Argentina has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 51!
First of all, if you read the post's title to the tune of a certain Cream song, "mission accomplished." If (most likely) you did not, then no harm done.
Admission, I don't travel just to eat good food. I travel to eat good different food. Sure, it would be very easy (and perhaps stereotypical) for me to eat Western food for all of my meals. Lots of travelers stick to foods they already know and love. They frequent hamburger and pizza joints, perhaps supplementing their diet with the occasional Pad Thai or Pho. It is no secret that there are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of successful American and European restaurants in Southeast Asia.
So what gives? Doesn't everyone want to eat Vietnamese food in Vietnam? Mostly "yes", but there is a caveat.
People tend to like what they are already accustomed to; I, for one, totally understand this mentality. There's a reason they call it "comfort food." Although it sounds easy to expand your palate, there is always a bit of a gamble when you try new food. Maybe it tastes bad. Maybe it will make you sick. Maybe the restaurant or food stall isn't sanitary. There have been many times I just wanted to buy a pizza, because I didn't feel like going through the effort of trying something new. Pizza is familiar to me, whereas some strange noodle dish may end up being "The Devil on a Plate."
Ok, so I've given some reasons for not stepping outside of your comfort zone. But isn't travel about doing just that? I recently wrote a post called Deconstructing Comfort, where I extolled the merits of expanding one's comfort zone. The more foods you try, the more things you will be open to eating. Since beginning my travel, I've eaten scorpion, cricket, frog, and ostrich. You know what? I would never have tried those foods in the United States. But I cannot lie, they were all pretty good! At this point, I'd probably not say no to dog meat (I think I just lost a few dozen readers), or many of the other funky things they eat in Vietnam.
If I can have the gall to solo backpack through Asia, I can sure as hell eat local dishes, even ones that I previously considered strange. Although I'm not running off to eat insects and "pet" animals every day, it is certainly an interesting experience doing so. Surprise, surprise, trying new food expands your palate. If you don't like something, you never have to eat it again. But if you do discover a new favorite dish, you will thank yourself forever!
Come on, crickets are on me tonight!
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.