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Fanny, France

THE BEGINNING// I made the decision to stop taking planes in June 2019. I deeply care about the environment and the future of the planet, and staying passive is not a solution… I wanted to feel aligned with my values! I started to see life as a game: how could I lower my impact even more? How can I level up? I don’t see this decision as a constraint. For me, it’s a fun challenge that spices life up! Of course, sometimes I had to say no to some opportunities… but this decision also led to unforgettable memories! 

RECENT EXPERIENCES// During my studies, I was supposed to do an exchange in St Petersburg. In July 2020, I left Paris for Russia by train. But once I arrived in Estonia, I got blocked because of the closed borders. I thought I would wait just 2 weeks… but 6 months later, I was still blocked! So I changed my plans and took a boat to Sweden.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED// Not taking planes brought me unbelievable experiences… I would have never thought I would have lived one day in Estonia, or be able to speak Swedish, or that I would make inspiring friends who enlighten and changed my life! It brings you out of your comfort zone and offers you a new outlook on the world.

WHAT’S NEXT?// Now, I want to continue my studies in South Korea. I’ve just started my journey without planes from Stockholm. Thanks to my previous experiences, I now hope to get lost along the way or find myself blocked in a country I don’t know yet!

Fanny Billault
Art student, France

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René, Netherlands

Joining the campaign was quite easy for me, because I have been worried about climate change and other crises related to our human behaviour for several years now (and I have known about it since the nineties). 

I used to fly for dermatology workshops and congresses organised by the ESVD and ESVP (veterinary pathology) if it was too far away to drive, even though I did take the train several times. We combined these flights with our summer holidays. I was aware of the consequences of flying, so several years ago I suggested the organisers of the ESVD congress should discourage visiting the yearly congress by plane, but I never received an answer.

Eight years ago my wife and I became climate activists, and we took part in many demonstrations and other actions. We stopped flying and we tell this fact to everyone who wants to listen (not many people, I admit). We also became vegetarians and now we are mostly vegan. One year ago we moved to an old wooden house, removed the gas, insulated it, put solar panels on the roof, and installed an air heat pump.

We try to live within sustainable boundaries, within the carbon budget that’s left for us, even though this is impossible because of the current structures of society. 

Since 2018 my wife, Eliane (see picture), has been a councilor in Heerlen for the Dutch Party for the Animals (campaigning for animal welfare, but also for system change, climate, biodiversity and related subjects) and I am a member of the Caring Vets, Klimaatcoalitie Parkstad, Parkstad in Transitie, Fossielvrij Nederland and Grootouders voor het Klimaat.

René van der Luer
Netherlands

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Vipul, UK

When I realised just how fragile a state our world is in, I tried lots of things to reduce my impact, and the easiest, and best, decision I made was to stop flying for holidays. Now the journey is part of my memories, not something to forget. So, I’ve gladly signed the Flight Free pledge because it’s a tiny no for me, for a huge yes for our planet and its life.

And the best bit? Because I’ve made this public commitment, I hear and see my friends talking about not flying and asking about their ecological footprints – people who wouldn’t normally have given it a second thought!

The best campaigning is definitely to set an example and talk about it.

Vipul Patel
Bath, UK

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Bilal, Morocco

I am Bilal from Morocco. For me, not flying is not a big step. I have never been on a plane before so I will not be flying this year, either for work or on vacation, as I have always preferred trains. I choose not to fly because flying contributes to global warming and pollution and leaves an enormous carbon footprint. Aeroplanes run on kerosene which, when burned, releases a very large amount of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere, and although aviation is not a large industry, it has a major impact on the climate.

Bilal Àl Màdàni
Morocco

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Flip, Belgium

As a young boy I was privileged to see a lot of our beautiful world. The Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia, and also Russia, the Middle East and the US. All faraway places. In those days these destinations were highly uncommon and pretty expensive to reach, so the only way of getting there was by flying. Sitting in an aeroplane was thrilling and exciting, and my childhood dream was therefore to become a pilot. Nevertheless, it all went differently and I decided to study aviation technology instead. I was even doing research into how to make flying less polluting, by using satellite navigation and computer systems to calculate the most optimal flight path as a way of saving kerosene.

