Huffpost Green
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bill Liao Headshot

A Long Journey to TED

Posted: Updated:

When I became a diplomatic special envoy representing St. Kitts and Nevis, I was faced with a unique problem.

You see, my personal views on achieving any meaningful execution revolve around the use of story and narrative to be the catalyst that galvanizes people into action.

In the realm of the environment though the issues are so huge and complex that generating a productive and readily understood narrative was all but impossible to begin with.

I needed to start somewhere and I needed a plan, so I decided to give something up that would have an immediate impact that would allow me to at least have something to say while I searched for a deeper and more profound story to get behind.

So on 26th November, 2008, I gave up flying.

Now there are already plenty of people in the world who do not fly and so this may not appear to be much of an effort on my part. That said, at that time I had accumulated over 3 million frequent flyer miles across 5 different programs.

Giving up flying was a major change in my world and it has meant some very tough choices.

I have committed that I will not fly again until the charity I founded WeForest.org achieves its goals.

As I write this I am in LA preparing a speech and next week I will be at TED in Long Beach where I will seek to engage even more fully in making a difference.

So if I do not fly anymore and I am based in Europe, how did I get to LA then?

By ferry, train, container ship and bus.

Yep, it turns out that container ships also take passengers; check out Costa Cruises web site if you are keen.

A word of warning though, while the winter Atlantic crossing was fine for me (you get a 2-3 star accommodation and all meals included), Cargo ships do not have stabilizers and they now nearly all travel at "eco" speed of 15 Knots, so the journey is both rough and slow and if you are prone to motion sickness, just forget it.

The Amber, the ship I travelled on, was just two years old and very comfortable so I passed the time in relative ease although as the only passenger dumb enough to try a winter crossing I was often alone.

The biggest issue was that ships do not run totally fixed schedules so I had to wait in port for two days and the first ship I was booked on actually cancelled and so I had to pick and earlier vessel as the next one was a month too late for TED.

To get to the port I used the wonderfully punctual and well appointed trains across Europe which I have been using for years with great ease.

Having crossed the Atlantic I was faced with a very different animal in the form of Amtrak...
Now I will say this, it does appear that everything is bigger in America, so a sleeping berth on an Amtrak train simply dwarfs a European sleeping car. I can also attest that the service on board each long haul Amtrak train was truly friendly and attentive. That said, I lost a total of half a day to train related delays out of five days travel.

America has many beautiful sights and unfortunately people appear to imagine that the rail road is a kind of secret dumping ground rather than an outsiders view of the place.

Still, across America I saw and met wonderful things and people. I am particularly enamored of Toledo, Ohio, where I broke my journey to stay with friends.

Whether it was meeting business leaders or taking in the excellent Museum of art or perhaps meeting Delfeayo Marsalis and listening to him play exquisitely, I can say that I now have a soft spot for Toledo and they appeared to enjoy having an eco tourist it even made the 11 O'Clock News

Worse by far than the trains were where the buses took over as there are many gaps in the Amtrak network. If I never travel on an Amtrak bus again I would be fine and unfortunately soon after TED is over I will begin the long trek home so some Amtrak buses will again be in my future...

So far though I can say that giving up something I loved to do, while it has presented its challenges, has also greatly supported the work we are doing to make reforestation a global movement and with the UN year of forest upon us I invite everyone to take a slow journey with a long view and plant a tree.

From Our Partners