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20 Reasons To Make Your Next Vacation A Traincation

July 18, 2018
Flying through the sky we miss the sights, sounds and serenity that travelling by train affords us. Perhaps there is something in our recent evolution which makes long for train rides, giving us a glimpse at each vista as we pass, like a fast track pilgrimage through nature's edges.⁣

Over my month of train travel, I passed valleys lit by pink sunlight which dipped in and out of sight as the train wound through each limestone tunnel. I watched teams of trees sway and dance as we rode past, whipped by the falling rain. I watched towns and cities slide by with ancient railside buildings so intricately carved it was as if the journey was a museum art tour.⁣

I was rocked to sleep by the train's gentle sway, drank mugs of hot coffee in a train car cafe listening to the attendant sing sweetly to herself as she went about her duties. And I chatted to fellow commuters who shared stories of their lives which were both inspiring and insightful, reminding me that life is equal parts difficult and beautiful for most of us.⁣



Trains make people dream, blasting us back to simpler times when travel was a luxury which no one took for granted ... a once a year or once in a lifetime adventure to discover another culture or visit long-lost loved ones. 

Trains make people dream, some soulful memory of simpler times when travel was a luxury which no one took for granted. A once a year or once in a lifetime adventure to discover another culture or visit long-lost loves. ⁣

I chose a 'traincation' instead of a 'planecation' on my month-long journey through Europe because it was better for the planet, but it turns out it was better for me as well. ⁣
I visited seven countries including France, Germany, Denmark, Belguim, England, Spain, Portugal. My journey consisted of travel from: Paris - Copenhagen | Copenhagen - Brussels | Brussels - London | London - Paris | Paris - Irun | Irun - San Sebastian | San Sebastian - Irun | Irun - Lisbon | Lisbon - Porto | Lisbon - Irun | Irun - Paris | Paris - London | London - Paris. And through these adventures, I gathered a few reasons why I feel you ought to make your next vacation a 'traincation' as well.

1 | IT IS THE GREENEST WAY TO TRAVEL 
Over the month, I travelled to seven countries by train, offsetting my CO2 emissions by over 1,000 Kg, and cutting my footprint by up to 91% (depending on the type of train and length of the journey).

2 | YOU'LL SAVE MONEY
Despite the plethora of low-cost airlines available in Europe, when I sat down to book my trip less than a month in advance of my departure, the entire journey, all stops included, would have cost me double travelling by air on the same days. I booked everything, apart from my Eurostar snap tickets to and from London with Loco2, a website which through the wonders of technology has married all of Europe's train systems together, allowing you to book from point A to point B ... or A to Z (in my case), seamlessly.

3 | YOU'LL MINIMIZE WASTE 
Because you can bring your own food and drinks, temptations to purchase that microwaved plastic wrapped 'panini' are sure to be diminished. Most trains offer a bar carriage with a menu of items you can buy without packaging, and all stations I passed stopped off at in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal it's easier to do your journey waste free. Most tickets are also paperless and you don't have to have your liquids packed up in a plastic bag. I managed to remain nearly zero waste for the entire journey point A - point Z, apart from one cardboard packed sandwich, a bag of chips, and a beer on a particularly unprepared day.

4 | (SOMETIMES) YOU SAVE TIME
Though my trip from Paris to Copenhagen was undoubtedly slower than flying, my journies to and from the United Kingdom by train are significantly shorter door-to-door than flying. From my front door to my brother's front door in London, it takes a total of 3.5 hours by train. Flying takes exactly twice as long once you count the travel time to the airport outside the city, the waiting time at the airport, the flight time, the post-flight airport exit, and the train and tube into London. Already in Europe, travelling by train is faster than by plane and using the Eurostar you are only emitting 22 kg of CO2 compared to the 244 kg of CO2 emitted from flying the same route ... a total of 91% less CO2 in total.

5 | YOU'RE FREE TO DELIGHT IN A DIGITAL DETOX
I had planned to be productive and work, documenting the journey constantly as I have done for other travels, but I found myself organically digitally detoxed instead. Though most trains have wifi of some sort, and plugs for charging your gear, despite my best intentions to be a worker bee, I found myself lost in thought, entranced by the views, engaged in cozy conversation, or being slowly rocked to sleep by the train's gentle sway. I finished three audiobooks, two physical books, wrote reflections on paper, and watched a whole season of some Viking show over my 80+ hours of travel between May and June. The train journies themselves felt like a vacation within a vacation in which every minute was all for me to do as I pleased.

6 | YOU'RE BATHED IN NATURAL LIGHT 
Being drenched in natural light from the large windows each seat is equipt with, rather than the artificial light on planes, offers us humanoids numerous physiological benefits including higher energy levels, better sleep, increased productivity, and heightened happiness.

7 | YOU HAVE MORE SPACE AND FREEDOM
It's no secret that airlines are continuously making their seats smaller and lighter to fit more passengers on each plane and lighten the airplane's load. So, the big cushy seats and the extra leg room offered on the train at no additional cost, along with the freedom to walk around at will, makes all the difference in travel comfort and enjoyment.

