slow living

words by aimée pearce

We live in a fast-paced world. There is no doubt that we move quickly – our online calendars are jam packed with appointments and reminders, we cram our days with meetings, deadlines, social engagements and extra-curricular activities. We squeeze in a speedy 30-minute work-out so we feel like we have “balance”. We have more friends on social media networks than in real life because it helps us feel connected without having to invest too much time. We read the news headlines on Twitter – getting the short, sharp gist of things but rarely bothering to delve deeper. We consume our meals at our desks over paperwork and laptops, or in front of the television in the evenings. We speed date, speed renovate and speed update. We aim to get rich quick, lose weight now and fast track our careers. And then we collapse into bed in the evenings wondering why we are so exhausted and counting down the days until our one holiday for the year (which incidentally is over six months way). 

It’s clear that this fast-paced way of life has its downfalls. According to Beyond Blue over three million Australians are living with anxiety and depression. One in six young Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety disorder and a quarter of young Australians say they are unhappy with their lives. If this fast-paced life is all about the pursuit of happiness, we are hardly succeeding.

But there is a growing movement of people shirking the status quo. They are choosing to live extraordinary lives while refusing to even attempt to “keep up with the Joneses”. While the rest of the world lives in the fast lane, these movers and shakers are embracing what it means to slow down. Literally.

The slow movement began in 1986 with Carlo Petrini’s protest against the opening of a fast food restaurant in Rome’s Piazza di Spagna. The Slow Food Organisation was born and from there the subculture has spread to slow cities, slow design, slow travel, slow living and slow fashion. And at the heart of it all – the pursuit of a cultural shift to slowing down the pace of life.

As a society, we can learn a lot from the slow movement. In fact when you examine the philosophy of what it means to slow down, it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint any negatives. Slow food opposes fast food and encourages regional produce and traditional, seasonal foods. Slow fashion steers away from seasonal trends and mass-production, instead favouring artisan-produced products, vintage and second-hand, sustainable and ethical practices and DIY while opting for quality over quantity. Slow travel focuses on engagement with communities rather than racing through all the must-see sights at new locations and consuming culture without engaging. 

There’s an underlying attitude that if you can’t keep up the pace of our widely accepted, broadly marketed, hectic lifestyles then it must be due to laziness or lack of drive and motivation. You can’t just while away your life lounging in a hammock under a coconut tree right? But advocates of these “alternative” lifestyles could hardly be described as indolent. In fact, they are often highly driven and hugely successful – they just refuse to live their lives on anyone else’s terms. 

They are the entrepreneurs – but instead of just opening a restaurant, they are more likely to create a community connecting people with the process of food rather than the act of consumption. They are the explorers – but instead of simply notching up stamps in their passports they are more likely to be found volunteering in a community they have fallen in love with. Perhaps they are the parents. And instead of cramming their children’s lives with schedules and events, they are more likely to be found lost in pointless conversation or play – literally taking time to smell the roses. 

It’s hard to justify our need for speed when the idea of slowing down sounds so appealing.