Flygskam: What are the alternatives for travelling in Europe?

The impact of tourism on the environment is undeniable, and according to a study published in the review, Nature Climate Changeit now represents 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions! This is why a new trend has recently emerged. This is the flight shame or flygskam (in Swedish) one, which means to feel guilty about flying because of its harmful effects on the environment. Olympic athlete Björn Ferry is the instigator and main spokesperson for this trend in Sweden.

It is true that the plane pollutes. In 2018, it would have left about 918 million tonnes of CO2 in the sky. But is flygskam really a good idea? What are the alternatives for travelling in Europe without a plane? These alternatives exist because airplanes are losing more and more ground and sometimes even become a minority, often on journeys of more than 4 hours.

This is the reason why I wanted in this article to make you discover alternatives to the airplane, but without of course making you feel guilty.

"Flygskam": Is it really a good idea?

On this subject, my opinion is mixed. Even though it is true that air transport pollutes a tremendous amount, and I find it useful to talk about it in order to alert people to this fact. I also think that making people feel guilty so that they give up part of their lifestyle to have this "sustainable" label. It is neither beneficial nor effective.

Today there is still no real alternative to flying for long journeys. And let's be honest, few of us can afford to make more than one long trip a year. On the other hand, we have to make those who travel by private jet to attend a climate summit feel guilty. Unnecessary business trips where the issues discussed could be resolved by a telephone call or a video conference. Sports teams in particular, who travel by plane every week, even for short distances and for their domestic leagues.

Then, free to those who wish to make their own choices. Personally, I prefer to travel by train, bus or boat whenever possible. Today, it is possible to travel "eco-friendly" and I don't intend to stop.

flygskam alternatives

Slow Travel: what's this?

Slow travel is a state of mind that rejects the traditional ideas of tourism and encourages you to immerse yourself in your environment. To remain open to new experiences. This state of mind invites you to be more eco-responsible and sensitive to the environment. By taking the time, we allow ourselves to use less polluting means of transportation and benefit the local economy. 

When you are a slow traveler, you consider that getting around is an integral part of the journey and that this should be appreciated as much, if not more, than the final destination.

In short, slow travel is an approach to travel that emphasizes the connection: with local cultures, people, food and music. It is based on the idea that a journey is meant to educate and have an emotional impact in the present moment and for the future. While remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.

Flygskam alternatives: Coach travel, advantages and disadvantages

Road transport is by far the largest emitter of CO2. However, these emissions depend on several criteria:

  • distance
  • number of passengers per vehicle
  • the type of itinerary

On a longer trip, about 500 km round trip. The coach is a good alternative as it emits on average only 58.5 kg of CO2 per passenger. Less for example than an airplane, which emits between 145 and 241 kg of CO2 per passenger for the same distance. Individual cars are also very polluting, emitting 170.6 kg of CO2.

The other advantages of travelling by coach are that we can travel at night. As a general rule, departures and arrivals are from the centre of the cities. What I particularly like about travelling by coach is that I can discover several cities without wasting a lot of money. Unlike air travel, where very often the most economical solution is a round trip from the same airports.

What I like a bit less, however, is that the trip takes relatively longer. However, it is possible to optimize your trip by stopping in cities where you wouldn't necessarily think of stopping by plane. When travelling by coach, it is also not necessary to get to the airport long in advance because of the security checks.

Flygskam alternatives: Rail travel, advantages and disadvantages

The railway is considered one of the most energy and environmentally efficient modes of land transport, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The train is experiencing a revival, certainly because of flygskam and the growing global interest in a more sustainable lifestyle.

While between 2014 and 2016, the trend was to abolish night trains in France, but also in Germany, Spain and Italy. Today, these lines are experiencing a clear revival of interest.

In 2016, the Austrian railway company (ÖBB) took over part of the German lines, becoming the market leader for night trains in Europe. Since then, its passenger numbers have doubled. In Switzerland, traffic has increased by 25% since the beginning of 2019.

In my opinion, the train has very few drawbacks, and it is by far my favourite means of transport. In addition to the same advantages that I have already mentioned for the coach. The train has the same advantages over the plane. The train is also more comfortable. It is possible to get up and walk in the train and get to, for example, the dining car. By train you can also enjoy the scenery passing by. As a rule they are nicer than a motorway. But above all, the savings of one less night in a hotel and an arrival in the city centre without paying 50€ for a taxi.

Discover Europe in a converted van

Campervan is a means of travel that combines transportation and accommodation. For the past few years, it has been attracting more and more new enthusiasts, mainly because of the freedom it offers. Indeed, whether it is for a road-trip or for a getaway in nature. With a fully equipped van you can travel at your own pace, freely and without planning.

From an ecological point of view, travelling in a converted van is a better option than travelling by plane. However, the CO2 emissions can vary if you travel with 4 people in a small van or 2 people in a large camping car.

I think the campervan is perfect for those who want to be in contact with nature and discover new landscapes at their own pace every day. Nowadays, companies like Blacksheep offer vans for rent in many countries.