Anthony Bourdain

“Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.”

Anthony Bourdain was an American celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian, and television personality who starred in programs focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition.

Bourdain harbored a bewilderment with the common man’s lack of desire to entrust oneself into another culture, and through his food documentaries and programmes, he encouraged viewers to lax their control and live in whimsy in order to experience the real, the raw, and the authentic. Though his reputation lies within food and the dining experiences of other cultures, the essence of Bourdain’s message ripples out into all fields of modern day sociology and inquiry into our modern way of being.

To travel is to experience oneself: an experience facilitated by new, unknown, uncomfortable, unreliable, and insecure environments. Human beings innately crave security, it’s a fundamental of our hierarchy of needs after food, water and shelter. To have one of our basic needs dissolved leaves us wide open with all our layers of security teetering above trying to stay in balance. Bare and vulnerable; down come the walls.

From the unknown, nothing has yet risen to cause suffering. It is a neutral, creative space. The unknown also puts the power into our own hands – we get to decide the experience we are going to have, whether that be for a vacation, next week, or indeed, our entire life. The excitement of the unknown, or the “gorgeous feeling” as Bourdain puts it, is its potential for pure creativity. It can be the place where our grandest visions manifest, or the place where our deep fears wield their havoc.

The unknown is the nothing, with the potential for everything. It is the space before ideas, opinions and beliefs imprint and it is the home for our authentic self before guests arrive and intruders move in. It is, even, the place of enlightenment; for it has that potential. It is where we discover our essence – our unfaltering truth of who we really are – everything else is a shell that we have built up around us in an effort to be a) loved, and b) accepted for who we really are.

It’s about letting go of our preconceived ideas. If we admit to the truth that we don’t really know what anything is like, or what could happen, or what kind of experience we’re going to have… if we operate from that space of not knowing, if we really live that, it changes everything. What a free human being that is. And isn’t that something we all crave? Freedom? Freed of the shackles of ideas, belief systems, judgements and preconceptions. Therein lies a collective breath of fresh air, and the perfect starting place to be the open funnel for magic to flow in. The holy flow.

We each know who we truly are – the deep-rooted knowings within us – however often we are too clouded over and engrained with societal belief-systems to give them their permission slip. We disregard them, ignore them, or even go at war with them in effort to push on in pursuit of who we think we should be or what we think we should be doing. Diving into the unknown releases all of this tension. In the unknown, there is nothing but allowance, because nothing has yet been contrived, constrained or conditioned.

We must examine the ways in which we have contrived ourselves in our day-to-day existence outside of travel. For instance, perhaps you publicly identify yourself as something – a specific word, being, subculture, stereotype…? Many of these things can perpetuate the deep-seated internal stress of living an inauthentic life. Trying to keep up with an identity that society has built, or perhaps you’ve built yourself, glorifies only emotional discontent and not the glorious, magnificent real you.

For those of us furrowing away to de-condition ourselves from all that isn’t truly us, it lies in traveling down the road less trodden. It lies in the unknown. It lies in the pursuit of those dreams we dare not utter, and those thoughts we tremble to mutter, for their whimsical flamboyance. Because what if they could be the greatest thing ever? This is the kind of whimsy to have when traveling. And this is the kind of whimsy we can bring into our day-to-day living.

Embarking into the unknown doesn’t mean you’re being erratic, nor does it mean that you’re stupid if you don’t know something. It means that you’re open. Open in attitude and open in mind. It’s a forklift of energy because we’re situated in wonder, not lowered into the ground because we’re closed off with knowing.

The Buddhist zen monk Shunryu Suzuki said that “A beginner’s mind is wide open and questioning. An expert’s mind is closed.” There is immense power in the beginner’s mind because of that very openness. Not knowing gives us life. It yields vibrancy and energy into the world we’re experiencing.

There is heavy societal conditioning around knowing, yet it only serves to keep us stuck and shut down to the immediacy of the world happening around us. We can fill our minds with knowledge and knowing, yet it gets stale and stagnant. Not knowing is what fill us up. Fills up our soul and our spirit – not just our minds.

When we look at life through a construct – an idea, belief or bias – we lose the immediacy of our lives. If we learn to let go into uncertainty, then the fact that things are not solid and fixed becomes a liberating opportunity rather than a threat. If we return to zero – our basic nature – what do we see, what do we smell, what do we taste, what do we feel? That is the truth. That, is the gorgeous feeling, and a gorgeous experience of life. What we know blocks the truth. Returning to not knowing opens us up.

We cannot cling to a rigidity. We can, but we mustn’t. We mustn’t for the sake of our spiritual growth, and for the sake of our reason for incarnating in this human body, because the unknown is where the magic happens. As Anthony also says; “Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.” I.e. the exact opposite of magic. And where’s the magic in that?