The French & that f word

Posted on August 21, 2012

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I came across a beautiful word yesterday; the word flâneur. Coined by the French philosopher, Baudelaire, the word means to stroll, to saunter, to explore without purpose or pursuit, rhyme or reason. It refers to walking a city at a leisurely pace, taking in the surroundings with no particular destination in mind.

I love this concept and it’s what I tend to do wherever I visit rather than get trapped on the tourist train.  I love getting lost in new places … converting little pockets of the unfamiliar into the familiar and discovering new things about myself as I discover new parts of the world.  Same with running in new places except not all of us can or even want to run so in it’s place, being a flâneur is the perfect substitute.

Admittedly in Dubai, we lack street life and proper neighbourhoods but we all enjoy the luxury of travel so the next time you find yourself in a vibrant chaos of Hong Kong or Singapore … or the sophisticated serenity of Paris or Budapest … or the urban thrill of New York or London … discover for yourself, the joys of being a flâneur.

Here’s how:

  • Ditch the map. Being lost is no bad thing.  In fact, only when we’re lost, do we really find! You come across paths untold, follow unknown routes and find your very own fate.
  • Ditch the agenda.  Forget about Time Out’s Top 10 Things to Do list.  Forget about the iconic landmarks classed as the ‘must sees’ for every visit.  They cease to be relevant.
  • Ditch all sense of time. Forget the gallery that closes at 1600 or the happy hour that commences at 1800. Don’t let time define you and just see where your feet take you.

It really is the simplest things in life that are the easiest to miss yet are the most rewarding.  We rarely stop to stand and stare and only when we do, can we really appreciate the streets that make our neighbourhoods, the people who make our communities and the individuals who make up our worlds. In fact, few things replenish our souls more than simply unplugging, combining wonder and serendipity with a quest for discovery … and just flâneur-ing …

Makes me think of the words of Tolkien:

‘Not all who wonder are lost’

Have a perfect day, wherever you are.

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