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How can we afford to travel non stop?  


In the last years I've been quite strict against air travel, that according to statistics is the most pollutant way of transporting yourself around for pleasure or business alike, up to 20 times more pollutant than a bus covering the same distance and 15 to 25 times more pollutant than a train (Up to infinite times if the train is powered by renewable electricity).

I wrote also another detailed article only on the subject of travel emissions focused on airplane pollution, with many sources, data and explanations that you can read later here: Travel Sustainability and Flights.
That's why some years ago I decided to use airplanes only when really needed, or only when I was not financing the Airline companies (In example with promotional free tickets or Error Fares) and I started travelling exclusively overland, mainly hitchhiking. My challenge lasted for almost 3 full years, 954 days of uninterrupted travel overland, until I had to take a flight from Romania back to my home country, Italy, because I got seriously sick. After (partially) recovering, I started again to travel overland.

Flights are a pollutant mean of transportationFlights are a pollutant mean of transportation

Some weeks ago I read an article somewhere stating that if flights were to be divided equally and sustainably among all the 7 billions inhabitants of Planet Earth, we would get to fly only ONCE in our whole life. Quite shocking, isn't it? Are you sure you made the right choice on where to invest your only trip? We are really privileged, and not recognizing it, we are abusing our possibilities.
Now we are in Indonesia, and our Darmasiswa program, the scholarship we are attending sponsored by Indonesian Government, is slowly reaching its end, with just a couple of weeks of classes left (but with a couple of months more to travel after).
That's why in the last 4 days it took place the closing ceremony in Padang, Sumatra, calling all the almost 700 international students (fewer are actually still in Indonesia) to gather all together in the same location and celebrate.
While I would have liked to participate, enjoy the activities organized for us, have the possibility to discover a small portion of Sumatra, and get to know the other participants of the Darmasiswa program, I decided to refuse.
Not an easy decision for a low budget traveller like me, when you are proposed free round trip flights, free accommodation in fancy hotels, food and activities.
But my first reaction to the idea of moving by plane hundreds of students and assistants from all over Indonesia for 2 days (4 days including travel time) for a self-referencial and self-celebrating event with an unrealistically tight schedule, and then ship them back, still by plane, was just of repulsion. Is it possible that out of hundreds of people, with some of whom I spoke personally and claimed to be ecologist, I was the only one who didn't even consider one moment taking 4 flights and covering up to 4000km for 2 days of event?

After all everybody complains about pollution here in Indonesia, only to jump one second after on their motorbikes and contribute to create that pollution: comfort comes before environmental responsibility for many unfortunately. It makes me think of one of the slogan of the worldwide cyclist event "Critical Mass" when addressing to car drivers and telling them that they are not blocked in the traffic, they ARE the traffic!
While I knew since the beginning that the ceremony was going to take place, I felt quite disappointed to see that nobody cared of my simple request of being allowed to travel overland, assuming on myself all the consequences: it would have meant 8 hours by train from Yogyakarta to Jakarta and from there an eternal and uncomfortable non-stop 48 hours ride by bus-ferry-bus to Pandang, the location of the event. So a total of 6 days trip for a 2 days event. You need quite a lot of motivation to embark in such a journey, and that would have deserved some acknowledgment or at least an answer. Yes an answer, because I've never received any answer to my direct request of being allowed to travel overland to the organization committee in Jakarta, and my always helpful local coordinator, this time apparently couldn't do anything to help me.
Moving hundreds of people for a 2 days event and generating tons of emissions that could be easily avoided or at least reduced, from my point of view is a great abuse.
Have I changed thw world with my choice? No. Have I lost maybe the only opportunity in my life to visit Sumatra? Probably not. Do I regret my choice? Not at all.
If only a few people will read this article and start taking responsibility for their actions and their consequences, my time spent writing these few paragraphs will be well spent.
So if you still haven't done so, have a look at this detailed report explaining with data and tables why is it so bad to use Airplanes: Travel Sustainability and Flights.

Davide VadalàDavide Vadalà
In 2009 I quit my job to chase my dream of exploring our planet in a sustainable way and I haven't stopped yet. I love nature, sustainability, travel photography, handicrafts and hiking, and I never stop dreaming. More about Davide Vadala'.

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 Where are we now: Spain, Italy

 Going to:  New Horizons

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Davide and Oti

We are Davide and Otilia, two friends with itchy feet, living a non conventional life traveling around the world and learning everyday something new....
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