A Year of Living Slower, June: Slow Tech

Offline is the new luxury quote

Welcome to the sixth month of A Year of Living Slower, a collection of 12 monthly challenges in living better, not faster.

A Year of Living Slower started in January with tips for a calm bedtime ritual to maximise your sleep. In February, we focused on Slow Sundays and making time to practise self care. In March, we discussed slow food and seasonal eating. As Spring sprung, the challenge turned to the power of getting back to nature in April. And finally in May, we shared inspiration and ideas around slow travel, including how to get more from your trip, whether that’s going off-grid and recharging in the countryside, or practising the art of slow looking on a city break.

This month, we’re tackling tech, something that both enables and arguably complicates our lifestyles. The aim of the month is to gain a better understanding of your relationship with your phone and to know if switching off more regularly could actually help you recharge.


Talking About our Relationship with Technology

While we’re immensely privileged to live in an era of knowledge sharing and connectivity and we’re far from advocating digital luddism, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the more negative aspects of technology. That includes, in particular, the way our 24/7 digital interconnectedness and FOMO-culture affects mental health, productivity and our relationships. Research is still developing and technology use is likely to affect us all differently, yet one thing is very clear: smartphones, social media and digital communication are a huge part of daily life and are here to stay. It’s vital that we become equipped to deal with their impact.

The following stats from Deloitte’s 2017 Global Mobile Consumer Survey highlight how reliant we have become on screens and are a good place to start when considering your own screen time:

  • 34% of UK adults check their phones within five minutes of waking up.
  • 53% of 16-75-year olds use phones while walking and 11% would continue doing so as they cross the road.
  • 78% of us use our phones in the hour before going to bed, jeopardising our sleep quality due to blue light exposure.

If you’re fed up with wasting time on your phone, join us in June and start exploring the concepts of slow tech and digital detox.

6 of the Best London Day Trips for a Change of Scenery

Buildings in Bath

In need of some escapism? You don’t have to travel far to experience a change of scenery from the London skyline, whether that be historical buildings or rolling countryside views. Embrace the principles of slow travel and explore somewhere new at your own pace with these London day trips.

1. Bath

The picturesque city of Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987 due to its Roman ruins and hot springs. There is plenty to do in Bath, including visiting the famous Roman baths, taking a dip in the popular modern spa, shopping, eating and exploring the Royal Crescent.

Trains from London Paddington to Bath take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes.


2. Whitstable, Kent

Wooden beach huts in Whitstable

For a change of pace, independent shopping and some fantastic fresh fish, Whitstable is a great choice for a day trip from London. Renowned for its oysters, this pretty seaside town has a big reputation. Tuck into some fish and chips and walk along the seafront to Tankerton Beach to admire the colourful beach huts.

Trains from London Victoria take around 1 hour 20 minutes and trains from St Pancras take around 1 hour 10 minutes.


3. Hitchin Lavender, Hertfordshire

Fields of Lavender, Hitchin

Reap the benefits of getting back to nature and leave with a bag of blooms at the highly Instagram-worthy Hitchin Lavender Farm. The swathes of sweetly-scented lavender and adjacent sunflower fields couldn’t be further from your normal city scenes. Filling your paper bag to the brim with stems takes quite a while making the whole experience both relaxing and mindful.

Trains from St Pancras to Hitchin take just 37 minutes. From there, it’s a less than 10 minute taxi or Uber ride away. If you’re driving, it’s not far from the A1M and there is ample parking.


4. Oxford

Perhaps needing little introduction, Oxford is known as The City of Dreaming Spires and continues to attract visitors from around the world for its architecture and university. From exploring the Bodleian Library (one of the oldest in Europe) and colleges, to trying your hand at punting on the river and visiting the Botanic Garden, there is a lot to see and do in Oxford.

Trains from Paddington and Marylebone take around 1 hour to reach Oxford. The Oxford Tube bus services runs 24/7 from the following stops: Hillingdon, Shepherd’s Bush, Notting Hill Gate, Marble Arch and Victoria. From Victoria, this takes 1 hour 50 minutes- longer if there is traffic.