8 | TRAINS DOUBLE AS HOTELS
Though I didn't invest in the proper train hotel option which acts like a wee Airbnb on the rails, I did save 50-80€ each time I curled up in my cozy seat on an overnight journey instead of taking a day train and hunkering down in a hostel or hotel.

9 | YOU CAN MAKE MULTIPLE BOOKINGS SEAMLESSLY
I stumbled across the Loco2's website the first day I looked into my train travels and was mighty grateful for it. The site has married all of Europe's train systems together allowing you to book any train journey for the domestic UK or continental Europe in one go. It simplifies the booking process, encouraging people to ditch the plane for a lower-carbon journey by train. You can pay for your tickets in Pound Sterling, Euros or US dollars and navigate the website and apps using English, Spanish, Italian or German.

10 | UNLIMITED LUGGAGE
If you can carry it, you can bring it on a train. I normally travel with just a carry on and a small 10 piece capsule wardrobe, but since we were packing up our flat for an undisclosed amount of time I brought my entire summer capsule, along with a possibly unnecessary pair of heels, zero waste paraphernalia, electronics and a camera in a 90L suitcase and two small backpacks (one by Samui the other handwoven). While it was nice to have this option without paying an additional cost like you would on any plane, I soon began to regret bringing so much, as each and every move was a cumbersome manoeuvre. Less is always more.

11 | YOUR LUGGAGE WON'T GET LOST
The amount of friends and family who have had their luggage lost or wrecked by air travel this summer is astounding. On trains, your luggage is responsibility, putting the odds in your favour so long as your memory is ripe.

12 | CONVENIENCE
Most train stations are located in the centre of the city, so when you walk off the train, you're already where ya wanna to be, and don't need to spend extra cash or time on airport city transfers like you do when you travel by plane.

13 | RAILS OF REFLECTION
Journeys by train are meditative, offering plenty of time for reflection, reading, writing and wondering.

14 | FLEXIBILITY
Most train companies allow you to transfer or change your ticket for free (or a small fee), which is not the case for planes, especially those of the budget variety. With Loco2 you can adjust and change everything directly on the website which I found mighty convenient, even with issues on the platform there are multiple connections to numerous destinations daily so if you miss one or another is delayed you won'tt' be left hanging. I had a train cancelled in Germany and the station supervisor was able to reroute my entire journey without the slightest hitch.

15 | YOU ARRIVE FEELING AS FRESH AS A DAISY
Because you're not breathing in recycled air for hours, you arrive at your destination rested and ready to explore.

16 | YOU HAVE ACCESS TO PLACES PLANES DON'T GO
By train, you get to spend time in small cities and towns which planes are unable to access which I found utterly charming on little layovers to explore.

17 | THE STATIONS ARE STUNNING
No one ever said: "what a beautiful airport", but I'd argue there are stations in Europe which even the poshest of people appreciate. La Gare de Strasbourg in France, Antwerpen-Centraal Station in Belgium, St. Pancras Train Station in England, Estación de Atocha in Spain are amongst my favourites thus far, each one leaving you dreaming for times when architecture was art. 

18 | TRAINS ARE SAFER
Air travel is safe, but in terms of fatalities, there have been 0 passengers killed in train accidents since 2007/08 in Great Britan with trains coming in about 25% safer than planes in the US and Canada

19 | NO ONE WILL TRY TO SELL YOU GARB
No song and dance, no scratch cards, no duty-free, no overpriced food and drink cart. Just a ticket check and, apart from necessary announcements, you're left in peace.

20 | THE SCENERY IS STUNNING
Crossing a country or a continent by train is a journey through lush landscapes you would otherwise miss, with unbelievably majestic views you'd otherwise miss by air or car. 

13 SUSTAINABLE PLACES TO STAY, EAT, AND SHOP IN LISBON

July 06, 2018
In peaceful pastel colours, Lisbon rolls out its ancient streets and endows you with easy enjoyment, letting you wander its beautiful limestone cobbled streets to discover the in and outs of the city. It is both effortlessly beautiful and warmly welcoming, holding its history with pride while modernizing consciously to create a serene and inspiring sentiment which sits palpably on the breeze.

In my opinion, it's the most charming capital city on the continent, and while it's beauty is indeed a blessing, for locals its a curse, with its heavy footprint of tourism threatening to destroy the environment and cultural identities of the locals.

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Alarmingly, each year, over 12.7 million tourists overpower the 500,000 locals who live(d) here.⁣ The influx has cause infrastructure prices to increase at a rate which pushes residents out of the city. At least 74% of Airbnb properties in Lisbon charge an average daily rate of 84€ a night, meaning renting a flat out to tourists is significantly more profitable for property owners than renting to locals.⁣ ⁣The national minimum wage in Portugal is 676€ per month, leaving the average local unable to afford to live in their own capital city anymore.

