Slow Travel Diaries

Reflections on the journey home

resilience policy travel Teresa Periera

Caring for the Earth Through Slow Travel: Part 2

Teresa Pereira

This is part 2 of Teresa's summer travel diary 2022 - part 1 is here

The Heatwave Chases Me Home

Hoping for a smoother journey back, I disembarked from another lovely ocean crossing in Plymouth to discover that the English heatwave had arrived. I managed to catch a train as far as Bristol, where all trains ground to a halt once again. Hotel rooms were fully booked as a wave of stranded travellers descended upon Bristol

for the night. I scrambled to book an apartment, which ended up costing more than a 4-star hotel. The only available studio apartment, found on, was on the outskirts of Bristol.

Apartment Horror Show

To my horror, upon arrival at the apartment, I found it hadn't been cleaned. My attempts to contact the owner on proved futile, and I received no partial or full refund (always read the small print, the owner had a no-refunds policy). There was no air conditioning or climate-proofing alternatives, in the oppressive heat I had a restless sleep.

This experience soured even more my view of platforms like Airbnb and These services, in my experience, are impersonal and overrated, sometimes failing to deliver on quality control and decent customer service, it turns out convenience of booking can be rather inconvenient when you need a personalised service! Not to mention the negative impact these players have on localities, as folk go for the 'gold rush' of short time rentals income making housing unavailable and overinflated for locals. In the future, I'll opt for the usual go-to for bookings: well-rated hotels and B&Bs via their own websites.

Reflections and Resolutions

Upon finally returning home to Manchester, I felt the need for yet another holiday to recover from the journey itself. Slow travel, in extreme heat and unpredictable conditions, proved to be a demanding and stressful endeavour. In short, I remain committed to environmentally responsible travel, but not at the cost of heat waves, exorbitant travel expenses, subpar transport networks, and indifferent customer service.

So, will I embark on this slow journey again? Yes, not necessarily on this itinerary and modes of transport though, and certainly not during the scorching summer season. From now on, my travels to central and southern Europe will be reserved for autumn, winter, and spring.

The Electric Vehicle Conundrum

Even with an electric vehicle, traveling in such extreme heat would be a gamble, it can fry the battery capacity fairly quickly. Night trains offer a glimmer of hope, and some countries reintroduced them after the pandemic. Unfortunately, Spain and Portugal remain empty of tangible plans to resurrect the night train between Madrid and Lisbon. Renfe chose to axe the route at the pandemic's onset, prioritising high speed daytime trains with ambitious new rail works to connect Spanish cities. In 2023, there are still no direct trains connecting Madrid and Lisbon, the available option is a convoluted, long journey spanning three trains and four cities, Madrid-Badajoz [Spain]-Entroncamento-Lisbon [Portugal].

Future Explorations

It's unlikely I will traverse this route again to reach Portugal. I might attempt it with an electric vehicle for a work-related research trip to Asturias and Galicia in Northern Spain, but beyond that, I'll choose Brittany Ferries on my way to Lisbon in the future if they introduce a direct crossing from Plymouth to Porto. If not, LeShuttle or Britanny ferries crossings to France and an electric vehicle will be my go-to for reaching Lisbon in cooler weather, offering the opportunity to visit friends in France, Italy and Spain before arriving in Portugal, this will require some kind of sabbatical or embracing the ethical nomad remote work lifestyle, unless you are willing to burn your annual holidays on a pacy European road trip.

When Time matters

In the end, if the need for speed arises, I may have to take to the skies. The current transport networks simply don't cut it for timely arrivals. If it takes at least three days to arrive by land and sea I would miss any funeral I wish to attend in Portugal where, if the cause of death is natural, the departed go to their final resting place two days max after their demise.

Unless you possess endless time and resources and can control the weather, slow travel can take its toll—both on your wallet and your sanity. It's important to prioritise self-care and consider budget constraints while aiming to be an ethical traveller.

The Unconventional Environmental Footprint

This journey has taught me valuable lessons. Expecting the unexpected is paramount, and arriving at your destination can be a wearisome experience. While there's no perfectly clean method of travel yet, every potential journey leaves its mark on the environment. Modern train infrastructure struggles to cope with erratic weather patterns, and slow travel can indeed be slow and costly. However, you'll meet an eclectic mix of people, witness breath-taking landscapes, and immerse yourself in various cultures, making the transition between regions a beautiful experience. Keep a travel diary, snap hundreds of photos, and use your newfound free time to idle to your heart's content, read books and polish your foreign languages skills. Ah, and to go native in the Iberian summer heat, don't forget the sustainable hand fans, you'll need them, you'd be surprised how many places lack air conditioning...

Lessons Learned and Paths Forward

To sum up, my first post-pandemic experiment with ethical, slow travel to visit family and friends in Portugal was worth it. I've chosen to focus on the positive memories and outcomes while learning from the challenges:

  • No more slow summer travels to central and southern Europe, cannot take the heat anymore. Everyone's favourite joke is how British I've become, you know, always going on about the weather. This is a not as funny as folk think it is, as no one in Britain will ever think of me as British, no matter how much nuanced small talk I can master about the weather!
  • Farewell to and Airbnb, apps duly deleted, hello to direct bookings with B&Bs and hotels. Or acquire a live in electric van and enjoy the great outdoors in any European location? How many solar panels can a van carry to power itself?
  • Seeking out routes with revived night train networks, while also exploring electric vehicle options for Southern European travel in particular. This may well pose new challenges, is the electricity produced from renewable sources, and if I choose to use only green energy to power the vehicle, how many extra days of travel is that going to cost me? Will I ever reach my destination?
The Environmental Equation

Next, we'll delve into the true environmental footprint of flying versus traveling by land and sea on this route. Brace yourself; it's not as straightforward as one might think! This article may take a while to land, I'm overwhelmed by the maths, and the companies are not being forthcoming with details of the type and quantities of fuel they use on certain ferry crossings. If you are a maths wizard and would like to help solve this puzzle please get in touch.

Memory board fro slow travel

Slow travel to Portugal

route Manchester-Plymouth-Santander-Palencia-Vigo [instead a replacement coach on a different route via Oviedo to Vigo]-Porto-Lisbon

An alternative itinerary by train

Manchester-London-Dover-Channel Tunnel-via Calais-to Paris [overnight stay]- Barcelona [overnight stay]-Madrid [overnight stay]-Badajoz-Entroncamento-Lisbon

Design framework

For journey design and planning, I used CEAP: Collect information, Evaluate information, Analyse/Apply permaculture principles, Plan a schedule of implementation.

Here and There Permaculture Motoring