Is flying the only way to go?

Is flying the only way to travel in the twenty-first century if you are thinking of going to another continent? I have a hundred reasons to tell you why this isn’t so and why I’m never going to get on that damn plane. Not least to prove the therapy gang wrong. Let's not forget - air travel is the fastest-growing contributor to global warming and each time you fly, you are further damaging our environment. There are alternatives to flying that will allow you to cut your CO2 emissions at least by half.

Rail travel has always been my favourite alternative to flying. Travelling between East Asia and Britain by rail is the most rewarding travel experience I’ve ever had.

Since 1997, I have chosen rail travel across continents as the primary means – assisted by bus and sea travel – to visit families. I have spent three months each time on these journeys, from the West to the East and then back again. Over the years, I have spent days and nights on the 8,000-kilometer Siberian railways through Siberia, Manchuria and Mongolia, as well as the 1,680-kilometer Turkestan-Siberian railway across part of the ancient Silk Road.

On my way home each time, I discovered the ever-lasting importance of rail travel in our modern time. I met and befriended co-travelers who have made railway their means of migrating for work and returning to reunite with families. There is the Mongolian student-trader who made ends meet by selling scarves on the Siberian station platforms, the Kyrgyz man on his way to visit his long lost brother in Russia, the Chinese builder crossing the Gobi to return home after a year’s hard work in Mongolia, and many others like them, who need to keep on the rails to make a living and pursue their dreams. Their life is tied up with the railway. My own dependence on the rail has connected me up with the modern travelers – the rural migrants, the cross-border small traders and the railway workers. Their life on the rail has opened my eyes to a world of constant departure and the universal desire for betterment.

Keeping On the Rail shows you how rail travel from Britain to East Asia can be done and what you will gain from the experience.

Photo: wheel-changing at the Poland-Belarus border.

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