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Slow city: Meet the man who spent a month walking the streets of Brussels

Sébastien de Fooz
09:44 26/06/2018

Instead of spending the summer on holiday at the beach or mountains, Sébastien de Fooz went for a walk.

Embarking from his home in Etterbeek, 45 year old de Fooz walked the streets of Brussels from 19 May to 19 June, equipped with just a backpack. Sleeping under the stars, in churches or parks, de Fooz wandered the city to meet new people and experience Brussels from a different perspective.

“You meet so many people who are stuck to their own neighbourhood and in their own mindset, but I would like to propose that you can break routine without changing your life,” de Fooz said. “There are scattered people living in the same place, but not really living together.”

This is what de Fooz does. It all started in 1998 when he decided to walk from his hometown Ghent to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The 1,762 km walk was only the start of his adventures.

In 2000, de Fooz walked to Rome and in 2005 he went on a pilgrimage from Ghent to Jerusalem. His experiences are documented in his first book, “À pied à Jérusalem”.

“When you walk, you really have this impression that you are crossing a kind of inner landscape,” de Fooz said. “So all these people I meet reveal something to me; how I feel when I see this person, how I deal with those feelings. The easiest thing would be to judge this person, because this person is different, but what I am trying to do in this journey is accept the emotion, but send something positive.”

Now married with three sons, de Fooz knew that his next walk had to be closer to his family and decided on his urban expedition. Once a week last month, he would have a picnic with his family and share stories about where he’s been. Despite living in Brussels for over 20 years, de Fooz says he truly realizes how diverse and complex the city is.

“Brussels is a patchwork of a lot of different ethnicities,” de Fooz said. “We have more than 180 different countries in a very small area so there are a lot of challenges. It is a kind of empathy walk. I really believe in the power of empathy as it helps you to go beyond your own scope. If I just read the world with my own eyes I would miss something fundamental.”

From Jette to Laeken and Boitsfort, de Fooz blogged about the people he met, conversations that took place, how he felt and what he learned. He also documented each place he slept on an interactive map.

Now that the walk is over, de Fooz is working on a documentary about his experiences and plans to release a book with practical tips on how to complete a walk, with advice on how to live.

“You can change the routine of your own life, just by changing the way you look around you,” de Fooz said. “I think about commuters who make the same trip towards their job every day. But if you change the way you look at people you meet, then your perception changes, you start to be curious and this is the beginning of being inspired.”

For more information de Fooz’s documentary and book project visit his blog sebastiendefooz.com

 

Written by Hannah Rodriguez