Embracing Travel - What Uncle Tony Has Taught Us

We live in an age of celebrities. They surround us and assault us from TV, magazines, websites, social media; no corner is left “unturned” (if I may) in order for them to get their message to us. We love some, we hate some, we tolerate some, but at the end of the day there they are and we reject them or take them into our hearts.

As you can see from these posts I am a lover of food and that, of course brings me into contact with chefs on television and in my reading. Rick Stein, I’ve loved his journeys and recipes. Jamie Oliver, with a strange cockney accent and an arrogance that saw him belittling the poor doing their best to feed their children.

So I don’t sit on the fence. I hope you see that. I do, of course, love Delia. Who doesn’t? But for me Keith Floyd is the man, he got me into food. This is the wrong place to talk about him, but he was a gastronaut, a traveller with food who enjoyed every aspect of it. And I loved his passion for food. I’ve still not read his last autobiography such is the emotional connection.

And of course there is Nigel Slater, I do love his writing and his eloquence, his quotes make me smile regardless of my mood, one of my favourites being “There is too much talk of cooking being an art or a science – we are only making ourselves something to eat.”


And that brings me to Anthony Bourdain. Someone I was unaware of until an American friend of mine mentioned him and said “if you like food you need to check out Uncle Tony”. So I did. And I learnt why my friend called him Uncle Tony.

As I said, celebrities are everywhere. And we have our own reference to them. But to refer to one as a member of the family, a respected elder, well that’s different. And after a short period he did become Uncle Tony. Many words have been written about his style, his panache, his love for life and exploring new foods and cultures. And his insistence that you need to go and see places rather than just visit them and glance at them is something special we can all achieve.

So whilst I was finishing off my musings about hashtag travel and “octothorpe I decided to look up his pope mobile quote, about not being hermetically sealed away when travelling. That was Friday 8th June 2018, in London.Googling him didn’t bring up all the quotes I was hoping for but news of his death. And that shook me. I read the articles, followed the news, gleamed what I could. So we all know what happened, and I have nothing to saying about that.

He will be a great loss to the food, travelling and exploring community. I will miss seeing the ping on YouTube when there is a new Uncle Tony travel programme. For me personally he encapsulated that “get involved” type of travel we like to enjoy, where you are part of the journey, not just an observer. But how to encourage people to embrace his ethos, his love of travel?

Well I leave that to Harnidh Kaur (twitter: @PedestrianPoet) who has kindly given us permission to share her tweets with you:

1) Today, when you eat, at home or otherwise, don’t scarf down your food. Pause. Look at the alchemy you’ve been gifted. Look, carefully, at the magic a few leaves, roots, and flesh can make. Allow yourself a moment of wonder.

2) The next time you take a cab or any hired transport- Pause. Say hello to the person driving you. Ask them to tell you how their day went. Find a story in them and ask to be told of it. Relish the short ride to another world you’ve been afforded.

3) When someone asks for your opinion and your usual, generic platitudes trip out of your mouth- Pause. Take a minute. Ask yourself what you really feel. Train yourself to bare your truths instead of coating them with pretty words that go down easy.

4) Go out alone. Take yourself out on a date to a beautiful part of your city. Pause. Watch the way the clouds move and part to let the sun touch you. Share a meal with yourself and consider it one cherished. Read a book and find ease in your own company.

5) Laugh with a stranger. Find someone whose eyes crinkle when they laugh and the air around them is streaked with joy. Pause. Give thanks to the miracle of happiness, of excitement that doesn’t ask for a difficult due. Join in. Celebrate the simple pleasure of a smile.

6) When you buy yourself a beer, pause. Look around. Find someone to share it with, and be there, in that moment, as a friend and lover. There is a generosity to sharing time and space. Practice it, incessantly. Practice it kindly. Share yourself sometimes.

7) Listen. Pause. Listen again. There is a universe in each story you’re gifted, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in a language you struggle with. Unravel it slowly, make sure each strand is untangled and appreciated. There is a story looking for you. Listen. Let it find you.

8) Love. With fierce, unabated joy. Pause when you do- marvel at the magic of love. Marvel at the fact that you can. Say hallelujah for the tenacity of love in a world that tries too hard to commodity it and sell it off in little bottles. Reclaim.

9) Cook. For yourself and for the ones you love. Touch the raw ingredients with your hands and pause. Offer your respects to the brutal, beautiful joy that the act of eating creates. Feed someone, give them a belly full of warmth and nurturing. It’s a way of saying ‘I love you.’

10) Pause. Pause always. Give yourself time to stand still and observe the world. Give yourself time to find words to describe it. Give yourself the space to learn and to make mistakes and to learn again. Give yourself the courage to be honest and kind and wonderful. 

The temptation here is to try and do an “If” moment as Rudyard Kipling would and sign this off with something akin to the famous last line which you could achieve if you follow the above steps -“Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and which is more you’ll be a Man, my son!

But, of course, it’s not that simple, it’s never that simple.

Those 10 steps are great, and they’ll let you experience more of a place than you ever imagined you would.

And past that?

The but?

The great answer?

Well, that’s down to you. Uncle Tony will be looking down and watching to make sure you make the best of your travels!

Anthony Bourdain travel thoughts