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Flight-free travel in Europe

1950km train journey across Europe:

“Where did your train journey start?”, asks a woman from Deutsche Bahn, who is doing a survey in the Südostbayernbahn from Prien to Aschau. “Scotland,” I answer. “Scotland? But surely not by train?” I smile, “Indeed, by train through the Eurotunnel from London to Paris.” She looks at me in amazement, “Well then, in that case you have already been travelling for a while. Where did your journey start?” “Leuchars,” I answer.

In fact, my journey began in St. Andrews where I study Sustainable Development and International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. On the 17th of October I embarked on the 1,950 km journey from St Andrews to Aschau in Bavaria, Germany. Overall, the train journey took over 20 hours. Why did I do this?

As an eco-activist, I strive to not only protest and plead for environmental change, but also to live my values and words and engage in lifestyle changes to inspire others. I have been vegan for almost three years, take efforts to reduce my plastic waste and, whenever possible, prefer to use the bike and train instead of the car or plane. Now, I’m trying to start a rethinking process with my fellow students and my university to explore new ways of traveling as alternatives to flying. Many still think that a sustainable life is only about sacrifice and limitations, but is that true? So far, for me personally, flying and traveling make up most of my carbon footprint. In September, I wondered if it would be possible to take the 1,950-kilometer stretch from St. Andrews to Aschau by train during my one-week semester break. I dared to do this experiment in October. After intensive internet research, I booked an Interrail Global Pass, with which I could travel for three days within a month in Europe.

In the early morning of October, the 17th, my alarm clock rang at 4.40am and at 5.20am I was waiting at the bus station in St Andrews. From Leuchar’s station the journey went via Edinburgh to London. In London I travelled with the Eurostar for the first time and was excited about traveling through the Eurotunnel connecting the UK to the European mainland. We passed fields and windmills while the sun shone on me through the window. Within a few minutes I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up, I was almost in Paris since the train journey from London to Paris only takes 2 hours. Unfortunately, I overslept the 20-minute canal journey deep under the sea. However, I still have a chance, to experience the channel passage on the return journey. In Paris, I walked in the afternoon sun to Gare de l’Est and waited for my train to Stuttgart. In Stuttgart I boarded the train to Munich and at 23.30 I arrived at Munich Central Station. Enough for one day. On the 18th of October I continued via Prien to my hometown Aschau. Finally, I arrived home. How did I feel? Successful! Who can say that they travelled from Scotland to Upper Bavaria by train? Or even to Vienna?

For the extra day on my Interrail Pass, I decided to visit a friend in Vienna. In the evening of the 25th of October on my return journey from Vienna to Aschau, my eyes suddenly filled with tears because I felt so happy. I would never have had that day in Vienna if I had not decided to take a train journey from Scotland to Aschau. Yes, overall it was a long journey and it took more planning and time, than taking a flight, but it also included new experiences, many happy moments and memories of extraordinary experiences. Does a more sustainable life really have to be a constraint? Is not it a chance for new experiences, new adventures and unforgettable memories? It all starts with being open and setting new priorities – open to new ways of life, alternative routes and new experiences. Trains might not be always available for all trips, but there are often more alternatives that expected. We just need the courage to consider and explore them.

Vlog of my train journey from St Andrews – Aschau