DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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8 October 2014

My wings are permanently clipped

I was asked recently to write about my decision to stop flying. Before I do that, I have to tell you that I do take occasional flights in my mind and when I found out last week that I was to be a grandma again, I was sky high for hours.


I don't remember exactly when my last flight was. I'm guessing it was in the late 1990s, before I started living as I do now. Back then, I owned a business writing training and induction manuals for the mining industry. I had to travel to the mines fairly frequently but with every flight I hated it more and I realised that driving would be much more enjoyable. I wouldn't be part of the herd being shuffled this way and that, I could pack what I wanted, listen to my own music and stop when I felt like it. Driving replaced flying for me then. It must have been around 1998. Now for long distance travel, I either go by train or drive - we have a hybrid car.

I refuse to fly because I'm concerned with the environmental impact every flight has.

I'm lucky to be Australian because I believe there is no better place to be. If I want to go on holiday, I will do that within my own country and there will be no flying involved. Long distance visiting can be done via Skype and if I'm called to participate in a conference, I can do so via teleconferencing. A few years ago I was tested on how committed I am to these beliefs when I was invited to attend an awards ceremony in Singapore, with flights and accommodation supplied. I declined. It wasn't difficult, I didn't hesitate, I knew there was nothing that would get me on a plane. When I did my book tour, I drove from state to state with Hanno instead of flying. We had the best time on that road trip and I know that had we flown, I would never have associated the word "best" with anything I did on that trip.

Since 2001 the security at airports has been ramped up and it's not unusual now to see long queues of travellers at airports waiting to be processed. When I see that, when I see and hear how little respect is shown to passengers, when I think of the potential dangers lurking, I wonder why so many people still fly. The longer I don't fly, the more reasons I think of to never put myself in that situation again. But I won't go on about it because I think everyone has to discover their own reasons and be firmly convinced by them for it to have a permanent impact.

I think that long-lasting profound lifestyle change comes about when we change ourselves first and then try for group solutions, starting with our own communities. I am the only one who can put my beliefs into action, I can't make anyone believe what I do and I certainly don't want to blindly follow what others do. So for me, this is a personal stand and nothing that I expect you or anyone in my family to be a part of. And my decision to remain earth bound is not translated into judgement of people who don't. We all make our own choices and I am happy for that.

Why David Holmgren doesn't fly much anymore

31 comments:

  1. Simplicity involves considering means of travel and expense too! I think this is good decision.

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  2. I had glider lessons when in my 20's but had to give up due to air sickness. I have never flown anywhere and have no intention of doing so for the foreseeable future. I haven't seen most of the UK yet, so much to see and do here. I find the whole concept weird and such a huge waste of precious resources.

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  3. I like your reasons. I have only flown for two trips as an adult, and though they were only short flights (Melbourne to Sydney and Melbourne to Canberra) can say with absolute certainty that I hate it. My reasons are more fear-based, though I know the odds of being in a car crash are much higher (pun intended!), it's not exactly the crashing that worries me. For me it's more the lack of control, and just being so high up - I hate heights!

    Road trips all the way for me!

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  4. After emigrating from the UK to Australia over 30 years ago I have flown back and forth over the years. Then I worked for 15 years with a touring company all over Australia and New Zealand. I loved the job, but I'm still a member of the 'white knuckle brigade' and only took a big breath when I came back to solid earth. I'm a Virgo, an earth sign, I was never meant to fly. I am now retired and living a much simpler life. I may never get on a 'plane again.

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  5. I don't like flying much, but it has given me access to so many places that have enriched my life with experiences and memories. I liken it to childbirth; you've got to go through the awfulness to get the prize at the end. However, the increasing lawlessness of the world does give one pause for thought; it feels more risky every time I go.

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  6. Very interesting blog today Rhonda - the decision seems to be a combination of cost/ environment/ safety! (which I can understand). I remember reading somewhere that studies have shown that people have the 'most lasting happiness' from experiences not 'things'. I have taken that on board, and for our children we spend our surplus money on a private school education for them and travel (no mortgage and we save a lot). They were my priorities. We don't care about keeping up with the Jones with televisions or cars etc. We do spend a lot on travel (since we take our primary school aged kids with us - we never leave them behind). I should add, we had some bad flying experiences last year going overseas, and the 'safety' part of flying has started to make us nervous. We have put aside those concerns (lets hope nothing happens) and booked a Europe trip for the whole family next year.

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  7. I am curious as to whether you think your family could ever cause you to fly? I often smile when I read your words of love and affection for your sons, daughters in law and grandsons, and it is clear they are your life's joy. If they lived overseas and you were only able to fly there to see them, would that shift anything in your thinking?

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    1. While I can't say with absolute certainty, Rebecca, I believe I wouldn't visit them. The love in our family is not a one-way street and I think if any of my family were to live overseas (as I did once myself), then their love would bring them back home for visits. I would make do with skype and facetime and probably with a few hand written letters. I still have all the letters my mother sent to me when I lived in Germany.

