Another World Adventures

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A Climate-Positive World Tour

Original post: Another World Adventures

31/01/2024
11mins read
Featured

Epic journeys are at the heart of everything we do at Another World Adventures. Afterall, our company was founded following a life-changing slow travel voyage from Europe to Brazil. 

We love keeping our eye out for inspiring folk on their own incredible journeys, especially when they’re mission-driven or going the extra mile to be sustainable in their travels.

Today we’re sharing an interview with Thomas Polo and Megan Routbort, a French-American duo on a climate-positive world tour mission called The Green Journey to tell stories of optimism about the people working to find solutions against climate change.

The Green Journey will follow the 3 principles of a climate-positive travel – Reduce environmental impact, Respect communities and cultures and Restore by leaving the world a better place than you found it. They are underway on a first-of-its kind voyage to see the world through low carbon, slow travel – using forms of transportation that are human-powered (e.g., biking, walking), nature-powered (e.g., sailing), or shared with others (e.g., rideshare, train). And they’re measuring their journey through a dual lens of environmental and social impact – not necessarily countries visited or miles traveled.

Read on to find out more!

What inspired you to take off on this big journey? 

Megan: Travel is an incredible tool for change. It has the power to connect people from different backgrounds and opens the mind to new perspectives. But at the same time, given the climate imperative of our century, our relationship to travel needs to change. We have to learn to move more slowly through the world and appreciate adventures that are ‘off the beaten path’ versus jet setting.

Polo: I’ve always been excited by the possibility of slow travel. As a teenager, I dreamed of walking from France to Italy. But as I went through school and learned more about the world, I realized just traveling in Europe wouldn’t be enough — I wanted to see the whole world, but I wanted to do it in a way that would inspire others.

The idea behind the Green Journey is to travel the world to meet and share stories of climate solutions. As a global community, we have everything that we need to confront the climate and nature crisis, and build a better future. Our idea is to use flight-free travel as a way to put solutions around the world in conversation with each other.

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Can you share some of the highlights so far of the journey, and the people you’ve met along the way? 

Megan: One of the unexpected highlights of sailing has been the connections made in the atmosphere of the ‘flotilla’. The cool thing about crossing The Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the Americas is there’s a season for it — so you have several groups of people, from all walks of life, doing it at once. We’ve sailed alongside Croatians, French, a crew all the way from the Seychelles. It’s amazing to cross during high season, especially if you’re traveling alongside the ARC, because you’ll meet incredible groups of sailors with incredible stories along the way! Plus, you’ll have even deeper bonding with your own boat crew.

We’re on separate boats for the crossing, with a girl’s crew and a guy’s crew, so for me in particular it’s been an incredible moment of female empowerment to travel more than 4,000 nautical miles with an all-women crew.  Girls rule!

Polo: I have two highlights to share, one from land and one from sea. I’ll start with the one from land.

My land highlight was hitchhiking through Finland. We were absolutely floored by the generosity and friendliness of the Finnish people. We never waited more than ten minutes for a ride, and we enjoyed the fact that there was endless sunlight!

On sea, my highlight has definitely been traveling alongside whales and dolphins. It was a ‘bucket list’ item to see them once on the crossing, and we’ve been more than lucky, seeing them several times a week. They seem to like the girl’s boat more than the guy’s boat though….

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Which climate hotspots have had the most impact on you so far, and why? 

Polo: A very special moment was when we biked to the Vjosa Wild River National Park in August. For a bit of context, the Vjosa is the last wild river in continental Europe (meaning it’s never been dammed). It flows 270km+ from Greece to Albania, emptying in the Adriatic Sea. It’s an incredibly important example of nature protection in Europe. I never thought it was possible to see a river that was so pristine and untouched on the continent.

The Vjosa also embodies an environmental justice issue; the original plan to dam the river for a hydropower plant sounds like a good thing on paper, right? But to do so would have drowned eight villages, stealing the ancestral lands of more than a thousand residents, and displacing them permanently. After visiting the Vjosa River, I walked away with a new recognition of the importance of a just energy transition, where the rights of people and the need for a push towards sustainability are weighed equally.

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What solutions have you come across on your journey that you’re most excited about? 

Megan: In Copenhagen, we climbed to the top of the Middelgrunden Wind Farm to learn about the benefits of community-led renewable energy. We met with one of the original founders, 65 meters in the air, looking down at the city being powered by clean energy from the wind. The story is particularly inspiring because it was normal citizens, just like you and me, who got together to fund the development of this farm — and they made a profit from it as well!

In the current energy ecosystem, we’re seeing record-breaking buildouts of renewable energy infrastructure, but much of this is still controlled by large utilities, developers, and even big oil & gas companies! Moving forward, I’d like to see countries, states and cities deploying more community energy solutions, like you see at Middelgrunden. It’s important that everyday people are able to benefit from the transition towards sustainability.

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What are you hoping to achieve with your travels and storytelling on climate awareness? 

Megan: The world needs to move past the era of debating whether the climate and nature crises are actually happening, and towards the era of what are we going to do about it? Too many climate stories today are about ‘talk’, whether they’re focused on undelivered government promises or doomsday news about wildfires and floods that paralyze with fear.

