I really couldn’t shake this idea- this sell the dream house, buy an RV, go fast, see so much idea. Not after our 4th baby was born on December 21, 2016.
I’d spent most of that pregnancy laying in bed (thanks to my giant baby for separating my ribs), watching HGTV. We saw every episode there ever was of any kind of house flipping or renovating show. Our kids watched Chip & Joanna so much with us that today Leyna walked past a sign with their faces on it at Target and exclaimed, “Oh! There are our friends!”
But by the time mid-November 2016 rolled around, my restlessness with where we were- a comfortable and not very diverse bubble- was reaching a fever pitch.
I switched from watching shows about renovating houses to watching shows about traveling that last month of the pregnancy. It wasn’t long before I landed on Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain. I binged nearly every single episode with a sleeping or nursing newborn in my arms. Scott would walk into the dark room and shake his head in wonder that I was glued to another episode.
We have to show them more. We are responsible for showing them everything and everyone that is already great. There is so much out there, and we’re too overwhelmed to even look up. We’re so busy working for our American Dream, that we can’t show our kids America, and forget the world.
I couldn’t shake those thoughts.
I watched as Bourdain traversed places that would, admittedly, make my skin crawl, and then eat there. I watched him, time and again, step beyond comfort, and find something worthy of experience. I watched him have valuable and respectful and meaningful conversations with people of every walk of life, and it was a lesson in how to be human. Every episode.
And it was in watching THIS travel show, that my heart really yearned for this adventure. Because it wasn’t that I wanted to take my children on a comfy, luxurious year-long vacation around the country. We couldn’t afford that, and they wouldn’t gain much from it. I wanted them to really LIVE. I wanted them to step out of their comfort zones- for all of us to. I wanted all of us to be forced out of what was safe and into what would make us better people, and more importantly, better citizens of this country and of this world.
After we launched, it was this spirit of Bourdain’s that I’d studied and tried my hardest to embrace that lead us to one of the most memorable moments on this trip- for me, at least. On Valentine’s Day we wound up in the tiniest of tiny towns in West Texas- Valentine, TX. It wasn’t on our agenda. It was a bit of a drive. But it was local (we were in Fort Davis at the time), and someone messaged me about it on Instagram a couple days before.
It was simply an outdoor music event with some local food trucks and some local beer. So on Valentine’s Day we went to Valentine, Texas, population 187, and we let our kids run and play with other kids they’d never met, and we had some beers, and we ate local food, and we listened to live music. And I know none of this sounds at all as adventurous as what Bourdain would have done, but it was like entry level unplanned, local exploring for us. I thought of him that night.
As plans for this trip began to come into focus in early 2017, I began to narrow in on his episodes in cities around the US, dreaming of visiting what he deemed worthy in cities we’d visit. Typing this now, I realize we have so much work to do still- pushing ourselves out of our own comfort zones. He really had such an impact on me in a way I didn’t actually realize until I learned of his death yesterday. And dammit, it’s really made me sad.
My family has a history of mental illness and addiction and suicide. It’s a topic I talked about openly with my parents from a young age. It sucks no matter who it is, but this one was just so unexpected, which I know they almost always are. That’s mental illness for you.
I don’t know. I think I just needed to put this here- on this little piece of the internet because I want to say thank you to Anthony Bourdain in some way. I didn’t realize he made such an impression on me until I felt this loss so deeply.
Maybe it was because he knew how fragile his own humanity could be that he wore it on the outside so beautifully, so vulnerable.
I think we’ll try to find a local food truck and strike up conversation with new friends this weekend.
“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. It’s a plus for everybody.- Anthony Bourdain