For Our Food and Wine Editor, Travel Is More than Just a Vacation

Why we travel.

I’m an accidental expert. Years ago, I started working in restaurants to pay my college loans. Because I could speak Spanish and French (and fake Italian and Portuguese, and mumble decent German), someone thought I should be the sommelier. The vineyards where I grew up on the Jersey Shore are few and far between, and wine was conspicuously absent from my Mormon parents’ table. 

Becoming a sommelier was hardly my career plan, but a third go at grad school finally made me stop and think: Maybe I should just hurry up and do what I already do?

Over the course of my many years in the wine industry, it’s the travel that has kept me in it. I’ve brushed my teeth with “sheeraz” in Australia’s Barossa, climbed the aptly named Clos des Goisses (place of struggle) at Philipponnat in Champagne, crumbled albariza between my fingers amidst Jerez’s chalky Spanish soils, wandered the obsidian hillsides of Etna in Sicily. 

Wine has been the most incredible passport for me. It’s a cultural catalyst that integrates language, climate and cuisine as surely as it fosters friendship. The act of breaking bread together, of pulling a cork and pouring some wine, is an ancient one. When we eat and drink together, we are reminded of our fundamental shared humanity. 

Now more than ever, I look to these elemental experiences as a sign of hope in dark times. When we feed the stranger in our midst—whether the privileged wine writer who definitely can’t speak Italian or the hungry refugee mother fleeing political violence—we are celebrating the commonality of what it means to be human.  

Why do we travel? Some of us travel as escapism, as a means of fleeing the banal realities of daily life. Others travel for adventure, for the opportunity to get out of one’s comfort zone. Some travel for relaxation, for an opportunity to unplug and recharge. 

Me? I travel for the people. They’re usually vineyard workers who don’t speak English, but sometimes they’re fancy French folks or Silicon Valley tech scions. Mostly they’re farmers or at least people who care about listening to the ancient rhythms of place and season.  

A dear friend once gave me what has become one of my most cherished talismans against chaos and hate. It’s a simple silver teaspoon engraved with the words “Build a Longer Table.” I use it to stir my coffee every morning. Let’s travel and share tables with people who may look, speak or eat differently than we do. Pull up a chair and expand the table … and definitely drink the good wine whenever you can.