Before I tell you a little about my story let’s look at the definition of the topic and some of the lingo used….
What is the slow living concept?
Slow living is often described as living at a slower pace. The most obvious ways to live a slower life is to do less and invite more rest into daily life.
Slow living jargon simplified
Slow food movement – Carlo Petrini’s protest against opening a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, Rome, in 1986 sparked a grassroots organisation to engage people in local food cultures, traditions and where our food comes from and how it affects the planet.
Slow travel – cultivates a connection to local people, culture, music and food. A trip has an emotional and educational purpose with an emphasis on sustainable travel.
Slow fashion – producing less clothing, reusing and repurposing what we already have, improving processes, and considering the required resources.
The beginning – Why I needed slower ways
I found accepting the idea of doing less challenging in a fast world. If I wasn’t busy, then I was indeed lazy, right? There was guilt, shame, fear and a whole load of insecurities around the idea of not doing as much as I should. I didn’t discover a ‘slow living’ podcast, blog or book until much later in my journey because I didn’t know slow living was something I desperately needed.
I found myself in a space where I felt deeply dissatisfied with everything about me and the life I’d be given (now I see it as the life I created). I felt frustrated, sad, hopeless and disappointed – all feelings acquired in my childhood. As I reached my teenage years, I could distract myself with social media. As a young adult, I still didn’t know what to do with those feelings, so I distracted myself by building a business.
Friends and partners would have described me as a workaholic, which felt great. Growing up in a single-parent family made me determined to succeed. I considered free time a waste.
I had an OK business head and, inspired by my self-employed mum, I wanted to control my working hours too, but that’s all I knew. I didn’t have much time or inclination for vision, planning, dreaming and, of course, rest. That approach quickly bled into all areas of my life, and soon I was on a path where I was making questionable decisions without much thought. One lousy relationship, friendship and life choice after another – I was desperate to rush the process and learn as much as possible in so little time to find the ‘happy’ ending. Still, I never had much time or desire to process my feelings and reflect, which I now know is essential for learning.
With the smidge of awareness, I did have, I’d acknowledged this wasn’t the life I wanted and had written it down in my journal – the only place I could trust my emotions in. My physical and mental health was rapidly declining. I struggled to talk about my feelings, and I was guarded, which often came off as aloof and uninterested and attracted similar people and circumstances, making me miserable. I knew it wasn’t working, but I just didn’t dare to want to change it.
The middle – Life defining moments of slow
After a long week of trying to secure a contract I knew would bring me further misery (but I only wanted it for financial purposes), I received an email inviting me to attend a free silence retreat with a +1 in return for writing an article about my experience. If I said yes, it would have meant missing the meeting about the contract I didn’t but did want.
Mum and I were going through a rough patch, so I decided it would be good for us both to get away, plus we’d never been on a retreat. When we arrived and were shown to our rooms, our door’s wooden plaque was etched with ‘TOLERANCE’, and the irony wasn’t wasted on us!
For three glorious slow days, we enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. We ate and went to bed silently, meditated, and spent much time outdoors on the banks of the Thames in Oxford. If I had known about slow living, this weekend would have ticked many boxes.
In some ways, though, the experience felt odd and uncomfortable, especially when the host mentioned the silence wasn’t just with those around us but also the conversations we had with ourselves.
In between trying to silence my mind, I’d wondered what the point of this experience was; after all, I’d have to go back to ‘real’ life in a few days. Wasn’t this stuff to be experienced after I’d ‘made’ it?
On reflection, I’d learned a few things during the weekend: I loved the simplicity, and I loved being on my own, which I was surprised about – I was a lonely teen. My thoughts were busy, I felt deeply, and I was more sensitive than I allowed others to know. I recognised how liberating it felt to get away from my concrete jungle and into nature.
Those lessons would be, later on, life-changing.
Back to work, I went. I wrote a piece on how important it was to take time out, but I needed to honestly believe what I’d written. After all, how can you take time out when you’ve got bills to pay? My story remained the same for a few years – I did more with less time, care, and consideration. I lived a life I wasn’t proud of or passionate about.
A change of perspective
A few years later, I dated a guy who lived in rural Wales. My then-sort-of boyfriend and his family didn’t spend much time online or on social media, and their mobile phones were out of reach – an alien concept. They occupied their time with food around the fire, barn parties, and taking their dogs and horses for adventures in the hills. It was here that I discovered how movement could be fun, especially with a glorious view!
If I’d known the phrase slow living, this period would have ticked many boxes too.
After some time living their lifestyle, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. As my affection dwindled for my sort-of boyfriend, it remained for the location and the lifestyle. With my newfound mindfulness, I recognised this could be a life-changing moment, but ‘the how’ kept me up at night…
A break-in and many moves later
It was after a break–in, back in the sardine town I’d called home, which truly woke me up. This life wasn’t for me anymore. The stars aligned with the help of my ex-sort-of boyfriend’s mum, who found me a place on the Welsh borders.
