Project: in 67 hours by train from Amsterdam to Turkey

I’m traveling by train from Amsterdam to Turkey in about 67 hours to attend my sister’s wedding. Because of the climate, I don’t want to travel by plane. 

About the project

I use the train journey to reflect on the personal dilemmas regarding the climate. What do I give up on a personal level to contribute to the collective interest of fighting climate change? I document my journey and my reflections on this topic. On my train journey I stop in Vienna, Bucharest and Istanbul before arriving at my final destination in Izmir. Or Alaçati to be precise. The idea of this project is to ask other people to reflect with me on this dilemma between the personal and the collective. I take writable cards with me that I can hand out to the people I meet on my journey and I setup a website for the project as well: Amsterdamtoturkey. I will ask them the following questions:

  • Do you think I am crazy for taking the train instead of the plain?
  • Do you ever think about your impact on the climate and what you can do about it?
  • Do you ever experience these kinds of dilemmas yourself, where you have to weigh your personal needs or situation against the collective interest of the climate?

How did I came to this project?

I don’t need to tell anyone that we are in the midst of a climate crisis. In two generations we have exhausted and polluted our world at a very fast rate. We have waited too long to face the facts and now we have a problem. In the summer of 2021 I got a climate depression. It was after seeing a piece of art in combination with the publication of the IPCC report and the news of the wildfires. My sister told me at the time that she was getting married in Turkey. Of course super fun and at the same time super confusing. I’ve never felt so happy and so bad at the same time. Even though I easily got on an airplane two years ago, I had sleepless nights thinking about doing this now. It created a big dilemma: I wanted to go to the wedding, but I didn’t want to fly. When I felt a little better, I tried to find out if I could go by train. That turns out to be possible and that journey takes 67 hours. By airplane you can get there in two hours and 45 minutes. That is more than 22 times longer.

Why am I doing this?

I know that my train journey will not solve the climate problem. But for me that’s also not what this project is about. What I am interested in is the conflict between individual and collective interests. As humans, we are confronted daily with dilemmas in which we have to choose between our personal needs and the collective responsibility for a livable planet, now and in the future. I realize that I grew up in this modern world, in a rich country and like many people I was not aware of the consequences of this modern world and all the luxury. It makes it also difficult to know how to move forward. Will I stop doing all the things that I know will cause harm? And can you be happy when you constantly have to live with limitations and thoughts about how every action you do affects the planet and future generations? Perhaps by reflecting about it myself and with other people I can discover what makes it so difficult to put the collective interest above the personal interest.

Reflecting = changing

I think reflection is an important part of the change process. While I was quite pessimistic and stressed last year, I’ve already came more at peace a bit by talking to people about this topic. And although I can’t conclude anything yet, I can say that I believe (and want to believe) that every personal action brings about a change. Firstly because I just think it’s not a good idea to wait for our political leaders to do something. Secondly, because you can’t just blame the system. Nor is it right to blame people personally. These two go hand in hand. I think we can only solve our problems if we come to understand that. Do we only change our behavior when the context is changed by ‘the system’? Do we need other people to change their behavior too in order to feel we are doing this together? Or can we also make our own choices in the context we are in, without waiting for others to change? And of course: (how) can art help people in these difficult times of the climate crisis?

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