Long Haul?

The prompt from a fellow photographer to share some of my 'favourite travel photographs' has also prompted me to reflect on long haul travelling.

As anyone who's followed my photo diaries over the last few years will know, I've not been reluctant to jump on a plane - my back of the envelope (it was a big envelope) estimate is that I've clocked up just over 500 flights and 600,000 air miles over the years - and flown on everything from Airbus A380s down to the Britten-Norman Islanders, and from Row 1 back to Row 60-something (not forgetting some of the Islander flights where I wound up sitting in the co-pilots seat).

Big Planes

And Little Planes

Having been set the 'favourite photo' challenge - I started by making a list of places I've been to as a prompt (and for this exercise I decided to stick to places away from the UK - I can always find another excuse to share my favourite Shetland pictures).  The long list covered places all over the world - ranging from the cold places in the north and south but also included a lot of hotter, mountainous, deserted places too. 

The deal breaker for the shorter list was defining 'favourite' - I decided on places and events that had really stuck in my mind, where I can visualise and be back there at least mentally at the drop of a knitted hat.  And the places that I'd love to revisit.  

And - no real surprise here - the images are all either within the Arctic Circle or around the Antarctic (although not - yet - inside the Antarctic Circle).


And South

All of which gets me to the long haul question. Do it or not?

Even before the Covid-19 mayhem, I was having major doubts about the ecological ethics of participating in what are essentially tourist trips to wild remote places. I was offered a space on a trip to the South Sandwich Islands (the more remote version of South Georgia) and decided against it partly on the basis of cost but more substantively because I didn't think I could defend the carbon footprint of several long haul flights and several weeks on expedition cruise ships.  Yes, you can offset the footprint in various ways - but maybe it's better to do the offset anyway and not actually do the travelling. 

And the Covid question?  At moment I'd still be pretty concerned about spending an hour on the bus to Heathrow, never mind having to sit for 12 hours in Seat 38B surrounded by other people ahead of joining a cruise ship with a hundred other people who've also spent 12 hours on long haul flights from every corner of the planet.

One mental experiment I've thought about in the past involved trying to visualise the journey maps of the 300 (or so) people on a big plane.  Every one of those individuals will have been on a range of different transport types getting to the start point of their flight (ranging from taxis, cars and buses, through to feeder flights) and although they complete the flight together, they then set off on another series of car, bus, plane and maybe boat journeys.  And at every stage they are encountering other people making different (but equally complex) journeys.  I'm pretty sure there are epidemiologists making a living modelling these patterns but the complexity - and interconnectedness - certainly scares me!

Picking out my favourite pictures has definitely fired up my enthusiasm to be back around the colder wilder places.  These are currently being kept out of reach on public health grounds and I fear that my conscience may keep them out of reach in the longer term too.

In the short term, I'm expecting to do less travel, and for that travel not to involve much flying.  

There will eventually be vaccines to help control Covid-19, but I'm very sceptical about low-emission flying being around anytime soon - but it would be good if NorthLink would do something about getting lower emission boats in service between Aberdeen and Shetland. 

Shetland - wild landscapes without flying

It didn't take too long to find an excuse to share a Shetland picture - even in a post about long haul flying.

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