Why Becoming A Flâneur Could Make Your Summer

Last night, it took me twice as long to get home. No, it wasn’t public transit’s fault. Nor was it a mass of paparazzi hot on my trail, or some Prince Charming who swept me off my feet. In fact nothing usual occurred other than I took a streetcar instead of the subway and—wait for it—rather than hopping aboard a connecting bus, I walked the rest of the route home.

Yes, I walked alone for no reason whatsoever the rest of the route home.

And I wasn’t the least bit bothered by the experience. It was of my own volition.

After spending practically half of the year regretting anytime spent outdoors, either freezing or wet, I relish at the opportunity to simply walk in comfortable—pleasant even—conditions. Should the idea of walking for walking’s sake sound too pedestrian (no pun intended), tiring or cheap, consider then becoming a flâneur (i.e. walking for walking’s sake). If I learned anything practical in my second year performance text course, it was this concept. It has its own literary and historical context—the stuff I was taught—but let’s ignore that for now and focus entirely on how walking for pleasure thrills.

 becoming a summer flaneur

Exercise

Always an advocate for non-traditional exercise, walking fits the bill. (Although, walking is probably the most primitive form, and perhaps quite traditional. Whatever.) Put it this way: it’s not an elliptical or stationary bike. And you’ll still reap the benefits whether you walk at a slow or fast pace. Add possible humidity and in some cases you may even build a sweat. Thankfully, there’s no equipment or fees required. Although supportive footwear is helpful. (My leather Florentine sandals, on the other hand, were not.)

Relaxation

When you have time to spare and you choose to revel in it, it’s empowering. We tend to jam-pack our lives with barely enough time to make it from one engagement to another let alone take a break. Generally come summer though, we’re gifted excess of time. Embrace that excess and you’ll likely feel a sense of calm. It’s near impossible to sit in stillness at home, but out walking—as long as your phone is out of reach or on airplane mode—you free yourself of obligation and distraction and open yourself up to relaxation. And with September looming in the distance, you need to recuperate now as much as possible.

Curiosity

I attribute my understanding of the different cities I’ve lived in to walking. For example, until I started walking in Toronto I had no context for how one neighbourhood bled into another. Likewise when in London—not Ontario—I developed a relationship to areas not by passing beneath them on the subway, but getting off at a stop and exploring at ground-level. Aside from geography, I’ve discovered beloved businesses and quirky oddities by walking instead of taking transit. Admit it there’s not much to look at on the bus or subway other than restless children, their equally restless parents and the occasional character. Sure, the characters are fun, but (hopefully) they disappear after the journey and we never interact again. Meanwhile, walking allows us to establish connections to our surroundings rather than ignorantly pass them by.