Sunday, April 21, 2024

Travel Tales- Flaneur

I have travelled a lot of places for a different reasons. And everytime I've been learning different ways of traveling. Just before I began to travel a bit of Europe, I attended a lecture by Brindusa on 'Contextualising ME in the world' by Brindusa. She emphasized on the concept of Flaneur, the act of strolling the spaces being an acute observer, without any other purpose. Also she suggested to create some rules on our own to follow and immerse onself in the act of strolling. 

I began to contemplate on the act of strolling and sensing the spaces in our own ways. When I landed in Leuven, I decided to create a rule on my own and stroll around. 

1) Turn Towards A- Whenver I notice the first alphabet of the word to be A, I turn towards it. 

I didn't think much about creating a rule and I began to contemplate on how I may immerse myself in noticing only the alphabets. In the beginning, I was always noticing the text and ignored anything around as I walked. As I began to notice the alphabet-A and turn towards it, I was wondering If i'd be missing out other places because of the rule I've created. As I turn towards new streets and look for the alphabet-'A' again, I was sensing the place, people, texture of the buildings with keen attention. After a little bit of distance I noticed 'A' again and turned. There were times where I had to turn thrice in less than a minute and such turns/changes were too fast to grasp. I was feeling my discomfort with the quick change. Where will this take me? Why can't I visit any famous monument and sit there? I thought. I continued walking and didn't force myself to look for A. I immersed myself to observe the place and ran into different sculptures, garden and got interested in it's stories. Eventually, I forgot the pressure of looking for A. As I kept walking, If I looked at A, I turned and if not, I continued to walk as my feet took me. There seems to be an act of surrender in this type of traveling. Had fun and explored the place in different way. 



2) Take a turn whenever there's one 

As I reached Ghent, a port and university city, it has a rich history as it was capital of flemish region. With port on it's side there are a lot of Canals in the town. With little bridges, there are a lot of junctions and connecting roads. Walking in the town, I came up with the rule- 'Take a turn whenever there's one' Spending some time on Ghent, the rule came very naturally sensing the turns and connecting roads. Following the rule, I visited a lot of bookshops, thrift shops, cafes and old buildings. I realised how our idea of success is always straight. All the rules seems to teach me the act of surrendering and navigating in life. I never felt I'm missing out experiences and important monuments due to this travel, as I embarked on the famous cathedral and market squares naturally. 

3) Song suggestions and Stations

I have a travel pass where I can get on any train in Belgium for a limited time. I had an option of traveling to a certain place and spending time or hop on trains and arrive at any town and stroll around. Why do we always have to reach the famous places, who makes places famous, I pondered. 

I hardly use social media when I'm traveling. To be more open rather than judgemental about anything, I decided to use social media in this trip. I asked my friends to share their favourite songs. Whenever, I notice the first alphabet of the song, I'd get off the train and take a new one. Seemed very interesting. I received my first suggestion and got off the train. I also realised, I can't spend much time waiting, I need to get on the next available train. Thanks to my data network, I was solely relying on the train wifi. Hence, I was not keen to check social media whenever I was on train between the stations. I checked my phone only when I reached any particular station. I changed 7 trains while I got a chance to meet my senior by coincidence. I got off the train,went ahead to meet my senior and spent 3 hours catching up on our journeys and resumed my journey. It seemed worthwhile rule as I met my senior, serendipituously. 

4) Don't wait too long. Move forward. 

I began my journey in the wallonia region of Belgium and was amused to travel through the hilly region. As I reached the border of Belgium and Luxembourg, I walked out of the station and got on to the bus provided by Luxembourg. In Luxembourg, the public transport is free for everyone. I got onto the bus at Gouvy and traveled through Luxembourg. I was amazed by the nature and weather. It's a small country with places that can reached within 40-50 minutes. Everywhere I went, I waited less than 4 minutes and got onto the bus that's heading to a different place. Like that, I ended up entering Germany as well. I met interesting people and travelers on my way. It's another story for another day. By evening, I ended up at Bastogne, the place where battle of bulge is fought. Watching Band of Brothers- HBO Mini series on war, I have a lot of affinity to these places. So happy to end up here. I'm glad I kept moving forward and embraced the experiences.

In retrospect, all the rules seem trivial but, they are very close and relatable to whatever is happening in my life. Very intuitively, listening to the inner voices, I came up with these rules and explored the places. Now, it's time to travel inwards and outwards trusting our voices rather than relying on some external fears and standards set by others. 





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