My aim is to travel from the UK to Brisbane for one of my best friends' wedding. Plane travel is so environmentally damaging so I am looking for another way. I also think that by travelling over land and sea I will be able to understand our world better as I will connect with the people and landscapes and not just look at the departure board in the airport. Any tips gratefully received!! Departure date 1st September.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The bridesmaid's dilemma - What would you decide?

So here is the great dilemma. Ever since I got to Australia (well quite a long time before actually) I started looking at how I was going to return. I have searched high and low for shipping companies, fishermen, sailors, anyone who I could get a lift with. Without paying lots of money to get a cargo ship in reverse I decided my best bet was to head to Darwin, the nearest place to any other country and check it out. Unfortunately due to timing I arrive here in the middle of the wet season, cyclones are a risk and no one is going anywhere fast on a sailing or fishing boat. Apparently there are lots of pirates on these seas too and so some people are wary of making the journey. There is a huge sailing rally in July when many people go from Darwin to Kupang (West Timor) and Bali and people are always looking for crew and there is safety in numbers. My visa runs out in April though! I took my 'Sailing CV' down to the harbour anyway but the lady in the yacht club just told me 'no chance at this time of year' and helpfully buggered off! All the yachts were out of the water. None of the cargo ships seem to accept passengers and there are no cruise liners at the moment. The (un) helpful people in all the travel agents just look at you with a 'why would you want to do that?' withering look and just say 'no' without even trying to look outside their box. Even the nearest flight to West Timor is only 1 hour (485km) and emits 0.24 tonnes of CO2 - relatively small and would allow me to stay within my quota for the year. Every time I suggest this to anyone, they mostly think it is a mad idea and put me off, although I did meet some others who took this option recently. Recently a fairly mad guy tried to canoe over and did pretty well but ended up getting rescued from a remote island - not my best idea, but I have to check out everything! I really don't know what to do. Another possible option is to go all the way back to Adelaide! and get a cargo ship from there to Italy, although I am not sure when the next boat is. It would cost me lots more and I wouldn't get to see Indonesia but even back-tracking would be much less CO2 emissions. It would be nearly 30 days on board, could I do that? I feel like this trip is bigger than me now and bigger than the wedding I came to. When I think back to that day and my time with Helen and my pals, it was so worth this stress but I wish I could go back to that date and not have to worry about this decision now! I nearly went for a plane the other day as I had lost all hope of finding another way, I am running out of cash and I miss my friends and family and home. I was all packed up but then I just couldn't do it and burst into tears with tiredness from it all. This is not about me and whether I am happy it is about the planet. I really can't encourage these companies that flying is such a good thing. Dilemma, Dilemma. I know some people think I am wierd and why don't I just fly and get over it, but I also know others who say 'don't do it, stick to your beliefs'. I know I am an adult and have to make my own decisions but....any thoughts or advice gratefully received!


At 11:59 am, February 15, 2007, Blogger LimePulp said...

Hi Babs

I know how much you want to avoid flying, but 0.24 tonnes of CO2 to cover 485km or 301miles is less then 800gms per mile, considering that during your Wales-Aus-Wales trip you will cover nearly 30,000 miles to only have t only for 300 is fantastic, If you could get a vista extension then, yes stay to July and get a sailing boat then, but as it's the rainy season and the high number of pirate, would dieing at sea on a small sailing ship really be the better option??

The amount of people you have inspired to reduce they CO2 emission already, plus all those that you will be able to encourage to reduce they own COS emissions when you finally get back to the UK and more importantly back to CAT will more then offset the small amount of CO2 that flying to West Timor will produce

Personally I think that for your own safety and more importantly sanity I would make this trip, 30 days on a cargo ship would just drive you mad, not only because you would get really really bored, even with tonnes of DVDs to watch, knowing that you could have spent the return journey visiting even more countries and learning loads more about our planet would drive you even madder and make you cry a lot more then 0.24 tonnes of CO2, which people reading your blog, or reading about you in the newspaper of watching you on TV or just listening to you talk will easily pay back for you by each just changing one incandescent light bulb for a CFL

Note: Cargo ships do sink, one ended up on a beach in the south of england last month, and the guy in the canoe was in the news in the UK

Yes some people you going to be mean to you for flying without know the true fact, but then other people will moan at you for wasting the return trip being sat on a cargo ship

In the end of the day you have to try and forget want other people think which I know is really hard for you, and do want is safest for you. Most people just visit different counties in order to just say they have been, but you study every country that you go though and learn from your experiences there, as you said this trip is bigger then just you now, so take the extra time to finish your trip off by traveling back overland in order to get the most out of this once in a life time trip and when you get saddened by the though that you had to fly for ONE percent of the trip, then just think about the looks on all the kids when you visit they school and listen to you talking about the environment, carbon reduction and all the places that you visited on your trip

Anyway, in the end it will be up to you how you travel home, its your life and sanity and no one else's

Myself and loads of other people will always support you, just don't fly back from Aus to the UK...

Lots of Love & Luck

Steve XX

PS, sorry this is a bit long

At 12:52 pm, February 15, 2007, Blogger Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd said...

Don't worry -- you are not alone! Okay, I know I am all the way over on the other side of the world and we are strangers, but I have been there with that feeling of stress and panic where you feel that you just can't handle it any more... Take a couple of days to just relax and calm down a bit and then reassess your options.

As you've come this far without flying, please don't give in now! Not sure how this helps if you're running out of money, but perhaps you could extend your visa a bit? Are there any helpful WWOOFers around there that you could stay with for a bit? Good luck and don't give up hope -- I know you will find a way!

