Evelina Utterdahl travels more than most. She writes travel columns. She loves travel as much as anyone, maybe more.
If you've had trouble aligning your life with your values, you may learn from her. Part of a growing number of people who think before they fly, she chooses not to fly not out of ignorance or guilt but
- Desire to learn and grow
- Stewardship of her environment and community
in other words, the important skills of leadership, teamwork, and business success.
She's practicing in living by her values what many wish we could do but don't have the courage to.
"Wait," you might say. "Isn't she missing out on the best parts of life? What about family and making a living? I have work. She must not. Probably a trust fund kid."
On the contrary. She has the same obligations as anyone else. As you'll see, she has learned to get the value and experience of travel without the environmental costs.
When I learned that flying New York to Los Angeles round trip put me nearly over the recommend limit for CO2, not to mention other pollutants or what I did for the rest of my year, I chose to challenge myself not to fly for a year, as I wrote in What a Year Without Flying Taught Me About Responsibility, Empathy, and Community.
Here are CO2 emissions for NYC-LAX round trip, economy, relative to IPCC recommendations for individuals, according to myclimate.org. Business class nearly doubles the emissions.
What began as a challenge turned into an experiential education in how to create more fun, community, and so on without polluting so much, as humans have done for hundreds of thousands of years still finding ways to be happy.
When I started, I expected day 366 would be when I would fly again. Instead, I found I loved the growth I got instead. Now in year 3, having learned to sail to travel beyond North America, I love the greater freedom I've found.
Most people argue that flying is impossible to avoid.
Finding Evelina was a breath of fresh air. We could share the freedom, fun, joy, and other emotional reward we'd learned to create.
Evelina in her words
We had a full conversation on the Leadership and the Environment podcast. Here is Evelina in her words.
Everyone I talk to about flying says it's impossible to avoid, and anyway they want to see the world. What made you think differently?
To me it wasn't a question about it being possible or not--I realized just how bad flying was for the environment and decided not to be part of the destruction of our climate.
I quickly figured out it's actually easy to travel without flying, when you have the time. People have traveled around the world long before airplanes or even cars.
Is there anything special about you, like are you rich and don't have to work or do you have a fear of flying?
I work as a freelancer, so as long as I have electricity and WiFi every once in a while I can earn enough money to get by.
What did you expect of the experience and what did you get?
I thought it would make me very tired and that my body would be aching a lot more than it has. I feel like my body is more in tuned now that I don't switch time zones as fast and often as before.
Also, train seats are bigger and more comfortable than plane seats
Besides us, are more people doing such things? Is the community growing?
Yes! At least in Sweden. I'm part of a Facebook group for Swedish people who have chosen to "stay on the ground" for the sake of the climate. A few politicians has chosen not to fly domestic anymore.
People have told me I have inspired them to take buses or trains instead of flights.
Many Inc. readers like entrepreneurship and leadership. Have you found this experience entrepreneurial? Has it developed your leadership skills?
Since taking a stand against flying airplanes, I have gotten a lot of media attention and many people asking me for advice. People tell me that I have inspired them to take a stand. That means I have a responsibility in how I present this more than if it would be something private that only I know.
I am therefore trying to make it as accessible and seem as easy as it is so that people won't be scared off. Instead I see them starting to consider making a change, no matter how big or small.
So yes, I see this action is developing my leadership skills.
What surprised you most?
How it made me appreciate traveling more and how much stress that went away from my life.
Slowing down my way of life has made it easier for me to enjoy the present. Instead of always thinking or planning other trips in the future, I look at each day as it comes, in the place that I am at the moment.
I was also surprised at how much attention this has gotten. People are starting to open up to the view that we need to make big changes in order to save the environment.
If you love an experience most people can't imagine, what are they missing that you've found?
That it's not about giving up on travel--it's about traveling in a different way.
And to go back to our roots, where exploring is an experience of its own.
That the journey is about a mindset more than a physical appearance in a location far away from your home.
That it's the journey more than the destination. How can people learn more about you?