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Guest post: On planes, croissants, and all the other things I gave up.

Angelos Bollas shares a personal take on reducing our environmental footprint and explains how he has turned his back on flying and discovered the joys of slow travel.
train manchester

Monday evening. I finish teaching at 6pm, leave the university with my luggage, and arrive at the Dublin port at 7.30pm. Just on time to board the ferry. I go through the fastest and easiest check-in that one could possibly think and a few steps and stairs later, I am onboard the ship. I collect my cabin card and on my way to the cabin, I grab a fruit and refill my bottle of water. 5 minutes later I am in my cabin eating my fruit. 10 minutes later I find myself in my bed already. The time is now 8.15pm. The captain welcomes us onboard and encourages us to enjoy the trip.

Three hours and a half later I wake up in Holyhead, Wales. I know the area. I have been there quite a few times this year so all I do is cross the street, go to my hotel, collect my key, and go to my room. This is going to be a short night as I have to take the 0530am train to Manchester so I’d better sleep as soon as I can. And sleep I do. At 0500am I have already taken a shower and am checking out.

At the train station, I board the train, find my seat, and wait for the train service to start. Indeed, 10 minutes later, the train service starts and I get a cup of tea. Now, three hours until Manchester. I chose a seat near a plug so that I can work on my laptop: answer to emails, prepare for the upcoming meeting, write part of this blog post, and watch one episode of Golden Girls (no comments, please). Three hours later I am in Manchester. I am walking toward Manchester Central where I meet the rest of IATEFL’s Conference Committee. Our January ConfCom meeting is about to begin!

Earlier this (academic) year, I decided to give up flying. The year before I gave up meat, then dairy products, and then processed food. I thought to myself: if I could give up butter (yes, French croissant, I am talking about you!), if I could give up butter, I could do anything. And so I did. I stopped flying.

The above is just a short description of my flightless journey from Dublin to Manchester where I had to attend a meeting with IATEFL’s Conference Committee. I think this was the ninth time I travelled without using a plane at all. The farthest I have travelled without a plane was Dublin – Barcelona – Dublin. This was the farthest but the most exciting one. Because that one was not for work, there were no late evening ferries nor were there early morning trains. There was a musical in London, a glass of wine in Paris, one more somewhere near the border between France and Spain, and a lovely dinner in Barcelona.

Why should you care about this, dear reader? You should not. I am not trying to suggest that avoiding flying is an easy business. It is not. It is difficult, it requires very careful planning, it takes up more time than what one would expect, and yes, you guessed it, it requires more money. Why should you bother? This is something up to you! I am not sure I know why I stopped flying, or why I turned to plant-based diet, or why I get upset every time I walk into a Tesco store and I see every piece of vegetable wrapped in plastic. Is it the environment? Is it the planet? Is it because not flying makes my life so much easier since I don’t have to check one million times whether I carry the right amount of liquids with me? Is it all of these? I don’t know. What I would like to believe is responsible for this change is common sense.

Yes, while there is one part of me who thinks that people should feel free to act as they believe best for themselves, there is another part of me who believes that flying, eating meat, and using excessive amounts of plastic are all against common sense. The purpose of this post is not for me to change your mind. I have learned that people change when they feel ready to change and that is ok.

What I want to do, though, is tell you that it is not so difficult to travel without using an airplane. It requires you to sit down with pen and paper and do some planning. But, hey! If we, teachers, cannot do some planning, I don’t know who can. So, in light of the upcoming IATEFL Conference and Exhibition in Manchester, I urge all my Europe-based, at least, colleagues (UK-based colleagues, this applies to you too) to consider travelling to/from Manchester by means other than flying. Do it once, give it a go and see what you feel about it. Will it be the most relaxing experience of your life? No! Will it be the fastest experience of your life? No! But you might contribute in an attempt to create a better planet for all of us. Too melodramatic, again? Well, you can take with you your favourite 200ml perfume and internet connection all the way. You don’t need either of these? Well, think of the wonderful time you will have with yourself. Just a bit longer with just yourself. Isn’t this something we all miss these days? Just give it a go.

Angelos teaches Academic English at University College Dublin and trains novice and experienced language teachers on CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL, and Distance Delta courses.

Angelos Bollas

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