Our Story: Cycling 10000km Across Europe to Save Our Planet

no picture UNFCCC - CNN youth ambassadors
Inka & Fabian
Member since November 10, 2017
  • 1 Post

Hello! We are Inka and Fabian, two 19 year olds cycling across Europe to promote low carbon travel and to raise awareness about climate change!


Neither of us would say it was a single inspirational moment that pushed us to initiate Europe on Four Wheels, a 10000km cycling trip across Europe to promote low carbon travel and raise awareness to climate change. Our initiative is more a build up of ideas and enthusiasm.


It was only about a year and a half ago, the beginning of our last year of high school, we started thinking about travelling across Europe after graduation. It was probably not the best time to start thinking about an exciting adventure overseas when we should have been focusing more on our final exams (however, it all turned out fine as we passed our last year exams with flying colours!). In addition, planning to go overseas for 9 months while at school, meant we couldn’t work full-time, so we had to work during much of our free time to earn enough money to pay for our trip. We spent weekends and holidays throughout the school year working with our minimum rate income. When we finished school in November, we finally were able to to start working full-time, almost everyday of the week. By the end of the month we managed to successfully purchase everything we needed for our trip, as well as having everyday spending money for the 9 months - all by ourselves!


Before we left for our exciting journey, we realised the effect that our flight to Europe would have on the environment, so Inka sent a message to UNFCCC (the United Nations institution that supports climate change negotiations). She asked for the different ways we could offset the carbon emissions from our flight. They pointed us towards the UNFCCC initiative Climate Neutral Now, which asks organizations and people to pledge to be climate neutral in three steps: 1) measure your greenhouse gas emissions, 2) reduce your greenhouse gas emissions as much as you can and 2) offset remaining emissions with UN certified emission reductions. So by using the calculator provided by Climate Neutral Now, we measured our travel emissions and what we deduced was, cycling Europe was better for the environment than using normal means like planes, cars, busses and trains. We then offset the ~5 tonnes of carbon dioxide that we would be using by flying to Europe by donating money to a wastewater treatment plant in Thailand through Climate Neutral Now.


We were so enthusiastic about being carbon neutral that UNFCCC decided to make us UN climate ambassadors for the Climate Neutral Now initiative. Being climate ambassadors means that during our 9 month trip, we use any media attention we get through our social media pages and other sources to promote cycling as a feasible transport option. We promote cycling as a good idea for everyday uses, but also for long distance travel. Additionally, along the way we speak to youth in schools and universities, as well as government officials and companies about what they and their companies are doing against climate change.


We so far have met a lot of interesting people throughout our trip, both through planned meetings with UNFCCC contacts and people that saw us on social media and were interested in what we were doing. Some of the most notable figures we met with were Iberdrola, the head of the Climate Change Department for the Spanish Government, and the assistant Mayor of Paris. One of our fondest memories and interactions were with Gonzalo, the head of Climate Change at Iberdrola. He called us spontaneously after finding out about us, and that we were coming to Madrid. He then proceeded to offer that we stayed with him for 1 week while we were visiting the city. The genuine friendship we took from this and his family, is something we will remember forever. We wrote about all our interactions and meetings on our blog (in detail).


During our trip we encounter many questions. The most popular one is “Yes this is all good and well that you are travelling, but how much did it cost? My parents would never pay for my trip.” They seemed quite keen on doing similar trips in the future, so we just gave them the simple suggestion of becoming independent before society expected them to be (i.e. when they came of age at 18 and/or went to university or onto a proper full time job). We also suggested they work and save up while they were still living at home, as we believe this is actually the best time to do so. Additionally, as an incentive for other people to follow in our footsteps (or should we say bicycle tracks?) and also travel by bicycle, we told them how much our trip cost us. We also shared with them some details of our trip from Portugal to Germany via Netherlands and Greece (check them out below, there are also maps on our blog, showing our route through Europe on the home page.) How it affected our relationship was another very popular question. Our experiences with this trip, and as being climate ambassadors has only been positive. We have learnt so much from everyone we have met, about the world, ourselves and eachother. We have become closer as a couple and as friends, and can say only good things about our adventure together.


For those who want to do something, be it making an impact or speaking up for something they believe in, but they feel they cannot because they think they do not have the ‘abilities’, then they should just look at us. We were not special, we weren’t given special treatment, we raised all the money by ourselves, we were and are still very normal, average people. However, we feel the difference between us and other people not taking action, is that we believed in ourselves, we believed enough in what we are fighting for that we made do with what we had. We acknowledge that we are lucky to have the emotional support of family and friends that not everyone can have, but we believe this is not particularly necessary. As long as you believe enough in yourself and your passion, then you don’t need anything besides a voice. You do not need to start big like us either, you do not have to cycle 10000kms across Europe to prove that you care about the environment, you can start at home, school or your community.


It is our aim to show the world that climate neutral travel is possible and fun. We are achieving that and in the process, we have cycled nearly 10000kms across Europe! Along the way, we saw and heard over and over again, in every country, how eager people, young and old, are to act on climate change. Most people would immediately go climate neutral if they could – and all the young people we spoke to also want to make a contribution towards this. We feel that it is important to support this momentum and we want to appeal to the world to keep this momentum going! Being climate neutral now need not be a distant dream – together we can make it a reality! Please join us in going climate neutral now!


STATS


Distance cycled: 9600 kms (and still counting, we are hoping to get to 10000).

Time passed:

210 days - 6 months 26 days

580.45 hours on the bike

Countries visited (in order, but not mentioned is that some were visited more than once): 19

Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia

Accommodation:

Paid - 8 Hostels, 2 Campgrounds

Hosts - 31 Warmshowers, 6 Couchsurfing

Spending on tour:

On tour: an average of €8 p/person p/day.

This was the price for every day, so it included food, accommodation and everything we spent over the 7 months. Keeping in mind that we spent money on things that we didn’t really need (gear, gifts or clothing) INCLUDED into that price, so one can see just how affordable it is.







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