The goal of the Green Journey is to use travel & storytelling as a way to help move a greater community of adventurers, leaders, readers, scientists, creatives out of the era of ‘talk’ and into the era of action. Travel is a force for good. As a source for dreams and dialogues, and thus a creator of values and norms, travel has a unique role to play in this century full of challenges. We’re living in a world where most of us are hyper-connected connected via the Internet, and a lot of what we’re being sold on the internet is stories of exotic vacation and jet-setting. What if you could have a life-changing trip that’s better for the planet and help solutions-makers along the way? That’s what we’re trying to achieve here: showing it’s possible.

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What’s been the most fun about a flight-free adventure? 

Polo: For me, it’s the crazy encounters and experiences that you just wouldn’t have if you flew from place to place. For example, when we were biking from Venice to Athens this summer, we ended up passing through Greece during one of the 12 Great Feasts, which are big national holidays. After a long day on the road, we were headed to our lodging for the night, and we passed a big family celebrating. They were so surprised to see cyclists in their village that day, that they invited us to join their huge party! All of a sudden we were handed several types of cakes, beers, and other treats. There was a pretty big language barrier, but we were able to communicate our journey. The men even taught us some traditional Greek dancing!

If you’re on a plane, you miss all of the serendipity that can happen when you travel by bike, boat or foot. And serendipity is what we live for.

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What’s been the hardest? 

Megan: Definitely the homesickness! This is my first time being outside of the U.S. for such an extended period of time, so I’m feeling the absence of family and friends pretty acutely after six months on the road. Luckily, we’re sailing back into my time zone, so each nautical mile is bringing us closer and closer to home! I’m looking forward to some incredible adventures in North & South America in 2024, and I’m hopeful that loved ones will be able to join me on the road!

Polo: Another type of sickness – SEA sickness! Unfortunately, I was hit by it pretty much at the beginning. We set sail from the Bay of Kotor, which is this absolutely iconic scenery in Montenegro. In the bay, the waters were very calm, and I had a feeling of incredible excitement, setting off on the voyage of a lifetime — crossing the Med and Atlantic.

Then we hit the open water, and the minute the boat started to rock with the waves, my stomach started to lurch. I spent my first night on board sleeping outside, because it was too unsteady for me to go below deck. The first days were really tough — luckily, I’ve found my sea legs now.

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You were new to sailing when you joined a vessel in the Med and now you’re able to cross the Atlantic — tell us about it.

Megan: They say one of the best ways to learn is by doing!  With this trip, we jumped off the deep end, but we had a learning mindset from the minute we hopped on board. We probably bothered the captains with how many questions we were asking, but we’ve been able to pick up lots of new skills and sailing knowledge, and we became used to living on a boat. We had many short sails of 4-5 days in the Med on the way, which gave us a way to see new islands and get used to sailing without jumping into 25+ days at sea right away.

Polo: We had an old sailor tell us that crossing the Mediterranean Sea is more difficult than crossing the Atlantic Ocean using the seasonal trade winds, and so far I have to agree. In the Med, we faced obstacles like 40-knot winds, dense fog, and squalls of icy rain. When we turned South from the Gibraltar Strait, things improved almost immediately. Now that we’ve made it to Cabo Verde, we’re enjoying warm, sunny weather and a nice steady downwind blow!

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What do you most enjoy about slow travel? 

Megan: I think one thing that’s underrated about slow travel is the way it puts us in contact with local communities in a unique way. For example: when we biked to the Vjosa River, we made quite a stir in the village we visited because they’d never had cyclists visit before (trust me, I know why — the climb to get there was one of the hardest parts of our bike trip!) The villagers were so excited, and actually touched, that we had used the power of our legs to reach their village. When you see the world by bike or by sailboat or by foot, you’re going to have these incredible conversations with people that you just won’t have in an airport, where people are all rushing off to their next business trip and can’t meet their seat mates in the eye.

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Other, of course, then checking out Another World Adventures for trip inspo, do you have any tips for someone wanting to plan their own similar experience? 

Megan: If you have even the inkling of a desire to set off on an adventure, you need to go for it! I had a lot of moments during the planning stages where I said to myself, I’m not ready for this, I’m not brave enough for this, I’m not the right person for this. But the truth about adventure is you might never feel ready for it; you just need to jump into it, plunge into the new experience, and I guarantee you’ll come out the other side a better version of yourself.

Polo: The world is a big place; get out there and explore it, and do some good along the way!

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What are you most looking forward to about reaching the Americas? 

Megan: Meeting a new cohort of climate and nature warriors who are working every day to create a more sustainable and just future — and sharing their stories with our readers!

Polo: What Megan said, plus getting my legs moving again and going on crazy hikes! Two months at sea is a long time…

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Find out more about Megan and Polo’s Green Journey here!

And get in touch with Larissa at Another World Adventures if you’re interested in travel planning advice or support for your own great adventure!

Another World Adventures logo Larissa-Clark-sailing-across-the-Atlantic-Ocean

Hi I’m Larissa, Founder of Another World Adventures. Welcome! If you’re planning an adventure you’re in the right place. Get ready to discover epic travel inspo and a collection of hand-picked trips from my trusted network of experienced adventure experts. Think unusual destinations, expeditions, slow, solo and sustainable travel and epic journeys on land and at sea! Ever got a question? Just get in touch, I answer every enquiry myself. Enjoy!

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