How to travel without flying

How to travel without flying

Travel without flying – and meet fascinating people along the way

Many people are now looking at alternative ways to travel that don’t involve flying.

I’ve travelled a lot by plane during my life, and I’m very conscious that I’ve contributed to the current climate crisis. Now I’m looking at alternatives…

Travelling by plane is tempting for reasons of cost and also speed: for the distance you can cover in one go, it’s relatively cheap. At least, it is for our wallet but not for the planet.

Conversely, train travel is kinder to the environment but can be relatively expensive. There are however often ways to find cheaper train tickets if you book in advance and/or you choose a ticket that restricts you to one specific train at a specific time of day.

But how do you cross an ocean by train?

Well, boats come in all shapes and sizes, and some global shipping companies have a few cabins aboard for travellers, so it’s worth checking out that option. You can travel between all continents by container/cargo ship.

‘Slow travel’ – travel without flying – over land and water means you meet many more people, see so much more of the world near and far, and you can have fabulous experiences and wonderful conversations en route with people you would never otherwise have met. It’s unique and something you’ll never forget.

There are of course many other forms of transport you could use to get from A to B: buses (of all shapes and sizes), tuk tuks, trams, cars, motorbikes, mopeds, hydrofoils/hovercrafts, cable cars, bicycles… and of course your own two feet (and maybe even a skateboard).

Piece it together, and you can make the journey an amazing trip in itself.

For example, when I was in my 20s, my then boyfriend and I travelled 900km (560 miles) from the south coast of England to the Highlands of Scotland using only local buses. When I say local buses, that’s exactly what I mean: we pieced together a route using dozens of local bus services across about 18 different counties south to north through the UK.

There were some areas where we could buy a ticket that covered all buses in a certain region, whereas in other places we needed individual tickets each time.

We met some really interesting people, including a German backpacker who was lost and a Scottish truck driver who helped us out with a lift on a rainy day after we’d missed our bus connection.

Here’s another example of how to travel without flying…

I live in Europe, but I love spending time in Canada. From where I live in Denmark that requires at least two flights each way (depending on my specific destination). So I’m now looking at the options for booking a cabin on a container ship across the Atlantic next time.

This seems to be an increasingly popular option, and this article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper is worth a read: I didn’t want to fly – so I took a cargo ship from Germany to Canada

It will take a LOT longer to get there, but what an adventure it will be!

As long as I have an internet connection of some kind, I can work from anywhere, so I’ll be able to use the time well – not to mention meet some really interesting people along the way.

You don’t have to travel right across the world to do this though. You can adapt it to suit wherever you are. Whether you’re going near or far, why not piece together a journey involving transport you wouldn’t normally use on a route you wouldn’t normally take?

This BBC article outlines how to travel by train – and ditch the plane

When you travel without flying, it’s an adventure in itself – and the people you meet and the conversations you have can change how you see yourself and the wider world.

And if you can’t think of where to go, close your eyes and stick a pin in a map!

Do you have some interesting experiences to share about ‘slow travel’? Leave a comment below – or share your story here.

Photo: Waiting for the Skytrain in Vancouver, Canada


  1. Annie 2 years ago

    You must have read my mind! We live in the UK and often travel by car to different areas. In the last few days I have been looking at other forms of travel – particularly trains and coaches.

    The biggest hurdle is the price – over £200 EACH for a return ticket to Edinburgh by train from Birmingham!; but there is also the sheer convenience of the car. My local train and bus stations are 3 miles away – so there is a need to either drive and park (with car parking being expensive) or take a taxi there and back, which adds to the cost.
    With a car, youcan explore further afield in the area you’re visiting much more easily. Otherwise you have to spend more time planning, looking at bus routes etc. And on a weekend trip, you could find that you waste several of the short time that you have waiting for buses.

    To get decent prices you need to book far in advance: but I don’t really want to book somewhere for Feb/March, because who knows what the weather will be like that far ahead, and I don’t want a weekend away if it’s raining or snowing all the time. And of course, there is always the chance that the train won’t turn up, or will be running late!

    On the plus side, travelling by train or coach means you can read and relax or sleep while someone else drives, and enjoy the scenery rather than focusing on the road. So it has the potential to be a much more pleasant journey – and that interesting and enjoyable journey becomes part of the break, rather than the break starting when you get to your destination.

    The UK needs to invest in public transport to make it decent, reliable and cheap. Soon! I’m not holding by breathe though, we have a long way to catch up to other country’s public transport.

    • Author
      Angela Sherman 2 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Annie. Yes, there’s a lot to be done to get public transport infrastructure to compete with the car and also flying. Some countries do it really well. The UK not so well in my experience, sadly. Train and bus travel is, for me, a great way to have a conversation with someone new – and also to reflect or read, as you say.

  2. Tina Haben 2 years ago

    Trying to get from Sardinia to mainland Italy I had a major adventure. Part of it goes like this – After trying to get a flight out without success I ended up at the port during lunchtime when all the sales windows were shut. A couple of windows opened an hour before the others and I tried to book a passage without much success – I kept being told that I couldn’t travel on their boats. I tried other companies but their tickets were almost double the price. Eventually I persuaded one of the cheaper companies to sell me a ticket as the boat was leaving imminently. Imagine my surprise when I found it was a ship for lorries and container carriers. Amazingly I was given a cabin, with an ensuite for the night and was woken in time for breakfast (included in the price) I was the only woman on the boat and got talking to a few of the men over eggs and juice. In my pigeon Italian I learnt that we wold be docking at the shipping port and that it would be hard to get any public transport out. One of the men offered me a lift to a bus stop and a few of the other men were kind enough to reassure me that he was a nice guy!! When it was time to get off the boat he weaved his way through the huge lorries to ……….. a cheese van! A tiny little van that stank of cheese, he turned out to be very kind, driving me for about an hour and a half down the Autostrada towards my destination and offering me some of the sandwiches that his wife had made him. To this day I smile when I think of that time in my life. I’m so fortunate to have met some kind and helpful people where the fact that we didn’t share a language didn’t mean we couldn’t share our lives.

    • Author
      Angela Sherman 2 years ago

      I LOVE that story, Tina! And I love the last line: “…the fact that we didn’t share a language didn’t mean we couldn’t share our lives”. That’s wonderful. Sounds as though you had a fantastic adventure – and it may never have happened if you hadn’t continued to be proactive and persuade them to sell you a ticket. Brilliant. I imagine you had a much richer experience because it was different and unexpected and not ‘the norm’. Thanks for telling us your story.

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