Featuring everything from off-grid shacks and luxurious glamping spots to architecturally designed cabins, new book Life Unhurried calls for a slower, more sustainable way of living and travelling. Here, its authors share tips on how to really switch off.
Ready to take it slow? Congratulations! Booking a Slow Stay is the first step in the right direction when it comes to embracing slow travel. How you actually spend your time while there, however, can be a challenge – especially if you’re not used to sitting still or being untethered from technology for more than five minutes.
It might seem ludicrous but the truth is, doing nothing can actually be much harder than churning through a to-do list.
The trick is in being able to switch your focus to quality experiences over quantity, and allowing yourself to savour languid hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Slowing down is a choice, one you can make a little easier by using these tips while you’re away.
1. Switch off your phone (don’t just put it on silent)
Here’s a reality check: the average Aussie spends five and a half hours per day on their phone. We wake to our devices, we spend most of the day on them and then, come night-time, we still can’t stop scrolling (even as the TV blares in the background).
It’s tempting to have your phone with you at all times, but the act of switching it off and putting it out of sight allows spaciousness to return. Days feel longer. Itchy scrolling fingers eventually relax. And you can marvel at the sunset without worrying about capturing it for your Insta stories.
If you can’t bear to go a day without photos, take a camera, but ask yourself what that photo will take you away from experiencing right now, in the moment – the moment you travelled to experience.
Stare at a sunset instead of a screen.
2. Leave the laptop at home
No matter how innocent your intentions, if you take your laptop with you, you’re inviting work leakages. Checking emails can wreak havoc on your brainspace for the entire duration of your stay, even if you don’t reply.
Freaking out about the fact your shack doesn’t have wi-fi? Or a TV? Instead of feeling like you can’t possibly go without Netflix, think about what you might gain instead – deeper conversations, time to look up at the stars or into the fire, and delicious deep sleep.
Forget the laptop and spend time soaking up your surroundings.
3. Pack that book you’ve been meaning to read
Even if you consider yourself an avid reader, in ‘real life’ it can be hard to find time to disappear into a book. Pack something you’re really keen to read or choose something from the shelves of your Slow Stay and remember the joy of reading without an agenda.
4. Set aside time to simply sit
It’s a daunting prospect, doing nothing. As the late spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh said in his book Planting Seeds, being content with not doing anything is a very deep practice: ‘We all have an energy within us that constantly pushes us to do this or that … If we aren’t doing something, we can’t stand it.’
Start small by sitting in compact spaces of time. Use that time to listen, look, observe. What do you notice? How does it make you feel? Questions will naturally bubble up. And you’ll be amazed at the answers you find in the emptiness.
Find a spot to get comfy and observe the outside world. (Image: Aframe Kangaroo Valley, NSW; Courtesy of Life Unhurried)
5. Cook and eat mindfully
When you’re tucked away in a cabin in the bush, you can’t simply head out for dinner or order delivery on your phone. But far from being a burden, the need to cook your own meals can serve as a wonderful gateway to practise mindfulness without realising it.
Enjoy the ritual of cooking.
Notice the scent as you chop fresh herbs, admire the colour and shapes of the vegetables – perhaps you even picked them from the garden. Sip your wine, listen to music and prepare a simple meal. As you eat, sitting at the table, chew slowly, enjoy the conversation and take note of all your senses.
Embrace eating mindfully on holiday. (Image: Upland Farm, WA; Hannah Puechmarin)
6. Try forest bathing
The benefits of connecting with nature have been well documented. In Japan they call it shinrin-yoku – ‘forest bathing’ – and it has been proven to reduce blood pressure, improve concentration and memory, and even boost the immune system.
With many of us living in urban environments and spending so much time indoors, nature dosing while on holidays isn’t just an enjoyable way to spend your time and explore the local area, it’s preventative medicine.
Get outside and explore your surroundings. ((Image: Upland Farm, WA; Hannah Puechmarin)
7. Practise self-care
‘I’m too busy for self-care’ is the line you tell yourself back home. But here there is time. Stash self-care items in your duffel bag – sheet masks, bath salts, body oil – and enjoy the simple pleasure of anointing yourself. Meditate (try an app like Headspace if you’re new to the practice). Crack open a fresh journal and write a list of things you’re grateful for.
Take the opportunity to practise self-care. (Image: Upland Farm, WA; Hannah Puechmarin)
8. Appreciate the rituals
There’s a wonderful Buddhist saying along the lines of, ‘Wash the dishes like you were giving the baby Buddha a bath’. It’s about embracing sacredness in the small acts we whiz through in everyday life.
Acts of ritual are embedded in many of the Slow Stays we’ve featured in Life Unhurried. Use the opportunities provided to relish in lighting a fire, playing a vinyl record, picking herbs from the garden, slathering homemade jam on your toast and slowly brewing your morning coffee or tea. In doing so, you can turn the mundane into some of the most memorable moments of the trip.
Find acts of ritual embedded in many of the Slow Stays featured in Life Unhurried by Celeste Mitchell, Katie Gannon and Krista Eppelstun.
9. Reflect when you return home
Don’t let life drag you back into hurriedness when you check out. Find space at home to reflect on your stay, journal about your experience and talk about it over coffee with friends.
In the same way that the anticipation of a holiday can be almost as intoxicating as the experience itself, so too can the reflection.
This is an edited extract from Life Unhurried by Celeste Mitchell, Katie Gannon and Krista Eppelstun published by Hardie Grant Explore. Available 7 September; RRP $50.