made a difference, rather than serving the powerful and greedy, the warmongers everywhere….. yes, Bordain was a challenge…. a threat….. “love him or hate him,” he was a wonderful soul….. and will be missed by nearly all. (except for Henry Kissinger…. google it)

  4. Shawn, this was such a touching article. I loved how you shared with us your life story of corporate life, anxiety and your travel bug. All of these I can relate to as I finally quit my corporate life to follow in your footsteps.

  5. Great article Shawn. You got your point across in a thoughtful compassionate way. TOBYK you really need to take a step back, apologize to Shawn or take your misguided hate /judgement elsewhere.

  6. To hell with the trolls. Bless you for a heartfelt, kind and sincere piece. The title might come across as harsh, but I am not sure how else one could say what you have so eloquently expressed.

  7. there’s enough written (and that will be written) about bourdain by people who knew him, mental health experts, etc. – this was a nice personal reflection on your love-hate relationship with someone many of us feel we knew even though we never met him.

  8. The expression “love-hate relationship” is one that the majority of us native English speakers is aware. Perhaps Tobyk is not aware of the idiom.

    In any case, Shawn, your post expresses the duality of most of us in the travel loving world. Love to read about travel when we ourselves are able to have the experience and then unable to enjoy it when we’re stuck in a situation when we must stay in a (corporate) rut for whatever reasons. Love-Hate. Anthony Bourdain will be sorely missed by us souls who crave seeing the world.

    A truly one-of-a-kind man. R.I.P.

  9. Umm in my opinion….

    Clearly an emotional well meaning post. However I’m sorry… when I saw love/HATE in the title and subsequently in the piece, it was very unsettling about a man who sadly took his own life.

    I think you should take a step (or 3) back and consider the (implied) disrespect in the terminology. You clearly didn’t mean it? However you used the word hate in reference to a man not even cold in the ground. No?

    All the best to you Shawn!

    • Agree. All the white knight groupies trying to “defend” Shawn are embarrassing. The guy is a writer. He knows there are a millions ways to convey his point. Yet he made a specific decision to use the word HATE – in the title as well – knowing full well it would draw clicks. Weak. Weak. Weak.

      • Believe me, I didn’t do it for the clicks. Glad a lot of people got enjoyment out of it. If you had asked me a week ago how I felt about Anthony Bourdain I would have described my love/hate relationship. That’s the truth. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Let’s also not forget I didn’t use the word hate isolated. Love/hate is an expression and my article accurately describes what that expression means. I also have a love/hate relationship with commenters on this site for the record. 😉

  10. Shawn, Loved the article. Beautiful. It’s interesting how someone you never met can have such an influence on you. Keep up the exceptional writing.

  11. Very emotional article. Isn’t it odd how we can feel so close to someone we have never actually met. It’s because he was brave enough to be vulnerable. We also identify because we’ve all wrestled with negative issues at varying times in our lives. There is always hope. The world will miss you Anthony.

  12. I had stopped watching for a while, and was shocked and even disbelieving at first, wondering if it could possibly be someone else of the same name. Of course it was irrational wondering, but I continue to be rocked by the thought of suicide, especially by those who seem outwardly to “have it all together”. I wonder too, how many in that state are actually helped by a hotline; and so pray for anyone contemplating it today, that SOMETHING will stop them, and lead them to seek help instead. In my belief, that SOMETHING is SOMEONE, God, and the Holy Spirit; but anyway, LORD, please let there be SOME prompt which stops that dark self destructive mental dialogue in its tracks, and leads to light and life. In Jesus Name (the one who said “I come that you might have Life and have it more abundantly”)… amen and AMEN!!!

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