My wanderlust and eagerness to explore new places hasn’t changed since I settled in Sweden earlier this year. This time my attention was drawn towards France, a country I’ve never visited despite all my years abroad. I didn’t have that much time and I really wanted to do another 10-days meditation retreat. Luckily, I got accepted at a place near Paris and could combine some city sightseeing with 10-days of meditation.
However, I felt guilty about flying back and forth because of the impact flying has on the environment. I would only be gone for two weeks and the meditation retreat is something that could have been done in Sweden. I have several experiences of longer journeys in Asia, both with car, bus and train so why not in Europe?
I booked my ticket from the company Flixbus, with an expected journey of 24-hours and a change of bus in Germany. I wasn’t worried about sitting for a longer period of time, it's quite easy if you have books and other things to keep yourself entertained, however one thought crossed my mind; will I be able to sleep?
I took the bus from Malmö an early Saturday morning. Surprisingly there was already plenty of people there and they had (of course) taken the best seats. I ended up sitting in the middle at the far end of the bus. Luckily, several people got off in Copenhagen and I could change place for the better. Then we went south of Copenhagen to the city of Rødbyhavn where the ferry goes to Germany. It all went very smoothly. It would take the whole day before we reached Leverkusen in the western part of Germany, passing by cities like Hannover and Hamburg. The night bus for Paris was delayed and I think I got on at 11 pm, I was happy to meet some other female travellers too. I felt completely safe during the whole trip but I’m always very careful as a female travelling alone. To my surprise the bus was quite full but I got a good seat on the lower deck. Further on, the bus stopped in the middle of the night at a few places. I think it stopped at 3 pm in Brussels which meant that the lights were being turned on, and people were getting off and on. Then early on Sunday morning I arrived in the city of Paris.
The journey home went smoothly too, but this time I travelled from the airport, since the ticket from the city was fully booked. It’s quite easy to get to the airport so you could always go from there. On my way home I didn’t change until Hannover which was nice and there were less people travelling. The price of the ticket really depends on what day and time you want to go. My tickets cost about 120 euros both ways.
To travel by bus is a nice way to see the landscape and meet other people. On my way back I had the honour to sit next to a Japanese guy living in Switzerland. He was on his way to a meditation retreat in Denmark. We both agreed that going by bus was a good deed for the environment instead of flying.
If you are planning to travel by bus in Europe I would recommend you to:
- Be there in time if you want a window seat.
- Take a seat in the front. The quality of the air is a lot better in the front.
- Bring a sleeping bag and pillow.
- Bring earplugs and a sleeping mask.
- Bring coins for the toilets when the bus is stops. There is a toilet on the bus but it’s not meant to be used for 'big business' (as the driver said).
- Bring food. The bus does a few short stops, but there is not always time to buy food and the alternatives are very poor. Since I’m vegan and eat organic I had food with me for the whole journey.
The direct way to Paris from Malmö is 1043 km where a direct flight emits approximately 0,507 ton CO2. The emissions from the bus is harder to calculate since it stops at several places and I don’t have any detailed information about the bus itself. However, I choose to pay for their climate compensation package. According to a Swedish climate compensation company an average plane emits 0.16 kg per km/person while the bus emits 0.06 kg per km/person. However, just to compare these figures wouldn’t be right either since a plane emits more during take-off and landing, but also consumes more energy by staying at higher altitudes for longer periods of time (due to being loaded with more fuel). Long-haul flights also produce contrails and carbon emissions have a more harmful effect at higher altitudes. Travelling alone by car would not have been better, but a bus with several people is one of the best choices according to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (Naturskyddsföreningen).
For Swedish speakers, there’s a podcast about travelling and climate at Naturvårdsverket.