Anthony Bourdain is arguably one of the most well-traveled people to walk the Earth. He first charmed restaurant workers and foodies alike in 2000 with the release of his book "Kitchen Confidential." Bourdain is best known for his prolific TV career, with travel/food shows like "Parts Unknown" and "No Reservations" transporting viewers to corners of the world that they didn’t even know existed. He had an uncanny ability to make the world feel smaller by digging deep into what makes the food and culture of a specific place special and helping viewers understand other people better.
Prior to his tragic death in 2018, Bourdain traveled to more than 80 countries and all seven continents, including Antarctica. He was always on the go — his adventurous spirit was a major part of his charm. These trips were far from your typical laid-back locations. Sometimes, Bourdain found himself in the middle of political turmoil or social tensions that opened his eyes even more to where ever he was.
Even though it feels like Bourdain traveled everywhere during his short 61 years on this planet, there are a few places he missed. Sometimes, the nomad had a good reason for not getting to visit a place. However, Bourdain still had plenty of locations he wanted to travel to, but just never made it.
Bourdain had an irrational fear of Switzerland
It’s hard to believe that Anthony Bourdain avoided a major destination like Switzerland throughout all of his trips to Europe, but it wasn’t on accident. He previously admitted that he had a morbid fear of the country, even though he’s been to the surrounding countries of France, Italy, and Germany dozens of times. Apparently, certain aspects like Lake Geneva, snow-capped mountains, cuckoo clocks, and even Swiss cheese rubbed him in the wrong way. The worst, in his mind, was the yodeling. "You just feel that in your marrow," Bourdain told Conan O’Brien in 2016. "I mean, it’s horrifying."
Bourdain was always known for being open and honest about his feelings about things. However, to have a fear of an entire country was not exactly his style. It’s bizarrely fitting that the one place he was afraid of was because of irrational reasons rather than real dangers.
Security reasons prevented him from visiting Yemen
Anthony Bourdain previously told Condé Nast Traveler that if he hasn’t been to a country, more than likely it’s for security reasons. One of those places is Yemen, the Middle Eastern coastal country south of Saudi Arabia, which he had hoped to visit sooner than later. Since 2015, Yemen has experienced one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Civilians are facing attacks, hunger, and disease during the major conflict, so it is one of the most difficult places to travel to.
The rich history of Yemen can not be understated — Sanaa is one of the oldest cities in the world that has been consistently inhabited (via Britannica). It sounds exactly the kind of place Bourdain would visit. As CNN points out, Bourdain spent a lot of time in the Middle East in countries like Lebanon, Iran, and Israel, digging through the historical significance of places he walked through and listening to people explain their cultural touchstones. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to do the same in Yemen.
His irrational fear may have barred him from visiting Costa Rica
Anthony Bourdain spent a lot of time in Latin America, exploring the culture and cuisine of places like Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico and more. One popular tourist destination he never made it to was the beach oasis of Costa Rica. The blog NY to Costa Rica theorizes that it could be because of Bourdain’s irrational fear of Switzerland and the country’s similarities to Costa Rica.
On the surface, Costa Rica and Switzerland couldn’t seem more different. They’re in opposite hemispheres of the globe and one is known for sandy beaches and the other for snowy peaks. However, the blogger explains that Switzerland and Costa Rica are both neutral countries, and their landscape views can even look alike in some places. It’s unclear whether or not this was Bourdain’s thought process or if a "Parts Unknown" episode in the country would have happened in due time.
A political crisis in Venezuela barred him from visiting
Similarly to Yemen, Venezuela has been dealing with a massive crisis in recent years. Political turmoil has lead to extreme levels of inflation, shortages of necessities like food and medicine, and millions of refugees leaving the country in search of stability (via BBC). It’s a shame because, like Yemen, Venezuela has an intensely fascinating culture. It’s easy to imagine Bourdain dining on arepas with a local family or admiring the world’s largest waterfall (via World of Waterfalls).
Bourdain told Condé Nast Traveler back in 2016 that his avoidance of Venezuela also came down to security issues. "Hoping to shoot Yemen and Venezuela in the near future," he said at the time. Unfortunately, those amazing potential episodes of "Parts Unknown" will only live on in our imaginations, as the stars never aligned for the traveler to make it to either beautiful country prior to Bourdain’s untimely death.
