Today's post is a wonderfully written piece from my lovely friend, Anna van der Kaaden - who travelled 22 hours just to see me in Venice! And best of all, she travelled with Wilson - which is something much better than a football, and the best present one could ever want before Autumn...
Yes, the climate is changing and yes, our CO2 emissions are one of the biggest causes. We all know that, but we also have friends and colleagues living abroad, fieldwork, conferences that we want to attend, and busy lives back home. For me, this means I am often conflicted between wanting to go somewhere but not wanting to take an airplane. Apparently, I am not the only one, because on the Twitterverse I see more and more scientists showing how they try to cut down on air travel. (More thoughts on this from a PhD student can be found here.)
I am very flight-shamed to say that since I started my PhD in October 2017 I flew to Dublin for a research cruise (2 x 755 km), to Edinburgh to visit colleagues (2x 646 km), to Copenhagen to learn about hydrodynamic modelling (2 x 621 km), and to Nuuk for another research cruise (2x [621 + 3,826 + 1,595] km). So, in two years, I flew a total of 16,128 km and used about 5,000 kg of CO2 (assuming emissions of 250 kg CO2 per hour flying for an airplane flying at 850 km per hour). This is the equivalent of 1.5 person breathing for two years, or drinking one litre of soda every day for two years, or growing 125 trees for two years. That’s a lot!
Therefore, I decided to cut down on airplane kilometres and turn my flight-shame into train-pride. And there is no better way than to start with visiting my climate conscious friend in Venice (and writing a guest blog post about the experience)! Admittedly, I expected the 22-hour (!) journey to be quite horrible, a bit scary, and especially tiring, and that it would leave me with the feeling of “I never wanted to do anything like this ever again”. It wasn’t and it didn’t! Actually, it was a nice tiny adventure. I will spare you the details, but I summarized it in the cartoon (yes, a guy fell in love with me on München Hauptbahnhof). So, let me give you the brief: the pros and cons of train travel.
Yes, the journey from Middelburg to Venezia Santa Lucia took 22 hours. That might’ve startled you, but considering 3 hours to get to the airport, being there 2 hours in advance, 2 hours flying, an hour to fetch your bag and another hour to get from the airport to Venezia Santa Lucia, going by train is only 2.4 times slower. Whereas it saves 5.2 times the amount of CO2 (check how much CO2 you save at EcoPassenger ). On top of that, trains can (and actually most trains do) run on sustainable energy sources, whereas airplanes always rely on fossil fuels. Moreover, with 223 Euros, going by train isn’t even more expensive than flying!
Trains are much more comfortable than airplanes, with plenty of leg-space and the opportunity to walk around. Another advantage is food and beverages: you can bring your own! On every stopover you can get good food and even in a lot of trains you can get fresh food and drinks. This also means you can take a lot of (food-wise) souvenirs, such as the home-grown pumpkin (I called him Wilson) that I brought for Camilla. And you don’t have to worry about paying extra for check-in bags. The view is also much better from a train than from on airplane. After this train-trip I have the feeling I know more about Europe than I did before. As a matter of fact, I simply saw much more of Europe!
On a train you finally have time to read that extra thick book that you were planning to read for half an hour already. Or talk to some interesting people. For example, I talked to a mountaineering enthusiast, had a guy that fell in love with me, I saw a curious bunch of young women on a bachelor’s weekend and a curious bunch of older women drinking champagne at 9.00 in the morning.
But it is a long journey, so here are some tips to make it easier:
So, turn your flight-shame into train-pride, chill-out and enjoy!
With much love from the Netherlands,
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