How to Use Your Travel Grant to Save the Planet

May 23, 2017

CEU has a relatively generous grant policy, enabling students to further their thesis research by conducting short-term research trips to institutions outside of Hungary. Trying to reduce my carbon footprint in recent years, I have strived to use ground transport rather than fly whenever it’s possible to reach my destination in under 24 hours.

I started with long overnight bus rides because of my limited budget, but I am recently trying to travel more and more by train. The reasons are simple. I want train transport to stay in Europe and I want it to be affordable. Thus, taking a train for me is about something more than going on a nice trip. It is about making a small contribution towards a society which is more sustainable and which enables mobility for everyone. If you are planning a research stay at another European institution, here are a few reasons why you may prefer train or bus transport too.

First, you will get to wherever you need to. Europe is fairly well connected and you should be able to reach most destinations within 24 hours maximum. In the past couple of years, my longest rides included: Barcelona to Prague via Aachen and Cologne using a series of buses and a train; and then Prague to Warsaw, Berlin, Venice, Milan, Lisbon, Paris, and back to Prague again with a series of trains and night trains. My personal favorite: from Sarajevo to Tbilisi via Istanbul with a series of buses. While in some countries you may struggle to find the right timetable online, websites like Rome2Rio may help you find the best and cheapest connection.

Second, you will gain time. I wrote a couple of my papers on the train. I wrote parts of my thesis on the train. And I wrote this post on the train, too. The internet connection is bad enough in most of the trains not to allow for too much of distraction. You will get things done. And on the night trains, going to bed in Prague and waking up in Munich feels you are like gaining time because you would be sleeping anyways.

Third, you will get to see places and meet people. The last thing which I like about taking trains and buses is that you really get to experience the distance. You see landscape running behind the window; you see how it changes. And you will meet people: backpackers, musicians, students, families, Ukrainian poets. Some of them you will enjoy, with others you won’t exchange a word with, but it is nonetheless the hours spent that will make the experience of traveling somehow more adventurous and more real than simply flying.

All in all, using your travel grant may probably not save the planet. But by buying a train ticket you are making a good service to the public transport in Europe and giving yourself the gift of a fun and interesting journey. 

by Zuzana Pavelkova (LEGS 17, Czech Republic)