By Hannah Bland

Photo by JK on Unsplash

I’ve got to admit, I’m a bit of a Erasmus-veteran. An Erasmus Masters programme, an Erasmus internship, and two Erasmus vocational training mobilities. And yet, I’m embarrassed to say, last year’s “Rethinking Migration” training in Valencia was the first time I did a flight-free Erasmus mobility.

For me (someone who flew a lot) going flight-free was probably the single most effective way to cut my carbon footprint; even if I managed a whole year without meat or dairy, it wouldn’t save the emissions that I’d emit in one return flight to Valencia!  But, although I’m someone who prides themselves on living by their values, and even though Europe is blessed with some of the best transport networks in the world, I had never seriously considered not flying on an Erasmus mobility program before. Why not? Well I felt it was assumed that I would fly; no-one asks ‘how are you getting there?’, but instead ‘when’s your flight?’; the forms I had to fill in to participate in Erasmus projects asked which airport was most convenient for me; the sending organisations booked travel for me, and always opted for flights.

So why were things different this year? 

  1. The context for climate action has changed. More and more people have woken up to the urgency of climate change, and are feeling personally accountable to make changes to their lifestyle (and it’s about time too). So I guess, I felt more drive to make sustainability a priority. 
  2. People are finally talking about the problem of flying. Even in the environmental movements, people have often avoided really confronting this issue. But since Greta Thunberg hit the media with her sail across the Atlantic, since Megan and Harry got criticised for flying, and since the rise in Flygskam (Swedish for Flight Shame), flying has become a hot topic. So I guess I felt more social pressure to take the train – I would be embarrassed not to. 
  3. I work for a Climate Perks employer! The train to Valencia took quite a while longer than a flight would have, and with annual leave at a premium, that might have put me off before. But, and here’s the big but, my workplace gave me an additional paid day off work either side of my booked holiday – just so I had the time to take the train. (If you want your employer to do the same, check out the Climate Perks website). 

And some things surprised me…

It’s gorgeous: Taking the overland route will have you meandering through the continent, watching as the scenery and cultures change.

It’s comfortable: No more getting up in the wee hours to catch a coach to London Stansted, waiting in the departure lounge, and then arriving groggy and dehydrated having to figure out how to get from the airport to the city centre. Nope, none of that. Just hop on the train at London St Pancras (with as much liquid as you want!) and arrive in the hub of the central stations of Europe’s main cities. 

Travel more: If you do have a stopover, you don’t waste your time sitting around the airport spending too much money on mediocre coffee. On my way to Valencia I had a couple of hours in Paris (and had lunch by the Eiffel Tower!) and then a few hours in Barcelona where I dipped my toes in the Mediterranean sea. 

Now I’ve stepped into low-carbon European travel, I wouldn’t go back.  

By Hannah Bland

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Kairos Europe, its partners or their employees.

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