I have just flown from Barcelona to Amsterdam in 60 000 kilos of steel speeding through the sky. It took three hours. When I boarded, it was 28 degrees, when I arrived at my destination: 13 degrees. My eyes, my skin, my clothes, were all very used to summer sun in Spain. Suddenly, I began to shiver, goose bumps raising the hairs on my body. I needed twice as many layers and my eyes felt scratchy, unused to this dry cold wind. While in transit, I met two people. The check-in guy who said to me “Tickets please” – and the air-hostess offering me beer with a plastered-on smile.
On such a trip, the community break-downs and unnatural speed means less trust and more health risks. Without even considering the amount of energy unnecessarily consumed.
I have a friend who cycled from Amsterdam to Paris. It took a week. As she peddled through the days, the temperature changed slowly and signs of the seasons showed themselves gradually. When she left it was the start of spring, but the trees were still bear, their spindly branches haunting the canals. By the time she reached Belgium, a few leaves had begun to sprout, and when she arrived in Paris, wildflowers peppered the streets, the trees were blossoming. She was invited into a stranger’s home for dinner – three times; offered Stroop Waffles by a post woman; helped a man fix a flat bike tyre; and met two Spanish guys who became good friends.
The only immediate energy used on a journey like this one, is what you eat. You power on potatoes and muesli. The connections shared are real, true and tangible, and they last longer.
My brother hitchhikes everywhere. He once went from Milan to Budapest in one day. It took him 8 rides. The adventure began in Italian, his driver speaking no English. By midday he was hearing German on the radio, and by nightfall, learning Thank You in Hungarian. He discussed politics and spirituality, helped a woman decide what to do with her life, and had lunch in an Austrian pizza shop owned by one of his drivers. With Eight people, he shared language, stories, culture, and skills, each one teaching him something new.
The fuel he used was 0.2 Litres of petrol, when a woman took him 5 kilometers out of her way to drop him off in a good spot. The others were all going his road anyway.
Travelling, moving, nomadism – can be inherently environmentally unsustainable. I can’t grow my own food, I can’t carry a lot and I often don’t know the communities in the area. Finding ways to combine our passion of travelling, whilst living in balance with the planet, can be a challenge, but consuming consciously is the first step.
Of course, the way you travel is the most important thing. Inspiration can be found in those using sustainable transport. Walkers, cyclists, horse riders, sailors and hitchers are roaming their random roads. Their eyes sparkle with stories. Aside from the other benefits though, alternative travel also drinks a lot less diesel. Not like the plane I took, which by the way, used around 19 200 litres of jet fuel.
*this is a fictional story*