This little town (Oswestry) soon became my everything. People stopped to say good morning, the shopkeeper remembered my name, there was a weekly farmer’s market, hens lived next door, and time seemed to stand still here. Life seemed deliciously slow, and although I continued to get busy with my business, I had long walks in the countryside to relieve my migraines and fatigue.
Over the next few years, I moved around the area, made friends, and some foes, had a health scare, found new and unexpected hobbies and then met my current partner Rik.
Although this new life was visually beautiful, it was also painful. More free time meant I’d ruminate on my past lives and versions of Chelsea, and it was still too much to deal with. I realised that no matter where I lived – I could always find time to distract myself.
I moved again, this time with Rik and our dog Bel, into a lovely cottage on a hill but not with the best internet! At this point, the universe stepped in and wanted to give me another chance, and I feel she did, despite my constant protesting to BT. Some days it felt like an uphill battle – quite literally, as I relied on lifts from Rik and neighbours to get out to cafes where I could use their internet to work.
I started to feel miserable and desperate again. I loved my new home in nature, but how could I continue to live here if I couldn’t work? Looking back, I know I was coming off the effects of being busy, and I’d give myself the most hopeless scenarios to justify why slowing down wasn’t the answer.
That said, something miraculous was slowly happening; call it the freedom to walk for miles without meeting a soul or the starry nights and dreamy sunrises, but I felt safer leaning into the idea of sitting still without the need to be productive. I learned to take holidays (with out-of-office replies) and moved more than I sat down at my computer. I completed my yoga teacher training and started to learn about meditation and the need for silence. Photography, journaling, walking, paddleboarding and swimming soon became pastimes I was passionate about. The process was and still is healing.
A serendipitous meeting
On one of my work- out -of -a -coffee -shop mornings for decent signal purposes, I was fortunate to start a conversation with Eleanor. She’d stumbled upon my ‘from city girl to wannabe country bumpkin’ blog (which later got hacked and turned into a dating website)! Eleanor had a slow-living blog and was thinking of turning it into a magazine and looking for contributors. They say it’s all about timing, and I believe them.
I owe a lot to Eleanor and her Creative Countryside community. She encouraged me to keep digging, unearthing and finding my own slow. I went on to help with the CC blogs, wrote a story for the magazine and attended and contributed to the retreats before we went on our separate paths.
These profound experiences inspired me to cut further ties away from my past lives and discover and live my needs and values – which is how I would describe the slow living philosophy. It can get lost in the expensive minimal aesthetic on IG feeds, pale and soft linen, and the idea that you need to live in the woods or on top of a mountain to experience the essence of the slow and simple life.
Not the end – A universal reminder
One of my lovely clients (and friend) commented how busy I’d been this past year with Loving Life in Wellies and a cringe crept upon me. I knew they had said it with the best intentions but to me, busy meant on the path to burnout and I was feeling like that. Once upon a time, I would have viewed that as a success but the busy badge of honour is one I don’t wear any longer. I took it as a universal reminder to check back in and ensure I wasn’t undoing all of the painful but rewarding learning.
This story isn’t the end of my journey. Finding my slow is an ongoing process. It looks different daily. The most significant change is I’m not running away or towards anything. Instead, it’s a steady pace which allows me to stretch my legs, appreciate the view and change course if I want to. I now find value in stirring out the window!
My practical slow-living tips
We can’t steal, beg, borrow or swap it. We’re brought up to do, say, think, and experience as much as we can in the little time we have; in some circumstances, that approach is valid. That said, the slow-living ethos is about making the time to first assess whether that’s the right direction and allows you to change your approach. Life’s better lived with intention and purposefulness.
Understand your values and needs.
I truly believe if we all got our values and needs met daily, our population would be more peaceful. Understanding mine has been essential when choosing a slower, more meaningful life. Sometimes it’s been challenging to implement them, so I’ve had to get creative in how I live them.
The hustle culture may kill you.
And if not physically, mentally! The mind and body can survive under immense pressure, and we are built for that, but in moderation. We will always find a reason to justify why we do what we do, and it takes incredible strength to acknowledge, never mind do anything about it. Remember, you can always begin again tomorrow.
Doing the things you love too much can become exhausting.
Doing more of what you love is less tiring, but moderation is key. Most things we humans enjoy doing are physical; the nervous system needs to go in maintenance mode, ‘rest and digest’ often to ensure we can run at peak performance, not just in survival mode.
My go-to slow-living resources
Buying less and finding joy in what we already have – Since I had more time on my hands, I was beginning to notice just how much ‘stuff’ we have in this world that goes to landfill. I became increasingly interested in the slow fashion movement which means I try to buy less, repurpose and reuse. Jessica Rose Williams is one of my capsule wardrobe heroes as is Anna from Not Needing New.
Conversations on slowing down in everyday life – Wife and husband due Brook McAlary and Ben McAlary host a fantastic podcast which talks about finding slow in all moments of life from the mundane to the stressy days.
Celebrating the seasons – I feel like slow living goes hand in hand with celebrating the seasons and the planet we live on. I love to listen to As the Seasons Turn as presented by nature writer Lia Leendertz.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Love & adventure