In a word: travel, whether near or far
I must admit it took me a while to warm up to Anthony Bourdain after one of the first excerpts I read of his writing was a brutal, seemingly unnecessary takedown of vegetarians. But I got over these thoughts quickly as I began to watch Parts Unknown. The searingly honest travel hero (or anti-hero, depending on your perspective) made an outsized impact wherever he went. And where he went (and the people, places, and meals he highlighted while there) inspired many people to travel, or to travel with a deeper interest or awareness. After the tragedy of his death in 2018, I’m left reflecting on some of his advice.
“If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.”
There’s much to gain by experiencing the world from another way of life, either at home or abroad. Routines and traditions are comforting and can be meaningful, but we’ve found that magic can happen when you break away from them.
I remember how excited Sean and I were when we made the decision to put our belongings in storage and begin traveling with our daughter. We daydreamed about where we’d visit, what we’d eat, and who we’d get to see. But weeks later, while packing up nearly a decade of life in New York and staring at the empty walls and floors we lived in while getting engaged, married, and having Eliza, we were both overcome with sadness about leaving. We started asking ourselves if we’d made the right choice.
Around a month after setting off on our travels, I remember us sitting at our rental in Paris sharing a buttery croissant, overlooking a quintessential Parisian street with Eliza napping nearby. I was overcome with such a deep sense of contentment and knew we were doing what was right for us.
From homemade pierogi shared with family in Poland to countless bibimbap in South Korea, we’ve eaten our way around the world while striving to understand its inhabitants a bit more through it. The joy we’ve found and the life we’ve continued to make together in all kinds of environments has been worth giving up our routines (and great bagels), at least temporarily.
“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.”
In terms of marks left behind, by now I’m sure there are other babies around the world finding single blocks Eliza dropped or hid while there. And socks, so many baby socks lost in dryers, on the street, and who even knows where else.
But yes, sometimes it can hurt. We often reflect on the fun we’ve had while traveling but don’t always share the times where it’s been hard, uncomfortable, or worse. For example, my finger started swelling unexpectedly a few days into our travels and sent me on a tour of the Parisian health care system (which is worthy of its own blog post), and then a few more months of doctor’s visits and tests before getting to the bottom of the issue.
It was tough to be on the go around the world with a finger that hurt, didn’t work correctly, and had no straightforward explanation. The experience reinforced the importance of getting aches and pains checked out sooner rather than later. (It also introduced me to several countries’ approaches to health care, which is a blessing in disguise, but you’d probably prefer to skip that discovery if you can avoid it!) But honestly, I can laugh about it now, knowing that one of my fingers has a story behind it that brings me back to some worrisome moments, but it also reminds me of all the fun we were having—so much that I worked through the pain.
Mostly, the marks left by travel aren’t visible. They’re moments and memories, like Eliza smiling at strangers and appearing to be at ease in most every situation (except for eating leafy greens, which is an ongoing battle). Or our comfort speaking Spanish with native speakers that, while still intermediate, has come a long way in helping us communicate with 400 million possible new friends. The challenge with any of these is to keep it going when we’re not far from home, whether that means making efforts to step outside of our usual spots, keeping up with new languages, or talking with strangers in our own city or town.
If you’re considering taking a trip with family, friends, or solo, and you’re looking for a sign, maybe this is it?! Personally, I can’t think of any regrets I’ve had about money spent on travels but can think of many times I’ve personally regretted something I bought. (I’m looking at you, orange lipstick that I still can’t pull off, no matter the lighting). As we start the new year, here’s to keeping this spirit of discovery alive.