5. Henley-on-Thames

If Henley rings a bell, it’s probably because of the annual Royal Regatta that is hosted in this Oxfordshire town. While Henley comes to life in the summer for the boat races and a music festival, it’s an enjoyable day trip from London all year round. With a pretty market square, riverside walks and plenty of shops, pubs and restaurants to visit, it’s easy to while away an afternoon here. If you’re driving, popular National Trust property Greys Court is 10 minutes away.

Trains from Paddington take around 1 hour 10 minutes, changing at Twyford.


6. The Cotswolds

Indoor plants at The Burford Garden Company

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), there are almost too many picturesque villages and towns to list in the Cotswolds. With the area’s trademark stone and stunning countryside, it makes for a perfect city escape. Here are a few places that are worth visiting:

  • Burford: a pretty little town which is home to The Burford Garden Company – much more than your usual garden centre with a fantastic cafe and carefully curated homewares section.
  • Bibury: a popular village with a row of quaint stone cottages
  • Cirencester: a market town in east Gloucestershire, the largest in the Cotswolds

Coach tours do run from London, but in order to experience the serenity of the area and get away from the crowds, it’s easier to travel by car and plan a road trip.

To explore somewhere new and escape the city, these are six of the best day trips from London. If you’re sightseeing on your trip, don’t forget to try the art of slow looking – a slow living inspired method to get more from cultural experiences.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

Salty air and seafood: A Whitstable day trip

Wooden beach huts in Whitstable

Longing for a change of scenery and change of pace? Sometimes, there’s nothing better than breathing some salty sea air and escaping the big smoke. If you’re looking for inspiration, a day trip to Whitstable on the Kent coast, might be just want you need. From as little as one hour 15 minutes by train from London, a slow travel escape is closer than you think. Discover what’s to love and what things you can do during a day trip to Whitstable.

Seaside shacks in Whitstable, Kent

Things to do in Whitstable

Enjoy fresh oysters and seafood

Whitstable is a seafood lover’s heaven. Known for its oysters, this is arguably the pretty seaside town’s biggest draw. You’ll find seafood restaurants and shacks lining the seafront and queues of people waiting to make their order. If you’re not a fan of oysters, you won’t be disappointed by the fresh fish and chips and lobster on offer. Some of the beachfront seafood stalls have seating, but most people grab their boxes and find a spot on the beach.

Pink facade of Wheeler's Oyster Bar in Whitstable

Where to eat oysters and seafood in Whitstable

  • The Forge – a really popular spot right on the beach. This shack of course sells oysters, but also wine, beer, hot doughnuts, fish and chips and lobster to take away or eat on their picnic benches.
  • Whitstable Oyster Company – a family-run business with a long history. If you’re looking to tuck into your oysters in a restaurant setting, rather than on the beach, this beachfront restaurant has fantastic views.
  • Wheeler’s Oyster Bar – a Whitstable icon due to its quaint pink facade, this oyster bar was founded in 1856. Wheeler’s has a bijoux parlour restaurant, so booking is advised, however, you can also buy seafood and sandwiches to take away.
  • VC Jones – another spot where you’ll often see queues forming. A traditional fish and chip shop that’s been trading since 1962 and is often claimed as the best in Whitstable.

Admire the colourful beach huts on Tankerton Beach

From the harbour and along the seafront to Old Neptune’s pub, the beach is likely to be busiest, with visitors tucking into their fish and chips on the pebbles. Past the pub and colourful houses, you’ll come across vibrant beach huts and much more space to yourself on Tankerton Beach. This area is also home to JoJo’s, a popular meze tapas restaurant.

Beach huts and gorse bushes in Whitstable
Tankerton Beach, Whitstable

Browse the town’s independent shops

With the same coffee shops on every corner, central London can feel brand saturated and lacking the personality that comes with local, independent businesses. Whitstable’s pretty high street is a far cry from the shop fronts of tired seaside towns you may be imagining. Filled with clothing boutiques, gift shops, antique shops, galleries and foodie hotspots, you’ll want to leave yourself time to browse.

