When I was in college, I hardly had enough money to eat. I certainly didn’t have the money to go on the study abroad trip to Tokyo that coming summer. I wanted to go so bad but the amount of money was astronomical to me at the time. That summer came and went, the fall semester started and they all came back with amazing stories of drinking at an izakaya, eating the best sushi, and getting lost under the neon signs of warm Tokyo nights. I told myself I’d go someday but I could barely afford a trip to the theatre to watch a movie about Tokyo, much less fly to Japan.
Grinding through each class, soldiering through each day, and coming home hungry after 10 hours on campus to a seemingly insurmountable amount of homework, I’d settle into my chair and turn on the TV to The Travel Channel. It didn’t matter what was on, or where they were showcasing, it took me out of that arduous academic cycle if only for short periods of time. It was somewhere far away from my desk with three different open textbooks that were thick enough to stop bullets.
One of my favorite shows was No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. I’d watch intently and vow that someday I’d go to the places he went. Try that amazing dish, walk that historic road, sail that ancient river, learn the little nuances of culture the way he described them so eloquently in his writing. But I was in my dark room in a house in the desert of west Phoenix with my head cycling between three books in a foreign language and the never ending pages of text I had to translate. When I needed a break, I’d walk outside and gaze at the stars, wondering when I would see other star patterns, other constellations. Someday… But now it’s time to go back in and finish the rest of my homework.
Fast forward and now I’m a proud college graduate. My first job out of college was right into the corporate machine working the graveyard shift proofreading compliance documents to be ready for our clients in the morning. The money was okay but what made up the difference was the flexibility with time off. I told myself when I had the opportunity to travel, I’d be gone.
About a year after starting this job, I had both money and time. I booked my first trip to New York City and went shopping in SoHo. A month after that, I found myself in Denver drinking in LoDo. The day I got back from Denver, I booked a trip to Honolulu and a few weeks later, stood watching fireworks explode over the ocean on Waikiki Beach. A few months after that, I booked a trip to Puerto Rico and walked the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. A few months later, I walked on the French Riviera in Monaco, learned some Catalan in Barcelona, partied in Ibiza, and watched a gold medal game in London for the 2012 Olympic Games. I never looked back.
From Guadalajara to Abu Dhabi, Columbo to Grand Cayman, Athens to Male, three tours of London, two of Tokyo, and many others in between, I did it. I went to that izakaya, I ate the best sushi, and I got lost at night under that Tokyo neon that seemed dim that hard summer so many years ago.
I went to those places Anthony Bourdain went to on No Reservations while sitting in that dark room, broke, tired, and dreaming. I tried that pasta in Rome, I walked the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong, I sailed on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, I learned so much about the world and tried to tell it as eloquently as I could. I smiled at the stars of foreign skies. I still do.
To Anthony Bourdain, thank you for helping me through some difficult times and keeping me motivated to circle the earth and never stop. Thank you for helping me become the person I am today. Thank you for making the world feel a little smaller and within my grasp. You’ve been everywhere but you’ve taken your last journey and are now rocking out while cruising in that classic convertible on the road of forever. Rest in peace.