OK technically this is not a place, but it is everywhere and there’s something to be said for that.
Street Wisdom was founded by David Pearl in 2013 with the mission to ‘make every street in every city a free source of inspiration for everyone, every single day.’ That reach is spreading. Their bespoke problem-solving walks are now worldwide from York to Utrecht, Paris to Wellington, and you can even take part in a World Wide Wander this coming September.
So what exactly is it and how does it work?
Volunteers lead short urban walks – each about three hours – over the course of which they set up a different kind of scenario for engaging with the world around you. Rather than casually and blindly walking familiar and even unfamiliar paths, participants like you are invited to notice everything that is around them. But this isn’t just an observation exercise, it’s also founded on inquiry because you are invited to ask these streets (aka the universe) a question - maybe around a career change, a relationship ending, or professional and personal conundrum of some other kind. But something meaty, and concrete, that needs a straight-forward enough answer. This is not metaphysical deliberation.
That means that as you wander the streets, they are going to respond to you in a metaphorical conversational way; the magic starts to happen in the form of a sign, a place name, a chance encounter, something unseen before and observed now. It’s all information, its all material to be used and processed. These guided walks are designed to help you find answers in the environment that is all around you. There’s no need to escape your life to get insight into it.
There’s some training built into these walks to do this: during the first part, before this wandering with some intent starts, participants are invited to tune into their bodies, to become aware of their instincts, their sense of self, their openness. The guides create the structure for these sessions, even if they are not the ones who are going to give you the answers. There’s also that moment of collective reflection; each session ends with participants coming together again as a group, of sharing what was discovered that might make meaning in their lives.
Sounding hokey? It’s funny, because really what Street Wisdom is doing is prefacing a way of being that feels critical now. It’s untethering us from devices, it’s getting us back into our heads and bodies, it's making us sit with ideas again, and it’s offering us the space, time and tools to allow new perspectives in. That means if you want to repress anything by wearing headphones as you walk down the street, if you want to avoid people and any chance encounters, if you want to keep your head down and your goal in mind, you can’t. You can’t do any of that. Which is pretty much our default way of negotiating our world and it probably doesn’t serve us so well. Because we no longer wander, or roam, or stroll, or kinda just be – or any of those wonderful things without a definite purpose that might get us approaching our own lives differently.
Try it. Being your body, in the streets, in your life – that’s a powerful trifecta. No avoidant behaviors here.
If you can’t get to a walk, there’s tons of material on their website to DIY one of their sessions, including an audio session, or you can read Pearl’s book Wanderful:Sat Nav for the Soul. There is wise material to be had all around us if we try to seek it.