STAFF OPINION: The Beauty of the Flâneur
I’ve always appreciated the little things when visiting a city or town, whether it’s the little brick building that’s probably been there for hundreds of years or the graffiti that’s just been thrown around. I have been blessed to experience it in various places throughout my life, having lived on four different continents and traveled to over 30 countries.
When I was 11, my parents uprooted me and my younger brother to take us halfway around the world to Doha, Qatar, the Middle East. At that time, I had only left the United States to visit Mexico, and I was too young to remember most of that trip. My parents were going to teach at the international school there: the Qatar Academy.
I remember trying to tell my classmates in fifth grade that I was moving to a place called Qatar. I had a very poor understanding of geography so anything outside of Colorado was completely unfamiliar to me. Qatar is roughly the polar opposite of Colorado; dry, hot, sandy.
Moving to Qatar introduced me to the idea of travel and the wonders that come with it. I have been to Sri Lanka, Africa, Jordan, Turkey and Italy to name a few, all before I was 13. After two years in Qatar, my parents accepted a job offer in Caracas, Venezuela, and I was once again introduced to a completely new landscape to explore.
Venezuela made me discover new places like Ecuador, Peru, Curaçao and Paris (during a school trip, however). As I finished eighth grade, I decided I wanted to go back to Colorado for high school. My parents were also ready to return home after four years of international travel.
Being home in Colorado for school highlighted a new landscape that I’m also grateful for. I had a pretty typical high school experience. I played football for school, helped make costumes for our school musical, and met some of my best friends. However, in the spring of my senior year, my family decided to accept a job offer in Yangon (former Burma), Myanmar. I wasn’t going to travel with them this time, as I was deciding on a university to attend.
I ended up on a fairly typical choice: Newcastle University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. (Okay, maybe not so typical, but it was closer to my family, and as you read, I had a bit of overseas experience.)
While in Newcastle, I decided to study sociology. This is where I discovered a concept that has stuck with me ever since: The flâneur.
Now, I don’t mean to sound pretentious – going to school in England and choosing a French sociological concept to apply to experience is a lot easier than it sounds.
The flâneur is a concept introduced by the poet Charles Baudelaire after the construction of the arcades of Paris. The term le flâneur originated in the 16th or 17th century, meaning to stroll, stroll or waste time. You see, it’s really not as complicated as it seems.
Walter Benjamin, a German sociologist, wrote The Arcades project where he describes the flâneur as an essential witness of the cities, a way of observing and apprehending his environment.
The flâneur is basically the idea of observing what is considered mundane or unimportant in our daily lives. It’s something you’ll find in abundance if you were to scroll through my camera roll: photos of the mountains I see from my home, street art from a number of countries I’ve been to, stained glass windows from almost every cathedrals I have never set foot there, and a multitude of photos of my friends in our daily life.
I think the loafer is something that everyone could adopt in their everyday life. Whether or not it’s just stopping to look at a pretty flower, a beautifully painted house, or just daily interaction with your friends. Beauty is always present in your daily life. You only do big things once in a while, so if you take the time to appreciate the little things, everything in your daily life will feel more special.
Wilder Isom is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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