Before last year, I had only taken a plane three times (1 round-trip + 1 one way trip) in my entire life! Now that I’m more independent from my parents, I finally get to travel by myself. And, oh God! I want to tick every single destination on my bucket list. However, as cheerful as it may seem, I can’t get this question out of my head: how to travel as a student, when the planet’s dying?

I haven’t had the chance to travel a lot around the globe in my childhood. My family and I mostly traveled within France and its bordering countries such as Spain, Belgium, Switzerland or Germany. We’ve also been to Portugal twice – more recently – a couple of years ago, I loved it. I’ve also been twice to the UK with high school. This being said, you now have a glimpse of why I – as the dreaming guy that I am – am so thirsty for traveling.

I said I’d only taken a plane twice before last year :

  • The first time, was for a Paris – BĂ©ziers, to join my grandparents in the South of France for a vacation. My parents couldn’t drive me all the way there. I was 5yo as far as I can remember.
  • Second time, was for a Paris – Zurich, my mother (who couldn’t drive at the time), brother and I were visiting my grandmother. But we could as well take the train, eventually, or not. I was 7.

And the ecological disaster began

I didn’t get into another plane for the next 13 years. Until I planned a road trip in Ireland, the second summer after Covid, with my boyfriend. We had the time of our life!

Then he went studying for a semester in New York City, USA (my absolute dream). We had planned that I would visit him during the summer and eventually another time later in the fall. However with the new Covid-19 spikes – at the time -, President Biden hadn’t made any announcement concerning a lift of travel ban for European citizens. Our chances to see each other were tightening.

It wasn’t until late October that an opportunity flourished: Canada opened its American borders and lifted the travel ban for vaxxed Europeans.

Neither one nor two, we booked a one-week trip to Toronto on the first week of November, as soon as we could actually. It was my first time outside of Europe, I was very excited and it was a very interesting Toronto trip! It’s a private joke… Anyways…

A couple of days, if not hours after we’ve booked eeeeverything, made our plans and all for our Canadian escapade, a US Government official announced that the US would reopen their borders to vaxxed Canadians and Europeans starting November 8th. The second week of November so… I lost it. But it wasn’t even an option to cancel a trip to Canada. T couldn’t get a refund for his flight tickets. Moreover I have to admit that the idea of travelling to Canada highly seduced me.

Once we got back from our trip, him back to NYC, me back to Paris for a week of school, my lovely bf offered to fly me to America, as a gift! New York City, my absolute obsession since I was 8. I surely agreed! And that’s how I ended up, making two 8h round-trip flights within 3 weeks.

Also, I didn’t mention it, but I took the plane for another round-trip travel. An unplanned city trip to Barcelona, Spain with a friend of mine, back in September.

Dude… That’s too many flights !

Soooo, if my count’s correct, I had taken a plane 8 times in 2021. Which is definitely more than what I had ever done in over 20 years of existence. I would lie if I said that I regret any one of my travels. I really didn’t. I felt free and realized some of my biggest dreams. But I can’t ignore the fact that this semester of travel has been a catastrophe, ecologically speaking.

I went vegetarian for half a year in 2021 and started dressing more ethically – mostly with second-hand clothing – as I explain in this article. All that for the planet and finally emitted approximately 5,3 tons of CO2 for airplane travel alone! (source:

It is half the equivalent of CO2 emission for a French in a year.

That’s way too much knowing that the objective is to reach 2T/person all over the world to guarantee the preservation of the environment and hope to keep the Earth a liveable place for the next decades!

You can see what 5,3T equal here: / I highly invite you to take a look at it and even calculate your emissions!

I must – really – do better but I still want to travel

I must really do better! But it feels really unfair. It’s now that I am able to travel wherever I want to, and that the world’s finally in reach, that I have to be the most vigilant about it.

I won’t lie to you and I will certainly take a plane in the next years. There are definitely places and wonders I’d like to see at least once in my life. However, I have taken a resolution. Whenever I have the opportunity to avoid taking a plane, I will.

The problem of pricing đź’¸

Indeed, alternative means of transportation exist!

