The Unintended Consequences of Wandering: Life Lessons Discovered In The South of France
“Not all those who wander are lost” J. R. R. Tolkien
It was 6:30AM. Or it least as best I can recall. I arose in my Airbnb in Old Town Nice, France a little disoriented. 48 hours earlier I was hiking the majestic Cinque Terre in Italy, talking my way onto a private and exclusive beach outside of Èze, and taking a couple hundred Euro off the tables at the Casino de Monte-Carlo.
I needed some down time…
The Sounds of Silence
96 hours prior to that, I wasn’t even sure what country I was gonna be in, let alone what city. I had a nice little sprint, but wanted to spend some quiet time with myself. I was here to get lost… and rediscover myself all in one swoop.
I was curious to see what happens when you let go of things that no longer serve you, confront your fears of being alone, and actively (passively?) seek out a richer, deeper and truer version of yourself.
But that was way too ambitious of a plan, for today. So I decided to get lost in a book.
“You only get a measure of order and control when you embrace randomness” Nassim Taleb
I brought a couple of books with me on my kindle app. One of which was Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile (a book that has since made its way into my permanent library). I wouldn’t know it yet, but this book was about to drastically change my life. For the better.
In Taleb’s Antifragile, I stumbled across a word I had never heard before; it rolled off the tongue so effortlessly. I wanted to know everything there was to know. As I wiki’d the word, I became infatuated. It was about to become a part of my identity:
Flâneur - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of…
“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life” Oscar Wilde
There really is no english equivalent. It loosely translates from French to English as one who “wanders” the streets and uses their observations as a type of philosophy. This person is usually of enough means (at least enough to afford freedom of time) and has no aim — except to absorb the bustle of life on his journey.
I immediately fell in love with the thought that I had discovered something. There was something about the word, that felt like finding an ancient treasure. Something that had been lost through time. I felt an immediate bond to the word. As if I had picked it up, and was about to dust it off. I was a Flaneur. A modern version and sense of the word. A digital nomad.
In it, I felt a sense of identity.
Art and life, it seemed, were bleeding together until I couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended.
Socrates In The City
I headed downstairs in a sort of daze, grabbed myself a cafe, and eventually made my way to the marketplace.
As I was meandering through the city square, I noticed this older gentleman carrying groceries in his right arm, and flowers in his left. I struck up a conversation with him and asked if he was making dinner for someone.
Perplexed, he said “No”.
“Oh. I saw the flowers and assumed… who are the flowers for?” I asked.
He chuckled “Me! I enjoy surrounding myself with beauty” and he continued on. He had an ease and sense of knowing about himself. He smiled and walked away. It was a simple moment, yet felt like some sort of synchronicity. Was this all a coincidence? Randomness?
I pivoted that moment, and headed to the southern end of the marketplace where the flower shops were.
He was right… they were intoxicating.
I’ve since bought flowers for my apartment every week. My favorite are Oriental White Lilly’s (see photo below). They look amazing, and give off the sweet smell of vanilla.
As I sat there enjoying lunch, I journaled for the first time in years, and made a list of things I learned that day:
- Always buy flowers. It’s the small things that count. And it’s a subtle way of appreciating yourself, and surrounding yourself with beauty. No matter what’s going on in life… you’ve got flowers.
- Books are magic. For $12 you get access to someone’s best ideas, and their body of work. Even a single idea acted upon, can pay dividends for a lifetime.
- I learned that day, the value of solitude. Not every moment needs to be consumed with efficiency. There’s value in just being. Sometimes it’s when your best ideas are hatched…
- Followed by periods of conversation and interaction with people of diverse opinions, values and beliefs.
- Journal. It’s one of the best ways to formulate your ideas, and is a hell of alot cheaper than therapy.
And with that, I brought back a couple of jewels. And an idea was hatched. An American Flâneur was born…
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