The badass host of Parts Unknown shares his 6 commandments for life on the road
Anthony Bourdain spends more time on the road than at home, and while the side effect of this wanderlusting way of life may be that he’s better skilled at sussing out the best banh mi in the backstreets of Hanoi than locating the toaster in his own kitchen, 250 days travelling each year means he has honed his skill it to a fine art.
The 60-year-old globetrotting TV host, best-selling author, lifetime badass and one-time rockstar chef (a term he despises, by the way – “Chefs are certainly empowered now and people think about them as full and complete human beings, but rock star, no. If any of us could play bass, we’d be playing lead guitar like Stevie Ray Vaughan,” he says) shares his ultimate travel tips.
“Hopping on a scooter and disappearing into this river of humanity, you smell the city, you see all these little vignettes. You feel both anonymous and part of something.”
#1 Arrive hungry. “I don’t eat on planes, so I arrive hungry, and the first thing I want is street food. Something super low-impact,” says Bourdain.
#2 Make your first meal street food. “Are noodles available? I want streetfood. I don’t want to go to a restaurant straight away. Maybe go to an early morning market to get a sense of what’s going on, what’s in season, what people like. It’s a good first stop to get the rhythm of a city.”
#3 Expect delays. “If I’m going to spend four hours on the floor, I’d like to be reading something,” says Bourdain, whose travel essentials include an iPad loaded with books and TV shows, his laptop, pens and Moleskine notebooks. “You never know when you’ll be spending a few days in an airport.”
#4 Unpack immediately. “Assuming I’m lucky enough to be in a hotel in one place for a few days, I unpack completely, so I feel reasonably installed,” says Bourdain.
#5 Get amongst it. Bourdain admits that when he and his TV crew have arrived in a destination, be it Rome, Jamaica or Nigeria, his first move to orientate himself is to hit the road, solo, on a scooter or motorbike to experience a new city in vivid flashes and smells. “I’m happiest when I’m on a scooter, by myself, in a country not my own,” he says. “Hopping on the scooter and disappearing into this river of humanity you smell the city, you see all these little vignettes. You feel both anonymous and part of something.”
#6 Communication is key. After 35 episodes of A Cook’s Tour, nine seasons of No Reservations, 20 episodes of The Layover and 10 seasons of his current Emmy award-winning series Parts Unknown, Bourdain has more stamps in his passport than most, but he explains the side-effect of this well-inked life on the road is that he can be “a hard person to live with,” referring to his 2016 split from his wife of nine years, mixed martial artist Ottavia Busia. “I’m always moving, 250 days a year. The care, feeding and maintenance of relationships is not something I’m too good at. Communication is key.”