QUESTION: Can you live the slow life in London?
In today’s fast-paced world, where hustle and bustle have become the norm, there is a growing need for a counterbalance that promotes mindfulness, well-being, and meaningful experiences. Enter the concept of slow living. It’s a movement that advocates for a more intentional and mindful approach to life. Slow living is not about being idle or unproductive; it’s about consciously choosing to slow down, simplify, and savour the present moment.
But what does that even look like?
‘Hours spent reading or painting, afternoons spent strolling along deserted streets, evenings spent eating at the local family owned pub – where you smile at the ONLY other diner and engage in easy conversation. Rolling hills speckled with sheep, empty winding lanes…no queues, no waiting lists and no stressed out commuters shoving you along for taking too long with your Oyster card…’
Well, that doesn’t sound like London does it?
Some would say that the slow life is only reserved for those who have left the relative mania of London behind – It’s definitely what the: ‘I left London for a better life’ articles would have you believe. After reading the 3rd article of the kind in as many weeks – this particular person had moved to Wales from East London (Instagram pictures of her canoeing and playing with her child painted a pretty picture indeed) – I found myself wondering if it’s possible to live the ‘slow life’ in London? Or are devoted Londonphiles like me destined only for a lesser type of fast living (whatever that means).
Slow Living: The idea that you can’t live the ‘slow life’ in London is a false narrative…
To be honest, I’m ashamed to say that the candid social media posts that I have come to both envy and revile have made me question whether I am missing out. Am I subjecting myself and my family to a lesser kind of life experience by forcing them to stay here in London? This is short lived, because the fact is…it’s just not true. The reality is, alongside these seemingly idyllic, life affirming experiences are others which simply do not make it to the gram.
‘The idea that you can’t live the ‘slow life’ in London is a false narrative…’
More importantly, the idea that London cannot give you a slow life is a false narrative. Yes it can be busy, the cost of living has knocked us all and sent many of us into a panic cycle of overwork and worry. That said, London has a lot to offer for those who want to refocus and take a slower pace. London is a mindset – you get what you focus on, you have a choice. If slowing living is what you are after, it’s possible. I have lived here my entire life, argue with yourself.
Look, if you are on the breadline and all you can do is work with no downtime, the slow life is gonna be pretty tough to achieve- but this would be the same anywhere. If you are broke, life is going to be tough in London and out in the countryside too – broke is broke.
If it’s commuting you hate – and I hear you – this is a tough one. Other than working from home, there’s not much you can do until TFL sort their shit out. You only have the time left around work and your commute to play with, not ideal but very possible to work with if you know what you are doing.
In summary, If you have a small income and access to some free time, you can choose the slow life in London. Yes, you can. Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started…
Keep it local and join your local Facebook groups
There are no travel costs when you keep it local (if budget is an issue). Visit your local farmers market or library, join a walking group or start your own. Whether you are walking through South Bank or through your local park, walking is the slow life experience that truly ticks all the boxes. Walking is low impact on your joints and even lower impact on your wallet, it’s also just the right pace to get you out and about with enough time to smell the roses.
Be a tourist and sightsee (…don’t shop)
If you live in the City, Central London is at most a bus or 2 away. Make a packed lunch, be a tourist and stroll! Many of us associate going into Central London or ‘town’ as being about hitting Selfridges, shopping amongst the crowds, queuing for expensive meals or having to buy lots of bits for the kids. It’s just not true – visit one of the free museums or a destination library / bookstore and for goodness sake, bring a packed lunch. You can eat a packed lunch almost anywhere and at anytime, which means no reservations needed and no second mortgage needed to pay off expensive meals.
”POP ALONG TO A LIBRARY FOR THE ULTIMATE SLOW LIFE EXPERIENCE…”
You could take a friend for a ‘bookathon’ and grab a cup of tea. Here are a few libraries to try – all in the same general location or a walk away. A London slow life book-tour list for a day spent smelling the pages? Yes please:
Daunt Books, Marylebone
Hatchards, Piccadilly Circus
Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Rd
Word On The Water, Regents Canal
London Review Bookshop, Bloomsbury
Waterstones, Piccadilly (the biggest book shop in London)
Foyles Charing, Cross Road
Judd Books, Bloomsbury
Still not convinced? Watch this video to get you in the Slow Life in London zone…