I wake up in Como. Second day of filming. My friend Elena—the director—comes get me. We take the cable cart to the panoramic spot overlooking the lake where we set up for the final interview. This time I’m on the other side of the camera, talking about social-media, reality and depression. After a few hours we wrap up and head back to the lake. On the way down we get into a conversation about travel, I tell her how discouraged I am to see how traveling has become yet the ultimate trend, the new status symbol, and now most people don’t travel to explore the world and learn about new cultures but they do it to go take pretty pictures for IG and show that they are traveling. I tell her how I wish there were more people like Anthony Bourdain—I talk about him with anyone, always, everyone knows about my obsession with him— approaching travel the way he does, instead of the epidemic of “travel influencers” that do nothing useful but portraying a distorted version of reality. I tell her that he changed my life, that if it wasn’t for him and his show I would have never started traveling and we wouldn’t be here together today.
We walk down to the lake and sit in a cafe’. While Elena checks the footage I check my emails and messages. Right away I notice an alarming number of red notifications popping up on all the apps on my screen. I open IG and there’s way more many DMs than usual, i open the first one and read…my mind goes blank. I exit, erasing what I read from my memory I go to the next message, this one is from a friend, it just says “Anthony “.
I shrug, my head feels fuzzy, my heart is pounding, I go back to the first message to read it again and there’s no more denying it: “Anthony Bourdain just died. Suicide.”
It can’t be. It’s gotta be some sick fake news joke.
“What happened?” asks Elena seeing the look of terror in my eyes. I can’t even say it. I show her the message. She’s as shocked as I am. “I’m so sorry” she says—she knows how much I like the guy. I don’t even want to open he other messages, I don’t have the courage to look it up on google because once i see it all over the news there’s no going back, it means it’s real. After a few reluctant minutes i check.
It’s over. He’s gone.
Elena says something but at this point I’m not there anymore. I feel myself sinking into a deep dark hole.
An hour goes by and I have no idea what we talked about, I’m trying to hold in my tears and keep my shit together. Elena leaves and I jump on a train to Brescia. I get off at Milano Centrale to catch my connection. I wish I was alone but it’s so fucking crowded, there’s people everywhere, way too close to me, elbowing me, stumping on my feet, talking loudly, and all I want is to go home and cry.
It’s crazy how someone who I never met has affected my life so much. The minute I found his show, everything changed, including the way I looked at the world. He taught me the power of storytelling, he taught me how to travel the right way, that travel has nothing to do with tourism but it’s all about people and their culture and problems and hopes and dreams. He was a huge influence in my life for the last few years and I wouldn’t be who I am today—nor where I am today—without him and his work. He undoubtably made me a better person.
While the train strolls through the countryside i stare out of the window with zombie eyes, all I can think is “Why?”.
He was the last person on earth you’d think would do something like that, he had everything most people want, he had a young daughter and—in his own words—the best job in the world. Why?Why did he do it? What kind of demons was he facing? What was he feeling to get to the point where he could see no other solution than to end it all?
And while I try to make sense of it suddenly I have a flash and I see myself 5 years ago sitting on the bathroom floor of my Las Vegas apartment. I’m crying, I have a bottle of sleeping pills in my hand and I have so much xanax in me I don’t even know how I can still be conscious. My boyfriend is yelling at me from the other side of the locked door, i can hear him walking on the broken mirror glass, he keeps screaming reminding me how useless I am, how inferior, and how I could never make it in life without him. I believe him. I don’t want to keep hearing his voice, I don’t want to keep feeling this pain, I just want to take all the sleeping pills in the bottle. I’m about to swallow them all but I look down at the cute hyper aggressive Weiner dog sitting onmy side—I had just rescued from a shelter a few days before—and I see such fear in his eyes…I throw the pills in the toilet, hug him tight and keep crying silently.
So, Why? I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain did it but I know there’s a very thin line between doing it or not doing it, sometime is a thought, sometime a phone call, sometime the eyes of a scared puppy. What we see from the outside is never what it actually is from the inside, we will never fully know what it feels like to be in another person mind and soul, we’ll never feel the same kind of pain. Everyone’s demons show up in very different and unexpected shapes, sometime they sneak out from behind and we don’t see them coming till they’re already chocking us. Life is a fragile thing, our mind is even more fragile.
For some people sometime reality is just too unbearable.
When I finally get to my room I close the door behind me, sit on my bed, pull out one of his books and start reading one of my favorite essays from “The Nasty Bits”. I broke into tears at the second sentence. I cry for a long time. There will be no new words, no new places he’ll show us, no more stupid instagram stories showing weird pano of his hotel rooms with cool music in the background. He was a stranger but felt like a friend, and I know it may seems stupid to grieve for someone you never knew but there’s so much him in me it hurts. I can’t stop crying.
I think at what he would do in my position, so I wipe up my tears, pour myself a glass of whiskey, lite up a smoke and say my goodbyes.
I’m gonna truly miss him. His books kept me company on my loneliest trips, his words showed me the way on my darkest nights, his shows gave me something to aspire to: to tell stories, to tell the truth. He was one of the few real ones out there, he was raw, sharp and bullshit free. He was empathetic, compassionate, kind, and more human than most. He had a deep respect for people and culture, an intolerance to injustice and inequality and he wasn’t afraid to show us the world for what it really is. He was one of the good guys.
He was my indirect mentor, my role model, my hero. I wanted to be like him.
I still do.
Thank you for everything you gave us Tony, your work will keep teaching and inspiring us forever.