This Moving Anthony Bourdain Quote Teaches a Valuable Lesson in Empathy

Six years ago, Bourdain ended the series "No Reservations" with one of his trademark epilogues--delivered in the way only he could.

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Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

We lost a lot of people in 2018. Few had as far-reaching an impact as celebrity chef, author, and television host Anthony Bourdain.

I discovered Bourdain years ago through his television show No Reservations, in which he traveled across the world, experiencing local culture and cuisine. Fans like me were thrilled to ride sidecar to Bourdain, who showed us centuries-old architecture, introduced us to local families and foreign traditions, and provided a glimpse of what most of us would never experience in our lifetime. 

Throughout the show’s nine seasons, we lived vicariously through Bourdain. There was no jealousy or envy; we were simply happy to be along for the ride.

No Reservations concluded on a somewhat unexpected note. Born in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Bourdain’s last episode took us somewhere that was much closer to home than most of his travels, a place the career nomad said he had “never really gotten to know”: 


It was another classic episode. The featured dishes varied just as much as the stories–and accents–of the people who cooked them: jerk chicken and oxtail from the western Caribbean, chicken parmesan and clams, distinctly Italian-American, Russian/Georgian blini with caviar.

Bourdain, an accomplished, best-selling author, concluded the series with one of his trademark epilogues. This one would prove to be my favorite, a striking, moving admonition that is equal parts wise and emotionally intelligent–delivered in the way only Tony could:

It’s been a wild ride.

A lot of miles. A road sometimes smooth, sometimes hard and ugly.

And I guess I could tell you that if you look hard enough, that just next door is just as interesting as the other side of the world. 

But … That’s not exactly true. 

If I do have any advice for anybody, any final thought, if I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move.

As far as you can, as much as you can. 

Across the ocean, or simply across the river. 

The extent to which you can walk in somebody else’s shoes–or at least eat their food–it’s a plus for everybody.

Open your mind. Get up off the couch. Move.

Words to live by. 

Of course, Bourdain wasn’t talking only about picking up and moving to another country (although speaking from experience, if you can, you should). It’s the travel, the experience of another culture–for a few weeks, or even a few days–that helps us learn empathy and compassion in a way we simply can’t get in other ways.

What if you can’t afford to travel abroad? 

Go wherever you can. Try watching a film or program from another country. Take advantage of anything you can find from and about those who are different from you.

Along the way, you’ll discover a single, remarkable truth about diversity:

Yes, it’s the differences that make life most interesting. And yet, in the end, it’s amazing how much we all share in common.

Thanks, Tony, for letting us join the ride.

And for all you taught us along the way.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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