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Climate crisis: why I travelled by train from Leeds to Belgrade

The climate crisis. This is a phrase that scares the well informed and bores those who don't take it seriously. As days go by, we're going to be hearing a lot more about it as we near an almost irreversible moment in our world's history. 

Understanding and recognising what we can do on a personal level to help change our trajectory is a step in the right direction.

Why is our climate changing?

Excess carbon is produced by burning fuels. While I can’t stop countries from burning coal for energy, nor can I stop my neighbour from driving to work every day, I can do something else to dramatically reduce my carbon footprint: stop flying (or cut down as much as I can).

I’ve been on long train journeys before, but this one was different. For the first time in my life, inspired by Greta Thunberg, I decided to reduce my carbon footprint while travelling by swapping planes for trains. This train ride would take me from the suburbs of West Yorkshire, all the way to the historic capital of Serbia, Belgrade. 

How did I manage to avoid travelling by plane?

The money saving train expert, the Man in Seat 61, helped me choose the right train at the best price. I broke up the journey and paid the same as I would for a flight. Here's how I did it:

  • Leeds to London
  • London to Paris
  • Paris to Munich
  • Munich to Zagreb
  • Zagreb to Belgrade

Would I recommend this way of travel? Yes, yes, yes! I now understand the saying (apologies for the cliché): it’s not about the destination, but about the journey.

Not only did I get to go to Belgrade, I also spent a couple of hours in Paris and ate a croissant for breakfast; a few hours in Munich and ate a pretzel; and spent an hour wandering around Zagreb. The journey was stress free and I met some great individuals travelling to places all over Europe.

What did I take with me on my train journey?

As I knew I'd be travelling on an overnight train, I had to make sure I had all my plastic free toiletries ready to go.

Making sure I'm never without, my toiletry bag was packed with my bamboo toothbrush, tooth soap (my best travel companion, as there’s no fear of leakage) and a stainless steel water bottle. I’m never sure if it’s safe to drink the water on the trains, so I made sure I had a water bottle handy so I could brush my teeth.

I kept a soap bar in a soap pouch so I could hang it to dry properly overnight on my sleeper carriage bed, along with with my fast-dry towel. 

And of course, my best friend was my reusable coffee cup – also doubling up as a beer glass shared amongst new friends!


Have you managed to cut down your carbon footprint in some way? We’d love to hear from you! Also comment below if you’ve had similar great experiences while travelling, and any top tips for plastic free travel items to take with you.

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