Why I Travel for Food And So Should You

Written By: Laura Lynch

Culinary travel has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years and I’ve jumped wholeheartedly on the bandwagon. Have you?

I’ve always loved food. At home, I do the things that every foodie does. I cook elaborate five-course meals for our friends, I watch Top Chef and dream of another life in which I might have become a chef, and I regularly attend food and wine festivals.

However, it wasn’t until about five years ago that I took my eating habit on the road. Until then, I had no idea the limitless benefits I would gain from traveling for food. I can assure you, now that this very important lesson has been learned, no matter where our adventures take us, food is a central part of the trip.

Why Travel for Food

As I said, it was about five years ago – coincidentally around the time my husband and I started traveling together – when I finally combined my love for travel and food. We were becoming interested in wine tourism and we’d heard good things about the Stellenbosch region of South Africa.

1. Food Travel Awakens the Senses

traveling for food - Peru chicarones
Peruvian Arroz con Mariscos with choclo (big corn) on top

You’re wondering how food can be powerful, right? It’s simple. Eating utilizes all five senses. Not only do we taste our food, we also touch it, smell it, devour it with our eyes and listen to it sizzle in the pan. We’re in a heightened state of being whenever we interact with food, so it stands to reason that intentionally experiencing food while you’re traveling will increase the intensity of the memories you build.

2. Food Takes you Back to Your Travels

Have you ever noticed how even the faint aroma of something you ate on a vacation instantly takes you back to the moment you experienced it. Tasting an Argentinian Malbec transports me to a tasting room in Mendoza. The smell of galangal and lime instantly brings to mind the Thai cooking class we took in Chiang Mai.

Even the sight of choclo (really large corn) gets me excited for the intense flavors of Peruvian food. Just ask my husband – “big corn”, as I call it, elicits an unreasonable amount of excitement from me.

3. Food is Powerful

travel for food - ostrich sandwich
Ostrich sandwich at a Stellenbosch winery outdoor restaurant

You see, food is powerful. It has the ability to shape your journey and define your memories. Food is also an essential part of life and community. It’s what makes us who we are as a people.

Without it there is no authentic travel experience. It’s the times we congregate around a dinner table with newly formed friends, get invited to lunch with a local family or take time for a picnic in a vineyard that we remember the most.

Not necessarily because of the food itself – although if it’s good that’s an added bonus – but because those are the moments when the best memories are made.

4. Good Food is Worth It

I read a lot of blog posts and travel articles about how to save money on food while traveling and how to avoid street food so as not to get sick. It makes me sad to think of all the amazing things I would have missed out on in a country if I had taken that advice.

I seriously question whether you can experience the real, authentic side of a culture without experiencing the food. After all, what is Thailand without a plate of Pad Thai, China without Dim Sum, Canada without poutine, Mexico without street tacos?

I’m exaggerating a little, but you get the point.

5. Food Becomes a Part of Travel, Even When You Least Expect It

We do still take trips that have no immediately apparent food focus – like to Turkey – where we went because we wanted to check out Istanbul and the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. But even those trips ended up expanding our global palette and introducing us to things we would never have experienced without the power of food.

We went on one of our favorite food tours in Istanbul, and even did some wine tasting in ancient wine caves in Cappadocia.

6. All Food is Amazing

Indulging in Michelin-starred restaurants, veering off the beaten path to where they make the best-fried noodles, immersing yourself in an authentic cooking school in Tuscany, or even accepting a dare to eat a deep-fried cricket from a market in Cambodia – these are the things vibrant memories are made of. And if you don’t seek out food, you’ll miss out on an entire aspect of the journey.

Ever since that first trip to South Africa, we have been intentionally choosing destinations based on our desire to find new culinary hotspots. We choose destinations to expand our knowledge and appreciation for not only the history and architecture of a country but the food that the culture was built on. Doing so has had a great impact on our travels.

7. Wineries

While researching the area, we found that many of the wineries also had world-class restaurants and it became clear that we would be missing half the experience if we didn’t explore the burgeoning food scene. So we made reservations at top restaurants with wine-pairing menus, and experienced foods we’d never tried before, like wild game and ostrich.

We learned about popular grape varietals like Pinotage – the pillar of South Africa wine – and how today’s modern cuisine in South Africa developed with the influence of many different cultures. I came away from that trip with a new-found appreciation for the power of food.

South African Food

why you should travel for food - simit in Turkey
Simit with Kaymak (Water Buffalo clotted cream) and honey

As is the case with many countries around the world, South African cuisine is a conglomeration of many different subcultures. If we only went to South Africa to see elephants (which are pretty fantastic – don’t get me wrong), we wouldn’t have learned so much about the vast and dynamic culture of the country through the food. Sure, we could have opened a textbook and read of the history that brought all of these cultures together, but then we wouldn’t have experienced it firsthand and taken home all of those priceless memories.

Food Makes Travel Better

Now that I’ve sufficiently plied you with drool-worthy photos of food from around the world, can’t we agree that intentionally adding food to your travels will greatly enrich your experience?

If you’re a foodie like me, just knowing that we aren’t limited to the restaurants and gourmet food markets of our own cities is reason enough for me to get excited about traveling. There’s a world full of incredible foods beckoning to be eaten and they are just a plane ride or road trip away.

