I’ve always appreciated the small things when sightseeing in a city or a town, whether it’s the small brick building that has probably been around for hundreds of years or the graffiti that’s just been thrown up. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to experience this in a variety of 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 in the Middle East. At that point, I had only left the U.S. to visit Mexico, and I was too young to remember most of that trip. My parents were going to be teaching at the international school there: Qatar Academy.
I remember trying to tell my fellow fourth graders that I was moving to a place called Qatar. I had a very weak grasp of geography and so anything outside of Colorado was quite unknown to me. Qatar is pretty much 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 went 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 introduced me to new places like Ecuador, Peru, Curacao, and Paris (on a school trip, nonetheless). As I was wrapping up my eighth-grade year, I decided that I wanted to go back home 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 am equally grateful for. I got a fairly typical high school experience. I played soccer for the school, I helped make the costumes for our school musical, and I met some of my best friends. However, in the spring of my senior year, my family decided to accept a job offer in Yangon (formerly Burma), Myanmar. I wasn’t going to be traveling with them this time, as I was in the process of picking a college 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’ve read, I’ve had a little bit of experience living abroad.)
While in Newcastle, I decided to study Sociology. That’s where I was introduced to a concept that has stuck with me ever since: Le flâneur.
Now I don’t mean to sound pretentious — going to school in England and picking a French sociological concept to apply to the experience is far simpler than it sounds.
Le flâneur is a concept that was introduced by the poet Charles Baudelaire after the arcades of Paris were built. The term le flâneur originated in the 16th or 17th century, meaning strolling, idling, or wasting time. See, it really isn’t as complicated as it sounds.
Walter Benjamin, a German sociologist, wrote The Arcades Project where he described le flâneur as a key witness to cities, a way to observe and take in one’s surroundings.
Le flâneur is essentially the idea of observing what is seen as mundane or unimportant in our everyday life. This is something you will find plenty of if you were to scroll through my camera roll: pictures of the mountains that I see from my house, street art from a number of countries I’ve been to, stained glass windows from pretty much every cathedral I’ve ever stepped foot in, and a multitude of pictures of my friends in our everyday lives.
I think le flâneur is something that everyone could adopt into their everyday lives. Whether or not it’s simply stopping to look at a pretty flower, a nicely painted house, or just an everyday interaction with your friends. Beauty is always there in your everyday life. You only get to do big things every so often, so if you take the time to appreciate the little things it makes everything in your day-to-day life seem more special.
Wilder Isom is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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