This world is made up of stories and Anthony Bourdain spent the last 20 years being its bard.
There was something just so honest, different about how he told his tales of this world. Tall, tatted, often in boots and a t-shirt, strolling with a swagger through the streets of Lagos or Los Angeles. He was the epitome of cool. And he didn’t talk of the tourist traps. No, he talked about the food, the politics, the culture, the people. And he spoke of them in almost poetic terms. Every episode of his show—whether Parts Unknown, or No Reservations, or The Layover, or A Cook’s Tour—was like a novel or film where the destination was the hero, and the citizens its supporting cast.
Depending on where he traveled, the genre bent. He often covered war and heartbreak—he wasn’t afraid to show the dark past, whether it be recent or long, long ago. But he was also absurdly funny—last year’s French Alps episode was a weird, hilariously brilliant hour of storytelling.
Through these narrative weavings, he showed the complexities of societies, their fragilities, their insecurities, their hopes, and, ultimately, their humanity. At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of people leading our own lives, fighting our own battles, looking for our own paths to somewhere—whether we’re living in Myanmar or New York or Iran or Cuba or West Virginia or Berlin. We’re all so very, very alike.
At its best, travel gives us what Bourdain gave us. It helps us realize our likeness. It helps us to feel less alone. It helps us see how our own stories are so similar and so interconnected with so many others. And it’s heartbreaking that Bourdain’s own story came to such an ending. Without him, this world feels a little less human, a little less poetic. But in the time that he was here, he made us curious, he inspired us, and he made us want to get up off our couches and go in search of what’s out there. To see what he saw, eat what he ate, and meet who he met. And, even without him guiding that way, we’ve still got a lot of world to see and a lot left to experience. So, let’s go do it.
How to get help: In you’re in the US, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There are services internationally and can be found at the International Association for Suicide Prevention.