Here’s the dirty secret about travel that no one talks about — travel is not always about new experiences. In fact, some of the best parts of traveling are when you connect with something familiar.
Which is why on a recent trip to Thailand, I ate chicken Pad Thai for every single meal.
13 lunches. 13 dinners. 26 orders of Pad Thai with chicken.
And it was everything I hoped it would be.
Travel can be about whatever you want
I can already feel some of you foodies recoiling in horror.
“26 meals of the exact same thing? How could he eat Pad Thai over and over when he had all that delicious Thai food to choose from?!”
I understand that my dogged obsession with one dish might seem insane to a lot of you. And that’s ok. I get that loads of people travel to experience new flavors and exotic dishes.
But I don’t. And that’s the point.
For me, there’s nothing better than walking into a restaurant and knowing exactly what I want.
No indecision. No browsing. No awkward questions about ingredients in a language I don’t speak. Just exactly the delicious thing I know I want.
For me, eating dinner isn’t Tinder. I don’t want to swipe endlessly to see what’s out there.
When I find something I like I stick with it. And every meal in Thailand feels like my 80th wedding anniversary where I renew my vows.
I’ve found my food soulmate, and her name is Pad Thai Gai.
Novelty is overrated
I’ve been on the road for at least a few months every year for the past decade. And in that time I’ve seen (and done) some pretty wild stuff.
But the thing that keeps me traveling year after year isn’t the never-ending search for novelty or adventure.
No, I travel so much because it lets me craft the best version— my version — of every place I visit almost every single day.
When I travel I don’t have to deal with judgment or expectations from others if I want to sip coffee and read in a hammock for three hours. There’s no eye-rolling if I ignore the local tours of historic sites in favor of surfing for three weeks straight. I can sleep in late or go to bed early, and the only person I answer to is me.
That’s why people love to travel. It gives them the freedom and space to be themselves without the constraints of daily life. It’s not just about “new experiences” but also personalized experiences.
If you want to try everything on the menu, that’s awesome. You do you. But don’t make me feel bad because I’ve got a favorite dish that I want to eat all the dang time.
Travel means trusting yourself
If you travel long enough you will get to this magical place where you know what you want.
And it’s not because you become an expert about everywhere you go. Obviously. I’m not even an expert in my home country.
The reason I can choose the same thing for every meal with zero FOMO is that I’ve learned to trust myself. After a decade of travel, you know what you like.
But more importantly, you learn to stop wasting time on the stuff you don’t.
A few of my favorite things
I know for a fact that white coffee in Malaysia is amazing. Javanese Mie Goreng rules. I eat wan tan mee when I’m in Penang and drink txakoli with pintxos when I visit the Spanish Basque region.
I always order a chicken burrito at Mexican restaurants (except in Oaxaca where the fish tacos reign supreme). And surprise, the best “Italian food” is actually thin crust pizza topped with bresaola and arugula (with a drizzle of balsamic reduction). Or trofie. Love that Sardinian pasta.
Bottom line: if I’m at a restaurant in Thailand I don’t need to look at the menu. It’s chicken Pad Thai every time.
Come at me.
Travel is about discovery, not just exploration
Trying new things has its place, but (hopefully) at some point your travel plans mature from throwing darts at a map “to see what happens” towards searching for opportunities that cultivate the things you love.
Leave room for serendipity, by all means, but don’t let anyone or anything make you feel bad about indulging in your passions.
Even if that means eating the same thing for every meal.
Have fun out there.