During my degree I came to realise that flying is one of the most environmentally damaging things we can do.
The university had organised flights for an ecology field course in Ireland, but a friend and I decided we would get there by public transport instead.
On the way to catch the return coach at Shannon airport, my fellow environmental science and ecology students said, ‘The flight is going anyway,’ and that I was being ridiculous.
I wasn’t swayed from my convictions. Eventually those flights will stop going, if we stop taking them. I have been flight free since 2008 and am intending on never flying again.
Eventually those flights will stop going, if we stop taking them.
In 2010 my sister wanted to go to Canada on a working holiday.
I wanted to go too but without flying. We took trains, coaches and ferries across Europe, Russia, Mongolia, China and South Korea. In South Korea we boarded the Hanjin Yantian, a 300m long container ship, for 11 days of travel across the Pacific to Long Beach, California.
After working in Vancouver for a few months I headed by coach and train to the remote sub-arctic community of Churchill, volunteering at the studies centre where amongst other things they measure greenhouse gas fluxes from the thawing permafrost. Many people fly from across the world to see the polar bears in Churchill, but it seemed a lot more appropriate to see them without flying.
Many people fly to see the polar bears in Churchill, but it seemed more appropriate to see them without flying.
Following this I travelled and volunteered across British Columbia. On the way home we stopped off at the Grand Canyon and volunteered at the edge of the Everglades.
After a year and a half away we returned to Europe by freighter across the Atlantic.
For the most part travel without flying isn’t cheap, but there’s a lot more adventure to be had and it’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
For the most part travel without flying isn’t cheap, but there’s a lot more adventure to be had.
In LA a man walked through the metro with a python round his neck, a train through California had trouble with its brakes and stopped for hours on the coast where dolphins swam past the carriage, and in Germany the train’s air conditioning failed. It was interesting to observe people’s reactions to this.
In China we watched the locals eating chicken feet as the train sped through the countryside. I’ve seen flamingoes and lavender fields from the Paris to Barcelona train, a moose running from the track in Canada and orcas from the Vancouver Island ferry.
Near the Texas-Mexico border we had to show our passports to armed police who came aboard the greyhound bus, while in Poland we witnessed that coaches drive in the middle of the road due to all the potholes and swerve at the very last minute out of the way of oncoming traffic.
Flight free travel is never dull.
My blog, with lots of pages that never got written, can be found at www.not-plane-simple.blogspot.com.