I have been addicted for some time to Escape to the Country, a long-running English reality TV show in which couples look to exchange their comfortable city dwelling for a ramshackle, thatched-roofed, low-ceilinged abode in the wind swept, rain-soaked, muddy, grey countryside of Britain. This naturally leads me to think: Wow! I would love to do that!
I have lived in cities all my life and convinced myself that I am happy in a teeming metropolis. But as I get older the pace of life seems to be increasing all around me. My home is an oasis of tranquillity, but the second I step outside the gate I am swept along in a sea of humanity at breakneck speed with hardly time to breathe or, indeed, live.
Sounds melodramatic, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. This feeling is actually a sign that I am reassessing what is important and what I want to leave behind. It’s a transitional thing. Our daughter has grown up and is about to go overseas. My non-writing career – my ‘real’ job – has peaked and I’m toying with thoughts of retirement. The idea of living in the countryside is, at the moment, a utopian solution that is helping me readjust my headspace to a brand new and exciting phase of my life.
Obviously, the pace of life has not increased. It’s the same carousel as it has always been. I just want to get off. I’ve had enough. I wish to slow down. Not sure I want to smell the roses, as that’s not my thing, but you know what I mean. When the general population around you start to resemble headless chooks, something is telling you the winds of change are a’blowin’.
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My wife and I recently spent two weeks in Queensland in a 22nd floor apartment overlooking the ocean. We couldn’t hear our neighbours. We couldn’t hear traffic. All we could hear was the sound of the waves breaking, just as they have done for millions of years. It was timeless and restful; the sound the earth made when there were no people to hear it. In effect, we achieved prehistoric peace and contentment during a two week holiday. Now that’s value for money!
A holiday like that is a temporary fantasy. We were away from home and work and commitment. The reality of permanently living in a country town or coastal community will be quite different to the city. Fewer amenities, animals, snakes, drought, flood, sharks, flies, feral neighbours, roaming sadistic serial killers, coal seam gas mining, vegans. And you might be under pressure, heaven forbid, to get involved in the community and join a group making wardrobes out of driftwood or knitting tupperware. These dangers are very real for the urban escapee and should not be taken lightly.
There are positives, too. Getting up with the sun, having the time and inclination to stop and look at something for longer than a millisecond, meeting people who say hello when you greet them in passing. And stopping for a chat. Peace and quiet.
But the most enticing part of this change is slowing down. Putting on the brakes and possessing time to enjoy what I’m doing instead of being consumed by all the things I haven’t done. I also look forward to emptying my head (which should actually be quick and easy, according to my wife).
In short, the goal is to live a life enjoying the time we actually have instead of complaining there isn’t enough of it.
Have you been slowing down more as you get older? Do you love the pace?