Anthony Bourdain in Romania: Managing Your Expectations on a Trip

Every Monday I will break down one of my favorite Episodes of No Reservations and talk about what I learned from it and why it is my favorite.

Then you’ll definitely want to join in the conversation on Tuesdays as we talk about what happened the night before!

Also, you’ll want to follow me on twitter @sojournerabroad so that we can talk live during the new episodes!

Tonight’s Episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is yet another clip show.  Judging by Tony’s tweets (@Bourdain) he doesn’t like it just as much as we don’t!  Luckily, this clip show does have three of my favorite No Reservations locations: Haiti, Iraq, and Romania.  Seeing as Halloween is quickly approaching, what better episode for us to look at than Romania!  It is an episode filled with Tony feeling uncomfortable and people gathering for a strange halloween party in Dracula’s castle in Transylvania.

Tony points out at the beginning of the episode that all signs point to this being a fantastic experience!  His guide (and long time friend) is Zamir Gotta and he has been with Tony in many episodes… Uzbekistan and Russia before this episode, and America’s Rust Belt (Baltimore, Detroit, Buffalo), Ukraine, and Kansas City after this episode.  Tony trust’s Zamir and expects for this trip to be just as good as previous ones.

That is why I love this episode!  So much does not go according to their plans.  So much doesn’t meet their expectations.  Last week we talked about being prepared for an emergency, this week we are going to be looking at being prepared for something completely different

Things that didn’t go as expected:

1. The first scene that they go to shoot, they are kicked out of the location.  Word did not “trickle down” from the higher ups that Tony and his Crew had permission to film in this location.  The people running the grounds they want to shoot on request a payment of 10 euros per meter.  Let’s estimate conservatively and say that the area they were shooting in was only a 100 square meter courtyard.  That would have cost 100,000 euros or nearly 137,000 dollars.  Obviously they chose to scrap that location.

2. Zamir far over sells how exciting the trip to Transylvania may be.  Zamir seems to be house shopping in Romania and dragging Tony into it!  Not exactly my idea of a fantastic trip!  Tony likens the tour of the estate to “poking a dead squirrel with a stick”… not very exciting.  The entire time on the estate, Tony is led to believe that at the very least it was Dracula’s castle that he was touring, but at the very end of the tour he finds out that there is only a slim to none chance that the Count even spent a brief period of time there.  This takes his experience from bad to worse!

3. The hotel they stay at plays, in humiliating fashion, exclusively to tourists looking for Dracula themed events.  It is like a strange halloween themed renaissance festival.  As we know, Tony prides himself in seeing the markets and hidden gems of a place he visits.  He wants to see the culture and learn from locals.  This is not what he expected.

4. Zamir then, quite randomly, buys a tiny rundown car.  It is never really explained why he bought the car.  There are very few cars that I would call a death trap, but this is definitely one of them!  I’m sure Bourdain doesn’t expect luxury travel in each leg of the trip… but he probably didn’t prefer to risk his life on Zamir’s driving either!

5. Then, because Zamir is obviously batting 1.000, he brings Tony to “the Merry Cemetery“.  If there is one place you have to visit in Romania… it probably isn’t a cemetery…

Despite disappointment after disappointment, by the end of the episode Tony concludes that, although it was not what he expected, he “had a good time here”.  He settles in for a nice dinner with a large family that has taken him in.  He is appreciative of them sharing both their food and company with him.

This is what we can take away from this episode.  We may have grand expectations of what a trip is going to be like, but the reality is that we will not know until we get there.  Many people get disappointed, but we should learn to roll with the punches.  The simple fact is that we are travel (99% of the time) to places where people live, work, and play.  They are proud of their home and we can learn to love it just as they do.  It may not live up to your expectations, but the simple fact is that your expectations may be too high.  Not every trip is a fairy tale and not every castle was actually Dracula’s.  But hopefully by the end of your stay you too can conclude that although it was not what you expected, you still had a good time.

2 Responses to “Anthony Bourdain in Romania: Managing Your Expectations on a Trip”
  1. vyvacious says:

    I agree with Tony’s philosophy. It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around a trip that goes awry. I think I’m a lot better now at rolling with the punches as you mention but in the beginning, it used to really bug me!

    • for sure. I just went on a trip with my family to NYC and I had these grand plans of taking them all over… but i forget that they don’t travel at the same pace! I got really frustrated because we kept missing things that I had mentally planned. But it’s just how it was and now its kind of funny to think about.

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