Anthony Bourdain's Best Travel Tips Everyone Should Follow

The iconic Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and travel documentarian, gave us a lot of food for thought in his years on the road. Part of what made him so popular with travel aficionados on the other side of the screen was his gruff sense of humor and unapologetic honesty. Bourdain always told his fans the truth, no matter how hard it was to swallow. And, let's be honest, he would probably hate the multiple dining puns in this paragraph. From the technical, such as the first thing Bourdain would book, to the more philosophical, he offered a lot of advice to travelers.

Bourdain always had a lot to say about the 80+ countries he visited in his life as a travel journalist. Most of his advice could be summarized as common sense, though if you travel enough, you learn that common sense isn't quite so common. If you get nothing else from this list of Bourdain's words of wisdom, know that he wanted people to see the world on the terms of the world itself, not in the pursuit of the perfect Instagrammable moment.

Explore beyond the tourist hubs

Not that we are short on incredible Anthony Bourdain quotes, but one travel tip that he absolutely embodied related to a pretty common expression: "Be a traveler, not a tourist." Bourdain routinely sought out areas and sights beyond the obvious whenever he traveled somewhere, not relying on the pressures of tourist culture.

For example, there's more to Paris than the Eiffel Tower, which probably isn't as impressive as other things you'll discover in France. Storied museums, sites, and iconic locations can be incredible experiences, though you'll find equally amazing spots not inundated with selfie sticks. Adventuring through a destination doesn't have to feel touristy; you can see the world as a curious traveler instead. That's what Bourdain did best.

Along the same lines, he encouraged travelers to go beyond what they knew in terms of food. Sure, it's fun to try another country's variation of the Big Mac, but eating at familiar American chain restaurants won't expand your palate.

Be spontaneous

Something that Anthony Bourdain carried everywhere with him, even into his work, was the notion of intentional spontaneity. It was common for him to film episodes of his shows without a script, and he similarly encouraged his viewers to travel a little more unscripted. Part of that method for Bourdain meant letting the folks he encountered guide how his trip (and his show) turned out.

"Ideally I shut up and let other people talk. Or if I ask a lot of stupid questions, we'll edit those out," he said in an interview with People. "The point is, it's not about me, it's about getting people to a place where they feel comfortable enough to say interesting things about who they are, where they come from, and what makes them happy."

By not planning out every second of your trip, you have the opportunity to try things you hadn't even considered doing. Plus, you give yourself breathing room because, as any seasoned traveler knows, over-planning can kill an otherwise incredible trip.

Let yourself be uncomfortable

One of the more profound and arguably beautiful quotes by Anthony Bourdain relates to how life isn't meant to be comfortable, so is the case for travel. In his book, "The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones," Bourdain writes, "As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt."

This quote about life's various impacts is one of Bourdain's most famous. For Bourdain, the exploration of the world, even in the most uncomfortable moments, leaned into something incredible. Every experience, from the expected and mundane to the life-changing, teaches us something about ourselves as well as the world around us.

When we allow ourselves to be in different kinds of experiences, especially those that force us out of our comfort zone, we travel with a keener sense of openness. That can make the journey all the better.

Walk, don't ride, around the city

When it came to exploring a city, particularly one he'd never been to before, Anthony Bourdain would explore the metropolis by foot. In many cases, you can discover so much more walking than you would if you hailed a cab.

Anytime you stay somewhere, particularly in a city with a popular downtown district, taking a car everywhere means you miss a lot. Take Chicago, for example. If you only ride around, you may miss all the best spots for a quick bite, a relaxing coffee shop hang, or an incredible boutique shop find. Chicagoans know that the neighborhoods outside of The Loop have a lot more to teach tourists than who has the best deep-dish pizza in Chicago.

Walking the entire time might be difficult or impossible with a full itinerary. But try to take some time out of your trip to walk around, even if it's just around one of the stops on your list. You'll get to know the place you're visiting on a deeper level, and your trip will be all the better for it.

