Let’s Go Exploring! (or: How to be a Flaneuse)

by Sara — May 18, 2016

Canada was colonially established by explorers. The search for the Northwest Passage became irrelevant along with the need for explorers as industrialization took over. We know our cities, we travel major highways rather than portage. We make plans rather than explore. We google directions less we get lost. Many things have changed. Many gems remain.


There were no female explorers mentioned in my social studies texts. It was a male domain: to explore, to search, to seek, to travel, to invent new paths. This sex-codified information has either been genetically or culturally passed down because the thought of setting out without a plan makes me quite uncomfortable. At the very core of my inability to wander is the worry that it will make me unsafe. We (women) have been told not to be alone for quite possibly hundreds of years (for example). For my generation, the message is a woman walking alone, especially at night, makes her vulnerable to sexual assault. The message for men “a man should do what he can so a woman walking alone will not feel vulnerable to sexual assault” has never existed.


Think about it: for hundreds of years we have been receiving this message that we cannot be alone. There are some deeply ingrained, messed up messages we have been transmitting and receiving. While I can’t control the messages, I can be an explorer as my own form of resistance.


So all this to say that I went wandering today. And brought my girls on the adventure to find some gems.

We found a park in the shade of some pine trees.

secluded playground

We rolled down a hill!  

We saw strange leaves and purple flowers and the biggest dandelion ever.

Canadian treasures


I learned the word “flaneur” from a kids’ book.  In a conversation between a talking cat and dog, the cat describes himself as a flaneur which I took to mean “an explorer without a set direction” or an observant wanderer of sorts.  Apparently I can read a lot in to children’s novel from context or the book directly defines “flaneur” somehow.  I can’t remember.


When I googled the word, it gave me this:


noun fla·neur \flä-ˈnər\

  1.   an idle man-about-town


It’s 2016.  The need for explorers of new lands isn’t really necessary any more.  I’m going to reclaim my sense of adventure and do some exploring of my own.  It may not be trekking through the Arctic Circle in search of a new route to India.  And I’m not a man so I can’t be a flaneur.

Who wants to be a flaneuse with me?



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