Wales didn’t have the same draw as other U.K. countries
Anthony Bourdain has been all over the United Kingdom — London, the English countryside, Scotland, and the list goes on (via Explore Parts Unknown). However, somehow, someway, he never made his way down to Wales. It seems like it would have been a simple trip during one of his other jaunts to Great Britain, but it just wasn’t in the cards for "A Cook’s Tour," "No Reservations," or "Parts Unknown."
The U.K. Parliament reports that the majority of visitors to Wales are from the United Kingdom. In fact, 90% of tourists and 80% of the spending come from domestic visitors. It may not have made sense for Bourdain and his showrunners to prioritize filming a travel show in a place that is mostly supported in domestic tourism. Likely, Bourdain would have made his way down the coast to Wales sooner or later, however.
Bourdain mysteriously never went to Poland
Bourdain may have made visits to Ukraine and Russia, but many of the smaller Eastern European countries did not get a visit from him during his time on TV. One major miss during his trips Europe was Poland. Many fans on the internet were shocked to realize that Bourdain never made a trip to the country. He’s a fan of Polish food and visited authentic spots like Quaker Street Store in the Hudson Valley for sausages and pierogi and Polonia Polish Restaurant in Michigan for goulash and cabbage (via Tripadvisor).
Fans were begging Bourdain to visit the major European destination for years. There is even a Facebook page titled Anthony Bourdain: Come To Poland that has 800 likes. A few Reddit users were upset that the country didn’t get an episode. "I remember him saying that was one of the most often requested places for him to go," one user wrote. It is largely unknown why he didn’t grant the request, other than the timing and logistics weren’t on the side of his Polish fans.
He was interested in Guatemala but never made a trip
Another Central American country that Bourdain failed to visit was Guatemala, but it may be for good reason. Remember how he previously said that if he hasn’t gone somewhere, it’s likely for security issues? The social landscape in Guatemala hasn’t been the safest in recent years, only escalating recently to a mass migration crisis due to the devastating effects of climate change (via NBC News).
Aside from political and ecological turmoil, violent crime is also an issue in Guatemala. Many of the migrants face being robbed or assaulted while traveling main routes (via International Crisis Group). Bourdain was usually filming a TV show if he was in another country, and an entire film crew isn’t exactly an inconspicuous way to travel around, so a visit would have been potentially risky.
However, CNN did release a short video in 2018 of Bourdain visiting the Little Guatemala area of Los Angeles. "Here’s what I know about Guatemala: nothing," he says frankly at the beginning. The episode does mention immigration and the government corruption in the country, so exploring the culture through a neighborhood in LA was probably an easier method at the time.
The solitude of Mongolia may have made travel difficult
Anthony Bourdain loved a good adventure. Whether it was traveling to Antarctica or journeying through the Congo, he loved going places that no one else would think of. That’s why it’s surprising to discover that he never made it to Mongolia, the massive landlocked country between Russia and China. It’s the least densely populated country in the entire world, and it seems like Bourdain would be interested in experiencing that stark contrast to his home of New York City (via Geography Realm).
Considering it is a country with few people, the logistics of making a massive show like "Parts Unknown" may have been too daunting to figure out. However, other hosts like Eddie Huang filmed shows like "Huang’s World" in Mongolia, so it’s far from impossible (via The Wrap). Fans on Reddit also were upset to hear that Bourdain couldn’t make it to the country. "After watching that episode of Long Way Round where Ewan McGregor goes to a yurt and eats yak ball stew, I’d have thought Anthony Bourdain would have been all about going to Mongolia," BZH_JJM wrote.
He skipped Norway on his Scandinavian excursions
Bourdain and Nordic countries are no strangers to one another. We’ve seen him delve into René Redzepi and his legendary restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. In Iceland, he famously ate fermented shark, which he claimed was one of the worst things he’d ever eaten (via Iceland Magazine). He took "No Reservations" to Finland and Sweden. However, he never once made it to the final Scandinavian stop — Norway, known for its views of the Northern Lights and its hearty cuisine.
It’s unclear why he never made the trip to Norway. Considering he spent so much time in the region, maybe he was saving a trip to Norway and never got the chance to go. However, fans were upset that the host never filmed an episode in the country. "I always wanted him to go to Norway, where a lot of my ancestors are from. I guess Iceland and Sweden scared him too much," u/vikingduck03 wrote on Reddit.