Invited to be an external examiner in Lancaster, Elina, who is reluctant to travel by aeroplane, embarked on an adventure to get there by train.
This is the first of two blog posts about my (Elina’s) trip to Lancaster in February 2020. This first blog post will mostly be a recount of the trip, but the next blog post will be a reflection on how academic travel might change when we fly less, and some lessons learned from doing this trip.
The background for this trip is that I was invited to be the external examiner at Kelly Widdicks’ Viva Voce. Since I have become more and more reluctant to travel by air plane, I decided to go there by train, but that entailed also doing some research in Lancaster since I then could pay for the (probably considerably more expensive) trip through a research project. Travelling by train means longer travel time, and I then wanted to stay for a few days longer than just for the viva.
Below is my planned itinerary:
Departure on Friday, January 31st:
Stockholm (08:21) – Copenhagen (13:13)
Copenhagen (15:26) – Hamburg (20:20)
Hotel night booked close by the train station
Hamburg (05:46) – Köln (09:49)
Köln (10:32) – Bruxelles Midi (13:35)
Bruxelles Midi Eurostar (14:52) – London St. Pancras (16:05)
London Euston (16:30) – Lancaster (18:55) (booked by myself)
Return departure on Friday, February 7th:
Lancaster (08:38) – London Euston (11:10) (booked by myself)
London St. Pancras (12:58) – Bruxelles Midi Eurostar (16:08)
Bruxelles Midi (16:22) – Köln (18:15)
Köln (19:09) – Hamburg (23:16)
Hotel night booked close by the train station
Hamburg (08:53) – Copenhagen (13:33)
Copenhagen (14:10) – Stockholm (19:38)
The train journey, despite spanning four days, went for the most part smoothly and I had quite some productive hours on the train, as well as a few really interesting conversations with fellow travellers. The largest mishap happened when I arrived in Brussels, and my 14:52 Eurostar train to London was cancelled. I (and all other passengers) were rebooked to the 17:00 train to London, which meant a 2-hour wait, as well as two long and complicated phone conversations with the train line to book a new ticket to Lancaster. This ticket became considerably more expensive, and the train did not go the whole way, so I had a replacement bus ride in northern England to enjoy. But, I still arrived the same day as intended. Just much later.
The trip (except for the UK trains) was booked through our travel agency Egencia, and it was a 5 day interrail pass and seat bookings. This meant I had to remember to fill in the interrail travel plan throughout the trip, but it also meant that I felt less stressed about any potential delays. I could have potentially been able to take a later train. Having a stopover in Hamburg also gave some leeway for delays.
The travel days were long, so even though I might have napped a few times, I could still spend some quality hours working. The Wifi onboard the trains worked better than expected, except for the Eurostar. And, the train between Köln and Hamburg did not have wifi (it was not an ICE (InterCity Express) but a EC (EuroCity)). On the way back through Sweden, the electric sockets in my carriage stopped working halfway through the trip, but at that time I was so tired I just packed away my computer.
I arrived late Saturday evening, and just went directly to bed. The Sunday was spent mostly exploring, first by a sightseeing jog in the morning, then a guided tour through the castle in Lancaster, and lastly a long ramble through the town. In the evening I was invited to dinner by Mike and Simone (Mike being Kelly’s supervisor).
Monday 3rd of February, the viva was planned for early afternoon, I went to the campus by bus mid-morning and then spent some time with Mike, and then the internal examiner Gordon Blair. 14-16 Kelly did splendidly in the viva, and afterwards, there was home-baked cake! in her office. The evening was spent in celebration, with a dinner with Kelly and colleagues and a few beers.
Tuesday, after working for an hour in my bed with a great view, I went to the campus to give a presentation on how to integrate sustainability in computing education. Despite this being planned quite late, I was happy to have a fairly large audience. I managed to squeeze in some work as well, borrowing a desk in Kelly’s office. There was also some socialising over lunch, as well as a high tea with Adrian Friday (which basically was a long and cordial chat over tea, drawing up plans for future collaborations). Tuesday evening was spent rambling through Lancaster again, and then a few hours work from bed.
On Wednesday I took the opportunity to walk towards the campus along the canal that ran through Lancaster. It was almost painfully beautiful, but halfway there the walking path took me up to the well-trafficked road, so then I took the bus the rest of the way. On Wednesday, two workshops were planned, one at the school of Computing and Communication and one at the Lancaster Environmental Centre (LEC). The workshops covered academic flying (and will inform our FLIGHT project), and I am really happy these were able to be planned and executed. A warm thanks to Mike who organised and made sure people showed up! In the evening I hung out with Oliver Bates and a friend, a real English pub experience.
These poker markers were not used in the pub but were rather material in the flight workshops. The picture shows one division at KTH, with 30 employees, and their flights. Green = Nordic flights, Red = European flights, Black = Intercontinental flights
Lastly, on Thursday, I made a trip to Edinburgh (it was only 2 hours away by train!), to visit Callum Egan and the Lion’s gate permaculture garden at Edinburgh Napier University. It was a very inspiring visit, including maybe the best vegetarian sandwich I’ve eaten. In the afternoon I had a meeting with Siôn Pickering at the department of Social Responsibility and Sustainability to discuss ways to work with carbon emissions from academic flying. Siôn and colleagues have a publicly available reporting tool covering their carbon emissions from travel, which I found really inspiring. I also presented our research project and promised to get back when we had more results.
Friday, I started my journey back to Sweden, with a slightly sore heart. I really enjoyed my stay, and could easily have stayed longer if I had had the opportunity. But, there are some new collaborations brewing from this visit. I hope I will see many of the people I met at the ICT4S conference in Bristol in June.