Take the train to conferences – personal statements as seeds for joining niche forces

At one point during IST2018, a small group of PhD students figured, hey, I am not the only one who came by train, there are others, traveling by train. And they share my positive experiences and convictions! I am not the odd-one-out, there is a niche and hey, we all want the thing to grow!

So the idea emerged to share our personal experiences, reasoning and convictions, why we are part of the TTTTC – Take The Train To Conferences – movement.

In so doing, we want to encourage and link those people who also Take The Train To Conferences (#TTTTC) and inspire others to try it out and join the movement. To step-out, and become active part of what we are researching on – a sustainability transition.

And there are others around KTH who did research on this and established a blog!

So, feel free to share your thoughts, blog here or there, tweet and discuss in real life during the next train ride.

For now, here are our statements


“I travel to IST and any event in Europe only by train because

  • it is less harmful to the environment then flying,
  • it gives me time to think and work on ideas that would not take otherwise,
  • it makes me meet interesting people and
  • it forces me stay at the conference location one to two nights longer – which I can use to explore the city beyond tacking back and forth between a conference centre and a hotel”


I “travel by train” to all conferences and destinations located in central Europe.

During my PhD I travelled from Munich to Stockholm and Amsterdam as well as from Lausanne to Gothenburg, Manchester, Utrecht, Berlin and Munich. Except for the Swedish destinations, the rides where all below 14 hours, so doable in one (long J) working day – thanks to the  European high speed railway network!

For the more distant destinations I take the night train and I simply love it, it really turns travelling into something unique!

So I “travel by train” …

  • for obvious ecological reasons (and if it is really far – as e.g. the next journey planned to northern Norway, I fly only one way and do the train ride nonetheless)
  • because I can use the time as inspired and concentrated working time – somehow the train movement triggers creativity to prepare my conference presentations and take time to step back and see the bigger picture of my work
  • because railway stations are mostly located in city centers and tell me more about the country then airports
  • because it helps my promise to always stay longer in the city where the conference took place
  • because it is against mainstream and I like diversity and “doing things alternatively
  • because I love the “question mark” face, if I tell it to somebody
  • because I am proud of doing it!
  • and of course, because my supervisor and institution are generous enough to support this financially and I am really grateful for this (however, if you book early enough, there are also great special offers!)


“ … I wrote my research proposal to a large extent on a night train. Whenever I was stuck, I went to the bar carriage, had a coffee and exchanged a few words with fellow travellers. On a train, I’m sufficiently stuck to not get distracted, but I’m also sufficiently free to stretch my legs and have some social interaction before getting completely lost in my thoughts. Trains are the place where I read books in one stretch, where I catch up on the pile of papers that I wanted to read since a long time. Of course it takes much longer to travel from Lausanne to Manchester by train than by plane. But I looked forward to spending this time travelling on a train. I knew that I will step out of the train in Manchester with a much shorter To Do list and a relaxed mind, ready for the conference.


I have never travelled in England just for the sake of it. But it feels like I have been here. I have heard what people talk about here, what is on their mind – and what their language sounds like. I know how the British public transport system works. I have seen different landscapes, walked London’s streets, been on the tube. I have spent more time waiting in Kuala Lumpur airport than I have spent on the train from London to Manchester. Yet, I did not see anything of Kuala Lumpur or Malaysia. I did not even meet a Malayan person. Whereas I had multiple conversations with various British people during my train trip across England.

Of course, I still wouldn’t attempt to travel by train to Hong Kong (which is where I was going when I went through Kuala Lumpur). But whenever it is feasible, I do take the train. Originally, I started taking the train rather than the plane because of environmental concerns. And I am very glad I did. Because I realised just how much more interesting, productive and immersive time spent on a train is compared to time spent on a plane and in airports. Of course it takes longer. But it is time well spent.”

(read the full article here)



One thought on “Take the train to conferences – personal statements as seeds for joining niche forces

  1. I am also a train user, both in professional and personal life.

    I favor the small transverse lines to the lines at high speeds to experiment the meaning of space and time : crossing Europe to Croatia for a conference takes 2 days of trains and one night on a ferry, my travel to Manchester for the IST2018 took 2 full days.
    This requires taking the time to travel, ask for days off if our employer does not allow it and, most of the time, pay our trips more expensive.

    Beyond our relationship to space and time distorted by speed, we must also ask collectively and individually why we are moving so voluntarily. We have to begin a process of reducing these trips to select more finely our conferences or travel in general. This may involve refusing a conference – or holidays – on another continent and slow down.

    Let’s take the time to get bored and the train is a great way for that.

    To foster the change, conference may propose, at least compensation programs for GHG or discounts for train lovers or bicycle addicts.

    Liked by 1 person

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