When we lost Anthony Bourdain in 2018, it was like we lost a chance to see parts of the world we’ve never even heard or dreamed of. He was a master of seeking out the unusual and the out-of-the-way, finding experiences that most people will never even think of.
Anthony Bourdain inspired many travelers to leave the beaten, paved-over path and make your own way. A March 2018 article in Time Magazine — 3 Things to Never Do While Traveling, According to Anthony Bourdain — showed us how Bourdain liked to visit new cities and countries, and what he avoided when looking for a place to spend a vacation.
Whether you’re heading out on a family trip, or just want to add an extra day onto a business trip (also called bleisure travel), here are a few of his secrets.
First, skip the tourist traps. Believe it or not, the tourist traps just aren’t that exciting. As Bourdain said, traveling to Paris just to stand on the Eiffel Tower is “lethal to your soul” and a selfie in front of the Great Pyramids is “completely overrated.”
Similarly, European travel expert Rick Steves, you can wait for hours for some of the top European attractions. Not only will you have to buy a ticket, but you’ll also have to stand in line for hours, and you’ll be crammed together with dozens, if not a few hundred, other people all trying to get a photo of the statue with their phones. In a six-hour block spent waiting for a 30-second glimpse and a faraway photo, you could see another museum, go on a walking tour of a city, or see a symphony or play.
Bourdain instead preferred to walk around a city to see what he could find. He relied on serendipity and chance to make his travels exciting. For example, the next time you visit a new city, look for the arts neighborhoods or the places where the locals go, not the tourist district. Where local restaurants outnumber the chains, the places where you can find bookstores, record stores, and unusual shops. For example, Bardstown Road in Louisville; Fountain Square in Indianapolis; the Mills 50 district in Orlando; or Wicker Park in Chicago.
Bourdain would arrive in a city and then just strike out in a direction to see what he could find. The payoffs were almost always worth the time and effort.
Second, don’t schedule all the places you want to visit. Just explore and discover the magic of your vacation. It’s all about serendipity and “happy accidents.”
As Bourdain told Time magazine:
The sort of frenzied compression of time needed to take the tour, to see the sights, keeps you in a bubble that prevents you from having magic happen to you. Nothing unexpected or wonderful is likely to happen if you have an itinerary in Paris filled with the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
Third, stray off the beaten path. Have you ever wondered who makes the city run? Where do the people who operate the tourist traps live? Where do they eat and go for fun? What about the people who operate those places? Where do they go?
If you can find that place, that’s where you’ll find the real people and the real moments of a city.
For example, about 15 miles north of Disney World is the Mills 50 district, with some of the best tacos in the city. In Louisville, you can go two miles east of the downtown district and find some of the best dining and coffee in town. And if you want real French cooking and to see the heart of France, go to Brittany and Normandy.
You can also stretch your travel dollars a lot further by going to the less-touristy destinations as well. Portland, Oregon costs a lot less than San Francisco, and Minneapolis/St. Paul costs less than Chicago.
Of course, if you want that city-defining experience — Nashville’s music scene, Disney World and Universal in Orlando, hot dogs and baseball in Chicago — then there’s no substitute. Louisville will never beat Nashville, and Jacksonville will never beat Orlando.
But if you just want to get away, see a different city, eat different food, and to travel like Anthony Bourdain, then take the road less traveled. Go to the places that aren’t mentioned in the travel books. And skip anything that requires that you buy a ticket and stand in line to wait.
What are your favorite off-the-beaten path vacations? Do you prefer going to the less-visited places, or do you love the tried-and-true trip? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.