Dear Anthony Bourdain

I don’t do this celebrity worship thing. Not because I’m too particularly cool for school, but because I lived in Hollywood for 10 years, so I know that celebrities are just people who got access to cameras and producers and an editing bay. Rarely do they contribute cultural value. Put simply, most celebrities don’t matter – just like the rest of us unfamous mortals mostly don’t matter.

Anthony Bourdain, you might have been an exception.

You were and will always be the patron saint to those of us who have ever felt cramped inside our narrow perspectives – who have yearned for the missing parts of ourselves to be found, explained and experienced. We who seek. We who hope. We who despair. We who experience FOMO not as some ephemeral teenage angst, but as the unavoidable melancholy of human duality. You took a camera into the hidden diner of the corners of our dreams and caught glimpses of our nightmares in the looking glass on the way out.

I didn’t know you, personally.

But I felt like you knew me.

I know there’s as much blue as there is orange in a meaningful travel experience. You showed both.

I know that great food was made before any table with four legs was ever built. And around the first tables were built communities. And around communities were built civilizations. And around civilizations were built cultures. And all of those complex networks of humanity lead back to an all-encompassing, impossible hope for true connection. Food builds connection even as cultures, civilizations, and communities crumble. Food is constant, and cultures fail. You showed both.

In an American culture that exhibits ongoing conflation between the concepts of comfort and liberty, you showed us the freeing possibilities in discomfort. You talked openly about addiction and depression on a TV show ostensibly about food. You were imperfect, and you were human, and you painted imperfection as the irrepressible human art. You showed both.

Within me, and probably within every traveler, there is this unnamed, unquenchable thirst for connection, an insecurity about our obvious imperfections, and a natural sense to hide our blue moments behind walls of privacy and exhibit our orange moments on instagram.

You showed the world things with a camera that most people tend to avoid because they’d rather not see anything that reminds them of their frailty and complicity with the hypocrisy of the human condition.

And then you showed us that we could survive difference.

You showed us that we could enjoy adapting. That it’s okay to know nothing, and to just sit and listen.

Now, more than ever, we need to sit, listen, and enjoy adapting so we can survive difference.

You piped into our blinking lives something potentially meaningful. I think it’s possible you actually mattered.

Thank you for allowing us to be lost with you on your brief and beautiful journey.


Dale Vaughn on behalf of the BootsnAll Travel Network

* If you are struggling with an illness like depression or addiction, you’re not alone, here are 25 really solid resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that include plenty of things like support, financial assistance, hotlines and treatment options. Sometimes those hotlines can be helpful to just talk to someone who’s likely been there.

As Managing Editor at the BootsnAll Travel Network, my goal is to make travel possible for everyone who feels the wind calling. My heroes are people like Captain Cook, Nellie Bly, Buckminster Fuller and Leonardo Da Vinci. I've spent my life fighting to end the ill effects of xenophobia - I believe travel is the greatest tool in the toolbox (along with gender justice).

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