When I travel and share on social media that I’m cooking at an Airbnb, I invariably get concerned messages asking, “wait, you have to cook on vacation, too??!” I can understand this. For some people, cooking feels like a daily chore and vacationing is an escape from the day-to-day grind. The concept of cooking on vacation feels stressful and downright unfair.
But the truth is, I love cooking on vacation.
For me, in my daily life, cooking isn’t a chore, but an anchor, a ritual to end our busy days and transition into the quietude of evening. I put on music and create something—something beautiful and delicious to share with my family. It is a form of meditation.
Granted, this is somewhat a learned attitude—I can remember a time when meal prep felt more like a suffocating treadmill that I couldn’t quite crack the code to. For me, it took a combination of finding a sustainable balance (I generally only cook once a day) and consciously changing my attitude to get here.
Of course, we all get better at everything with experience, and cooking for our families is no different—not simply the technical chef skills, but perhaps more importantly, the confidence to put together a balanced meal from what’s on hand without stress.
And in my case, thanks to an active, equality-minded partner, I’m never cooking or doing food prep while everyone else is sitting around (I would 100% NOT love cooking for my family if I felt like I was their servant). When I’m cooking, they’re tidying, sweeping, setting the table, doing dishes, or helping put the meal together. It’s a family activity.
So on vacation, I don’t need a break from this at all—in fact, cooking when we travel is a way of staying anchored, of bringing some familiar rhythm into our days.
I love grocery shopping in other parts of the world. Food shopping is something almost all humans do, and yet it looks so different for all of us. I find it fascinating to experience those differences, from the subtle (tubs instead of baskets in Mexico) to the surprising (live insects in Thailand).
I enjoy the challenge of getting my hands on whatever produce, legumes, grains and seasonings are seasonal and popular wherever we are and creating a meal I never would have at home. I bring that inspiration home with me.
I find it fun to rummage around in a different fridge, Macgyvering meals with minimal spices and other ingredients, and serving up our familiar foods on unfamiliar dishes.
We all like the relaxed vibe of being in our own space and on our own time, especially with small children. They can play and be loud and climb. We can eat when we’re hungry.
Don’t get me wrong, we eat out on vacation, too. (In fact, we’ve gone on entire trips devoted to exploring a local restaurant scene.) It’s just that when we choose to eat out, it’s because there’s somewhere we want to eat at, because it facilitates that day’s schedule better, or simply because we feel like it. The difference is, we’re not dragging ourselves to a restaurant three times a day to sit still at a table for an hour and eat a mediocre, overpriced meal because we don’t have another option.
I’ve stayed in hotels and all-inclusive resorts and it’s just not for me. I feel out of sorts without so much as a cutting board to prepare fruit or a fridge to store leftovers. Having a kitchen brings us freedom.
For me, cooking is home.