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    2. I emigrated to Australia 3 years ago and my whole family are back in the UK. They frequently ask when I will visit them, including my best friend who is getting married soon.

      Although it makes me a little sad, I have to explain to them I cannot willingly fly knowing the environmental impact it causes.

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  8. I have both my daughters overseas (and now a new grandson in America as well!) luckily we have the wonderful technology of todays world - skype, internet, digital cameras etc. Every couple of years we all get together somewhere and travel, enriching all our lives. Not flying works for you, but it doesnt work for everyone. I understand what you are saying though, that you are telling us about your choices. As for me I am grateful for all the different ways we can connect across the miles.

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  9. I fly, but not often. And, when I do, it is because my only child is not within easy reach by car -- in fact, he hasn't even been on the same continent with me in several years. Skype has been wonderful for those weekly visits, but there are times when a Mum just has to touch her child. I flew by myself to Okinawa to see him. It was life changing. I am no longer afraid of anything (trust me on this one --- I was one terrified Mum to be in a country where I couldn't read signs or speak the language)! My trade out is that I try to be very careful with my travel when I am home. I work away from home two days a week and, on those days, I do all my errands and shopping. Often, I will not drive for four or five days a week. Combine that with the other things we do to conserve resources, along with the fact that I have 15 acres of timber on my farm, I feel less guilty about the environmental impact of flying.

    All that said, I think each person has to make the best choice for themselves at the place they are in life. I know that one day he will be in easy reach and I will hop a train (oh, joy! knitting time!) to visit! Until then, I will carefully plan my travel so that I don't feel that I contribute more to the environmental impact of flying.

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  10. I hate flying too, and am really a homebody at heart--but...for now, there's no avoiding it for my work (I am a historian of Latin America and live in the US; can't do archival work without flying, and conferences often require it also). Someday soon, perhaps, bigger changes are in store, and you have given me food for thought.

    In the meantime, may I just say: Rhonda, I love how you take a stand while remaining so thoughtful about where others are at. It's one of the many reasons that I keep coming back to your blog.

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    1. Thanks for the lovely feedback, eeoc. Good luck with your career. xx

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  11. Thank you Rhonda for being a loud proud non-flyer.

    I recently read a study that said some of the most environmentally conscious people (recycling, growing their own, making their own, buying fair trade and organic) can have the worst environmental impact due to particularly flying. For example the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition) fly a team of people every year from Australia to Nepal and back, to hike and "raise awareness" for climate change.

    It seems to be a bit of a taboo subject but it is something that needs to be discussed :) Thanks again

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  12. this is a subject close to my heart too -- industrialised societies have embraced flight in the last couple of decades to the point where its almost unthinkable to go without the regular schlepp to the airport --- few people question the right/ the need for privileged folk to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.... yet this is a recent phenomenon.

    thank you for standing up and saying 'thanks, but no thanks'

    more of us must do likewise

    I have been consciously avoiding air flight (including when I've received full funding or an arts grant to take a plane - I've chosen the bus instead) -- if we don't make that choice, how can we in good conscience expect others to forgo flight?

    that said, in arty (and no doubt literary) circles - it is almost sacrilegious to dare to propose that we must step away from the plane.... why, I wonder, is that so?

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  13. I love to hear about people putting their convictions into action (or non-action in this case). Well done Rhonda!

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  14. I have only used a plane once (short haul flight) since we married 23 years ago. On that occasion I was asked to be Godmother to a schoolfriend;s daughter and she gad emigrated to Holland. We have had many wonderful holidays in the UK and there are still lots of places here we would like to visit. My passport has just become out of date and I haven't decided whether to renew it yet.

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  15. I really like how you put your decision out there and without an ounce of reproach to any of us.

    Flying is a weird thing for me. I have been able to take incredible trips thanks to flying but as I have gotten older I get more fearful. Cars are a great way to travel, but they too impact the environment and until the US gets a superb train system, ours pretty much sucks, it is the car I use. Don't get me wrong, I have taken the bus and train in to NYC and it is lovely, but traveling from here to say California would be brutal, I know, my in-laws did it. No Orient express here! LOL

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  16. I came to flying late in my life -- my first flight a long haul to the UK and my second a short 45 minute jump to our hometown. I never flew before because of sheer, unadulterated fear. However, my desire to visit the home of my ancestors was greater than the fear and I went. However, I have just passed up a chance to see my dear, sweet niece married because we don't have enough time to drive it and I won't fly. Fear? Yes, but a different fear. There are too many things happening in the world and I refuse to put myself in harms way if I don't have to. I am helping to raise a grandchild and I have three more that I want to enjoy. My life is good right here in my simple little life and I see no reason. Now, if there was a matter of an emergency I would reconsider but I, like you, will vacation in my own country (I haven't seen enough of it yet) and, for the most part, I will stay her in my house and enjoy what we have worked for all our lives. With that said, I would love to see your country. My son-in-law's mom was born in New Zealand and I have seen photos -- absolutely gorgeous and I don't blame you one whit for wanting to stay there.

