Flanuering - most people don't travel, they just increase their phone's storage.

16 Dec 2023


Flânerie, as described by Nassim Taleb in his critique of modern travel, is an art that seems to be fading in the digital age. In his view, most people no longer travel in the true sense of the word; instead, they merely ‘increase their phone’s storage.’ This insightful observation underscores the shift from experiencing the world through direct, immersive engagement to a more passive, digital consumption of places and cultures.

Flânerie, a term that originated in 19th-century France, refers to the act of strolling through a city with no particular destination, allowing the sights, sounds, and atmosphere to guide one’s path. It is an aimless wander, a leisurely exploration that values the journey over the destination. The flâneur, or one who engages in flânerie, is an observer of urban life, a connoisseur of the street who finds beauty and intrigue in the everyday.

Taleb’s remark points to a stark contrast between this traditional concept of travel and the modern practice. Today, travel often involves a pre-planned itinerary, a checklist of attractions to visit, and a heavy reliance on digital devices for navigation and documentation. The essence of flânerie is lost in this approach. Instead of absorbing the essence of a place and allowing spontaneous experiences to unfold, travelers are more focused on capturing the perfect photo or checking in at popular spots to share on social media.

This modern travel behavior, as Taleb suggests, is more about accumulating digital memories than genuine experiences. The constant urge to document and share every moment on social media platforms transforms the traveler into a collector of images and videos, increasing the storage on their phones but not necessarily enriching their understanding or appreciation of the world.

The philosophy behind flânerie encourages a return to a more mindful and immersive form of travel. It invites travelers to slow down, disconnect from their digital devices, and engage with their surroundings more deeply. By doing so, they can discover the subtle charms and hidden treasures of a place, those that are often overlooked when the focus is on capturing the perfect social media post.

In conclusion, Taleb’s perspective on modern travel serves as a call to rediscover the lost art of flânerie. It encourages travelers to embrace the unpredictable and unscripted aspects of exploring new places, to become active participants in the world around them rather than passive collectors of digital souvenirs. In doing so, they can find greater fulfillment and a more authentic connection to the places they visit.

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