In the previous two posts, we discussed the alternate ways of traveling the world without flying such as going by land and also by taking the slower road traveled by walking or cycling. In the final post in this three part series, we are going to explore how you can travel the world sustainably without flying by using the ocean!
Let’s face it, traveling overland is great, until you want to switch continents and suddenly you are met with what seems like a never ending body of water. Your only option instead of flying is to take to the high seas, a slower but more sustainable way of traveling.
Our oceans take up 71% of the Earth’s surface and it is the way people traversed our world for centuries. It is also home to incredible marine life such as whales, seals, sea lions and dolphins. You might even have the opportunity to spot some on your travels.
For those looking to travel between continents, sailing is an ideal way of saving carbon emissions. Below are the top ways that you can travel by sea as a way of saving on air travel and traveling sustainably:
1) Crew on a yacht
Ever wanted to know what port, starboard and main sail mean? Think you have a strong stomach and can survive on little sleep? Then crewing on a yacht might be for you. There are tonnes of positions on yachts and boats that sail around the world or just in a specific area.
Websites like findacrew.net are a great way to find matches to boats looking for crew — from seasoned sailors to novices with little experience. Some positions are paid whilst others cover your food and board only. Either way it is a great way to travel, learn new skills, and gain some sea legs.
2) Help transport a boat
Want to cross the Atlantic Ocean but don’t want to fly? Want to get paid to do so? Well, then maybe helping to transport a boat is for you. Some owners pay people to move their boats from one port to another; most often from one continent to another. This option is for those who are comfortable in rough seas and not scared of big waves as it often means crossing large oceans.
These positions are often paid for. And it’s a great way to make some cash and swap continents. Boats are commonly sailing from South Africa or North America. Positions are often posted online or you can hang around at the ports waiting for new boats to come in.
3) Travel by cargo ship
This option is great for those wanting to cover large distances and have a unique experience. Traveling by cargo ship is slow, but depending on what kind of route the ship is going on, you might stop in multiple locations. This allows you to get off the ship and explore, just make sure you look into the visas you might need ahead of time!
Most cargo ships allow paying guests to eat with the crew in the galley and you will be able to hear some interesting stories or practice your language skills with the crew.
A word of warning though: this is not always a cheaper option. In fact, sometimes it can end up being much more expensive than the price of a plane ticket. You also need to plan in advance as cargo ships only have limited berths available for guests and some fill up as far as a year in advance. That being said, the unique experience that you will have traveling on a cargo ship will be one you will remember for life.
4) Volunteer/Hitch a ride on a boat
Travel is often unplanned and things can change at the last minute, so if you want to travel by sea, then this option could be for you. Many boats are looking for extra crew at the last minute.
To find something, hang around ports and start chatting with the sailors to see if anyone is short a person or has a spare bunk. Have a look at notice boards around the town to see if anyone has advertised available positions. Or consider posting your own note. If you get to chatting with the captain, then you might even be able to ask if you can hitch a ride to the next port with them. Not only will you get to travel for free, or on the cheap, but you might also pick up some new skills.
5) Sail your own boat
Always wanted to jump on board a boat and sail off into the sunset with a bottle of rum? If you want the ultimate adventure, then sailing on your own boat could be the perfect option. Buying a boat can be expensive, but it will be your accommodation and allow you to access islands and hidden coastal places that you might not be able to access by land.
If you don’t know how to sail, then it is essential that you take lessons beforehand!
As this will be your boat, you can also make sure it is as sustainable as possible by taking advantage of solar energy and using bio fuel. Sailing your own boat also gives you complete freedom to go where you want, when you want, by simply picking up the anchor and leaving port.
Sailing the high seas isn’t for everyone. But if you can over come the seasickness, then it’s a great eco option to consider next time you travel.
*This piece originally appeared on the Travel Go Girl Magazine website as part of a column called Eco Backpacker that I write. You can read the original piece here*