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Island Life

Elaine Burton shares her experience of what it's like to live on a small island if you've chosen to be flight free for life.

FlightFree UK
20 Jan 2022 3 min read

Cover picture by James Qualtrough on Unsplash.

In 1977 I moved to the Isle of Man to work at a hotel for the summer season, and fell in love with the island.

Like most small islands around the UK mainland, it is absolutely beautiful.

After living in a city I was totally in awe of the natural beauty of the coast and the hills, and the clear blue waters. That was 45 years ago. It’s a lovely place to live and I wouldn’t want to move.

"After living in a city I was totally in awe of the natural beauty of the coast and the hills, and the clear blue waters."

I love horses and have had some spectacular rides around the island over the years. I am always blown away when I see seals and basking sharks in our waters together with all the rest of the wildlife.

The community is strong: folk are helpful and will even say hello to you even if they don’t know you. Not so much the youngsters nowadays, but times change.

My husband and I both chose not to fly about 15 years ago after considering the environmental impact of flying.

Previous to our decision, my husband flew all over the world in his Merchant Navy employment, and for around two years I was flying about every six weeks to visit my mother who lived in Runcorn. I would only fly now for emergency medical treatment and hope this never arises. 

Choosing not to fly can be difficult when you live on a small island, but in the 15 years since we made the decision, we have never regretted it and never found it to be inconvenient. 

“Choosing not to fly can be difficult when you live on a small island, but we have never regretted it or found it to be inconvenient.” 

The UK is our only holiday destination and has been for many years.

Pre-Covid we would get the ferry and drive the EV (a Nissan Leaf) to the Lake District for a week or two. We park the car and get a seven day public transport ticket to travel around the Lakes. 

I don’t know if EVs are the answer due to the pollution and child labour involved in the extraction of cobalt from mines, particularly in the Congo, but I still think it is the lesser of two evils. Everything we use has an impact on the planet.

"I don’t know if EVs are the answer, but everything we use has an impact on the planet."

We have noticed a change in the actual lakes themselves over the years. The water levels drop dramatically in the summer and it’s much drier. I suffer from asthma and I notice when staying in Ambleside how much worse my breathing becomes if we spend the day in and around the built-up areas due to the massive amount of through-traffic. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020 there was hardly any traffic on our local island roads, and my asthma disappeared for months, the first time for over 30 years. It was incredible. If this doesn’t prove anything about traffic pollution I don’t know what does.

It is obvious to me that travel needs to be addressed immediately.

I think we are all so used to the status quo that it is not an issue to almost anyone. Certainly we are the only members of our immediate family who chose to live this way, apart from my mother in law who also does not fly and does not own a vehicle. 

“It’s obvious to me that travel needs to be addressed immediately. We are all so used to the status quo it’s not an issue to almost anyone.”

If we were less obsessed with travel the Earth would be so much cleaner. Surely we all want to breathe air and not pollution?

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