Flying. Its something we take for granted in today’s age. Flying is safe, for the most part, fast, but usually uncomfortable. It’s a luxury and not everyone can afford it; well actually….thanks to airasia I think everyone can afford it. But even with airlines cutting safety corners for cheap tickets and over crowded airports, most people in this world are very poor so most people don’t fly.

The air is reserved for the elite. You have a waiter (flight attendant), a clean bathroom, and sometimes movies. Its business people all the time, high society people a lot regular people sometimes and backpackers occasionally (only when they have to go over oceans).

Yet with all the amenities air travel gives you, flights can still suck big time. The seat is crammed; you can’t bring on anything over 100mm and now-a-days you get charged for having a bag! Everything is sooooo expensive in the air; $11 for rice and chicken?

But I think flying is losing an even more important trait; character. People in planes just want to get where they’re going, they don’t enjoy the ride.

The bus/train community isn’t the same as the plane community. If you’re a frequent flyer, u should have an adventure on the ground. The land traveling people really represent a country; remember most people in this world are poor. This is where you truly see a country; so obviously one thing land travel has is character.

I traveled from Bangkok to Laos a while back; my wife and I had our own two bed cabin for about $65.  The cabin reminded me of an Eastern European train but without the aroma of hash.

We had our feet up, we had our books out, we had our computers going; we were comfortable. We were much more comfortable then in a plane, and seeing as how I only fly economy, and seeing as how I’m over two meters tall…you get idea. In Europe and the States, you now have full internet access for the duration of the train ride. (The internet is awesome)

Now, the trip to Laos did last 10 hours by land instead of 2 by air but I had an experience, not a flight. Getting there is half the adventure. That train ride to Laos is more memorable than any plane ride I’ve ever been on.

We brought a bottle of whiskey (of course) and shared it with fellow passengers. People could smoke cigarettes if they wanted to, though probably illegally. The semi-open-air space in between cars near the bathroom is where we got our fresh air. There was a food car where we could sit down at a table and have a meal. We had a view of the countryside; which was breathtaking. We had a breeze because we actually could open a window! All of us had a good night sleep.

None of this is available on a plane unless you’re Donald Trump or Lil’ Wayne.

We talk politics and enjoyed each other’s company. We joked, we laughed. We planned what to do when we arrived in Laos. Most people only say ‘Hi’ on a plane; or ‘Excuse me’ as they pass to go to the restroom. We were sharing ideas; sharing an experience.

With that being said, train travel is more eco-friendly than air travel as well. Here are some statistics from www.seat61.com/CO2flights.htm. The first figures represent plane travel out and back, the second is train travel out and back.

 London to Paris  3.5 hours, 244 Kg/CO2 2.75 hours, 22 Kg/CO2 = 91% less

London to Edinburgh 3.5 hours, 193 Kg/CO2 4.5 hours, 24 Kg/CO2 = 87% less

London to Nice 4 hours, 250 Kg/CO2 8 hours by Eurostar+TGV, 36 Kg/CO2 = 85% less

London to Barcelona 4.5 hours, 277 Kg/CO2 Eurostar then overnight sleeper, 40 Kg/CO2 = 85% less

London to Amsterdam 4 hours, 136 Kg/CO2 Overnight by Dutch Flyer train & ferry, 27.2 Kg/CO2 = 80% less

London to Dublin 4 hours, 174.8 Kg/CO2 8 hours by train & ferry, 46.8 Kg/CO2 = 73% less

London to Tangier 5 hours, 435 Kg/CO2 48 hours by Eurostar, sleeper trains & ferry, 63 Kg/CO2 = 85% less

With new electric trains, magnetized trains, regenerative breaking and innovative technologies trains are only going to get more efficient in the future as well.

So the next time you travel over land remember that the view from the air isn’t always better than the view from the ground. It may take a little longer to get there but why rush? Enjoy the ride.

By

Edward Mulvagh