The year is almost over, which is a big deal for my family. Once January 2018 hits, we’re 3 to 5 months away from selling it all and moving abroad. We will be nomads… digital nomads? Slow travel nomads? Nomad family? Or… maybe Gastronomads?!
What is a gastronomad?
According to Mike Elgan, author of Gastronomad, it’s a “foodie who travels a lot.”
Gastronomad living is craft—and art. And most of what I learned, I learned the hard way: through trial and error (mostly error). I wrote this book so you can learn the easy way. Everything I know about living as a gastronomad is contained in these pages.
Being a gastronomad … yes, food is involved; and, yes, travel, obviously, but it’s a deep connection to people and cultures from around the world through food. Gastronomadism is meaningful and life-changing.
This passage from the book says it all to me…
The gastronomad mindset says to the world: I want deep empathy with you. I want to live the way you live. I want to understand you, by immersing myself into your community. I want to taste your climate and culture and history. I want to break bread with you, sit at your table, hear your stories.
Page by page I was saying to myself, “Gotta jot that down. Oh! Remember that, too. Hey, Greg, listen to what Mike wrote here.” I ended up reading much of the book aloud to my husband. Later one night after finishing the book, my 7-year old daughter said, “Mom, can you read some of those chapters to me too, you know the safety parts and the food parts? It all sounded so interesting. I want to be prepared, too.”
You see, funny thing, but this book exceeded my already high expectations.
I’m a fan of Mike’s tech writing and I follow him on Twitter. His beautiful wife, Amira, is into food and nutrition. I see many similarities between Mike/Greg and Amira/Me. When I saw he wrote a book about traveling, nomadism, and food, I was even more enamored by our similar paths. They are ahead of us in time and gastronomad experience (we started executing our travel-the-world plan over a year ago). How lucky are we to have their stories to read before we pack our bags and board the plane?!
You all know I’m into food. Some of you know that Greg is a tech whiz. It’s just too cool that this couple has paved the path for exactly what we want to do. The only difference is that we’re taking our young daughter along for the epic journey.
I reached out to Mike.
I asked him if I could read a copy of Gastronomad to review on my blog. Here I am not only three days later having devoured the book, taken copious notes, and sharing it with you here.
I say the book exceeded my already high expectations because when I started reading it, I anticipated an experience about traveling foodies with rose-colored glasses, which is to say I expected a great story about the awesomeness of being digital nomads who like to eat.
What I found was an inspiring adventure of two clever and smart people moving around the world in the most unique places and writing about the beauty, the connectedness of humans, and the utter coolness of doing it all while clicking away on laptops for work in such amazing places like Morocco, France, Guatemala, Greece, Mexico, Kenya, Istanbul, and many more. Inspiring!
I immensely enjoyed Mike’s writing of a nomad’s mindset, the psychology of being a gastronomad, if you will, and comparing that to “residential” living. It was a fascinating topic about the three “taxes” of residential living: novelty tax, sameness tax, and vacation tax. Those notions really resonated, an undercurrent to my own thoughts, but more fleshed out and articulated so well by Mike. These are topics that Greg and I have discussed on many occasions and reading Mike’s take on it further cemented our drive to move around the world.
That wasn’t all of it.
Mike also described the darker aspects and day-to-day realities of this style of travel. He prepped my family with practical how-to’s for living and working digitally in new, unfamiliar, and sometimes inconvenient environments. Mike provides a blueprint, with tips like where to sit in a cafe to help prevent theft, what to pack for technology, luggage, and kitchen, what to expect in Air B&B rentals (he broke it down in a way I’d never considered). The discussion of culture shock was instrumental in helping me imagine what it could be like. Perhaps that alone will soften the initial confusion and potential alienation anxiety.
I also learned a shit-load of travel hacks to immediately implement… such as packing a bed sheet … just in case (you can read more about that in Gastronomad), thoughts about packing my chef knives (I had thought I’d bring them all, he makes valid reconsiderations), using a camera-backpack even if one doesn’t have a camera, cost saving tips for booking accommodations, how to find quality restaurants offering authentic food and not industrialized crap (those tips were particularly gratifying).
In fact, I’m now convinced more than ever to pack my desert-denizen sourdough starter to make bread while traveling. If Mike can pack his kefir grains, I can pack my sourdough starter, Cosmos.
Mike shared realistic expectations alongside a plan for navigating the gastronomad lifestyle successfully. Like I said, Mike and Amira blazed the trail so we could follow in their footsteps. This book gives useful advice for anyone whether you’re going to up and move the whole family to chase true levain sourdough bread around the world for months or years on end, or, perhaps you want to read the book because you are traveling to Italy for a week. It’s excellent in both instances.
Heck, it’s even great for Americans just traveling our homeland.
Also, Mike and Amira have taken what they’ve learned and created a true Gastronomad Experience for those who want a taste of what they promise in the book, but in a bite-sized portion. Check out their website …
Question: What’s 1,000 times better than a vacation? Answer: A unique, once-in-a-lifetime Gastronomad Experience! Epicurean world travelers Mike & Amira Elgan carefully select the most spectacular locations in their favorite cities, then host a small group of fun-loving foodies to deeply explore the local food and drinks culture with carefully selected experts in every field. We’ll cook, explore each city’s best secret food spots, markets, bars, wineries, history, culture and more. Plus, we’ll throw in some professional courses along the way. Affordable luxury, exquisite farm-fresh organic food, biodynamic wine and happiness — that’s what Gastronomad Experiences are made of!
Mike says that “Living nomadically will change the way you think about everything.” <– THAT’S what I’m after. I want my mind to burst with explosive compassion, mind-blowing connections, and assumption-busting questions.
World, here we come! Gastronomads we are!