Everyone has a “first” with Anthony Bourdain. The first time he hooked you into an exotic world, somewhere far from your couch. The first time he changed the way you looked at food on a television screen. The first time he made you an addict of his humor, knowledge, and candor.
I remember the first time Anthony Bourdain hooked me right into his world of fearlessness. It was season 2 of his show on the Travel Channel called: The Layover. I was on my living room couch in Taipei, watching Bourdain try the famously pungent local dish: stinky tofu, in Taipei. He was fascinated, unafraid, and loved every bite of the deep fried fermented cubes, covered in marinated spicy cabbage and shredded carrots. No qualms, no doubts, no reservations.
The obsession of watching this 61-year-old nomad traverse through the most authentic parts of the world stemmed from the way he freed our minds. In times of Americans being coined as “uncultured,” he inspired us. He educated us, and he made us jealous at times. Through his video essays, Bourdain taught us that food was an integral gateway to tolerance. A bite into a slice of Iranian pizza dipped in ketchup is peeking into the lives of young Iranian men racing American cars. A final stop before leaving Japan isn’t complete without a stop by a local convenient store for a few plastic packaged sandwiches. Because of Bourdain, street foods stand tall next to Michelin-starred meals because each reveals unique stories of local cultures.
It’s still unbelievable. The man who ensured we remained curious has left us puzzled in shock. Even if you’re not a travel writer, Bourdain seemed to lived THE dream. Constantly on the road, always devouring the best of what each culture has to offer. But we often forget, traveling can be lonely. We will never know, but maybe, just maybe, fierce loneliness can overwhelm a soul so achingly it kills the hunger for life.
I’ve always been a firm believer that traveling is a valuable approach to alleviate mental illness, depression and anxiety. I always thought that when inserted into a world completely unlike our own, the internal changes that transcend from within can only lead to positivity and optimism. Now that Anthony Bourdain – a cultural ambassador – is gone, my thesis has been completely shattered.
I still can’t imagine a life without Anthony Bourdain. The goose bumps have yet to simmer, my heart continues to beat briskly. From now on, watching him move from episodes to countries will be accompanied by immense sorrow. What led him to the point of no return? What killed the appetite for joy and life? None of us will ever know.
To the man who motivated us to get off the couch…thank you from the bottom of our famished hearts, and we will continue to explore in your honor. Rest in peace.
If you know anyone suffering from suicidal thoughts, please call the hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).