And if you’re not a foodie — well, you still have to eat, right? So why not eat a little, learn a little and take home the leftovers?

Culinary travel has grown rapidly in popularity recently and I've jumped wholeheartedly on the bandwagon. Have you? Here's why you should travel for food.
Why you should travel for food

What is your favorite food travel memory? Do you have a favorite country you like to travel to specifically for the food?

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About Laura Lynch

Laura Lynch is the creator and writer of the travel blog, Savored Journeys, which is an exploration of food and wine around the world. She's an avid world traveler, having been to 44 countries, and lover of great food and wine. Connect with Laura on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Leave a Comment

21 thoughts on “Why I Travel for Food And So Should You”

  1. How wonderful that you mention how food adds to your traveling. I have never tried Greek food but I love a lot of flavor in my food and want to try it this week. I will find a traditional Greek restaurant close by to try.

  2. Yes so true me also. I travel not only for food but yes , its the agenda. food of the area really represents the culture of the area.

  3. Hey there, it’s a pleasure to meet with you. I also travel around the world and really like to taste different countries special dishes during my travel.

  4. I love to travel and yes, one of the reason is that for food. I can see some turkish food here. I have wish to visit turkey to taste some of best turkish kabab!

  5. I am just back from a trip to Rajasthan in India and to be honest this was my first trip focusing on food. This articles captures my emotions on so many levels and every single word of this is true. I would definitely make it a point to create more food based itineraries for myself in the future!

  6. Gastrotours are so unique due to the diversity of the food types you will encounter in each place. The variety of food is as huge as there are people on this planet. Your food pictures above look very sumptuous and tasty. Great photography too.

  7. Love this! I don’t know whether I do this with almost as much aim as you do however I don’t think you can truly encounter a spot without encountering the nourishment. Much obliged for sharing.

  8. Nice article. Loved it. We are gourmets and first thing we do when we land at a place is to ask where the best restaurant in town and what is the local speciality! We love to travel to eat!

  9. To me food has always been a good reason to travel. Apart from the delicacy, food also talks hundred words about the culture and lifestyle of a destination. So food is a very important part of travel and destination experience. Thanks for this post

  10. Food really is one of the authentic experiences for travelers. I would definitely recommend St. Lucian and Caribbean cuisine with its European, Indian, African and Amerindian influences. Fresh seafood and delicious meats are prepared with culinary flair. Great food is available for all budgets from small roadside diners to fine dining establishments.

  11. Food has always been a part of my travel experiences. I sometimes joke that I am going to eat my way around this city or that country. I always like to mingle with the locals and experience their culture. That would include their foods. I enjoy many types of food and find traveling as a great way to experience them. Sometimes, I remember a place that I visited by the food that I had there. Paris is one of my favorites for enjoying good food. They appreciate it when you enjoy and compliment them for their food. I particularly have a favorite place there which only serves souffles. I go there every time that I am visiting Paris.

  12. Great photos! Many of my travel memories go hand in hand with the food experiences I’ve had! It’s so hard to choose a favorite experience… But one that comes to mind is a dinner in Barcelona. We were renting an apartment and the owner sent his mother-in-law over to cook a traditional Spanish meal for us. Not just the amazing food (I’m talking sneaking-to-the-fridge-in-the-middle-of-the-night amazing!), but the whole experience of watching her prepare and trying to communicate in our broken spanish/english conversation about the ingredients she used was an incredible experience and is an unforgettable memory!

  13. Food has never been the reason for my travels but I hardly miss out tasting the traditional food of the country or city I visit… who doesn’t love tasting a new food!!

  14. I have an insane love for Korean dishes! My father was stationed in South Korea back in the 80s and while there learned how to make bulgogi (korean bbq). So every time I eat that dish it reminds me of him. In my mind’s eye, I can see him in the kitchen, preparing it and my siblings and I salivating because it would fill the house with the delicious smells of things to come. Yummy! My dream is to one day visit South Korea and get in as many foodie experiences as I possibly can.

  15. I LOVE THIS! I PREACH THIS! When I first got to Cambodia I was with a group of people and one of the guys in the group refused to eat from street vendors and refused to eat anything other than fried rice because he didn’t know what was in stuff. I was always the one poking around the alleys trying to find the REALLY good spots to eat. You know the kind.

    I also travel with Celiac Disease and allergies to eggs and nuts. Even if I didn’t care about food I would still have to care about the food that I’m putting into my mouth. I’ve chosen to embrace it and now love to find out about cooking processes, ingredients and the stories behind dishes.

    Thailand is tummy soul mate. I dream about the curries, the glass noodle salads, the mango sticky rice! If I’m flying anywhere in the same hemisphere as Thailand I always book a week somewhere delectable. Thanks for the words!

  16. Great advice. Food is such an important part of any culture, that traveling for food is a great idea. I try to do a food walking tour or a cooking class whenever I get the chance to on my travels.

  17. Love this! I don’t know if I do this with nearly as much intent as you do but I don’t think you can really experience a place without experiencing the food. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Thanks for including my post on your site, Dave & Deb. I’m excited to share my love for food and travel with your readers. I agree wholeheartedly that Spain is at the forefront of food tourism. They have such incredible food and wine.