I was a frequent flyer and I loved it!
Living abroad, I thought I depended on flights to see my family and friends, and I was spoiled by my parents' contagious lust for vacations in foreign places.
But in late September 2019, just when I got back from my travel-marathon through Montreal, the United States, South Africa and Mozambique (all in one summer!!), I was hit by a heart-felt realisation of the environmental damage caused by my adventures. Through my many flights, I was destroying the very thing I sought to see!
Having been actively involved in the climate movement for a few months, my cognitive dissonance resulting from the mismatch between my love for the planet and my enormous, ever growing carbon footprint felt overwhelming. I genuinely thought I'm going to have a minor mental breakdown.
My eco-anxiety and grief for the planet hit hard as I spent countless days crying but nothing helped to wash away my feelings of guilt. I knew I had to truly align my actions with my pro-environmental values, so I went cold turkey on flights.
Here I am, still living abroad, yet still visiting family and friends and proudly maintaining my second year in a row of being flight-free.
I am still a traveller, just slower and more conscious, more aligned with my values and what truly matters to me: the health of the planet and ecosystems.
I feel more connected to the lands I travel through and have got a better understanding of my travel distances. I love to witness all the different destinations I'm passing through on my train journeys from Scotland (my place of study) to Germany (my family home) and am amazed at how quickly I can travel across places, especially within Europe. How often do you think about how many different countries you've passed when you just fly across them and don't notice any borders?
Quitting flying has allowed me to discover wonderful places by train and bus, proving that great adventures are possible with slow and low emission travels.
While more affordable train journeys are definitely still needed, I think it is crucial to understand: not flying does not mean not travelling!
I understand that the decision to go flight-free (for however long one decides) is not always taken lightly. I have friends and family living overseas and this year's decision to pledge flight-free came with a great challenge: this year, it's my dear friend's wedding in Canada. We have dreamt about our reunion on her wedding day even before she had a boyfriend! Thus, I thought about my pledge very carefully.
However, in times of global ecological crises, it is more important than ever for us to stay grounded and reduce our carbon emissions as best as we can – individually and collectively.
For some people it might be difficult to understand but ultimately, I am not just doing this for the planet, but also for the safety of my friend and her future children. Canada is currently recording the hottest temperatures ever which are a result of global heating and puts people, animals and plants at life-threatening risks.
I am not (yet) saying I'll NEVER fly again, but I do believe that we all carry a responsibility to make our decisions well informed and with greater awareness of the damaging consequences for our planet and people. Right now, we have only nine years left to reach net zero emissions. We need to do everything within our capabilities to prevent reaching those irreversible tipping points.