• theGREENtravelbug

The great planeless journey

Mis à jour : 3 déc 2019

From Australia to Belgium in 141 days

On 13 July, I left Australia to go home, back to Belgium. The trip back home won't include any luggage checks, boarding gates or safety instruction videos. This journey will be planeless. I have been toying with this idea for a while and after some practical research and looking at a world map for hours, it is finally happening! For four and a half months I will blog about the progress of this trip. You will be able to read about my travel troubles, the unexpected changes and the striking coincidences. But first let me elaborate on my motivation to embark on this 'less convenient' undertaking.

The reasons why

When I left my home to spend a year in New Zealand on a working holiday visa, I had this idea in the back of my mind of returning to Belgium with the trans Siberian train. Returning slowly would allow me to reflect on my trip. As my girlfriend and I were traveling New Zealand, the idea of not suddenly ending a trip by stepping on a plane in one country and leaving it in another, stayed very plausible. Unfortunately, Sylwia did not have the chance to join me on this planeless trip.

The environmental impact of travel

Our time in 'the kiwi country' was marked by several encounters that sparked our interest in sustainability and all kind of action on global warming. Starting this blog is one product of this kindled curiosity. Besides becoming greener ourselves, we also noticed that many other people who were traveling around the world were very conscious of global warming. As you travel the world, you can see some of the consequences of climate change with your own eyes. Combine that with talking to people you normally wouldn't encounter at home and the global rise of climate awareness, and you might reconsider what you thought you knew about the environment. We found it noteworthy that the travelers who grew more conscious of climate issues, were often the same people who stepped on over 25 planes in one year, emitting greenhouse gases as they went from one country to another. Besides carbon offsetting, we were keen to consider alternative travel options. How possible could it be to travel home without a plane? This could turn out to be a very fascinating challenge.

Going back to true adventure

Travel is often a way to escape our fast-paced lives at home. It is a time to relax and breathe, a time to forget about the struggles we encounter in our daily lives. To answer the needs of most tourists, conventional travel has been made as easy and stress-less as possible. We already have enough stress at home, that additional headaches are unnecessary. I do realize this is a bit of a generalization and this is definitely not the case for all travel. I must admit, however, that I was sometimes missing a sense of real adventure when I left my home country. Maybe I was spoiled with the luxury of many trips before, which felt more adventurous to me at the time. Anyway, I was craving more time outside of my comfort zone. As the idea for planeless travel started to grow, I realized how many new things I would have to learn. For starters, I had never been on a sailing boat before and I would have to learn how to sail to leave New Zealand. (Sylwia and I were unable to sail from New Zealand to Australia, since the timing was not right. We learned a lesson for the next trip). It seemed that skipping a plane could actually be an opportunity to test as many different travel options as possible. Trying these alternatives, I will try to be as green as is achievable with this plan, but I will accept situations that are not the greenest. If I want to go all the way, I should just cycle the whole way home. For this trip I prefer to try many different travel options, such as:

  • Sailboat

  • Hitchhiking

  • Ferries

  • (Night)bus

  • Train

  • Motorcycle

  • Cycling

  • Horse riding

  • Ultrarunning

  • Hiking

  • Rikshaw, Trishaw, Tuktuk,...

  • (Any other suggestions are always welcome)

At least half of these travel alternatives are new to me and will push me out of my comfort zone. All the countries I will cross are new to me as well, as I have never been to Asia before. Right now, it is pretty hard to have a fixed plan or know which countries I will cross because I am dependent on captains who need crew on their sailboat. Currently the plan looks something like this.

  • Australia

  • Timor leste

  • Indonesia

  • Malaysia

  • Thailand

  • Myanmar

  • India

  • Pakistan

  • Iran

  • Turkey

  • Europe and straight to Belgium

Slow travel

As many other travelers, I used to travel a bit too fast. Even though I had lived in several countries, immersing more into the local culture, I got a little too excited when I was ticking off countries of the list. I realized that 'completing a scratch map' was not the point of travel to me, not anymore. The concept of slow travel appealed more to me. Taking the time to really getting to know a country can be very exciting. In short, this means learning the language, tasting the food, interacting with the locals and digging deeper into the culture. Three weeks to one month in a country is often a reasonable amount of time to get a feel of a country. Originally I had no end date for this trip and I would take my time to discover the culture of each country I was going to cross. Plans have changed, as often happens with travel, and I have set the deadline of 30 November, to settle back in before Christmas. This means I won't always be able to take it slow. I will probably have to leave some places sooner than I intended. I might even have to skip places that I would have liked to see. This does not matter that much to me, because if I really like a country, I have a reason to go back in the future. As often as I can I will take the time to be in the present and enjoy where I am to the fullest. Practical decisions will probably answer the 'should I stay or should I go' question for me.

Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise.

I am thrilled about this upcoming adventure and I don't really know what to expect. I will follow my intuition and common sense and let things unfold as I go. For the most parts, I will stick to the plan, but I will be flexible when I need to. If there is really no other way but to take a plane, than I will have to give in and admit it is not as possible as I imagined it would be. I will see what happens and keep you updated through regular blog posts.