It all started during a trip to Thailand almost 15 years ago. Cooking classes are a fairly common tourist activity there, and my sister and I visited Baan Thai in Chiang Mai for a six-course cooking class. Going into it, I was skeptical: yes, I love Thai food and I really enjoyed eating it three (okay, more than three) times a day, but did I really want to sacrifice a day of my trip to the kitchen?
It ended up being the best memory I ever brought home.
It has since become a mainstay of my travel itineraries. In Antigua, Guatemala, I learned how to make chiles rellenos and tortitas de arroz. In Hanoi, I spent a day making tofu in four different (and delicious) ways during a vegan cooking class. In Fez, I baked three different types of bread. And in Rome, I skipped pasta making for an in-depth lesson in espresso drinks (much more applicable to my everyday life).
The actual cooking class, often paired with a visit to the market, will likely give you a new level of appreciation for the food you enjoy throughout your trip. It’s a fun way to meet other travelers, and as long as you choose the class carefully, it’s a great opportunity to support the local community.
But it also changed the way I view travel. Instead of seeing it as just an escape, it taught me to look for how my experience can improve what I previously considered the more routine parts of my life.
When I returned from this trip to Thailand, I was about to live alone for the first time. It gave me new confidence in my cooking and made me stop looking at time in the kitchen as a chore. Instead, it became a way to bring adventures home with me.
This is a gift that has come in handy over the past two years. During the pandemic, with no access to travel, cooking became my escape. I’ve tried some of those fancy espresso drinks, made Moroccan msemen for breakfast, and tried to recreate the same six-course meal I learned to make there. so many years (that last one didn’t go so well.)
So, on your next trip, consider swapping an evening for an evening behind the stove.