Whitstable’s shops

Food:

  • The Cheese Box
  • David Brown delicatessen
  • Granny Smiths

Gifts and homewares:

  • Flory & Black
  • Taking the Plunge

Clothes:

  • The Clothes Horse
  • The Whiting Post
  • Ruskin

Explore the harbour

Whitstable’s working harbour is bustling and home to many seafood restaurants and fishmongers, should you wish to cook your own at home. On sundays, little sheds open at the far end of the harbourside for the harbour market – a mix of ready-to-eat food and quirky gifts.

Whitstable Harbour

How to get to Whitstable from London

One of the easiest ways to get to Whitstable from London is to catch the fast trains. However, there are also car parks should you choose to drive.

Trains to Whitstable from London:

  • Direct from London Victoria: from 1 hour 21 minutes
  • Direct from St. Pancras International: from 1 hour 12 minutes

Where to park in Whitstable:

  • Whitstable Harbour Car Park (small, short stay.)
  • Gorrell Tank Car Park (one of the town’s largest car parks – from April to September, it costs £1.80/hour from 10am to 9pm. Card payment available.)
  • Middle Wall Car Park (another fairly large car park, charges and payment same as above.)
  • Gladstone Road Car Park (52 spaces, charges and payment same as above.)

A day trip to Whitstable promises great seafood, good shopping and pretty scenery. Easy to reach from two of London’s major train stations, it’s the perfect place to spend a slow day away from the city.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

6 Leafy London Plant Shops to Escape In

Jungalow style at W6 Garden Centre, one of London's plant shops

Wondering where to go on those days when you’re craving a slice of greenery in London, but don’t fancy the parks? Shops that are absolutely packed to the rafters with plants, that’s where. There are many beautiful London plant shops that have made their mark on Instagram, not to mention Columbia Road Flower Market. But if you’re looking to escape and pretend you’re exploring a wild jungle, there are a few that you just can’t miss. Plus, you’ll struggle to leave empty-handed, meaning you can create your own urban jungle oasis at home and enjoy the fresh-air benefits of houseplants.

1. Conservatory Archives

Nothing says plants like Conservatory Archives. Ceiling to floor, this little shop is full to the brim with green. From minature cacti to large ficus and trees that will set you back a few hundred pounds, the range of plants Conservatory Archives have managed to squeeze into a small space is impressive. In fact, it’s difficult to maneouvre around if there are other people browsing – it’s that jam-packed. The features of the building add to the charm – the shop used to be the oldest ironmongers in London.

When asking the friendly guy at the till how they kept track of all the plants, he explained that it was impossible. He admitted that they got new plants in every couple of days and just had to check each pot’s soil for watering. It’s a botanical chaos, but in the very best way possible.

Best for: pure plant-inspired escapism and a great range of smaller plants, including string of pearls, which has proven difficult to find so young elsewhere in London

Location: 493-495 Hackney Rd

London plant shops: Conservatory Archives Window

2. Forest

With locations in Deptford and East Dulwich, Forest’s shops are stylish, well-designed and #shelfie heaven. As well as a great range of plants and some incredible hanging displays, Forest sells lifestyle gifts and accessories. If you’re choosing your pot and plant separately, the helpful team will also offer to pot it up for you. The Dulwich store is more compact and cosy, while the Deptford shop is nestled under the railway arches of Deptford Market Yard.

Best for: gifts, shelfie inspiration and lifestyle accessories

Locations: Arch 133 Deptford Market Yard and rear of 43 Lordship Lane

Forest London Plant Shop

3. Plant Warehouse

Hackney isn’t short of a plant shop or two. Just around the corner from Conservatory Archives, you’ll find Plant Warehouse and Flower Warehouse on Cambridge Heath Road.

Much more spacious than Conservatory Archives, Plant Warehouse is also one of the most colourful London plant shops around. There’s no shortage of choice and you could spend forever browsing. The Scandi-inspired hanging planters and other modern pots offer a different feel to other plant shops in the area. A great addition to the Hackney cacti trail.

Best for: modern pots and colour

Location: Cambridge Heath Road

Plant Warehouse in Hackney

4. Flower Warehouse

Although entirely Instagrammable, Flower Warehouse is more straight-to-the-point than the other London plant shops on this list. The displays of cacti are particularly impressive. At the back there are also hundreds of pots to choose from. If you’re on your way back from Columbia Road Flower Market, stop in here and grab a few pots.