While undertaking this research, I began to realise that the aviation industry is not at all progressing towards a sustainable system. Flying seems beneficial for humanity, as it is a cheap mode of transporting people and goods, but that is only if you look at it from a short-term perspective. Its tremendous growth has resulted in a system with so many negative effects that in the long run – and even in the near future – it cannot be beneficial for humankind. In more ways than one, flying has lost its sex appeal.

When I heard about this new movement, Flight Free, I felt that this is the way forward. As someone who loves seeing the world, I was then amazed to learn about all the sustainable alternatives. And there are many! Take the train for example. This marvellous piece of engineering can take you through beautiful landscapes and to spectacular cities. It had already brought me to exotic places in Europe and Asia.

“But it takes too much time,” friends constantly tell me. Good point. But think about it this way: We can do two things. Either we can be more efficient, reducing our transport time as much as possible and going quickly from one place to another. But this is stressful, and while it sounds counter-intuitive, when we try to go fast, we actually end up wasting more of our time with things like waiting around at the airport or standing in queues. 

Or we can take more time to do the things we like, and do them well. In my case this means more time for travelling. When I took the Trans Mongolian Express from Europe to China several years ago, it was a real revelation. By taking the train, I saw and felt how big and beautiful the earth is, and I encountered the loveliest people. I learned more from this way of travelling than from just taking a plane, sitting like sardines in a can, looking at some movies with earplugs in and being detached from my surroundings. Something that seems ‘inefficient’ and ‘stupid because most people do otherwise’, might not at all be so.

To come full circle, Flight Free allows me to say: I am choosing a better world. I am choosing the good life.

Will you?

Flip Cuijpers
Belgium

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Anne, Spain

I haven’t flown for approximately fifteen years due to an increasingly uncomfortable claustrophobia on flights. This culminated in my actually getting off a flight from Malaga to London when I was faced with that mass of people all jamming stuff into overhead lockers on entry to the aircraft. I got off the aeroplane and took the train to visit my mother who was ill in Birmingham. 

I live in Malaga and most of my family are UK based. Since the ‘revelation’ I’ve found great enjoyment in visiting places I’d previously only flown over, and in visiting other places across Europe and Morocco. My love of train travel has increased. 

In parallel to this was the deterioration of our climate and my developing awareness of how air travel is adding to the disaster, so my feelings were fixed! Signing the flight free pledge was easy in the same way as it was easy to become vegetarian and eat an increasingly plant based diet and to stop using plastic etc. There is no one single factor that will stop climate change but every single one of us has to engage NOW!

Anne Smyth
Malaga, Spain

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Catarina, Sweden

I will be flight free 2022 as I have been for many years now (with the exception of a funeral of a family member combined with attending and speaking at a UN climate event in NYC in 2019).

I work with climate action as a public speaker, program host and moderator and I am the chair of the independent think tank Global Challenge. Global Challenge will launch our biggest project so far this year, and it is purely about climate action. Climate action is my major concern so of course I can not and do not want to fly. I love train travel and I travel by train to my assignments in Sweden and abroad. It is not a sacrifice, it is travelling the way we used to travel in Europe before the deregulation of the aviation industry. It is an office with a magnificent and ever changing view! For vacation I take the train or an electric car.

I am involved as a spokesperson in the Swedish climate organization Our Kids´Climate and I am a firm believer in the bottom up approach. We as individuals need to walk the talk in order for the decision makers to understand that we are ready for policy changes and decisions that take us down to net zero. I am a firm believer in the power of the many. We need to join together – as in Flight Free World and as on the climate action platform We Don´t Have Time and the organization Our Kids´Climate to push for change. Please add your voice to any organization that pushes for climate action! And please stay on the ground. Our children and grandchildren will thank us.

Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson
Sweden

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Sara, Sweden

My name is Sara Johansson and I am 44 years old. I have been flight free since May 2015 and will not fly again until there is a sustainable way to do it. Once I understood how extremely harmful aviation is to the climate, it was an obvious decision to make. It does not mean that I no longer travel, but I travel in other ways than before. Travelling by train is a more fun way to travel, and the journey often becomes an adventure in itself!

I choose to be flight free for the sake of my children, for the sake of all our children. Because when they understand what my generation and previous generations have done to create the climate crisis, I want to be able to look them in the eye. I want to be able to say that I did what I could to stop the climate crisis.

