Why we don’t fly, and why it’s hard to talk about it.

Why we don’t fly, and why it’s hard to talk about it.

We choose to travel without flying.  It’s an unpopular choice.  Most of our friends and family regularly use planes.  Other travellers we meet along the way have almost all come by plane.  Sometimes it can feel we’ve made outcasts of ourselves, yet we stick to our guns.  This may baffle you.

I’m going to try and explain. Continue reading “Why we don’t fly, and why it’s hard to talk about it.”

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Vice article: melting permafrost in Siberia

Vice article: melting permafrost in Siberia

Climate change just opened a gateway to the underworld in Siberia

Absurd headlines notwithstanding, it’s saddening to read about such an visible sign that our climate is changing, in the most pristine part of the world we’ve visited on our trip.

The forest around Lake Baikal (a long way south of the region in the article) reeled me in.  I’ve never been somewhere so big before.  It’s genuinely breathtaking, looking out at huge mountain ranges you’ve never heard of, marching off into the distance.  On a map the near-wilderness looks limitless on a human scale, but clearly its limits are being tested with so many humans sharing the atmosphere.  I left Siberia plotting to come back, perhaps for a few months, to really appreciate the vast swathe of nature north of the Trans-Siberian railway.

It’s likely to be years before I see Siberia again, here’s hoping there’s something to come back to.

We don’t have to do this to the world, let’s keep trying not to!

How to Travel Without Using Disposable Plastics

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how a blanket ban on flying doesn’t necessarily make our trip greener, it still requires thought. One thing we’ve been ‘failing’ at recently is using disposable plastics, particularly plastic bottles. We’re pretty good at minimising waste at home, but it’s a bit trickier on the road. Here’s some inspiration for us: travelling without using disposable plastic is absolutely possible.

Girl For A Clean World

Avoiding disposable plastics back home in  California had become a part of my life. I knew where to buy my favorite food like oatmeal, pasta, and fruit without plastic, as well as personal care items like soap and coconut oil. Asking for “no straw” at a restaurant was easy enough because the server and I spoke the same language, and everyday I knew where I was going and could plan in advance with my reusables. But traveling is different. You don’t speak the language, you eat out all the time, you’re not familiar with the places, you can only carry a limited amount of stuff, and every day can be a surprise. But after 4 months of traveling in Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia, even with all the obstacles, I’m living proof that it’s possible!

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset Plastic-free toiletries (all except the bristles on the brush).

Before we get into the how to do it

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An apology: why we’re giving up cruising before we start

An apology: why we’re giving up cruising before we start

I’m going to eat my words.  Ready?

The worlds largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem

This cropped up on my radar (who am I kidding, my facebook newsreel) this morning.  Southampton, the place where I was born, incidentally, is suffering from air pollution caused by the mega cruise ships which dock there.

An uneasy thought occurred to me, is cruising from Asia to Australia actually any greener than flying?  It seemed like the best solution for getting across that pesky bit of water between Indonesia and the Northern Territory, irritatingly devoid of passenger ferries.  (Perhaps Australian immigration policy is to blame for this?)  Or in fact the even smaller bit of water between Papua New Guinea and Queensland; it’s only 5 km from PNG to the closest inhabited Australian island.  Perhaps we could swim.*

Initially we’d planned to get a cargo ship from Indonesia to Australia.  Travelling this way is certainly low carbon, and arguably zero carbon: the boat is going anyway.  When I enquired though, it seemed the only possible route was Singapore to Sydney, for £1300. Each.

Plan B was trying to hop on a yacht from Bali to somewhere in northern Australia.  Again very low carbon, but also possibly free.  Ideal, but uncertainty about finding a boat was worrying us.  We’ve been on the road for seven and a half months now, and the idea of being stuck in Bali, unsure if we’d make it to NZ by Christmas, was not appealing.  Of course I’m aware that this ‘problem’ isn’t one really, how many people would love to be ‘stuck’ on Bali?  Nonetheless, a certain arrival date in Australia, where we have family and friends, had allure.

That’s when plan C materialised: a repositioning cruise.  Much cheaper than a cargo ship, but still with a guaranteed date.  Lots of you helped us spread the word that we were looking for some cruise travel mates, and we’re very grateful.  We’d also like to apologise, because as I expect you’ve twigged by now, we’re not going take the cruise.

We got overexcited about this option, and frankly about the ease and comfort of it after months of rougher travel, and we didn’t look into whether cruising was any greener than flying.  Knowing cargo ship travel is very low carbon, we sort of vaguely assumed cruising would be worse, but comparable.  It’s not comparable, it’s much much worse.  It’s even much much worse than flying, by some estimates.

So, a lesson for us: remember why a rule is useful, don’t follow it blindly.  Taking a cruise would have kept to the letter of our ‘no flying’ rule, but would have totally broken the guiding principal: less carbon.

Back to plan B then: a yacht!

Any suggestions for finding one?  Tips for life aboard?  Is aboard even a word?

So much to learn…


*In all seriousness, the most upsetting part of our travel dilemma is the fact that we live in a world where that 5 km isn’t just a case of hopping in a local boat.  I’m sure you’ve heard of the misery going on as a result of Australia holding refugees in offshore camps, including on PNG.  In the last few weeks there have been two self immolations. Not that Britain is doing much better.  On good days I hope travel can do something to make the world less of a dark place, ruled by fear and suspicion.  On bad days I just want a Marks and Spencer Wensleydale sandwich.