Before I had kids, travel was my cultural, intellectual and soulful passion. It lit up all my senses and invigorated me with a seemingly boundless energy.
I completed an internship in Hong Kong when I was 21. Later, I got my masters in London, my yoga teacher training in Bali, then I dabbled in non-profit work in Tanzania. Along the way, I explored the depths and delights of 30 countries—hot springs in Morocco, castles in Slovenia, elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, and Grand Bazaar shopping in Turkey.
Frequent travel satisfied a deep desire within me to learn, evolve and grow. Before our first son was born, I pledged to my husband that we shouldn't let parenthood restrict our shared desire to keep exploring far-off destinations.
Naively inspired by picture-perfect Instagram accounts of parents perched on mountain cliffs with smiling infants snuggled in carriers, I assumed that, yes, travel would become a bit more complicated with an infant in tow, but we should still be able to carry on with our travel wish list as before.
Fast forward to when our son was born.
Nevermind the havoc that is actually flying with an infant or the rigidity caused by working around nap schedules, or the premature end to the day caused by infant bedtimes (my beloved jaunts through night markets until 3 am became a distant memory)—I quickly realized that at least for the first stretch of my son's life I was not going on any big-time adventures. I would likely be home, figuring this whole motherhood thing out.
I had never been homebound like this in my life; it was a shocking feeling at first. While a year prior I had been soaking up an enchanting ballet performance at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, now I was up every two hours through the night grasping my son's tiny body as he dream-fed in our small studio apartment in NYC.
Enter Anthony Bourdain and his show, Parts Unknown. In the middle of the night, while my son nursed, I would open my laptop, load up Netflix, plug in my earphones and be transported to the dizzying array of locales Anthony Bourdain dove into.
I would no longer be sitting on my couch in my stained nursing shirt munching on rice crackers, but be alongside him slurping pho in Vietnam or basking in a BBQ on the beach in Brazil. His thoughtful and fascinating narration that intertwined food, culture, history and politics of the places he visited acted like a soothing balm over my restless spirit in those early days of motherhood.
Motherhood comes with some steep sacrifices. Amidst the physical and emotional strain is the loss of a freedom you can only know pre-kids. So, thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for making the loss of who I was a little easier to swallow for the mama I am now.
When the seasons of motherhood change, and my boys are old enough for adventurous trips with us, I'll be introducing them to your gift of curiosity about this world and the people in it. And I'll think back to those 3 am nursing sessions when your show was my refuge with gratitude and fondness.
I'll always associate you with my early days of new motherhood, Mr. Bourdain. You will always have a place in my heart, and honestly, in my identity. As the world mourns the loss of a world-renowned chef and television host, I mourn the loss of what feels like a really good friend.