I am flight free because I want to be a part of the solution. Since I decided that a sustainable lifestyle is the only way to go, my life has become more meaningful. I have realized that the important things in life are completely different to what consumption and air travel can ever give me.

We humans are not apart from nature. We are part of it. Without nature we would not survive for a single day. We are even part of the water cycle – 65% of our bodies are water. We humans are not as big as we think. We do not have a chance if the average temperature increases much more.

In other parts of the Earth, people are dying because of climate change, partly because of the extreme weather caused by it. Lots of people are fleeing their homes. If we do not act NOW, the future will not be a pleasant place to be.

Refraining from flying is the absolute least I can do. If I do not do this, who will? I urge EVERYONE to sign up for Flight Free 2022. Together we can create a brighter future. Together.

Sara Johansson
Lecturer, Sweden

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Jean-François, Belgium

In 2022, I will be flight-free… as I have been for the past 16 years.
I will not only be flight-free for my personal travel, but also for the various journeys I organise for groups of hikers each year. I am what is officially called an ‘International Mountain Leader’ (IML) – I take people hiking in the mountains.

Of course, Belgium hasn’t got any mountains – the ‘summit’ of the country lies below 700m, so my job involves quite a bit of travelling. My favourite spots are Scotland and Corsica, Belgium being sort of conveniently located in between…

When I plan a walk for a group, I always make sure that the start and end points are easily accessible by public transportation, and much less accessible via airports. I also always set meeting times to match the arrival times of trains and boats. Finally, I offer to book the public transport for the participants, at cost. This way, all of them travel together and we get to know each other right from the start.

For most participants, taking a night train to Scotland or going to Corsica by high-speed train and then ferry is something they probably would never have thought of. But once they do so, they come to realise that ground or sea transport can actually be quite fast. Departing Brussels at 6pm one evening by Eurostar, then taking the Caledonian sleeper night train, you can get to the Scottish Highlands the next morning at around 8am. It’s also much more enjoyable, like when you’re waving goodbye to the port of Marseille at sunset with a beer in hand on a Corsica-bound ferry! And it can be cheaper than the airborne alternative.

So hopefully, even though my occupation does have an impact on the climate, as I travel to the mountains several times a year, I do hope that by showing people who come along that it’s possible, fast, cheap and fun to go to many mountains throughout Europe ‘flight-free’, they will also feel less inclined to take the plane for their other personal travel…

Jean-François Fauconnier
Liège, Belgium

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Martin, Sweden

Last time I took a flight was with work in 2017. We had driven on the autobahn for five hours through road construction and traffic jams just to miss the flight. We didn’t even have time to refuel the rental car, only call the travel agency and ask them to reschedule the flight.

It was somewhere along this point that I realized that it was untenable to have a lifestyle that involved regular flying. Even though each person in Sweden only takes one flight a year on average, that is five times more than the average worldwide. A flight can take up your entire yearly CO2 budget in a few hours. Those who normally fly do it way more than just once a year. And there are a lot of people that do just fine not flying at all. That’s why I decided to try to quit flying entirely.

For what kind of world do I expect to live in where even I can’t try to live within the boundaries of the planet? I can’t expect the rest of the world to adjust unless I make an honest attempt myself. I can’t trust that it will be solved on a systematic level unless we individuals change ourselves. 

Since then, my holidays have been by train and more recently by electric car. As a result we have seen more of other countries and been abroad more often than before, at a fraction of the carbon footprint. I do not feel that I have had to limit myself or my quality of life because of this – quite the opposite. It is much easier to live with yourself, and it’s fun to work out how to do things without relying on fossil fuels! 

The most encouraging feedback was when I heard that someone in my large workplace had travelled by train to Germany on a business trip. Several people had seriously thought about doing so to avoid complicated flight changes with hours in an airport. I realised it was me they were talking about.

The best reactions I’ve had was when a couple of colleagues thought that me avoiding flying was like a religion to me. I answered them, “More like the opposite – it’s based on a scientific approach.” They went completely silent. They knew I was right.

Now through the pandemic, many more people have had to live for a while without flying and for most people it has gone well. It’s definitely something you can do without. 

Now it’s 2022 and I intend to continue on the same track. If you are a frequent flier, maybe it’s the most powerful way to communicate that you trust science. Join us and share the trip with us!

Martin Enström
Electronics developer, Sweden