Reflecting on Anthony Bourdain’s Death

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks you: it breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you.” Anthony Bourdain.

When I heard that Anthony Bourdain had taken his life, for one brief moment my heart stopped. Envied by both travellers and would be travellers alike, he had an amazing ability to gain an understanding of the many countries he visited. His love of all kinds of food and his talent for cooking it in five-star restaurants before he gained his fame as a ‘tell it as it is’ travel reporter led to an impressive lifestyle envied by those who wanted the kind of freedom that such a profession can give. The intensity of my shock at the news of his suicide took me by surprise. How could he of all people commit such a sad and selfish act when at the top of a flourishing career?

Although I envied his job and the finesse with which he handled it, I was never one of his avid fans. There was no question that he was a powerful interviewer and showed an honesty and humbleness which is rare in celebrities and that impressed me.Β  However, call me judgemental or plain old-fashioned, but his many tattoos bothered me. What was he trying to say I wondered? I wonder this about all the young travellers I see with bodies covered in them? I know that tattoos are meant to portray something personal about those wearing them, such as a love affair gone sour, a particular beef against the world, or to draw attention to a personal philosophy or cause, but aren’t they also an indication or sign that the person sporting them doesn’t really respect or like his body or what’s inside it? To me it speaks of some kind of self mutilation.Was this his way of unknowingly portraying an inner disconnect of something vital missing in his seemingly exciting life of freedom?

I also admired Bourdain’s wonderful way with words, hence, the above quotation which appeared in our Chronicle HeraldΒ the day after his death. It so vividly sums up the good and bad aspects of travelling alone. The amount of travel I have done is a drop in the bucket compared to what he put in. Nevertheless, I totally agree with what it can be and apparently was for him. It can be a blessing as well as a curse. The freedom which it allows has to be the top draw for any traveller who endeavours to do it, but there is invariably a price tag attached to such freedom.

Bourdain had an eleven year daughter and a wife… for awhile…apparently they had separated. He was totally responsible for pulling together his team of writers, photographers, and all the other bodies needed to carry out his travels to exotic places around the world. This effort was from all reports on a modest budget. It’s not surprising that this would eventually take a toll on his family. Those closest to him noticed that although he appeared to be happy right up until a few days before his death, he did look very tired. At the age of 61 perhaps he saw what was ahead and decided to end it before it got the best of him. We will never know, but the one thing I do know is that if you have a family or a spouse, travelling on your own doesn’t provide a firm foundation for a close relationship…..unless you can take the family with you. This is happening in some rare cases with young, mostly European couples. I think we will see more of this in the future as our world becomes more dependent on technology and young people are forced to find more rewarding work in a foreign country, or to escape from the rat race in their own countries. They could also be forced to move because of climate change and the cost of living in their native countries. There are a myriad of reasons and the opportunities for doing this are certainly there. The nomadic lifestyle is appealing to a growing group of those who want that kind of freedom.

I totally agree that the best education you could ever get is to travel by yourself. There is no doubt in my mind about that. As Bourdain said: “The journey changes you.” That is certainly true for me. Let me name the ways:

  1. It has increased my self-confidence.
  2. It has helped me to find the value in reaching out to others.
  3. It has helped me to be more resilient.
  4. It has helped me understand the world through the culture and the customs of the countries I have visited.
  5. It has helped me open my eyes and heart to see that although we may be different on the outside, we are not so on the inside. We are all very much connected.

Anthony Bourdain found his passion in the work he was doing which garnered him fame and recognition and all the other benefits that came with that. The missing link was his inability to overcome his demons and realise that the only way he could have conquered them would have been to face them. He needed to slow up and take time to do that. Unfortunately, he did not, resulting in leaving behind a young daughter who will have to deal with his decision. He will definitely be missed by all those who knew him, but we allΒ  know who will miss him the most… and this is the greatest tragedy of all.

If you would like to find out more about my thoughts on travelling on my own as a senior woman you can take a look at the following posts:

Overcoming the Fear of Travelling Solo as a Senior

How Our Changing World Is Affecting Our Travel

Travelling Solo or Not?

My tribute to Anthony Bourdain’s perpective on travel with food as the key for unlocking his road to fame, is the gallery of pictures I have taken over the years in my travels to Viet Nam (his favourite country), Thailand, Cambodia, and Myranmar (Burma), Morocco and Italy. Click on the picture for the caption.



8 thoughts on “Reflecting on Anthony Bourdain’s Death

  1. Hi Betty, I am praying that your body is feeling much better by this time. Unfortunately, I have been dealing with a pinched nerve in my lower back for the last 2 and 1/2 weeks. most days have been all right but the past few days have been hellish. Sticking close to home until my monthly appt. with my doctor next Tuesday. Had to up my Morphine meds, but lowered them today. Thanks for the article. A very sad affair. No one can know the mind of another and the silent pain they are going through. The problem is the terrible pain they leave behind. Praying that you are regaining your physical and mental strength. Also that some wonderful buyer will soon appear and love your little house and throw down the amount of money you will need to set up your life where and how you want. The pictures were so wonderful that I am sending the article on to Edward. He will also be interested in your article. Love you. Praying for all your threads to combine into a strong, healthy rope that will stretch out to a new and wonderful place of happiness. Helen, aka Hellie xixixixixixixixixixixixixi πŸ’•πŸ’πŸ’•πŸˆπŸ’•πŸŒ»πŸ’•πŸŒ·πŸ’•πŸŒŸπŸ’•πŸžπŸ’•πŸŽπŸ’•πŸ°πŸ’•πŸ˜ŠπŸ’•πŸ’›πŸ’•πŸ™πŸ’•


  2. Interesting article Bets. Difficult for any of us to understand unless or until we reach that level of despair. Sad for his daughter but I don’t see it as a selfish act – depression is a bitch & a terrible illness. On a brighter note, I loved seeing all your foodie photos!


  3. Betty, thank you for your inspirational article. I had never heard of Anthony Bourdain until he died. Now I am quite confused as to why he should end his life. He seemed to be a strange man. We do not watch much TV.


    • Hi Valerie – You aren’t the only one who hadn’t heard of him. More known in the US than here. I am not sure we will ever find out the real reasons for what he did; we can only conjecture. A complex man, yet honest about his flaws, which probably explains one of the reasons he was so well liked by those who knew him. He was always an interesting personality, shall we say


  4. Great article as usual Betty. I do however have some different thoughts on Anthony Bourdain that I will share with you personally when we get together next.


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