Timeless advice from a Chinese Sage
The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wisely said that a good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent upon arriving – by which he meant it is good to be fully present in the moment and open to the experiences that come your way. Sure, it is fine to your destination and a well-planned itinerary too, but the real value of travel often lies in the moment-b-moment experiences you have along the way.
Become a Modern-Day Artful Traveller
Are you already an Artful Traveller? You are if you are someone who seeks an authentic experience of a place by going about in an unstructured way, responding intuitively to what you encounter. You might be on foot, riding a bicycle or driving yourself. You are probably not on an organised tour. You are detached, non-judgmental; appreciating the nuanced perceptions that come your way and in so doing you are opened up to whole new dimension of experience that those folks across the town square in their regimented group are not having.
The Flâneur is an intriguing idea originating from the 19th Century French poet Charles Baudelaire. In Baudelaire’s world, the Flâneur was an idly-rich dandy. Someone who aimlessly wandered the streets of Paris seeking a remedy for ever-threatening ennui (boredom). Across the Channel in London, the writer Charles Dickens was doing his own form of Flaneuring, collecting a rich tapestry of experiences that made his novels so interesting.
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, moment-by-moment 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 modern day Psychology and Cognitive Science, with finishing touches from a Zen-Taoist perspective.
Give me Freedom
Why do people like to travel? The simple answer is that it is an expression of the universal human instinct to answer the call of freedom. So powerful is the need to be free that being deprived of freedom by being put in jail is universally recognised as a strong punishment.
Though it is getting less expensive, travelling to some distant place for a holiday is still a luxury that people indulge in once or twice a year, if at all. Most of us live sedentary, indebted lives that keep us tethered to one place. We trade our freedom for a comfortable home environment and a predictable life – but deep down, many of us still yearn for the freedom to simply go wandering.
When we do escape our workaday life and get away, do we really enjoy the experience? Well we probably won’t, not unless we manage to do it with the right mindset. That is what this book is all about teaching. The same journey can be great fun or miserable experience. The difference has everything to do with how you think about that experience.
What people need
Living sedentary lives, most of our day-to-day needs are met by an abundance of goods and services that can be readily obtained. Stroll around any shopping mall and look at the faces of the people you see. Notice how few are smiling or seem to be happy with the super-abundance abundance that surrounds them. The most common expression is a blank stare, while some look downright unhappy.
Why is this? Because people want something that consumerism can’t give them. They want the authentic experience that the right kind of travel can give them. While people’s basic needs for food and shelter are being taken care of, 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, companionship, 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 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.
Get More from Your Travel Experience
The Artful Traveller is a handbook drawing on universal principles, aimed at people everywhere who want to get more from their travel experience. In all likelihood, if you are reading this, you are such a person. Happy travels!
About the Author
David Tuffley has spent four decades travelling the world, evolving and perfecting this book. David became interested in how and why a journey can lead to personal transformation. This how-to guide is for everyone who wishes to deepen the experience of travel, to have what has been called ‘peak experiences’ when without the aid of drugs, a person enters into a sense of one-ness with the world and all within it. When not travelling, David is a University Lecturer in Australia where he teaches applied ethics. He is also the author of Satori Now: Awakening Your Highest Self, a Zen practitioner’s guide to enlightenment and a host of other titles.
Originally published at https://www.nfreads.com/article/the-artful-traveller-the-flaneur-s-guidebook/