The benefits of a no-flight holiday
It’s the conundrum of recent times: we love to travel but we also know getting to exciting and exotic new destinations is damaging to the environment.
If you’re a natural-born wanderluster who dreams of new places and adventures, it can seem impossible to choose between a plane and the planet.
But a solution is at hand – all we need to do is learn to look for fulfilling experiences closer to home. Meet the flight-free holiday.
Travel author Sian Lewis tells Balance why holidaying in the UK this summer can benefit your mental health as well as the environment.
“Staycation is a word that’s exploded in use since the pandemic taught us how to appreciate the beauty spots just beyond our doorstep. And exploring your own backyard has myriad benefits – there’s no jet lag to suffer through, no vaccinations and visas, no days wasted waiting to board planes and of course, far less travel emissions to heat up the planet.
“Short-haul flights are the worst offenders for C02, while a single long-haul flight can generate the same emissions as some people on the planet create in an entire year. Choosing not to take one of the 100,000 flights that depart from airports across the globe daily is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your personal footprint, and we’re lucky to have a great system of public transport crisscrossing the UK as a sustainable alternative
“It’s also easier (and cheaper) to take a staycation with children or pets, and if you don’t have to travel far, just a long weekend away can make for a really restorative break without the stress of long hours in motion, and without having to dig deep into your annual leave allowance.
“It’s true that far-flung travel offers unique experiences – new cultures, new cuisine, new climates. I’m not saying you should never board a plane again, as some life-affirming experiences, such as learning new languages or backpacking solo, are definitely worth voyaging far from home to experience at some point in your lifetime. But we can all easily commit to flying less frequently if all we’re searching for is a little escape.
“Great Britain often gets overlooked when we’re hankering for a change of scenery, but this island is home to far more beautiful landscapes and unique experiences than you might think. Have you ever dreamed of snorkelling with seals, walking through a lavender field, skiing down a snow-clad mountain, sipping a cold glass of local fizz in a sunny vineyard or swimming in a blue lagoon? You can do them all in the UK
“We’ve got fairy hills, tropical gardens, white sand beaches, epic mountain ridges and treasure islands, all easily reached by car, bus or train, by ferry or even by foot and by bike. Hopping on and off trains or planning a road trip makes it far easier to plan each day as it comes to catching flights. In some corners of Britain, especially the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and the Cornish coast, a train or car trip is half of the joy of the journey, as you travel through magnificent mountain ranges or hug ocean cliffs on the way to your destination
“And you might be surprised by how exciting the food and customs of Britain can be – there are corners of the country where you can watch cheese roll down hills, celebrate spring’s arrival at a Viking fire festival, spot the Northern Lights on the horizon, chow down on a sheep’s stomach or just decide once and for all if it’s jam or cream first on scones.
“Warm summer staycations are lovely, but don’t forget to venture outside of the summer holidays when the crowds have gone, prices are more wallet-friendly and Britain is at its most peaceful – and often its most beautiful. Autumn brings rich colours and the warmest water temperatures of the year, while spring carpets woodlands in flowers and ushers in good weather for hiking and camping comfortably.
“Next time you travel, keep it local, take it slow and really soak up what you see and experience on a no-fly holiday. You’ll be surprised by how mindful it feels – as the saying goes, ‘wherever you are, there you are.”
Wild Escapes by Sian Lewis (National Trust Books, £14.99) is out now.