Best for: no frills shopping

Location: 517A Cambridge Heath Rd

Plant Warehouse Cacti

5. W6 Garden Centre and Cafe

Nestled under the arches of the District Line at Ravenscourt Park, the W6 Garden Centre is great spot for grabbing a coffee on a Sunday morning and picking up a few plants.

This London plant shop is packed with inspiration on how to display your newly purchased plants, including a beautifully-styled room dedicated to furniture and home accessories.

Best for: stylish pots, botanical-inspired homewares and outdoor plants

Location: 17 Ravenscourt Ave, Hammersmith

W6 Garden Centre

6. Petersham Nurseries

Petersham Nurseries should be on every plant lover’s bucket list. While located near the River Thames in Richmond, Petersham Nurseries is anything but a hidden gem. It’s renowned for its food and beautiful visual merchandising. From gardening equipment to indoor and outdoor plants and carefully sourced eclectic homewares, this family-run favourite is worth spending a few hours at.

Best for: escapism and inspiration

Location: Church Lane, Richmond

Plants at Petersham Nurseries

There are many more garden centres and botanical places in the capital to escape in, but these are London plant shops that give you that I’m-smaller-than-that-plant-feeling. Take in the canopy, take a deep breath and buy a plant. This is London slow living when you can’t make it to the countryside, or the jungle, for that matter.

Suzy Stories Shares Her Slow Travel Tips

Suzy Stories

Suzy, founder of Suzy Stories, is a British travel blogger who shares her adventures exploring incredible locations around the globe. A self-confessed ‘Kiwi-fanatic’, many of her travels focus on the Southern Hemisphere, filling her Instagram feed with mountain ranges and icy blue water.

While her ‘wanderlist’ is constantly growing (currently reaching 85 entries, ending with the desire to ‘honeymoon in Antarctica’), Suzy is someone who truly likes to get to know the culture of each destination. Inspired by her stories, we asked Suzy for her slow travel tips and recommendations.

Suzy Stories’ Slow Travel Tips

Which destinations would you recommend for a holiday to recharge and slow down?

The cliche will likely draw your mind towards white sand beaches and lapping waves. While such destinations are a great place to unwind, it’s not the only option! Personally, I love to head towards rural areas such as mountain villages and woodland cabins. It’s these places that you feel most disconnected from daily life, and a huge benefit is that it doesn’t matter if the weather isn’t cooperating, you can cosy up indoors anyway! 

You also don’t have to go too far to find somewhere to meet these needs. There are some beautiful parts of the UK which are perfect for enjoying nature, taking time for yourself, and resting without breaking the bank. 


What are your tips for really getting to know a new city?

Lots of research beforehand is a great start! There’s a wealth of advice and knowledge from blogs, tourist boards, guidebooks, and more. On arrival, I recommend walking with just one or two key spots in mind, but following your nose rather than a map to get to know the area nearby, and increasing that radius as you go along. Cities can feel overwhelming, compact, and one-dimensional at first. However, given the chance to walk the back streets, get a little lost, and find where the locals reside you’ll get a whole new perspective. 


Describe your travel style in three words.

Tough one! I’d have to say: cultural, holistic, enlightening. 

I enjoy taking time to explore local art galleries and museums, try to sample a variety of styles and activities in a destination, and aim to gain a new perspective from my travels as much as possible. 


How can people embrace the slow travel mindset when they are on holiday?

If you’re looking to follow more slow travel practices, don’t overwhelm yourself with a never-ending list of activities. Trying to hit all the most popular tourist attractions is a sure way to burn yourself out, and you certainly won’t be going at a slow pace! 

If you’re looking to follow more slow travel practices, don’t overwhelm yourself with a never-ending list of activities.

Remind yourself of why you’re visiting that destination, and what you want to gain from the holiday. If your focus is on meaningful experiences, then find unique, locally-run services to help facilitate that. Airbnb Experiences is a handy resource to start off with!


Where’s next on your list to visit? 

Where isn’t! I’m going to revisit the beautiful South Island of New Zealand next and head into the mountains for some peace and quiet, but high on my list is Japan. I love the complex mix of bustling cities and rural space, I think it would suit my interests and need for cultural and natural stimulation while travelling! 


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.