Sustainable Travel

Hello!!! Happy FRIDAY!  How are you all doing?  I hope your great.  Can you believe this is the last weekend of July?  Seriously, where did summer go???  I can’t believe we’re going to be starting classes in just a few short weeks.  I got a lot to do before then and I best get cracking on it!  Maybe it’s best I don’t look at the calendar. =)

So today, let’s talk some more about my adventures overseas.  I was fortunate enough to stay on a University campus in a good part of London so I had the opportunity to travel to other locations throughout my 2 week stay.  I must say that the United States NEEDS a reliable national train service such as the high speed ones in Europe.  I know that we have Amtrack but it’s not really cost effective for the amount of time.  I looked into taking the train from Oregon to the East Coast a few summers ago.  It was going to cost way over $1,000, (I can’t remember the exact amount but I was shocked!) require me to change trains in the midwest, AND, here’s the kicker!, it would’ve taken 9 – 12 DAYS!!!  I can get a plane ticket from Portland to Ohio for around $400 and it takes about 4-5 hours direct flight.  So yeah, Amtrack isn’t really good for cross country travel.  However, I did ride it once on a one way trip from Oregon to Washington to start a backpacking trip.  It was perfect for this because I didn’t have to worry about how to get my car back after I hiked home. =) Also I will put in this as a disclaimer that countries in Europe are smaller and closer together so even if we had a high speed train in the US it wouldn’t be nearly as fast as traveling between some countries. Anyways…back to my recent train travel in England…

The first free day that we didn’t have class I took the Eurotrain to Paris.  In a short 2 hour train ride I was in another country!  This train was one of the really fast ones that goes under the English Channel.  I honestly didn’t know I was going that fast but they had the speed up on a screen in the train, however, it was in kilometers so I didn’t know the actual speed because my math skills to convert kilometers to meters is weak.  The train was similar to an airplane in that it had tv screens on the back of the seat in front of you and free wifi. There was also a food bar in one of the cars.  I left on an early morning train so I pretty much slept the whole ride there.  I *think* the ticket costs around $125 but I pre-purchased a few months before the trip so I could have gotten a good deal.. but either way it was pleasant, reliable, and fast.  Once we boarded, the next stop was Paris! I also like to think it was a sustainable travel option but honestly have no idea how these trains operate.

A day in Paris


Another example of my good train travel experience is that I took a national train to the English Channel on my second day “off”.  This was more of a commuter style train and stopped along the way but it only took an hour.  Distance-wise, I’m unsure of the miles but it wasn’t a bad train ride. Not as comfy as the Eurotrain but not like the New York city subway train either. This sort of reminded me of Amtrack.  Anyways, I spent the day in Brighton, England on the English Channel.

A day in Brighton

My last free day, I booked a tour to Stonehenge and Bath.  This trip was 8 hours round trip from London and we took a 20 passenger bus.  I believe only 15 or 16 people were on it though because we had a few empty seats.  The reason I’m sharing this is because, not only was it amazing to see these places, but the bus ran on bio-fuel!  Our tour guide gave us little facts about England on the 2 hour drive to Stonehenge and that was a fact she shared.  She also told us that many public buses in and around London ran on bio-fuel.  On a side note: I noticed many, if not all, of the public 2 story buses advertised that they were “powered by electric” and had limited emissions.  +1 for public transportation London!

Stonehenge and Bath for the day

Another fun fact that our tour guide shared is that back in the day Bath (or it could have been all of England) had a window tax.  This was a tax on how many windows you had in your house.  Since this was Georgian Architecture which favored symmetry, building owners would brick in where windows would have been to keep the geometry the same but not have to pay the window tax.  I feel like this is one of those tidbits I should remember from my art/architecture history classes but it kinda slipped my mind. It was good to see and hear it in person so now maybe it’ll stick. =)

I don’t think a tiny house would do well with a window tax because most tiny houses have lots of windows to bring in the light and spaciousness of outside.  My house was to have 11 windows as per the contract with the builder.  If you remember, my first builder bailed a month before the build start day and I had to find a new builder within a few weeks so it’s his shell with my interior.  The “shell” comes with 11 windows but I only got 10 because this builder “forgot” to install the additional one I wanted in the kitchen.  It would have been nice to have it on the wall between the fridge and the door.

where the mirror is in the pic on the right

However, when I found this mistake – the house was already framed – it was too late. =(  It would be nice to have that extra light and extension to the exterior.  However, if I had to pay an additional costs to have it – I’m cheap and will take what I have. =)

So to wrap up this post (because, yes it was all over the place) England has public transportation down and I like to think it’s somewhat sustainable since multiple passengers were on the trains thus avoiding unnecessary fuel use and emissions and secondly, the buses use bio-fuel or electric.  How cool is that?

Do you think a fast national train service would work in the States???

One thought on “Sustainable Travel

  1. As you pointed out, the scale is so much different. The total area of England is 50,000 sq.mi, the entirely of Great Britain is 90,000 sq.mi, and just California is 160,000 sq.mi. the second train you took to the seaside was basically the same as an AMTRAK train. The combination of most people having a car and having so much more land mass means a high speed train doesn’t seem beneficial. For people who go from LA to San Fran or New York to Washington daily or weekly it may make sense. But setting it up for LA to NYC would be horrendously expensive.

    In my current country, I can stand on the road, wave down a mini bus (marsh), and be to the farthest reaches of the country in 4-6 hours for less than $10. However, the entire country is half the size of North Dakota. This system is so strong (not necessarily good, though; many of the marshes are decades old and abused) because only about 20% of the population has a car.

    I have grams plans to live in the UK for a visa stretch (6 months). My favorite your ever was in Bath. The man was a government volunteer and refused to even accept tips for the great free tour.

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