Sustainable Travel Journal
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve travelled the world and it was one of the best things I ever did. All those trips that required air travel have provided me with some of my most amazing memories and life experiences.
Then, in 2009, not long after two unrelated moments in my life – moving to Berlin and watching a film called The Age of Stupid (admittedly I’d also previously worked in the sustainability industry) – I decided to give up flying.
Well, I thought, how hard can it be? I’m in a new country, everything is so different and exciting. Why do I need to fly, when there’s so much to explore on my doorstep? I kind of adopted a mantra to help - just because it’s far away, doesn’t mean it’s better – but actually I didn’t need much motivation, at least at first.
Three years on, I won’t deny I sometimes feel I’m missing out: when friends talk of yoga retreats in Thailand, white sand beaches and tropical breezes; when we want to go to Istanbul for a weekend but can’t afford to take a whole week off work just to get there and back; whenever I think of India (I’ve found that recently, and not unrelatedly, that country is my preferred literary topic – but alas, these imaginary excursions have done little to silence India’s calls. Quite the opposite).
But still, I’ve been to some beautiful and inspiring places without once having to set foot in a plane. Adopting the Slow Travel philosophy of enjoying the journey as part of the trip and slowing down the pace to take in the changing landscapes and details of travel that otherwise pass us by, the lifestyle choice got easier the more I travelled (and the more I got used to 10, 15, 20 hour journeys).
So here it is. A Sustainable Travel Journal, encompassing my overland adventures as I try to rein in – or at least redirect – that unquenchable wanderlust so common to so many of us.
The beautiful purple heather that blankets the Scottish Highlands, and for which they are so known and admired, is not a natural phenomenon. The wiry tufts that now cover the balding hills and valleys were once a voluminous coating of arboreal biodiversity… more.
2. Berlin to Rügen (car)
Arriving on Germany’s biggest island, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in toytown. Impossibly clean and tidy villages host tiny houses. Litter, so prevalent in Berlin, is conspicuous in its near-total absence; the landscape is a compelling array of primary colours: intense greens, ever-deepening blues, soaring yellows…more.
3. Berlin to Amsterdam (train) and a trip to the IJ Hallen flea market
“It offended his sense of proportion and economy to throw away a ninety-percent serviceable string of lights. It offended his sense of himself, because he was an individual from an age of individuals, and a string of lights was, like him, an individual thing…” more.
4. Berlin to London (train) and a stay at the new St. Pancras Hotel
My train bends serpentine into St. Pancras and I am intoxicated by the familiar homecoming cocktail of awe, comfort and ennui. Stepping into the newly refurbished international terminal, that sense of awe is temporarily heightened to the detriment of those other, more mundane emotions…more.
Berlin to Prague (train)
Berlin to Copenhagen (train)
Berlin to Budapest via Munich (train)
Berlin to Bremen (train)
Berlin to Ancona via Verona and Milan (train)
Italy to Berlin via the Alps (car)
Berlin to Warsaw (train)
Berlin to Croatia (train – Istria and boat – Split)