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  17. Said is such a good way :-)

    We must each make the stand we need to and remain true to ourselves without preaching and being upset by people that do not understand or agree with our decisions. You put your reasons for not flying so well.

    In my whole life I have only flown three times and it would have to be something really worthwhile to make me want to do it again. Being made to feel like a criminal at airports, treated like cattle being herded from gate to gate and then the knowledge of the environmental impact my journey is having do not make for a pleasant experience.

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  18. We do not fly either and have the best old time traveling by car together. My only gripe about car trips is hotels, which I hate. They are too expensive and often we have to really search to find one that is affordable and in a safe area for overnight stays. Then we get in the room and the bed is horrible and my clean crazy self looks around and sees grime everywhere. We have begun to save bits of money to purchase a small motor home as a solution. This way we can have our bed and food and a home on wheels. I am leery of on the road food too because it often just makes one feel not too good. We are planning to buy the smallest type available so that we are not rolling down the road using excessive gas. It will likely be a few years before we have the funds to pay cash but we are hopeful that this will be a good solution for us.

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  19. I enjoy driving more than flying. As you said Rhonda you are able to see so much more and pack what you want and take time to enjoy stops on the way.
    I love living in Canada and still have many places to visit.
    Nice centrepiece on your table!

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  20. Rhonda, Thank you for your thoughtful discussion of flying. I agree with you -- and gave up flying 5 years ago, but didn't articulate the reasons why at the time. Thank you for saying what is in my heart about the fuel waste and just living slower and more intentionally. I also love to take road trips, enjoying the flavor of each part of the country I pass through. It's amazing what is available a few miles off the interstate. I love your writing and look forward to thoughts you share in each blog. Oh . . . thought I'd add . . . your weekend reading section has inspired me many times. Thanks for those thoughtful references to other articles. Have a grand summer.

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  21. Rhonda, I have to ask if you would still feel the same if your children and grandchildren lived on a different continent to you you would still feel the same? I know I would travel around the world and back to be with mine. I travel with my children to their cousins and my sister every 2.5 years or so to see her otherwise I wouldn't see her.

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    1. Hi Wendy. I've answered this in Rebecca's comment above.

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  22. Oh Rhonda dear.. You are so much more noble then I.. I am just too terrified... smile.. Really.. xo

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  23. This is an interesting post. I don't like flying because of the security screening and the pre-boarding waiting time, especially in the US. Apart from that I find it convenient since I have to visit my family several times during the year for long weekends.

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  24. Gosh. I haven't been on a plane since 1993 - it's not particularly out of environmental conviction, just because my life is here, and I'm happy with it that way. It's funny, as the years go by, my travel distances have shrunk further and further. At this point a 100 mile car trip seems like a pretty big deal to me, and also a major hassle! I don't see this as some sort of a sacrifice - to me it is liberation of the most profound variety!

    Mostly I travel by bike now. That may sound crazy, but I live in beautiful Denver, Colorado - and several times a week I ride my bike to all sorts of amazingly beautiful places including Red Rocks Amphitheater, and numerous reservoirs and state parks. It always makes me smile when CatMan and I ride to the outskirts of the city where people are camping at one of our state parks - having driven their RV's from who knows where to get there. All I can think is that I get to enjoy it any time I want - and the hour to get there by bike is pretty darned fun too!

    There's even a crazy little part of my brain that wonders if I could ride my bike to my college reunion in New York some day. I've never actually attended a reunion because of the bother in getting there, but if I could ride my bike and make a summer of it, it might just be worth the trip!

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  25. I haven't flown for eight years and no longer have a valid passport, which I would need to fly where I live. My reasons for this have been having babies and young children but now I really couldn't consider it as an option when travelling. My dream is to go on a really long trip seeing how far we can travel overland by public transport using boats on the sea. For now tho we are very content staying close to home and exploring the beautiful island that we call home. A thought provoking post, thank you.

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  26. As always your posts are thoughtful and thought provoking. I have never considered the environmental impact of flying. Like many in my generation I have taken flight for granted until something bad happens. My not flying has been circumstantial and financial rather then intentional.
    I have nothing against flying, but I wonder if it is possible to reduce the environmental impact of the flight industry and the use of fossil fuel?

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  27. I'm with you on the environmental challenges of flying but with my husbands family in the UK I know we will likely have 1 more big trip over although I am not too keen on the flight with 3 young kids, nor the environmental impact. We're trying to see if she will come visit us instead. Our kids are her only grandkids and there is 1 she has only met over skype. It's a real challenge to work through it.

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