Not car(e)free

We are travelling by car on our next adventure but it isn’t a decision that was reached easily. We will be driving over 3000 miles, in the height of Mediterranean summer.

Being carefree is something often associated with youth, and a concept closely linked to holidays and travelling but perhaps we could think more about the impact of our carefreeness to stop it being carelessness. 

The way we travel day to day involves different decision making processes to how we travel when holidaying. Often in both cases it is about convenience, cost, and time.

Part of the attraction of air travel is the relative speed but increasingly the lower cost when compared to the alternatives, particularly for mid range travel. The appeal of driving for us is the converse slowness of the journey, allowing us to stumble upon sights and experiences along the way. Here is Tom Hodgkinson’s view from How to be Idle:

Labour-saving devices just make us try to cram more pointless activities into each day, rather than doing the important thing, which is to enjoy our life.

We are going to take our time traveling from Yorkshire to southern Spain, via central France, and back again. Slow travel.

True, we fly hither and thither, but travel is rarely valued for its own sake. Instead it is recast as a minor inconvenience that somehow intervenes between our point of departure and our intended destination. The pleasure of the journey is eclipsed by anticipation of arrival. To get there fast is better than to travel slow. – A Manifesto for Slow Travel.

This is a time in life we feel we both really need that ‘pleasure of the journey,’ to balance the stress of routine and predictable day to day life. Hopefully we will capture the energy of this exciting trip and store it in our memories, in the writing of this blog, and in the many photos I am sure we will take.

Driving the journey adds a level of flexibility that is unattainable by the arguably more environmentally agreeable interrailing option, it means we can be more versatile, change our route, and account for any unforeseen setbacks. Along our route we are hoping to visit people, old friends and new. 

One of our stopoff points is in Catalunya to meet Finca Slow, an olive farm that contributes to newly formed Terra CSA. Finca Slow is the new project of Dan and Johana of The Handmade Bakery, a pioneer of the community supported bakery. I think we’ve made an exciting connection here, and perhaps fatedly Dan used to do the same job as me, several moons ago. It will be good to meet the inspiring couple and their family, and to learn about their project. I am hoping to film some footage for a video, Dan says they’re likely to be helping put up a friend’s yurt when we’re there so that should make for some interesting shots. The couple lived in a yurt, something we’re thinking of as an option for future so we will be quizzing them. 

Departing from Yorkshire and heading for Albox, we briefly considered interrailing, taking the Eurostar from London and taking advantage of our European neighbours’ superior rail networks. There were some fantastic deals on journeys from Paris to southern France, but we weren’t sold on the idea. It may sound attractive and is a hit with the Gap Year crowd but it’s too constrictive for this trip, we can’t be bound to the rail routes. It would be interesting to design a slow and steady city break series, using rail travel. Although it doesn’t have to stop at rail, I would like to explore an itinerary with diverse modes of transport, combining travel over water and land, by train, ferry, bicycle, perhaps canoe! 

Motor vehicles are synonymous with traveling and touring. There are many landscapes across the world that would not be quite the same without them, in a curious sense.
Photo credit Jack Zalium

The final contributor to our decision not to fly was my stubborness. I tend to set my own moral bar then not budge for a while, then it just drifts or is completely realigned by some realisation, or superseded by a replacing value. In this case it was my broad assertion that I shall not fly this year as flying is bad for the environment. Air travel may not be the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change but it certainly does contribute; flights produce 628,000,000 tonnes of CO2 yearly.

Emissions from aviation currently [2006] account for about 3% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, but they are increasing fast – by 87% since 1990 – as air travel becomes cheaper without its environmental costs being addressed. For example, someone flying from London to New York and back generates roughly the same level of emissions as the average person in the EU does by heating their home for a whole year. – A European Commission Report


I am a believer in looking at cost in more than simply financial terms. Cost to the environment is just as important, if not more so, than monetary cost. The environment supports all of us, money helps to support some of us, some of the time. We must care for the earth but also for each other, and account for fair shares. Time is another cost of driving, it will take our energy to concentrate and to stay calm. Hopefully we will be able to find a way in future to travel for leisure in a less negative impactful way. One of the ways I hope we will benefit from four wheels is the views along the roads, and in the discoveries we make, not least of all of local eateries.


Follow our travels on the Suitcase Dates blog.


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