The Flâneur is an idea originating from the French poet Charles Baudelaire. In Baudelaire’s world, the Flâneur was an idly-rich dandy, who wandered about the streets of 19th century Paris seeking a remedy for ever-threatening ennui.
In this book, the 19th century Flâneur is re-born in the 21st century as the Artful Traveller; a person, not necessarily wealthy or idle, who seeks an authentic experience of a city by strolling about it in an unstructured way, responding intuitively to what they encounter. The Artful Traveller remains detached, non-judgmental; appreciating the nuanced perceptions that come their way.
This portrait of the Artful Traveller is painted from several perspectives; it begins with Baudelaire's original artful stroller as the outline, then the details of the portrait are fleshed out using Pyschology and Cognitive Science, with finishing touches from a Zen-Taoist perspective.
Introduction. Travel is an expression of the human instinct for freedom and it is an instinct we share with every other creature on this planet. We all instinctively need freedom so we can find what we need in life.
For many people living in the world today, travel is a luxury afforded once or twice a year, if at all. Living sedentary, indebted lives that keep us tethered to one place, the instinct to travel is frustrated but not extinguished.
When we do manage to get away, do we really enjoy the experience? Not if we approach it with the wrong mind-set. The same journey can be a source of pleasure or misery depending. When travel is done with an open mind, it can be a transformative experience. When approached with a rigid, judgmental mind, every encounter is unpleasant.
The Artful Traveller is a handbook for people everywhere wishing to deepen their appreciation of the gentle art of travelling. In all likelihood, if you are reading this, you are such a person.
Read this book with an open mind. Suspend judgment long enough to absorb the message, and then decide.
What people need. Today, most of the problems of survival have been solved. We live mostly sedentary lives where our needs are met by a abundance of consumer goods and services. Yet stroll about a the city streets or shopping malls and look objectively at the people around you. Notice how few of them seem happy with the abundance that surrounds them. Most walk about with a blank expression, some look downright unhappy.
This is probably because while people’s basic needs for food and shelter are being met, their middle and higher order needs for a meaningful life, for self-esteem and self-actualisation are not being met. The psychologist Abraham Maslow describes this phenomenon in his Hierarchy of Human Needs model. To be happy, people need to satisfy the lower-order needs for food, shelter, sex, then middle-order needs for safety and security, then the higher middle-order needs for love and belonging. Above these is the higher-order need for self-esteem. But the highest need of all, sitting like the capstone on a pyramid is Self-Actualisation.
The Artful Traveller is someone who has progressively learned how to satisfy their lower and middle order needs, and who is now using travel as a way to achieve self-actualisation. Of course travel is not the only way a person can do this; it is simply one way, and a very enjoyable way it is too.