Anthony Bourdain And The Beauty Of Happy Accidents

June 19, 2018

I didn’t know much about Anthony Bourdain. I knew he was a chef, and a TV star, and that he dedicated his life to food and travel. But that’s it. 

So it’s no surprise that his death didn’t really affect me (at least not at first). It was shocking, and sad, but in the same way that any suicide is shocking and sad. Of course we think celebrities are different, that money and success and fame will fix their problems, but they don’t, so this was just another reminder that depression doesn’t answer to the things that are supposed to make us happy (even if it looks like we have life all figured out).

What I didn’t know – and what I later came to realize – is how much Bourdain inspired people to see the world from a different perspective, not just by taking us there, but by showing us what’s great about humanity. Through his respect and curiosity for other cultures, he taught us how to see people for who they are, to understand and internalize the beauty of our differences, and in the words of John Hodgman, to teach us “our weird is the world’s delicious.”

I love that little insight, but what I’d really like to touch on is the quote below. Not because it’s any more or less powerful than other wisdom Bourdain gave us, but because the sentiment is something I’ve tried to live by (and now resonates more than ever).

I’m a big believer in winging it. I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find the perfect city travel experience or the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one. Letting the happy accident happen is what a lot of vacation itineraries miss, and I’m always trying to push people to allow those things to happen rather than stick to some rigid itinerary.

You might take a quote like that at face value and that’s all right. It’s great advice and something my wife and I have taken to heart in how we travel, from our trip around the world to a weekend in Wisconsin. But I tend to read between the lines and think it applies to more.

Happy accidents remind us to enjoy the journey, not just when we’re on vacation, but in otherwise ordinary days. They’re the things you don’t plan for, the space between bullet points on a bucket list, an invitation from someone you just met or a detour on the way to your destination. 

Some of the best moments in my life have been happy accidents, and they wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t let them happen. So even if you’re more of a planner, try leaving room for something spontaneous. It might change how you see things – as long as you’re willing to look.