However one of the problems we face right now is the economic barrier. It’s been widely accepted that the train is the most sustainable rapid mean of transportation. The problem is that, at least in France, they are expensive as crap! Want to go to Amsterdam or London, so take a Thalys or Eurostar for a weekend ? You might consider selling a kidney before kid…

As a matter of fact, I wanted to pay a visit to one of my oldest friends for a weekend in London, back in April.

This travel equaled to 160kg CO2 emission by plane versus 6kg CO2 by train (Eurostar).

My first choice was Eurostar, much more sustainable and convenient. You depart from Paris and arrive in the center of London.

But the price gap between these options was huuuge. As far as I can remember plane tickets with AirFrance, would have cost me around 70-100€, round-trip. Whereas train tickets would’ve cost me 269€. I remember precisely the price of it because I’m still traumatized.

There was one option left. Way less polluting than the plane but also way less efficient than any other means: the bus. AKA the slowest way to travel.

It’s the option I took. A Flixbus coach from Paris Bercy to London Victoria (it’s in the city center, so that was perfect). The whole trip cost me 80€ (thanks to a 10% student discount). It lasted 8h in a very uncomfortable narrow seat – I slept better in planes. For a grand total of 32kg of CO2 emission. Lucky me, I didn’t have a neighbour for my roundtrip and could lay my legs a bit more comfortably.

Good job Flixbus, not that bad! Hopefully, I decided to depart at night in order to sleep during the journey and arrived in London at dawn.

It’s kind of crazy to see that traveling by plane is cheaper than traveling by train… I hope governments will do something to make the train a more affordable option! The planet and the people need it!

There are other options

Well, if you have the opportunity to travel by train rather than gas-powered transport, take it. If you can’t avoid taking the plane and the car. Take a coach or a ferry per example! A ferry from France to Ireland is half the CO2 emission of a flight. The delicate spoiler is that it’s 17h long compared to 2h by plane…

Just stay reasonable folks! If you don’t have any other choice than to take a plane for a short-distance trip, you should just postpone it. To take a plane from Paris to Amsterdam is just ridiculous.

And you know what? I think you should reconsider traveling locally, in France and the countries surrounding it. I’m dying to spend some days in the Gorges du Verdon this summer. And if you want to go a bit farther, take the train !!

If you don’t care about sleeping on the train, take the night lines. In France, the government’s working on re-developing the night IntercitĂ©s with way more affordable prices than TGV! I heard they were also developing a cheaper TGV option, but less time-efficient.

If you want to travel in Europe here’s a map of the routes in development :

Also, if you are under 27, you can obtain Interrail passes. They give you unlimited night and day travel by train, in 33 European countries during the validity of your pass. For a very affordable price!

Look at David Jablonski’s – an independent Designer and Web Developper – 2019 Interrail trip.

Personally, I’m really considering planning a trip across Europe by train in the next few years, to travel differently. First more sustainably but also with more time on my hand, to fully appreciate the variety of landscapes. From Portugal to Nordic countries and from Western to Eastern Europe.

Also if you want to travel in Austria for a year, the government has put in place a KlimaTicket. This ticket allows you to take every public transport nationwide for 3€ per day. The aim is to reduce the use of individual transportation. It means that with KlimaTicket, you’re eligible to travel by bus, tram, train, everything! Crazy isn’t it.

Only the braves

Now if you feel you are adventurous enough, you can still plan a trip across Europe by feet. I’m kidding, or not… Bike or hitchhiking are also great options as well!

I recently discovered that there are a lot of cycle paths in Europe. Actually, there’s one I’d love to take. It connects Paris to London in 4 to 8 days. It’s called the Avenue Verte!

As students, we face limitations in destinations but also in the choice of means of transportation when planning a trip. And as young people, we are the front liners when it comes to global warming and climate change.

Finding a balance, between pleasing ourselves and being conscious and respectful, is finally not so easy. Different solutions exist though. Some are even very affordable, they just require to reconsider the way we see travel.

Biking or riding trains through Europe requires time and organization. But there’s no doubt that the satisfaction you’d get from a successful trip would be so much more rewarding than a last-minute all-inclusive plane trip to Croatia.

Traveling responsibly is a journey!

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