“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks—on your body or on your heart—are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” — Anthony Bourdain
When Anthony Bourdain passed away this year, it struck me harder than most celebrity deaths. Not that I had watched a thousand episodes of “Parts Unknown,” or that I even owned a copy of Kitchen Confidential. I don’t know if that makes me much of a fan, but I’ve always admired Bourdain for many reasons. The quote above is one of those reasons. Travel has left marks on me, marks that I don’t know if I can ever replace or supplement. I believe my wonder for traveling owes itself to him.
I remember laying face-down on the twin bed in our Pop Century Disney World hotel room, watching “Parts Unknown.” It was an episode about El Salvador, and though I vaguely remember what happened in it, some visuals have stayed in my mind: Bourdain rummaging through a household while the family watches him, a late-night, outdoor festival with music and singing, and limitless, exotic food.
What strikes me most about Bourdain, though, is his advocacy for women’s rights (especially during the Weinstein era of #MeToo), political accountability, and his personal battle with depression. I will always admire how he exposed his viewers to people without seeking to exploit or caricature them. He approached his show’s subjects with an earnest curiosity and respect, not to erase their culture, but to present it faithfully and truthfully. He spoke out against insulation, intolerance, injustice. It was easy to feel that, in spite of his demons, he had an ideal lifestyle: traveling, eating, writing around the world. But, you cannot judge how a person thinks or feels just from how they present themselves. Mental illness is awful. Anxiety and depression’s stigmas must be fought. Reach out to the people you love. He lived a dream life, complete with traveling and food-tasting, and yet persists the myth of “having it all”; that someone can have a successful career, fame, and a family, and still feel depressed. His career blossomed late, allowing him to challenge social norms with a witty, yet wise and experienced eye.