I have done a bit of travelling and I feel like I have covered my share of long haul flights. I have no love for long haul flights but regular <6hrs flights I do actually enjoy! If you live a busy life, a plane trip can be a good excuse to stop and read a book, listen to music or nap during the day. I have a airport routine, if there is good wifi I Skype home and if not I get stuck into a good book with a coffee. On the plane I hope that I’m lucky enough to get a window seat, then after take off I plug in my music and doze, awakening refreshed for my new destination!
BUT. That is not what this artical is about. Let me tell you the things I dislike about flights-
Location– Airports can sometimes be very close to the city (Copenhagen) but are often something more like an hour away from the CBD (London).
Cost – Because people NEED to go to airports, an inflated price can be and is charged for transport to and from them.
Time – Needing to turn up 2-3 hours before a flight takes out a huge chunk of the day when also combined with the travel time to the airport. I had a fairly regular route I used to take between the Netherlands and London. Because we were so far from the actual airport, I calculated that I could have DRIVEN door to door in the same amount of time it took to fly.
Hassles– Airport security. Luggage restrictions. Liquids under 100mls. Waiting at the baggage terminal. There are lots of little restrictions when flying.
Cultural void – Airports are For the most part all very similar. It is not a cultural experience to visit an airport. And whilst you do get a cool alternative view of the world from above, I can’t help but wonder at all the things I could have seen if I had taken an alternative route….
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the speed of travel on planes and sometimes they are the only option, but I want to suggest some other forms of transport you might consider before taking your next trip.
Train– Trains are often much more convenient to get to as the main station is always in the center of a city. They are fast and have no baggage restrictions. The view from the window is always beautiful as trains often take the most spectacular routes. I went on one that has been called Europe’s most beautiful train journey this year between Bergen and Oslo.
Bus – Less popular due largely to comfort and speed I do still recommend taking a bus if you know that the comfort levels suit you. It is almost always going to be the cheapest journey and like anything outside a plane trip, there are (generally) no luggage restrictions. Whilst a bus may not take the most scenic route the whole way, you will get to see the bones of a country much better than on a train. From industrial areas to suburbia and out into the country. When you come into a city as well you are much more likely to get a mini driving tour as the driver navigates his route. I also think an under appreciated cultural experience is the peterol stations of the world. A bus will stop every few hours depending on where you are for a toilet break and then you get to put your feet on the earth of the country and discover how each place has its own personal style of petrol station. From fluffy toys and endless Nutella products in Italy to gourmet buffets of cheese and pastries in Germany, they can be an endless source of delights.
Boat– I took my first cruise this year (more on that later) and loved it! Whilst a boat is probably the slowest form of transport I’ll suggest here, if you have the time, do it! In Europe there are so many chances to use boats in different ways. Ferries run regularly between England and Ireland and England and France. River cruises are a huge business, visiting great cities like Budapest, Belgrade, Dresden and Vienna. The cruise I did was along the coast of Norway, a very popular option! There are also of course the yachts that pepper the Mediterranean, or if you are lucky enough, you could get yourself one of the super yachts leaving out of Monaco 😉
I think that the biggest draw card of any of these forms of transport is the much larger expanse of country that you get to see as opposed to flying. In Albania for instance I have only ever stopped in the capital of Tirana but I have driven through the country for many hours and stopped on road sides for snacks and pictures. You get so much more of an understanding of a place this way. Which in the end, is the aim of travel- to learn and understand, not just tick things off a list.