Exercise: The Fifteen-Minute Flâneur

By Street Wisdom


The word ‘flâneur’ derives from the old Norse, flana, meaning ‘to wander with no purpose’. Sounds right up our street! Those famous French flâneurs, led by chief exponent the poet Baudelaire, have inspired whole generations since. Street Wisdom participants often report they experience a bit of flâneurie on a #Walkshop: being simultaneously at the centre of things, and invisible, seeing and yet not being seen, intensely public and private at once. So, hey, let’s give it a go!


This simple exercise forces us – gently – to override our habit of heading from start to finish in the most direct way possible. It’s a way of initiating your neurology to slow down, your internal clock to stop counting, and your body to wander, to fill up a journey from A to B with un-needed steps. The un-needed steps are the freeing ones; they represent the holiday you are giving yourself, away from the lockstep and straight-ahead habits of modern life.


Find a fifteen-minute gap in your day. If you really look, you’ll find one. And if not, create one. The simplest way is to nudge two adjacent tasks away from each other in your agenda until fifteen minutes appears.

Then, find yourself a street – ideally, a busy one! But that’s not essential.

Think of where you are standing as point A. Then choose another point (point B), which is a five minute relaxed walk away. Now set off for point B but give yourself fifteen minutes to get there. Yes, three times as much time as you need. The two-thirds of extra time you just gifted yourself is wander time, flâneur time. Spend it like a flâneur would. Imagine, as they did, you’re taking a tortoise for a walk. Window shop, people watch, drink it all in. If there’s a crowd, step into it and enjoy being invisible. Slow your pace. Head in the opposite direction from your destination, knowing you have plenty of time to get there. Observe. Be amused. Be curious. Take smartphone photos of things you haven’t noticed before (phone on airplane mode, mind). Maybe even sketch? Make notes. Treat yourself to an absinthe – scratch that! – cup of tea/coffee. With only half an eye, and a lazy one at that, on the clock, saunter, amble, loiter your way to your end point, enjoying the sensation of nearly being late for your own deadline.


Adapted extract from Street Wisdom founder David Pearl’s book, Wanderful.



Inspired? Fancy some more Street Wisdom? Join a Walkshop near you, or head out for your own wander right now with our Tune Ups. Buy a copy of founder David Pearl’s book Wanderful, all profits go back into Street Wisdom to help keep it free. Share your insights and follow us @StreetWisdom_

Thanks to rawpixel for this wanderful photo!