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Travel dilemmas

To fly or not to fly? I have been working as an archaeologist at Tell Brak in northeast Syria. It’s easy to fly out – takes about five hours, costs about £300 return and produces about 3,000kg of CO 2 . Instead, this year my husband and I travelled to Syria by train. We broke for a day in Budapest – a thoroughly charming city where we stayed in the old castle district – and a day in Istanbul, poking about in the suq and exploring the Haghia Sophia. The Taurus Express to Aleppo was the most exciting of the train links. After breathtaking views of the Armanus Mountains, we chugged south to Aleppo, chatting with other passengers in the corridor as wonderful scenery crept by. In Aleppo we took another train to Hassaka, only forty km short of Tell Brak. Five nights on sleeper trains, two in hotels, a taxi ride at each end and we reached our goal seven days after setting out. Each day we passed through another country, seeing farms, cities, mountains, rivers and people. We saw the beauty of the French countryside and the struggling economy of Romania. We saw technology morph from windmills in Austria to horse-drawn carts in Bulgaria. We met and learned from an international mix of fellow travellers. We curved over the earth’s surface, on it, not above it. We felt part of the planet. Harriet Martin Warwickshire MM

I’m going to Palestine and Israel in early 2007 under QPSW’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme there, and I want to avoid flying. Until 2001 it was possible to go by train to Greece and then by ferry via Cyprus to Israel, but the ferry service has been suspended. I could go overland to Budapest, then through former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria and Jordan. Only you can’t buy tickets in advance for most of the journey, I don’t know any Turkish or Arabic and even trying to read a departure board could be very difficult. Also I’d need a second passport to go through Syria, as Syria and Israel don’t accept each other’s visa stamps in a passport. It all seems quite daunting. But there’s a glimmer of hope – I’ve just heard I might be able to go by cargo ship from Italy! Zee-Zee Heine Hampstead MM

Quaker camp – the real alternative! An empty field. A lorry arrives, and a few people unload a large pile of assorted equipment. Gradually more people aged from one to seventy-five come, a marquee is erected and tents of various sizes spring up. Some sort of order comes out of chaos. Up to seventy Friends and others work, play and worship together, nearly all outdoors, and you have a Quaker camp. Children who go on quite exotic holidays say ‘Quaker camp is the best week of the year’. So – what makes it special? People who care for each other, so children have a safe space where they can be more independent of their family, and a collective memory that builds up of events, silly games and camp-fire songs. After camp, a hot bath or shower seems like luxury, and we may think more about many things we take for granted in everyday life. Quaker camp is affordable (with bursaries if needed) by virtually anyone. So – no flying, minimal use of cars, a low environmental impact experience that can foster a sense of community among Friends of all ages. This is Quaker camp. Martin Quick, camp organiser Gloucester & Nailsworth MM

My other bike is a Brompton As a teenager I made the connection between car use and resource consumption and increasingly violent competition for minerals and oil. At seventeen I decided not to learn to drive. For the Rio Earth Summit I pledged never to own a car. I now have two bicycles, use trains for long distances and have given up flying. I currently live and work in Oxford and Birmingham, but have lived without a car in rural Wales and in Northern Ireland where public transport was poor. I found alternatives and helped to create a local car pool and a late night taxi bus and to re-open a train station. When Friends ask, ‘should I fly, or own a car?’ I want to reply ‘Friend, wear it as long as thou canst’. Having made the connection between fossil fuels and global violence, my non-car/plane use is part of the way I strive to live the peace testimony. Lizz Roe Oxford PM

the Friend , 5 January 2007