Having been on a search for many years for a word that would describe me best, I decided on Vagabondeuse. This of course, derives from ‘Vagabond’ from the Old French vagabond, from the Late Latin vagābundus and from Latin vagari ~ to wander. Meaning: ‘a person on a trip of indeterminate destination and/or length of time’ or ‘one who wanders from place to place, having no fixed dwelling, or not abiding in it, and usually without the means of honest livelihood’. Living in France, as I do and being a woman, as I am, it was necessary to change the masculine vagabond into the feminine: vagabondeuse. Simple.
It seems to suit me well as I tend to be a bit of a wanderer and am happiest whilst doing nothing much else but being out and about looking around. The best thing is when I have a few hours or even days to kill with no fixed agenda; nothing to achieve and I can let my nose lead me from one thing to the next at will. It is not about being vacant; I walk or sit with absolute unswerving attention on everything around me. It is about letting the tide of interest take you where it wants to go next. When you walk without a fixed purpose and leave yourself fully open to anything that may transpire, so much more is possible. When I go out with a certain goal in mind, I shut myself off from all the other myriad things that are happening in front of me and that I would have noticed, had I not been so fixed on a definite outcome.
I often come across others who are interested in this concept, generally from back-woodsy people who tend to live life at a slower pace anyway; sometimes it comes up in more mainstream conversations and Robert Macfarlane’s Twitter stream is always a good bet when you are looking for those kind of words and ideas. Here are a couple of his recent tweets:
I just love the idea of all of this. It is totally what I am about. And I love it that many languages seem to have their own version, so vital it is to our health and well being; all of us need, whether we realise it or not, to wander without agenda, especially now our modern lives are so full of deadlines and to-do lists, bucket lists, places to go and things to do. People talk of a ‘Nature Cure’ that involves being out in the woods for extended periods of time and I think that this ‘wandering without purpose’ is an essential component of that cure.
Here are some more ideas from that thread (I love them all):
In French, it’s déambuler, also flâner (of course). And musarder (from the verb ‘muser’, literally ‘to follow your muzzle’) is ‘to spend your time flâning’ (as it were).
— Gregory Norminton (@GDRNorminton)
In Montana, we call that “whortling.” After the tasty but tiny whortleberry. To whortle means to do something pleasant in the forest of dubious economic return, like picking whortleberries.
— Ben Long (@BenLong1967)
Strabhaigearachd (Gaelic) maybe comes from old Norse, similar to strova (Swedish) & stravaig (Scots)
Dabhdail, was good at that on the way home from village school.
— Iain Mackenzie (@iain_00)
– flanieren (in a town)
– lustwandeln (out-of-date)
– vor sich hingehen (Goethe)
– ambulieren (out-of-date)
— Norbert Kraas (@reklamekasper)
don’t forget “skoryangspa” (Ladakhi) – “one who walks in circles for fun”
— Jonathan Mingle (@jonmingle)
I like the term ‘potter.’
“What did you do on your day off? Oh not much, just pottered about” 😁
— Kerry Needs ✨🌍📝🎶 (@kerryneeds)
Daunder and stravaig were two fave words of my late Ayrshire-born father Archie. In fact, he particularly loved the phrase ‘stravaiging gangrel’ meaning a listless, meandering layabout. #lallans #scots #ayrshire
— Scot Mathieson (@scot_nature_boy)
In the Bantu language (East/Central Africa), white men are referred to as Mzungu, which translates to “someone who roams around”. It’s used like “gringo” to convey outsider.
— Carol (@ohthatcarols)
Anyone else say “mooch about” for this?
— Polly Rose (@theflyingeditor)
I tend to use the word mooch a lot. It is probably from the Old French muchier or mucier, which means ‘to hide, skulk, conceal, keep out of sight’, which I think, is very British (in America it means scrounging or begging) and a new firm favourite of mine: musarder (je musarde un petit peu ce matin); anything that allows me to become more animal-like and snuffle about in the undergrowth wins my vote any day.