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The Art of Slowing Down

Towards the end of 2018 I decided that 2019 was going to be my year of no flying.

A pledge that I've sadly most definitely not kept.

2019 also happened to be the year my boyfriend moved to the island of Mallorca, and I suddenly found myself in a long distance relationship. Traveling between Berlin and Mallorca without flying takes time and sadly costs and arm and a leg, while flights are plentiful and often dirt cheap.

I did the journey once, via ferry, bus (the train tracks in southern France were badly damaged by a storm, the storm surely being a direct consequence of climate change) and a total of three trains. I really enjoyed those stretches of time to myself. Time for reading, sleeping, looking out over the changing landscape rolling by. Quite often those stretches of times also become a forced digital detox, as we must pass through 'holes' in the so called the 3G net.

In 2019 I did opt for buses and trains for nearly all trips I took, except for those to Mallorca. I traveled to Sweden on a Flixbus a couple of times. I simply couldn't afford the train.

I took the slow journey to Sicily by train. I enjoyed that a lot. And now I've seen Calabria too, at least the glimpses of melancholy beauty I caught through the train window.

I also took the train Berlin-Brussels, and then the Eurostar to London. Pricey but smooth like cashew butter.

I know many of you are way better than I am at this no-flying-thing. If we really want to save ourselves from extinction, we have to give up something that hurts. Not eating meat is easy for me; I pretty much gave that up at the age of fifteen (falling off the wagon a few times long ago now). And buying second hand instead of new is also a habit I formed as a teenager, without wanting to save the world even, just because I thought it was cool and punk rock!

But trying not to fly hurts. I've always loved traveling. And I would love to go to visit my former homeland, the United States. The thought of not seeing Asia again is painful. According to the UN's climate panel, Europeans have to cut down our Co2 emissions ninety percent. I've read many places that a sustainable way of flying would be one roundtrip within Europe per year. Or one trip to Asia/The Americas every ten years ... So I guess I could see Asia again. Or go there by Vespa as a friend of my boyfriend did ...

As I'm preparing to travel to Italy on train for Christmas, I'd like to introduce you to Birte, a regular yogi, and one impressive woman. She's the one I credit both for inspiring me to attempt a year without flying, and also for the discounts I've decided to give to people who travel to faraway retreats without flying.

She took the slow journey Berlin- Mallorca to join my October retreat there. We had a little chat about her experiences while looking out at the peaceful and aloof Tramuntana Mountains.

ME: Did you make a conscious decision not to fly?

BIRTE: Yes. One and a half years ago I decided to try to not fly anymore. So when you announced you were doing a retreat on Mallorca, I was a bit sad at first, because I didn't think there was a way to go there with the train. I'm quite used to traveling to Italy by train, but I'd never thought about going to Mallorca that way. It seemed like a big challenge, so I was considering whether to go or not, and when I saw that there was only one spot left, I decided to try. And then after I signed up, I started looking into how to do it.