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Jean-François, Belgium

In 2021, I will be flight-free… as I have been for the past 15 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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