The Ecologist


Ewan Kingston

I did London to Sydney without flying. Here's how

Ewan Kingston

Ewan in front of a coach

Our well-grounded Kiwi reflects on his six month (almost flightless) odyssey from London to New Zealand, and answers all the usual questions on travel without wings

Followers of my blog will have known for a while, that, from London, I got as far as Sydney with my feet never leaving the surface of the globe. Having rested, and re-started my course of study, I’m now answering the most common questions…


Hitch-hiking to a Buddhist monastery/shamanic energy centre near the Trans-Mongolian line through the Gobi, eating pig's ear at a roadside diner in Chinese heartland, watching the sunset over the Sumatran archipelago from the back deck of a ferry.

How green was it?

As far as positives go, I learnt swags about geography, culture, history, and politics. All crucial topics for a true environmentalist. The main impact of the trip was in CO2 emissions from transport. But the figures speak for themselves:

Overland route (coach where possible, trains, ferries, yachts):
27,727Km - 1.45 tonnes CO2

Flying direct long haul (+10%...

I failed. I caught a plane

Ewan Kingston

A plane ready for boarding

Thousands of miles by train, coach, bus, boat and foot and, at the last hurdle, Ewan finds that there's no way to cross the Tasman Sea except on metal wings...

My heart sank a little as I booked the flight from Sydney to Christchurch. My flight across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand will probably have as much of a contribution to global warming as a train from London to Irkutsk, or a passenger coach travelling almost 1 and a half times around the world.

It wasn't for lack of trying. In the last month, I've made about a hundred calls to marinas, port controllers, even nautical bookstores, searching for that elusive cruising yacht that might want crew for the trans-Tasman passage.

Elusive options

There were tantalising hints and leads. One yacht left just as I arrived. A private powerboat was willing to take me, but its footprint was probably massive. 

The rough nature of the passage and the lack of leads also lead me to investigate cargo ships. Though only a handful of shipping companies carry passengers, one-man-show Hamish, of Read More...

Bali to Australia by catamaran

Ewan Kingston

View from catamaran

Though it was slow, choppy, wet and tiring, Ewan looks back on his wind-powered crossing to Australia as an experience worth every minute

Two months after one of the most widespread environmental demonstrations ever, the COP15 conference at Copenhagen seems to be ending with a whimper. It feels like the green movement is heading against the wind. Perhaps it's a good time for me to reflect on another moment of heading against the wind, on board a sailing catamaran, 300 miles north of the Australian coast.

Part of what made it so special was that on board were four others who were also travel without flying. Our captain was sailing the cat from its previous home in Turkey to his home in Perth, with help from a rotating pool of crew and passengers. One of these, Mark, was planning a circumnavigation and had been on the road almost two years. His circuitous route had taken him through many of the 'stans as well as along the 4,600 metre high Karakoram highway between Pakistan and Xinjiang, China. His travel snaps involved Kalishnikovs and burqas. Read More...

Are you an overland traveller?

Ewan Kingston

Ewan Kinsgton on the ferry

Ewan discovers that 'overland traveller' has become something of a category, but one into which he's happy to fit

I'm nursing a mee goreng at the Bali Marina. The captain of the Placebo, a yacht that hopefully take me to Australia, looks at me thoughtfully.
'You're not one of these "overland travellers" are you? I've had three others contact me, they're coming too,' he says.

When I began this trip, I thought I was doing something pretty unique. Sure, I knew about Ed and Fiona Gillespie's trip, and Babs and her voyage from Wales to Brisbane. Some people must also have followed the Man in Seat 61's excellent advice on long-haul overland travel. But I didn't imagine to meet three others who are travelling England to Australia without flying. Soon I'll actually get to meet them - and their stories will intertwine... Read More...

No plane, no problem in South East Asia...

Ewan Kingston

Ewan in front of a coach

Ewan travels south through Laos and Thailand, discovering a landscape that speaks of the awkward throes of industrialisation...

After an extended stay in China, my pace needed to become a little more urgent. Luckily, although a lot of travellers take flights even within Thailand, it's not actually hard to travel right across South East Asia without flying. Visas or visa exemptions are available for the majority of travellers at border posts in Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. Buses ply long distances between major towns regularly. Take your pick from colourful, uncomfortable slow local buses or a bit of luxury with VIP style coaches. Travel by day, night, or both. I didn't use any trains, because of their typically higher footprint, but they are an option in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam as well.

Using just buses, I traveled 3000km of road to get from China to Malaysia in just over a  week, This included a 4 day stopover in Laos' regal Luang Prabang, but for the rest of the time, I was, shall we say, on the buses. I made a few mistakes: wasting time hopping borders on local buses instead of... Read More...

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