You can’t write about people if you’ve never watched people, random people in random settings. I like getting a coffee, sitting by a window on along a busy street with a lot of foot traffic going by. I like to watch the people. Seldom does anyone look up and see me watching. That is something interesting. Am I hiding from them or are they hiding from me?
Supplies needed for people watching are few. Binoculars are not at all recommended. If you need glasses, they you should have them with you. Keep a low profile, don’t make the people nervous or suspect you of something more complicated than amusing yourself. Some may like to have paper and pencil handy to take notes. Keep track of stray thoughts and ideas. Snacks and coffee are optional.
Location is the more interesting part of a people watching hobbyist. A busy city street could be in the financial area of a big city or in the shopping mall lost in the suburban sprawl. Try watching people in nature, like a park, at a lake on vacation or while they watch a parade or another local event. As long as there are enough people to watch and you can find a place to seclude yourself a little, any location can work for people watching. However, use your discretion, there is a fine line between people watching and being a peeping tom.
Time spent on people watching should be leisurely, give yourself time to find a spot for the viewing, settle in to the place and the patterns of traffic going by. I don’t think less than an hour will work for people watching. Part of the exercise is to take time to let your mind wander and you can’t do that very quickly.
As you can see, people watching is not a very complicated hobby. It’s fairly easy to pick up and something you can do on vacation as well as at home. It is interesting to take note of which people you tend to watch most? What age groups? How do they tend to be dressed? What makes you like or identify with one person over another? Do you make up possible stories for the people or do you take them more at face value and try to pick up on who they are from the facts you can see?
Flickr: People Watching – Have a look at photos from people watchers.
Not So Boring Life.com: People Watching – A Hobby for Everyone