Traveling by train is like a short vacation

Who am I?

I’m 27 and study transformation design at the HBK Braunschweig. Because of the pandemic I recently moved back to my parents’ place in Düsseldorf and currently work from here on my master thesis while growing my own garden vegetables.

Why am I interested in tourism?

I love to travel, to get to know new people, cultures and cuisines. However, I have come to see traveling – and especially flying – very critically. I consider traveling to closer destinations and generally think more about sustainable tourism and vacationing in my own country.

Dear Ramón,

A lot has happened since we last saw each other in Koblenz two weeks ago: On my way back to Lisbon I made a quick detour via Paris. There, I visited Anke and Alex. And I took the climate-positive express train you told me about for the first time. The one with the planted rooftop and that new technology that I still don’t quite understand. But you were right: in less than an hour I arrived in Paris and even the ride along the new nature reserves felt like a short vacation. The nature was so amazing and felt very calming and inspiring,  despite the speed of the train. The train was also so quiet that I could hear the waterfalls rushing and the birds chirping from outside my train window.

Paris has also changed: The streets are quieter and greener, people are everywhere, walking through the parks and having dinner together at large tables in the streets. Everyone is welcome and stories are told, music is played and there is dancing and laughter. Every day feels like a holiday with the family, even when surrounded by strangers. I have made many new friends and even found a new business partner for my current project. The woman I stayed with, a neighbor of Anke and Alex, gave me a seedling of her tomato plant as a farewell gift.

When I finally arrived in Lisbon by train (this time it was the old, climate-neutral express train, with the monotonous hum of the solar panels), I had a short déjà vu: when I was in Lisbon for the first time and stood in front of the hostel, I had been startled when a plane passed very low over my head. Although the airplane had announced itself with a droning noise, I flinched briefly when it appeared between the narrow streets in the sky and seemed so tangibly close. But after a few weeks I got used to the low-flying planes that passed overhead several times a day. Now I’m sitting on my balcony – along with my new tomato plant – and the sky is bright blue and clear. Not a single contrail in sight. I can barely remember the last time I saw an airplane, let alone the roaring sound…. Can you remember the last time you flew? It must have been ages ago. I certainly don’t miss it. Just the trip from Koblenz to Paris gave me so much peace and inspiration, and on the way through Spain I had a lot of time to let my thoughts run free and go through all the inspiring encounters and experiences again. I’ve seen and learned so much and I’m looking forward to incorporating all of that into my work.

In three months, the project I’m working on here should be finished and then my journey will end and I’ll come back to Germany. At least until I move somewhere else again. I hope to see you again soon!

All the best,

Eva

– Original version: German –

Wishes and hopes behind the image of the future:

1. “For the future of tourism I hope that…

it is no longer understood as a right, as an escape from the stressful everyday life (“I work 40 hours a week, I have a right to 2 weeks vacation in Mallorca and do nothing…”). But as a conscious journey to a host country (or host city/state), a visit to still unknown friends. As an insightful exploration tour, as an opportunity to learn from each other, to get to know each other and to exchange ideas.

2. “If I could wish for anything at all, I would…

then I would like to be able to beam myself to other places. Without having to get on a plane, without time pressure and financial constraints, to be able to travel in a climate-neutral way. Having breakfast with my parents in Düsseldorf, working in Lisbon, visiting friends in New Zealand and South Korea over the weekend, and barbecuing with neighbors in Croatia in the evening with a view of the sea. …although that carries the risk of a very fast-paced, hectic life and I actually really enjoy long train rides.

3. “If I were a powerful politician, I would…

support and promote small family guesthouses, hotels, hostels with sustainable concepts and homestays. Expand local and long-distance public transportation. Gradually eliminate private motorized transport, domestic and short-haul flights, and cruise ships. Launch campaigns for domestic travel. Expand parks and other places of recreation in every city, increase quality of life in cities: People could spend “recreational vacations” in their own city or at least in their own country. Further travel would then be more deliberate, with a specific destination and predominantly by train or ship. Flights would be the exception rather than the rule and only justified for long distances and longer stays.

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