Anthony Bourdain and My Favorite Part of Travel
Anthony Bourdain died on June 8th, 2018. On June 9th, 2018, I spent a whole day exploring some of the most stunning street art in Lima Peru.
His death hit me like a punch in the stomach. I admired him for his love and passion for travel, food, people, and different cultures.
Throughout his career he taught people not to be afraid of others that were different. He encouraged respect, and understanding.
That night, I began to review all of the episodes I’ve ever watched of Bourdain’s shows, and poured over old interviews. It was like watching an old friend through the screen.
In a USA Today nterview that I watched, Bourdain was explaining his favorite way to travel. He said (paraphrased):
“If you have an itinerary when you travel, nothing magical or life-changing is going to happen to you.
When I travel, I want to find a hotel in a neighborhood that has charm and character. The kind of place I can walk and find a cafe and sit down and feel the place.
Having an itinerary or seeing too many places in a short amount of time keeps you in a bubble and prevents magic from happening to you. Don’t be afraid to just sit.”
Tears filled my eyes as I listened to him talk.
And I decided that the very next day, I would follow Anthony Bourdain’s advice, as a way to honor my mentor.
And I succeeded.
My Thoughts on Travel
The street art of Barranco is beautiful, the colors, and subjects and shapes pull you in. There are big, beautiful faces painted on building facades that hold worlds of stories.
But, to me, the street art in Lima represents something so much more than mere beauty.
The street art in Lima that I saw on June 9, 2018 represents my favorite part of travel, a part of travel that Anthony Bourdain treasured as well. It is an essential, unexplainable part of travel that has always held the most magic for me in any country that I visit.
And that is, the art of doing nothing. Let me explain further.
The Art of Doing Nothing
The art of doing nothing doesn’t literally mean doing nothing, but rather, having very little on your agenda. A day of traveling and doing nothing means no itinerary, no place to see. It means a cute neighborhood and some good coffee.
So often in travel and life, we try to stuff as much as possible into our day. And believe me, I’m just as guilty in this as everyone else.
When I visit a city, I usually only have 2-3 days in that city, and then I leave, and have no idea when I will be back again. There is a huge temptation to create a packed itinerary and cross off the list as fast as possible. Picture at that monument? Check. See that church? Yep. Picture by that building? Done.
Check. Tick. Done.
And at the end of the day, you wonder what you even saw in the first place.
I’m not saying to have no plan, I’m saying to leave room in your plan. Leave room to explore the unexpected, or laze around and soak in the culture. Seek some of this magic for yourselves on your next trip.
Some Magic in the Street Art in Lima
Now, can I tell you a list of every building I saw in Peru? No. Even with a photograph I can’t remember the names and purposes of every building, or mountain, or lake that I saw.
What I can tell you is that there was great coffee with ice cream at that cute cafe in Barranco. Little boys were playing with a soccer ball in the street, barefoot; they looked like they were the happiest people in the whole world. I remember the taste of the best ceviche I’ve ever had, and the feeling of being drunk off pisco sours and laughing with the Peruvian waiters. The feel of the air on my face as I raced my ATV around the sacred valley, and the sunshine on my face when I visited Palcoyo, the rainbow mountain.
And in the end, the feeling and the memories of moments, are much better than any itinerary ever could be.
Pain in the Beauty: Exploring the Street Art in Lima
So, it was my first full day in Lima, my first full day in Peru. And I wanted to spend it doing my favorite thing to do in a new city: wander and hunt for magic.
I wanted to go somewhere beautiful, take a nice long walk, soak up the sounds and the energy of a new city, eat some good food, and maybe do a bit of people watching and shopping. My research brought me to the Barranco district, more specifically, near the Bridge of Sighs.
The Bridge of Sighs, the name itself is romantic. As is the history. Poets came to woo their lovers by this bridge, and if you listen closely I think you can still hear the sighs of their beloved, swooning over their beautiful rhymes.
Sighs are common when wandering around the street art in Lima. I sighed several times as I meandered around the hip district of Barranco, admiring all of the whimsical street art and bright flowers.
But I also sighed because a man who I had admired for so long was gone. There is always a touch of pain in the beauty, no?
My Day in Barranco
The next day, I didn’t really “do” that much as far as a “checklist” or “must-see list” for the Barranco district.
I ate a lot of food, drank a lot of coffee, and did a lot of walking.
After finding an area with charm and character, I walked around and admired the beautiful artwork that the people of Peru chose to decorate their city with.
I waved and took pictures of children heading off to school. They were fascinated with my big camera and began posing for me.
When I stopped for a rest in a cafe, I spoke Spanish to a woman and smiled when she understood me.
I sat in a coffee shop for an hour, enjoying my coffee and watching people walk by, on their way to work, or school, or the supermarket, or wherever they were headed.
There was so much time to smell the flowers of houses that lined the streets. And the ocean at the end of the lane.
And, somehow, that morning was one of the most magical of the trip.
Often when I travel, the most beautiful moments I experience are unplanned, unscheduled, when I wander around a neighborhood or sit in a small cafe.
And while I’m sitting or wandering, I’m soaking in everything around me, breathing different air, seeing new people-not saying anything of consequence, but just being. Just observing, enjoying the feeling of being in an unknown, unfamiliar place.
Next time you visit a new city. Try taking Bourdain’s advice. Take some time to admire the little things. And just sit. You’ll be surprised by how much magic you discover.
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