Faced with the climate emergency and the environmental and social impacts of traditional tourism, more and more citizens are adopting a more eco-responsible approach to holidays. Testimonials.
Aurélien recognizes this with humor: given his past as a frequent traveler, his carbon footprint is “appalling over several generations”. “I lived for 20 years abroad (10 years in Japan, 10 years in Korea), says this 46-year-old language teacher. During this period, I returned at least once a year to France and I often took the plane over short distances (I went to Taiwan, the Philippines or even Australia). But, at the time, I was not aware of my impact. »
Since his return to France three years ago, Aurélien has decided to adopt a more sustainable way of life – and to go on holiday differently. “I don’t fly anymore and I try to limit the car, I mainly cycle and walk.says the one who has taken up residence in Avignon. For the longest distances, I take the train, I go to France or not very far. And I’ve had some exhilarating trips! Already, I rediscovered my native country – the territories around Mont Ventoux are extraordinary. Last year, I also cycled to Germany, passing through the Alps, Switzerland and Alsace. At the pace of the bicycle, we enjoy more of all these magnificent landscapes. And I was fascinated to discover that, without being a huge athlete, I could do 100 to 120 km in a day! »
If the forties appreciated this trip, it is also for its human dimension. “I thought about my journey by ‘connecting the dots’ between the people I knew, he explains. This type of accommodation responded to a financial challenge (difficult to go to the hotel every night for three weeks!), but it was also an opportunity to share good times. Moreover, for my next vacation, I have planned to visit the Massif Central by bike; and, since I don’t have a family or friend network there, I’m thinking of stopping at eco-places or doing some wwoofing. »
“Travel time is an opportunity to take a step back”
Marie-Alix also has vivid memories of the week she spent a few years ago on a farm near Le Mans – an experience that was decisive in her way of rethinking her vacation.. “Even if it wasn’t very far from my home, I found this stay very exotic, because it was a way of life that I didn’t know and I learned a lot, explains this 33-year-old engineer, who lives in Luxembourg. It turns out that, right after, I went to Iran. The landscapes were magnificent but, as I didn’t understand the language, I had the feeling of having a very superficial overview of the country… This made me think about what I put into the notion of travel. »
The young woman, who has long been sensitive to environmental issues, decided to give up flying after having an online carbon footprint. “I realized that all my daily eco-gestures were swept away by a simple plane trip. From now on, I only take the train or the bus and I greatly appreciate the time of the journey, which is for me an opportunity to read, reflect and take a step back. Rather than going as fast as possible from point A to point B, the idea is to enjoy every step of the journey. For example, with my partner, we traveled to Corsica from Luxembourg by train, first stopping near Metz for a weekend at a farm, then Paris and Toulon to visit friends. »
If the thirty-year-old does not see her choice as a sacrifice (“I have flown several times in my life, often for long stays, and I am aware of my luck”, she assures), she also knows that her commitment has a cost. “The differences in fares are so great that the choices of alternative transport are not accessible to everyone. But, by traveling at night, one can save a little on accommodation. »
To be eco-responsible once there, the young woman prefers to avoid staying in a hotel and favors rentals.. “Having a small kitchen allows you to buy fewer packaged products,” says Marie-Alix who, for her local trips, also relies on the train, bus or bicycle.
“Breaking the Individualistic Shell”
To reduce his carbon impact during his travels, Artur, 63, is also a fan of cycling, but with an even more adventurous approach! “What I particularly like is doing long crossings by bike, independently, alone or with friends, says this graphic illustrator, who lives in Montpellier. I started about fifteen years ago with regional tours (Massif Central, Provence, etc.).
Then, I went longer and longer until I took part, five years ago, in the French Divide. This mythical race connects the Belgian border to the Basque Country, i.e. 2200 km to be covered in 15 days, without assistance. The following years, I made another diagonal, from Roscoff to Montpellier, two crossings of Portugal and Spain, several tours of the country… And, in March, I went to Rennes, from Montpellier, to attend the Congress of the Federation of Bicycle Users. My goal was to show that there is, in rural areas, many initiatives to get around other than by car. On this crossing, strangers offered to put me up, it was quite incredible. »
What appeals to this alternative transport activist is not so much the sporting challenge as, he says, “the simplicity and openness to his environment inherent in these extraordinary experiences. “Travelling in this way allows you to break the individualistic shell because, at some point, you necessarily need others, underlines Artur. In addition, you have to deal with the weather, the discomfort of the bivouac, sometimes the lack of food… This improvisation is part of the adventure and I appreciate this ‘bare’ side. »
Discover the landscapes at the rhythm of the train
For their part, it is thanks to the train that Marina and her spouse have had their best vacation ever.. The couple, who live in Vert-Saint-Denis (Seine-et-Marne), say they are “a little fed up with the plane”. “Not only is it polluting, but there are also too many annoying parameters: the airports are often out of the way, you have to arrive two hours in advance and we have already had problems with lost luggage, says this 29-year-old optician. . Not to mention that we see nothing of the landscapes! We wanted to change our approach and take our time a bit more. »
This is how in 2019, the two lovers decided to make a beautiful trip by taking only the train, the bus or the boat. The course, which they refined over six months, took them to Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and finally Norway! “22 stages in one month, it was intense, smiles Marina. My fondest memory? Undoubtedly the train between Oslo and Bergen, in Norway: the journey lasted 8 hours but we didn’t notice the time passing so much the panoramas (fjords, mountains, lakes) were magnificent. »
Train, public transport and even rollerblades!
To complete this exceptional circuit, the two travelers took a Interrail pass for one month, which allows unlimited travel on board most European trains. “It’s a budget: my spouse paid 900 euros and I 700 euros, because at the time I was under 27*, indicates the young woman. But it was worth it! “Impatient” to try a similar adventure again, the couple dreams of making the mythical trip from London to Istanbul, that of the Orient-Express, by train and by boat.
In the meantime, for their next vacation, Marina and her spouse will limit the plane as much as possible. “In November, we planned to go to Egypt, with our little boy, and to fly only as far as Italy. Then we will take a boat to reach Cairo. We are also thinking of testing the train on site. As for our stays in France, we prefer the train and we rent a car only if we have no choice. On site, we take public transport, even our rollerblades! »
* Fares shown are for first class, but there is a cheaper second class fare.
Photo caption: Artur goes on a cycling adventure at least once a year. Here, in November 2022, on the GR 736, along the Tarn.
- Photo credit: Patrick Lamarre