Morning coffee to get you up and running by 6:30am, a quick scan of the news, a rapid fire session of midday email, a “break” for lunch eaten in front of your computer while you hit Facebook, an afternoon of back to back meetings, a race home to change and grab your mat for a yoga session, an evening dinner date, and all the while, checking your Blackberry for work emails.
Sound familiar? If your average day looks a little like this, you’re not alone. Technology has helped in a lot of aspects of our lives, from paying bills online to keeping in touch with old friends, but sometimes it all gets overwhelming and it’s easy to ask, “do our lives ever slow down?”
Enter the slow movement, a cultural shift towards making time to slow down. The movement’s proponents are convinced that our speedy lives are destroying our health, families and communities. But slowing down isn’t just about turning your iPhone off during dinner, it’s about a holistic approach to your whole lifestyle, from how you travel to what you eat.
One of the main components of slow travel is taking the time to be a part of local culture and connect with the people. Instead of racking up as many passports stamps as possible during a 5-day stint, slow travel advocates spending time in one place, often in rental villas where travelers can easily fall into pace with everyday life of the local culture.
A common way to experience the local surroundings and culture is through WWOOFing. The program, which stands for “Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms,” allows travelers to spend time working on an organic farm, giving back to the local community and being part of a culturally authentic environment. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your WWOOFing experience.
Although not essential to slow travel, doing something to help the community you’re traveling in has become an integral part of the movement and voluntourism has made its way onto the list of socially conscious slow travelers. Combining travel with volunteer projects, voluntourism has become popular with travelers that want more than cocktails by the pool at an all-inclusive resort. Hands-on experiences include everything from trail building to helping with scientific research to constructing houses. If you’re interested in this kind of traveling, Voluntourism.org is an excellent place to start.
Aiming to preserve cultural cuisine, the slow food movement isn’t just focused on eating better, it’s about preserving plants, seeds and agriculture and ensuring that we respect earth’s resources. The movement has so much momentum that several official organizations have been launched.
Slow Food USA aims to link “the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.” That means less time spent gorging on fast food and more time thinking about making connections between how our food is grown and what it really tastes like. People around the country are attaching to that idea, from urban foragers taking time to harvest fruit in urban environments that might otherwise go to waste to building communities through street carts.
On the more scientific side of things, there’s the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, whose mission includes not only defending biodiversity, but also endorsing sustainable agriculture and protect small producers and their communities. Even the USDA launched a public awareness campaign focused on local food called Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food that we recently covered here.
Ultimately, what the slow food movement comes down to is being more conscious about where our food comes from and appreciating what we put in our bodies. What are the easiest ways to start bringing the slow food movement into your everyday life? Cook at home instead of opting for fast food; if you have your own garden, share the wealth with your neighbors; seek out restaurants that are committed to using local, sustainable ingredients.
With quickly changing seasons, cheap yet fashionable knock-offs of the latest trends used to sell like wildfire, but just as with food and travel, even fashionistas have taken a turn down a slower path. Slow fashion has put the focus on not only what clothes are made out of but what they’re made for, and whether or not they’re going to last.
Consumers are trending towards slow fashion, making the new top items ones that are made to last (read: “trans-seasonal”) as well as designed and produced with the environment and humanity in mind. How do you incorporate slow fashion ideals into your everyday lifestyle? Invest in a small wardrobe of well-made pieces that work together, made by manufacturers with integrity.
It’s not just individuals taking steps to slow down – cities are doing their part as well. Cittaslow is an international network of more than 120 cities that have adopted a common set of goals to improve residents’ way of life. The slow cities movement started in Italy in 1999, when Mayor Paolo Saturnini chose to keep his town of Chianti, in Tuscany, small and protect local business, and it has spread from there.
Now a worldwide success, Cittaslow towns all commit to working towards over 50 goals and principles that will improve local life, evident in the movement’s official slogan, “International Network of Cities where living is easy.” Taking ideals of the slow food movement, slow cities put a focus on sustainable agricultural practices, conservation of and support for traditional artisan products, hospitality programs, historic preservation, and educational programs for all ages. Even in the high speed US, Cittaslow has taken hold, with Sonoma, Calif. being the first US town to be honored for its slower pace.
What three things would you slow down, if you could?