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This phenomenon has a name: " terramotourism ” ... a tourism earthquake which shakes the culture from the city streets as gentrification runs wild and free ... so rather than directing you to the best expat owned vegan-friendly organic bobo spots (of which there are many), I've tried to instead focus on the best conscious, locally owned, places I came across. Because if tourism to this city is going to be sustained, it's locals who our travel funds should benefit most.

If you're interested in additional ways to be a sustainable tourist, click HERE.

STAY

STORY GUESTHOUSE
ADDRESS: Largo São Domingos 18
WEBSITE: lisbonstoryguesthouse.com
SOCIAL: @lisbonstoryguesthouse
Conveniently located in the centre part of the city, this affordable guesthouse is utterly charming and cozy, with beautifully decorated common rooms and lots of natural light. Their prices include a free all-you-can-eat breakfast served until late in the afternoon and they have invested in a range of environmental practices to reduce their carbon footprint while engaging in philanthropic activities in aid of Lisbon's homeless.

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THE DORM
ADDRESS: Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103
WEBSITE: thedorm.pt
SOCIAL: @thedormhostel
This new age hostel offers an affordable stay with luxury touches that will swiftly replace gap year memories of accommodations sharing the same name. The suite beds are comfortable and cozy,  decorated with curtains for privacy. The dorms are paired with beautifully designed shared bathrooms, sun-filled common spaces, and creative design details which reflect the artsy complex it is housed in.   

EAT

DONA FLORA
Vegetarian
SOCIAL: @donaflora
With a menu made up of fresh, local, seasonal and organic products, this cafe is a cozy place to pass a quiet lunch away from the tumble of tourists that haunt Lisbon's streets.

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JARDIM DAS CEREJAS
Vegan 
This place is perfect for people on a budget, for 7,50€ you can eat as much as you want from the buffet made up of delicious organic Indian food.

AO 26 
Vegan
ADDRESS: R. Vítor Cordon 26, 1200-484
WEBSITE: fb.com
SOCIAL: @ao26veganfoodproject
The crew from locally based online sustainable shop, Klow, took us to dinner at Ao 26 - the vegan food project, which has a fresh and creative menu of vegan food sure to please the pallet.

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MANTEIGARIA 
Vegetarian
ADDRESS: Rua do Loreto 2
WEBSITE: manteigarialisboa.com
SOCIAL: @manteigarialisboa
While this isn't a shop that is specifically eco-friendly, it is, in my extremely humble opinion, the best place in Lisbon for Pastel De Nata, which, if you're there for the cultural experience should be tried at least once. Though the originator is the charming and tourist tackled Pastels de Belem (located next to the 16th century Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon's Belém, where these tasty treats were born), at this Mateigaria location you get the delicate puff pastry with its creamy cream filling, direct to your mouth from the oven ... a comforting companion on a rare rainy day in the city.

SHOP

A OUTRA FACE DA LUA
Vintage Shop
ADDRESS: Rua da Assunção 22
WEB: aoutrafacedalua.com
SOCIAL: @aoutrafacedalua
Awesome ethical fashion boutique with green beauty bits as well. It's located in a stunning building and has an aesthetic collection of European sustainable brands.

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WORKSHOP POP UP
Local Artisan Creations
With an ever-changing curated collection of products by local makers and a kitchen studio to take part in cooking classes, each visit to this shop offers something new. They have a mix of products ranging from food to fashion to homeware.

ICON
Vintage / 2Hand
ADDRESS: Rua Nova da Trindade 6B
WEB: iconshop.pt
SOCIAL: @icon_shop.pt
A collection of beautifully curated products created by Portuguese artists, each epically and aesthetically created to offer a sweet selection of sustainable souvenirs made by locals themselves.

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FEIRA DA LANDRA
Flea Market
ADDRESS: Campo de Santa Clara
WEB: cm-lisboa.pt
Every Tuesday and Saturday Lisbon's famous market, Feira da Landra, rolls out offering an awesome selection of antiques, secondhand and vintage clothing, handicrafts, and other lovely knick-knacks. You'll also find André Saraivas wall art featuring 50.000+ tiles in colourful arrays and designs.

A VIDA PORTUGUESA
Traditional Portugese Products
ADDRESS: Rua Anchieta 11 
WEB: avidaportuguesa.com
SOCIAL: @avidaportuguesa
Gathering products which reflect the contexts of Portuguese culture in united identity, A Vida Portuguesa offers a curated selection of products which reflect the heart and history of this stunning country.

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ÁS DE ESPADAS
Vintage Shop
ADDRESS: Calçada do Carmo 42
WEB: fb.com
SOCIAL: @as.de.espadas
Cool collection of Vintage clothing curated with quality, arguably one of the best vintage shops in the city.

LX FACTORY
Conscious Creative Community
Situated in Alcântara, LX Factory If you only had a day in Lisbon, this spot will happily fill any adventures you might wish to have with a collection of conscious locally owned establishments like t
Fav Spots To Eat / Drink: Cantina, Café na Fábrica, The TherapistRio Maravilha, Landeau  
Fav Spots To Shop: Ler Devagar (beautiful and unique bookshop) Organii,  the outdoor flea market (Sundays only).
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