I never intend to wander aimlessly when traversing a new town or city. Indeed, I clutch my maps and phone for dear life, because if there’s anything I fear, it’s getting lost.
Which, of course, means I DO get lost, all the time. Sheer panic sets in immediately, and my brain goes straight to dangerous scenarios: thieves lurking in the shadows, kidnappers ready to pounce—or even just never, ever finding my way back to the hotel, and eventually dying alone on the streets of Barcelona, or Venice (both of which have really sparse and misleading signage—in Venice, a street may have one name, and mid-block it suddenly has a NEW name. How delightfully random!)
I am a happy camper when I know precisely where I’m bound and exactly how to get there. I realize this approach does NOT include strolling casually around, taking in surprising sights and sounds, checking out this or that cute shop or bistro. Let others have their fun discoveries! All I want to discover is the museum I have actually planned, in advance, to visit…and the correct metro station to get me, safely and swiftly back to my lodging. I do better traveling with a companion for sure, figuring that one of us can run for help while the other is being mugged.
The French have a word for one who sets off on a walk without directions, confident that pleasant adventure awaits: flaneur. A flaneur enjoys the journey and doesn’t get concerned about reaching a particular destination. These are the folks who post on Trip Advisor: “ In Salzburg, Betty Sue and I discovered this incredible sausage stall down a dark alley! Very, very hard to find but worth it!” Now, I will take that flaneur’s recommendation and drill down, locating the precise spot where the bosna (local curry sausages, and they are delicious) are sold, and heading directly there, with zero “fun” detours. Mission accomplished, quickly and efficiently! Isn’t that what travel is all about?
My offspring tend to be MUCH more casual about their itineraries. I break out in a rash when I hear Evan discuss his rambles through Indonesia, or Rose her night market roaming in Thailand. Don’t they know there are perils around every corner? Their mother sure does!
Sometimes I wish I had even one spontaneous bone in my body, but alas! My life hews to a script of my own creation, as closely as possible. I realize I’m missing out on all of life’s serendipitious experiences, but I’d rather rocket directly from Point A to B and eventually to Z, checking everything off as I race through my years. I don’t know why I am so surprise-averse, but at age 66 I doubt I’ll change my ways.
Steve and I are hoping to get over to England and Scotland next spring, and I’m already mapping out our every conceivable move. Praise be to Rick Steves!
Guess that makes me less of a flaneur, and more of a… plan-eur?