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Experiencing Culture Through Your Senses (but mostly by tasting)

Story by Boundless Journeys


While we don't specifically plan our trips around local cuisine, wherever we go, we always seek out the quintessential dishes, street vendors, and iconic beverages of that region. Part of our job involves incorporating those opportunities into our trips, ensuring guests don’t miss out on Iberian ham and wine tasting in Spain, the option to try succulent cuy (yes, guinea pig) and pisco sours in Peru, and experiencing the intoxication spices of pastilla and tagine stews alongside sweet mint tea in Morocco.

Food allows you to connect with a place on multiple levels at once. You get a sense of what grows there in abundance versus what is a delicacy, how food has historically been preserved, and why traditional methods often create the best products. You see that the connection between food and cultural identity is universal and begin to understand how creativity and perseverance allow for trends to emerge, from the “new Nordic” cuisine to Slovenia’s little-known—yet world-class—wine region. Cuisines, like culture and people, adapt, evolve, and are a product of their environment.

Of course, food isn’t the only way to connect with a destination. On every Boundless Journeys adventure, we infuse culture into our itineraries, carefully selecting opportunities to hear soulful fado music in Portugal, see a tango show in Argentina, and enjoy a performance of Kisobushi folk songs in Japan. We learn about Maori customs and social structure in New Zealand, construct a silk lantern with a local artist in Vietnam, and witness history come to life in northern England, where we wander through William Wordsworth’s home and see the ruins of two 13th-century abbeys. These sensory cultural experiences full embody a destination and transform an average vacation into an unforgettable discovery through stories and music, hands-on participation, and observing new sights along the way.

But food—yes, we’ve come back to food—will truly transport you. The olfactory system, responsible for turning our senses of smell and taste into flavor, is also strongly connected to memory. It is akin to the emotional response you feel at a whiff of something similar to what your grandmother’s cooking smelled like. Foods, tastes, and smells have the power to ground you in an otherwise foreign landscape, and remind you where you have been. Wherever you travel this year, experience it through all of your senses!