French bloggers Julien and Margaux have taken eco-conscious travel to the next level. The pair have visited 25 countries in the past three years without the use of airplanes.
Previously employed as research analysts in the pharmaceutical industry, Julien and Margaux decided to trade their office jobs for a life of travel. Rather than rushing from boarding gate to boarding gate to catch their next flight, the couple decided to embark on a more leisurely type of adventure, viewing travel as a journey rather than a destination.
Using La Bible du Grand Voyageur by Lonely Planet France as a guide, the couple prefers to minimize their carbon footprint and rely upon locals for recommendations. “Our travel is unique because we don’t have a bucket list. We go with the flow and ask locals what to see in their country. We learn from them. We hitch-hike, couch-surf, wild camp and volunteer,” Julien and Margaux told Lonely Planet.
So far, the two have been traveling for three years, visiting 25 countries from France to South East Asia. They have hitchhiked for nearly 60,000 kilometers by getting rides from 1167 cars, trucks and motorbikes. They have also managed to cover 4500 kilometers by sailing boat and have stayed with 236 hosts along the way.
As they travel the world, Julien and Margaux blog on their site Serial Hikers about their adventures, providing tips and recommendations to other travelers. Their main objective is to offer alternative means of travel to minimize your carbon footprint. Additionally, they feature information on everything from budgeting to travel insurance and share photos and videos of their journeys.
“Our advice to other potential travelers would be to unlearn some things that you have learned about society and cultures. We have met some great people in countries with bad reputations. Always be safe and trust your instinct. Travel locally for short-term holidays, use alternative transportation like trains instead of flights for example,” Julien and Margaux said.
Long-haul flights generate more carbon emissions than the average person produces in a whole year. In fact, a short-haul return flight from London to Edinburgh produces more CO2 than the annual average of a person in Uganda or Somalia. In 2019, passengers are expected to fly 5% more than last year and more than 300% since 1990.
According to figures from Atmosfair, German nonprofit organization, a return flight to New York from London generates about 986kg of CO2 per passenger, while a return trip from London to Rome generates 234kg of CO2 per passenger. The aviation industry accounts for about 2% of global emissions and is one of the fastest-growing polluters.
According to estimates from researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University, emissions from the airline industry could more than double by 2050 even if planes become more fuel-efficient and airlines improve operations. “The increase in traffic has historically outpaced the improvements in technology,” says Dr. John Broderick, who studies climate policy and international transport at the University of Manchester.
Environmental organizations are asking lawmakers to limit the total number of flights and the expansion of airports. Policy proposals include a frequent flyers tax that would increase gradually with every flight a person takes in a year.
“We don’t want to penalize hardworking families that perhaps travel abroad once a year for a holiday,” says Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth UK, who noted a 2014 survey by the Department for Transport that shows that 15% of the UK’s population took 70% of flights. “We need to recognize that aviation is a luxury and we need to share that luxury fairly.”