THE BENEFITS OF GOING SLOW
We’re just 4 days into our year off. We landed in Cancun on Monday, headed straight to Isla Mujeres & are now in Tulum for a few days. After that we… head West?
When we talked about what this year should be like, we always wanted to have loose ends, plenty of flexibility & the opportunity to stay or leave a place depending how we felt. The concept of “slow travel” was something that we wanted to commit to. How Romantic.
In reality, this lack of a solid plan is totally alien. We’ve already caught ourselves mapping out the next weeks & months, scanning Hostel World & AirBnB constantly, allocating time in days to places we want to see rather than giving ourselves the freedom to stop. Not only that, but we’ve even been creating work for ourselves & becoming restless with all this unfettered down-time. We wouldn’t usually be drumming fingers 72 hours into a holiday, but the prospect of many months without an agenda is a little more tricky to relax into. Why is going slow so hard?
Partly because it’s just not mentally comfortable. Pre-planning a trip or a holiday is quite frankly far more relaxing. Once we know where we’re going, what we’ll be doing & how we’ll get there (most of which we can sort from the comfort of our living room) we can basically coast. When it comes to reaching our destination, we kind of go into auto-pilot, letting all the pre-planning deliver the results - when we holiday we are rarely travelling, we are simply arriving. A huge reason for this is time; when we have 10 days to maximise relaxation, making sure we’re in chill-mode asap becomes very important. Fortunately (or unfortunately - depending how we’re feeling) we don’t have that problem - we have a whole heap more than 10 days… and yet we’re still itching to pre-book the next 4 months.
Back in 1999 (well before the current swell of mindfulness teachers & wellness professionals), the World Institute of Slowness was set up to try and address this pre-occupation with rushing. It’s unhurried founder, Geir Berthelsen, is a physicist by training with an M.A in organisational psychology. Combined with a childhood spent in the natural grandeur of southern Norway and a part-time job as a grave-digger, Berthelsen gained a profound understanding of time, scale, life & death. He's recently been quoted advising “don’t live as if you’re afraid of being late to your own funeral”.
And he has a point. We are so deeply programmed to think that slow is bad and fast is good, all things should have a start and an end, that we end up in an endless race for productivity & problem solving. So much so that sometimes we forget what the problem was in the first place. After a collective 13 years working for large US / Italian corporations, I hope it’s just taking us a little time to shake this off - after all, having to stay an extra night on the caribbean coast can hardly be classified as a ‘problem’…
Berthelsen also suggests that once you start to re-evaluate & take control of your time you make space for a different understanding of it. The Ancient Greeks considered Time as not one thing, but two: the linear (Chronos), and also the time of opportune moments (Karios). Rather than our deeply socialised need to move quicker, work faster & do more, our effort should be in creating more of those moments where we can be consciously present & revel in this forgotten dimension; the here & now combined with the people we’re with & the places we find ourselves.
This easing up on the pedal is the reason people 'find themselves’ when they travel. Where they are confronted with the unfamiliar and unforeseeable (which goes hand-in-hand with slowing down) - they basically become more aware of who they are - they literally need to be more conscious beings. A beautiful & very wise friend of ours summed this up in a card she gave us before we left:
Whilst we both think we have a pretty good grasp of who we are, neither of us have been flung very far from the nest recently. So we come to the end of a our pre-booked stint tomorrow. From here on in, it all gets very… vague.
It’s going to be an interesting ride.
10 Ways to embrace a little more ‘Slow’:
The Slow movement applies to more than just traveL. here’s 10 ways to embrace a little more day-to-day slow:
Set your alarm 10 minutes before you need to get up (try not to check your phone straight away. Your time immediately becomes someoneelse’s when you do - guilty)
Eat breakfast - preferably with someone if they’re around. Ask them to anticipate what the best part of their day will be. Listen. Anticipate your own
Hug each other before leaving the house. Breathe consciously at least twice. If you live alone, breathe consciously at least twice over coffee/tea/hotwater, or in the shower, sat on the edge of the bed - whatever morning ritual you enjoy
The rule of 3 - Keep to do lists to 3 small actionable, achievable tasks. Congratulate yourself for completing them. Write three more
Don’t skip lunch (the Italians Nick used to work with will be wondering why this even needs to be spelt out…)
At 2pm each day, check in with yourself - How am I feeling?
Eat dinner together, or at least away from a screen. Ask each other about the day & listen. If no-one is around, actively reflect upon it alone
A hobby a day keeps the shrink away - cooking, reading, drawing, painting, investing, writing, DIY… All count
Exercise - at least 20 minutes, even if it’s just walking to get lunch or a roam up the road in the evening. Look up above your eye-line regularly
Commit. Doing all 10 is ambitious & (let’s be honest) unrealistic. But if you can manage 2 or 3 each day, those connected moments of Kairos will start to define your time rather than the ticking of the clock
I leave you with a photo of Nick taking his practise of the art of ‘Going Slow’ very seriously…