After reading Neil and Andy’s book, my wife and I were challenged to rethink some of the consumer decisions we make and the impact they have on God’s world. One suggestion in particular that the book made which was especially challenging to us was the idea to give up/severely reduce travel by plane. We have both flown extensively, for work and leisure trips, and we would automatically consider flying as the only way to travel when planning a trip. So to think about changing that seemed like a major sacrifice at the time! However we decided to give it a go, and planned our most recent holiday from the UK to Belgium with the goal to forego flying and travel by much less energy intensive means.
After doing some research into the options available to us, we ended up planning to travel by train from Edinburgh to Brussels, Belgium, which included a leg of the journey on the Eurostar high-speed line from London to Brussels. In doing the planning for a trip, we saw that many of the things the book points out as benefits to train travel were indeed true. Our train would arrive in the Brussels city centre, allowing us to connect to local transport quickly and easily to arrive at our hotel (on the other hand, the budget airline airport for “Brussels” would have put us over an hour away from the actual city centre!). The cost of travel by train was comparable to the cost of flights into Brussels. And the overall time of the trip by train was not much more than flying, when travel to/from the airport, arriving early for the flight, long queues when going through security, and so on was taken into account.
Assuming that many people reading this have travelled by train before, I will speak mostly to our experience of travelling on the Eurostar high speed train specifically. Due to travel between the UK and the EU, we did end up going through a security and passport checkpoint in the train station. I found that the experience there was much better laid out than in many airports and the process went quickly even with a large volume of other travellers. In reading about the train ride itself, I saw that we would reach a top speed of 186 mph during our journey to Brussels. With our train travelling at such high speeds on land, I was nervous that we would be in for a bumpy and uncomfortable ride at times. However the train journey was surprisingly smooth and very comfortable, and it was hardly noticeable that we were moving as fast as we were. Both my wife and I felt much more relaxed and our bodies less stressed afterwards than they normally do after a flight. And of course being able to look out the window and take in the beautiful French and Belgian countryside provided for a much more enjoyable view than what you normally get looking out of an airplane window.
Overall we had a great experience and got over our fear of “not flying” when travelling. Rather than feeling that we were making sacrifices for the sake of using less energy, we found ourselves actually preferring the benefits of train travel over flying. We are excited to plan future trips using train travel and to learn more about making choices that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Guest blog by Tim