At 5:55 pm, February 15, 2007, Blogger HollyHollyCymraeg said...

Hello cariad!

I have been eagerly following your blog, as I am going to do this trip starting in September to visit my emmigrated mate and her new baby in Perth. I just wanted to make known my admiration and respect for you at this critical time when getting home must feel so important - and I know how hard it can be to make individual human decisions when the health of the earth should be everybody's priority but it seems like so few care. Above all, I hope you can see through your dilemma to a decision that satisfies your conscience and keeps you safe (even if it does mean getting on a plane). Wales is still Wales and will be here waiting for you whichever way you choose to get back to it! I'll be thinking of you as I plan my trip - sending good vibes.

Good heart, lovely

Holly (of Cardiff, and sometimes Newcastle Emlyn)

At 7:31 pm, February 15, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Babs, how about posting your dilema in the forums at and There are a lot of travellers with a lot of contacts and ideas. May be they point you in the right direction? I can understand the dilema, I haven't set my foot in a plane since 1990, but I was often tempted. I often found a solution or did not travel. But if you give in and take the plane, do not feel guilty. Sometimes it is just life and there are worse things which can happen.

At 8:25 am, February 16, 2007, Blogger Babs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:25 am, February 16, 2007, Blogger Babs said...

Thanks for all the comments so far guys. I am waiting and seeing what happens but I will try some of the suggestions. I know a few more days or weeks doesn't make the difference in the long run.....

At 11:33 am, February 16, 2007, Blogger Gavin said...

You rock. Great blog. I don't envy your decision but I know you'll find away. I'm waiting in anticipation for your next post.
Go Babs Go!

At 5:04 pm, February 16, 2007, Blogger Richard said...

Hi Barbara

I know I only met you fleetingly on the Uluru tour but I did enjoy your company and thought your great adventure was and still is an amazing undertaking. It sounds to me like you have no dilemma at all, if you had you would have just got on that plane. When I met you I thought you had a really positive attitude in what you were doing and it made me question my own inherent negativity. It must have been completely exhausting getting from Alice to Darwin and sleep deprivation can cause all sorts of mental aberrations, so just stop and rest and recharge. The idea of getting a boat from Adelaide to Italy sounds like quite a good option to me, Italy to the UK would be like falling off a log for you! You could let the train take the strain to get you back down to Adelaide – If the extra cost is a problem maybe we could all put a few dollars in the kitty for you (guilt money in my case for flying so far!). You’ll be pleased to know that you have inspired me to try and change my selfish travel habits – I have a work meeting in Edinburgh in April and last time I flew from Luton but this time I’m taking the train from Peterborough, a small start I know but it is a start. Good luck with whatever route you finally decide on and if you do have to fly then just remember that I’m not flying to Edinburgh because of meeting you so your emissions will effectively be mine.

At 11:39 pm, February 18, 2007, Blogger Paunch and Jaded said...

The only way I know to try and make this the 'right'solution is to look objectively at the issues - in terms of the three parts of being sustainable - and consider financial cost, social cost and environmental cost.

In simple terms the first is the cost of the journey - or the total fares and other costs associated with either travelling back to Adelaide and getting a boat from there to Italy and the rest or 'hopping'over to Indonesia or even direct to Singapore (after all it's the take off which has the most impact so once aloft .....).

The second is the 'environmental' cost which sounds like the CO2 cost (although I'm sure you could make it more complex if you tried).

The third is the 'social' cost - that's the cost to you and your body and mind, your health, your safety.

These would become a 'triple bottom line' and you can sum them by adding the rankings of each option for each of these with whatever weightings you fancy.

The trick then is that if you are disappointed with such an objectively developed answer, go with your gut feeling - the one you had wished it was. If it IS the one you wish then BINGO!!

(Engineering optioneering approach which can be more scientific with more detail - done lots of those on dams and sewage works - but in the end is down to the value judgement of those doing the assessment of the options).

Call to talk it through or email thoughts to work.

All our love

PS Kingswood now has a sign outside.

At 8:25 am, February 19, 2007, Blogger Marie said...

Perfectly okay to lose it due to stress and many the long-term traveler has had a good cry over exhaustion and uncertainty (heck, it still happens to me and I've been living this way now for 7 years)! Don't give up yet--something may still come up, but if you do give up, there is really nothing wrong with the short flight to Kupang or Dili or wherever. People will mock you but to hell with them.

There is also nothing wrong with a month on a freighter. It's boring but it's really not as bad as it sounds. Read some books, use the small gym if there is one, get to know some guys from other countries.

If it were my choice, I'd fly to Timor and would post a formula briskly explaining my choices, and would not allow comments on that post. Justify ONCE and then don't get in fights about it.

From Timor, it gets really easy (though long) because everyone travels by ferry and minibus. They even uses horsecarts in parts of some islands.

It would be a shame to miss SE Asia. You've come all this way..!

At 8:37 pm, February 19, 2007, Blogger Jenny Stafford said...

Hello Babs

Just a quick note to say that I empathise with your dilemma and I do think that it's great that you share it over your blog. I'm sorry I don't have any obvious suggestions except to mention that Adelaide is one of the smaller Aus'n ports. Melbourne and Sydney are much bigger. And the Great Ocean Road from Adelaide to Melbs is a really nice route :-). But obviously you'd want to find out cargo options before you headed there. From a very quick bit of googling, has services from Melb (maybe Adelaide too) to Singapore for about €2000 I think, 28 days. Quite pricey!

Anyway, really good luck with the deliberations and try not to stress over them (though I'd be the same)!

Best wishes
Jenny Stafford


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