No matter where you travel, don’t just eat to eat, but eat to nourish your soul. Think about how the relationship between travel & food defines you as an individual. Pay attention to everything. Open all of your senses to the wonders of your surroundings. Describe what you are smelling as if you were tasting it. Try something new to eat local to the area. Food allows us to see who people are, their beliefs, their customs, their culture, and their souls. Don’t miss a thing!

Travel & Food

Dinner in Tai Hu in China.

Tai Hu white fish in ginger sauce. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

I am sitting in Tai Hu, China as I write this.  Yes, I can hardly believe I just wrote that myself.  I have been traveling in this country for almost a week now and while I always appreciate the food wherever my journeys take me, this trip has been incredible for me, the foodie. It has awakened all of my senses and I am appreciating not only what I am eating, but the culture in which it is being prepared in a way I never have before.

But the one sense that has REALLY been awakened is my sense of smell.  Oh, the smells in China and especially the villages we are visiting!  I am noticing everything now, even the smell of sticky tofu.  But, the smell of chocolate and waffle cones was utterly delicious.  I never thought to describe a smell as delicious, but that’s exactly what it was.

Just as my senses have been awakened, so has the realization of the importance of travel & food and how they are intertwined. While food is a necessity in our survival, the relationship between each individual and food is very different.  Food teaches us so much about the world around us.  It allows us to see who people are, their beliefs, their customs, their culture, and beyond all, their souls.  And, it made me think about how this relationship fits into who I am as an individual.

Making dumplings in Shanghai, China.

Learning how to make dumplings in Shanghai, China. Guess which one is mine? Photo credit Dana Zucker, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

Who I am…

I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a community member, a mother, a wife, master of a home of athletes, a traveler, and a food lover!  I believe food and my relationship with food is one that has not only developed over time, but out of how I was raised. This relationship is organic and ever-changing, based on what I read, hear, learn, and explore, much like my relationships.

My travels are based on food as well; eating and taking cooking classes wherever I go.  Many times they are not planned cooking classes, but start out as a chat with the chef and end up with me working my way into the kitchen.  I can’t urge you enough to try this yourself.  Immerse yourself into the lives of the people and their food and your travel experience will take on a whole other dimension!

My beliefs…

I am a believer in wholesome living, yet living a life that is full.  I believe in my family and that what I do for them provides a fuller life for me.  I believe in food that is local, but will reach out of the local area for ingredients that will make a more wholesome and rich plate.  I believe in learning.  I buy cookbooks, food-related books, and travel books, 2, 3, and 4 at a time.  I read them front to back and then put them on my shelves, pulling them down when I am inspired by something in my life, like this trip to China.

I believe in family.  I travel solo and with my husband and children.  We travel for new adventures, for the familiar, and to be with family.  And, yes, much of this travel is wrapped around food.  I learn from our family; what they cook, what we cook together, what we eat together, and where they take us to eat.  I learn from the people in the communities in which we find ourselves; stopping to talk to them, shopping at farmer’s markets, taking those cooking classes, and eating where the locals eat.

Kona, Hawaii

Travels with the Zucker family. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

My culture…

Our culture is what shapes us.  It is based on who we are, where we live, our backgrounds, and those around us.  It is also based on socio-economics, demographics, and where we live.  As a couple, we have worked hard to be able to provide our family with all we could, always remembering who we are and staying humble.

We worked hard and put our priorities in place to assure we provided our family the opportunities we know have shaped us. We moved a lot, living in many different communities around the country.  Each move created a new piece of the who we are, based on the culture of the community.

We always made sure we lived in communities that were shaped on beliefs that we held, yet were diverse in culture to allow for experiences our children otherwise would not have had. This, of course, included the food associated with these different cultures.  Food is part of that culture that shapes us; allowing us to grow as both a family and individuals.  From my travels to my children’s travel around the world, we have all learned the importance of culture and food. This was best proven when my daughter returned from Ghana with recipes she learned while cooking in Mata’s outdoor kitchen.  I knew then that even though my job as a mother was not complete, I was on the right track.

A traditional tea ceremony in China.

Tea ceremony in China. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

My soul…

My soul is who I really am.  It is so much more and holds my next steps.  Food feeds MY soul and I use food to nourish my families’ soul.  I love to prepare food with tools I have carried back from my travels, such as my favorite wooden spoon I brought back from Greece. This helps me stay connected to the places in which I have traveled and makes the memories always current. I prepare each meal full of my soul.  Recently, I watched my mother’s soul in this same spot.  I knew then what food really means.

I was sitting in my parent’s kitchen and my father nudged my son and said to my mother, “Sam would like some of your sugar cookies”.  We all know it was my father who wanted them and it was after 9 at night, but my mother’s face became relaxed and happy; her soul was ignited. She pulled out the ingredients and her Kitchen Aid, warmed the oven, and I watched.  My soul, too, was at peace and although I never as a child cooked in my mother’s kitchen, I knew then where my soul and food had become one.  An hour later, the boys were eating warm sugar cookies with ice-cream in the middle.  The four of us said nothing, but took such unbelievable comfort in this moment..

My hope for everyone is that no matter where you are, you don’t just eat to eat, but you eat to nourish your soul.  Think about how the relationship between food and travel defines you as an individual.  Pay attention to everything when you travel.  Open all of your senses to the wonders of your surroundings.  Try describing what you are smelling as if you were tasting it.  Shake up how you travel a bit.  Try something new to eat and that is local to the area in which you find yourself.  But, as you are doing this, take time to appreciate where you are and think about what you can do to give back to the communities you are in.  And, remember, that by traveling you are giving back as well..