Bourdain to Buena Vista Social Club – readers reveal their travel heroes

·5-min read

Anthony Bourdain’s food and life lessons

Anthony Bourdain every time. He was not perfect, and some episodes of his TV shows are hard to watch given what we know now about his mental health struggles. But he showed the joys of travel: a drink and a chat with the table next door; eating street food at the stalls with the longest queues; and navigating the morals of travelling with humility and open eyes when you’re often richer than the local people. I started watching his shows in my 20s, and it was because of him that we roughed it across Morocco, landed in Mumbai with no plans, and went to the most expensive wineries we could on a shoestring in Italy (arriving sweaty on bikes – they weren’t impressed). He changed my life.
Lydia Taylor

My brilliant Aunt Linda

Aunt Linda was from humble beginnings: growing up, a holiday for her was a day trip to Weston-super-Mare. On leaving school she became a nanny. My earliest memory is of Christmas Eve when I was two, and my aunt randomly turning up on our doorstep in Birmingham, fresh off a flight from Australia. As I grew up, I would get so excited when, every few months, we’d receive a postcard from her from Jordan, the US, Germany, Lebanon, Greece or wherever. It was so exotic: no one from Erdington did that. Subsequently, I did a decent amount of travelling and have lived abroad. All because of those postcards, with their funny-looking stamps and indecipherable postmarks. I’m looking at the boomerang she gave me that Christmas. I’m 44 now. (Also, apologies Weston.)
Antony T

The Buena Vista Social Club took us to Cuba

Compay Segundo and Ry Cooder in the Buena Vista Social Club
Compay Segundo and Ry Cooder in the Buena Vista Social Club. Photograph: Paul Bergen/Redferns

Inspired by and loving the Ry Cooder album and [subsequent Wim Wenders] film, The Buena Vista Social Club, we took our honeymoon in Cuba. We stayed in a shared apartment in Havana and travelled in something resembling a taxi to the historic town of Trinidad. It was just fantastic, with music, food and good people everywhere. Hats off and raise a glass to Ry Cooder – he had to push the US system to be able to record these musicians. I’m so happy he did – even if I never want to hear Guantanamera again.
Paul Bailey

Around the world with Grandad

While I sat in my grandfather’s lap, he would spin a globe. If he’d been to where my finger landed (and he often had), he’d tell me a tale of his adventures there. As an officer in the Norwegian navy, he’d searched for lost polar explorers around Svalbard, and survived both the London blitz and numerous torpedo attacks on the convoys he led from Canada to Russia. After the war, he helped establish the Ethiopian navy and got to know the country’s emperor. He instilled in me such a wanderlust, that it has truly become the core of who I am today.
Kim L’Orange Sørenssen

Homage to Patagonia

When Brian Keenan and John McCarthy were held hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s, they dreamed of setting up a yak farm in Patagonia. Between Extremes is the account of their real trip to Chile five years after their release. They revel in the freedom to travel the length of that diverse country, bringing alive the wonders of geysers in the Atacama, Pablo Neruda’s poetry and pumas in Torres del Paine national park. I was inspired to follow them and had the best holiday of my life – stargazing in the desert, street art in Valparaiso, palafitos (stilted seaside houses) on Chiloé island, and the sight of a puma in Patagonia. Their trip was tailor-made by Journey Latin America, as was mine.
Jane Law

The stranger on my wall

I don’t know this man. In fact, I know very little about him. I don’t know where he lives, his name or even if he is still alive. This photo was taken by my father in August 1977 in a town called Guelmim, while on a road trip around Morocco. Hanging in my father’s house, the Bedouin nomad – AKA “the blue man” – filled my inquisitive mind with daydreams of the unknown and the world outside my four walls. To this day I credit this picture with igniting my love for travel, people and culture. I sometimes wonder if it would ever be possible to meet this man on a future adventure.
Elena Mura-Bates

Walk on the Wild side

My travel hero is Cheryl Strayed. I read her Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found during this lockdown. Her determination to stick with a journey full of uncertainties and challenges is empowering. More than the physical journey, it is her quest for discovering herself anew from the bruised past she left behind that is touching. The honesty with which she dealt with all the emotional and physical challenges left me in awe of her spirit. Her every step felt like a personal journey, and in the process I’ve found confidence to take a leap like hers after the pandemic is over.
Simanta Barman

Live, Seek, Travel

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love not only inspires the traveller in me, but also the woman in me, empowering me to live more, seek more and be open to newer experiences. Gilbert braved every stereotype and travelled in 49 countries before she even wrote the book. Her confidence to explore new places alone, her sheer enjoyment of relishing food, her craving to learn new languages and nuances of the cultures and her desire to rediscover herself might just remind you of everything that you have always loved about escaping and exploring.
Ashiqua Ahmed

Inspiring travel companion

It was early 2016 when I met Clifin (pictured above), a 26-year-old Keralite, on the patio of a hostel in remote Bagan, an ancient city in Myanmar. We spent the evening chatting over beers, and agreed to wake up at 5am to cycle and see the sunrise over the temple plains. On our way there, I discovered Clifin had embarked on a mammoth, overland, one-year journey from Kerala, through Bangladesh and into Myanmar. His budget? $1,000. His intention? To show dedication was more important than money. A few years later, he cycled from Dubai to Moscow for the World Cup. He is truly inspiring.
Dawn Mickley

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