FEATURE: Downshift adrift?
PART ONE: Letter to Miranda Ingram, c/o The Evening Standard
Today's Evening Standard published an article by you on downshifting titled 'Sod all the peace and quiet. I long for London'. I would link to it but the ES has not published that article online (crazy eh?)
'Forget it. downshifting is a disaster - all mud and no money'you proclaim going on to say that
'The point is, no one who's uprooted to the countryside dares admit how grim it is, so we keep quiet and watch more and more of you wistful urbanites fall into the same trap.'
As you point out in your article you still accept credit-card offers, gravitate towards fellow downshifters because you equate (and you even accept this is snobbish) interesting conversation with fellow downshifters as opposed to real country folks, identify fellow downshifters by the fact that their kids wear upmarket clothing and still book exotic weekend breaks.
All of the above surely supports my belief that you never quite got the gist of downshifting in the first place.
Downshifting is not about WHERE you live it is about HOW you live. Downshifting is about a fundamental shift in one's values. Downshifting is about an evolution to a simpler lifestyle. No point downshifting if you are taking your upshifted mentality with you.
Extreme downshifting, ie moving to rural anywhere, which is what you chose to do, means living a more connected, simplistic life...one where reducing your ecological footprint, having more time and less stress are your primary concerns. The irony is that you can start to live that life anywhere and did not need to flee to Wales/France to do it.
Miranda, you are obviously still living an upshifted life..an upshifted life merely transplanted to a downshifted location. Clearly that was never going to work.
I firmly believe that you can still make your downshift work though if you can ditch your upshifted mentality and I look forward to seeing what you do next! Whether that is in France or Fulham!
Good luck and Namaste
PART TWO: City life loses its appeal
As we move further away from 7/7 it is clear that the London Bombings will trigger a new wave of downshifters. But those seeking a simpler life must proceed with careful planning and caution or risk facing the same negative situation as Miranda Ingram clearly has.
On September 11th 2001, in a busy London office, datacomms engineer Ray Smith sat chatting to colleague Mike in New York as they tested a new line. With calm, clear vocabulary, Mike said, "What's the noise out there? There's a, a low plane overhead....it's just hit the Tower". The line went dead.
Ray watched the myriad of TV and data screens around him, numbed, searching for confirmation of the news, as he told his co-workers of the bizarre conversation. Within minutes, the newsflashes arrived and soon after, his offices were evacuated, as were many others in the square mile.
On their journey home, commuter conversations took on all forms. Many were defiant, angry and confused but others took on a different tone, saying this was their wake up call; their downshift out of the City was about to become a reality.
On July 7th 2005, as another group of innocent souls lost their lives to terrorism, many more downshifting plans were cast in stone. Amongst them, Joe and his pregnant wife. "This has just brought all our plans forward", he explained to me. "I want to work from home so I can see and be with my family, not simply support them."
Downshifting is definitely on the increase. In recent years, in the UK alone, it's reported that some 3 million have made a move towards a simpler life and Tracey Smith, downshifting writer and broadcaster explains that "the motivations to downshift must be built on solid foundations. Fear alone is simply not a good enough foundation. In the case of an extreme downshift where you move home, there should be much careful planning, with great consideration given to how you will support yourself financially."
She advises those looking to take such drastic action to seriously think through their entrepreneurial plans, cut back on all spending and to take the necessary time during the early planning stages to ensure they start off on the right foot.
Without doubt, the viewing figures for TV shows on how to renovate your house, sell all your worldly goods and move out will increase dramatically following the recent atrocities, however, for those already on their way towards a simpler life, it will perhaps be made a little easier.
Growing your own vegetables, charity shopping and taking a greener approach to living are fundamental for the committed 'Good Lifers'. They are also the essential elements needed to survive a move to a life with limited funds.
The chances of success are most certainly heightened if you are doing it because you want to embrace a less material way of life, as opposed to being chased into an emotional corner.
Ultimately that is why City Hippy believes Miranda Ingram has not yet succeeded in her attempted downshift. Miranda can still make it work...she just has to approach it with more realistic planning and the right mental attitude.
PART THREE: More information?
Tracey Smith runs National Downshifting Week and she has some great suggestions for individuals, companies and children/schools seeking to explore and encourage a simpler way of living life.
It can be as slow or fast a process as you wish it to be.
To find out more ways to downshift visit National Downshifting Week