Embrace your nice side

We all know that travel can be ugly sometimes, but that doesn't mean we have to be ugly, too. Especially when you're encountering other cultures, miscommunication can run rampant. One of the best pieces of advice Anthony Bourdain ever shared was to just be nice to those you encounter while traveling the world.

"Getting angry and frustrated in much of the world doesn't help at all," Bourdain told The New York Times. "It's incomprehensible, you lose face, it makes you look ridiculous. Have a willingness to try new stuff. Be grateful for any hospitality offered. And be flexible in your plans, because a rigid itinerary is lethal to a good time."

Being nasty to someone, especially if they're trying to serve you in a tourist-facing capacity, doesn't end well for anyone. Even if you're struggling with the worst jet lag of your life, try to be gracious and patient with folks on your journey.

Pack smarter, not harder

Anthony Bourdain understood the art of packing. More importantly, he knew that his luggage was going to take a beating. Even in the most careful of scenarios, you need to know that your suitcases will get mishandled at some point or another by you or someone else. Because of that, investing in a strong suitcase was a top priority for Bourdain.

"I don't like having to worry about taking it easy on luggage when I'm throwing it in an overhead bin or tossing it on the tarmac," Bourdain told Men's Journal. "So I travel with a piece of near-bulletproof Tumi luggage, which can take a beating and fits absolutely everything I need. Not to mention if s*** goes down, I can hide behind it. And Tumi has a good repair policy if you do damage it."

Although the heartiest backpack isn't as durable as some of the hard-shelled or aluminum suitcases out there, backpackers should still consider spending up for quality carry-on luggage. 

Travel hungry, within reason

Except for cheese plates and port to wash it down on extraordinarily long flights, Anthony Bourdain avoided eating airplane food. "No one has ever felt better after eating plane food," Bourdain explained to Bon Appétit. "I think people only eat it because they're bored. I don't eat on planes. I like to arrive hungry." After all, skipping in-flight meals left room for one of his favorite dishes — spicy noodles.

One way Bourdain immediately got to know a place was by quickly diving into the destination's cuisine. For example, he often began his trips with a stop at a local market to check out what vendors were selling. By traveling with his appetite intact, Bourdain didn't have to worry about being full (and bloated) from sodium-laden plane food. Instead, he catered to his curious stomach and got a running start on local dining experiences without missing a beat.

Don't take things personally

When it came to dealing with jerks in the world, Anthony Bourdain felt it was important to let things go. "Assume the worst. About everybody. But don't let this poisoned outlook affect your job performance, " Bourdain wrote in "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook." While he's referring to professional relationships, the sentiment could apply more broadly to any interactions. "Let it all roll off your back. Ignore it. Be amused by what you see and suspect. Just because someone you work with is a miserable, treacherous, self-serving, capricious, and corrupt [a-hole] shouldn't prevent you from enjoying their company, working with them, or finding them entertaining."

Sometimes you're going to encounter someone on a bad day, be it another traveler or a local. Rather than taking it personally and letting it ruin your whole day, try to move on. Let yourself feel your frustration, anger, or hurt for a minute, but ultimately, you have to remember that jerks exist in every corner of the world. If Bourdain could ignore the haters, so can you.

For the best food, follow the locals

According to foodie explorer Anthony Bourdain, one telltale way to spot the best local places to eat is by observing who's waiting to eat there. When a giant crowd of tourists waits hours for a bite to eat, that's not always a guarantee that the meal is worth waiting for — the restaurant may just be trendy. On the flip side, if there is a huge line of locals waiting to get into a restaurant, that's probably where you need to be. That's an especially helpful tip if you're trying to choose between multiple locations with the same cuisine like ramen shops.

Another tip, according to Bourdain, is to study the menu board itself. Bourdain advised going elsewhere if you're in a country that does not primarily speak English, yet the menu is mostly in English. If the menu isn't in the country's native language, then the restaurant probably doesn't cater to local diners, so you may not be getting the most genuine dining experience.