New social network takes the flight out of travel - Metro US

New social network takes the flight out of travel

Budget airline Ryanair is considering charging passengers $1 for usage of onboard toilet facilities.

That’s once you’ve paid for checked-in luggage and been strip searched at security.

The truth is, flying’s thunder has passed. Once a glamorous and exclusive mode of transport, air travel has not only become tedious, but one of the direct causes of atmospheric pollution.

Environmentalists worldwide are increasingly pointing the finger at aircrafts and the resultant high levels of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere.

Tom McMillan and his wife Lorraine travelled from Singapore to their home in Cupar, Scotland, without boarding a single plane.

The journey lasted 85 days and required 11 boats, 14 trains, 22 buses and countless mini vans.

It also gave the couple the time to think up and eventually launch flightlesstravel.com, a social networking website helping people to travel across the globe without their head in the clouds, literally, in January 2010.

“Flightlesstravel.com is the only website focusing solely on overland and sea travel. Most of the time, travel forums lack honest information about overland travel routes. We developed a database where members state the start and end point of their journey, explaining how they got there. The focus isn’t just on where to eat, sleep or drink… but all options. From which long boat to take to which train, to which bridge to cross,” says Tom.

It took the McMillan’s nearly eight weeks to cross South East Asia relying on the poor transport network. Once in China, they picked up speed, on the Trans Mongolian railway route from Beijing to Moscow, eventually reaching Amsterdam where they boarded a boat to Newcastle.

“People are fed up with flying. With all the stringent security measures and delays, it’s lost it’s glitter. So far, people that have joined our website range from gap year students to people over fifty that like the idea of a challenge,” says Tom.

Needless to say, we are becoming increasingly aware of our individual impact on the environment.

“People must change their perspective on the whole travelling experience. Think about timing. If you have a two-week holiday and live in France, why go to Asia? Overland travel is about meeting people and soaking up cultures, which will take more than two weeks. Take a train to a destination within your reach.”

For Tom, a low emission bus is the most eco-friendly form of public transport.

“You have to consider all factors such as the country the bus was made in, emissions and seat capacity. Above everything else, the focus is on how many people you get on that transport. If the bus has 50 seats and each one is occupied, then it’s fuel-efficient. If the same bus carries 10 passengers across the same distance, it’s no longer fuel-efficient.”

The accessibility of low budget air travel has led people to overlook all other options.

“The airline industry is so well marketed that it’s the first thing that springs to mind when planning a trip,” explains Tom.

This frustration further fuelled Tom’s desire for flightlesstravel.com to become an industry benchmark.

“Once people start logging their routes and tips into the database, we’ll be able to make overland and water travel more transparent and accessible.”

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