There’s an elephant in the room with my #FlightFree2020 pledge.

My work is tied inextricably to the international travel industry, which in turn relies heavily on flying.

In other words, if I continue to do my job well, I will increase overall aviation emissions — whether or not I myself take any flights — as a result of what might be called the multiplier effect.

Through my blog, for example, I dish out advice and inspiration for bicycle travel to 50,000 visitors a month, encouraging them to explore the world on two wheels.

But what if, in acting upon…

My Flight Free 2020 pledge hasn’t come out of nowhere. Call it a rekindling of a long-forgotten conviction that the example I set might actually matter.

Because we are all participants, now, in this huge and never-ending conversation we call global society. Our impact is measured in terms of the number of people paying attention when we open our mouths — or our laptops — to say something.

As my audience has grown over 13 years as a blogger and traveller, my influence has increased proportionally. I can no longer ignore the consequences of my words and actions.

This wasn’t always the case.

Back in 2007, a scant handful of my very longest-serving readers will remember that I embarked on a mission to cycle round the…

Today, on this day of New Year’s Resolutions, I pledge to join the Flight Free UK campaign.

Between now and the 1st of January 2021, I will not take a single flight.

I’ve joined the campaign because, as a long-time advocate of adventurous travel and exploration, I can no longer ignore my own hypocrisy.

I have always considered myself an environmentally conscious person, and I generally promote lifestyle choices which are low on consumption and high on experience. Most I know in the adventure world would describe themselves in similar terms.

But the truth is that, on an average year…

Tatev Monastery in Syunik province, Armenia, from where several stunning day-hikes can be discovered.

Many of Armenia’s most famous Christian monasteries are dramatically situated amid towering cliffs or on precipitous mountainsides with panoramic views across the rugged landscapes of the Lesser Caucasus.

In ancient times, accessing these centres of study and worship required the laborious construction of steep footpaths and rock-hewn steps from neighbouring communities, and many such routes survive today as hiking trails.

Rather than drive or take a taxi all the way to these destinations, then, consider incorporating the following excellent hikes into your travel itinerary around Armenia:

Satan’s Bridge to Tatev Monastery (via the Great Hermitage of Tatev)

Mount Azhdahak (3,597m), which I carried a fricken’ drone to the top of in order to take this photo

The Geghama Mountains are an imposing chain of volcanic domes that bisects Armenia from north to south. For most of the year they are impenetrable due to a thick layer of snow.

But come June, as snow starts to melt, the country’s tent-dwelling Yezidi nomads drive their cattle from lowland plains to graze beneath the azure skies of high summer. These are among the most remote and uninhabited parts of the Lesser Caucasus mountains, which stretch from the Black Sea coast of Georgia to the River Arax on the border of Armenia and Iran. …

Yerevan’s Zvartnots International Airport, Armenia, with Mount Ararat in the background

Publication day is a milestone for any writer, and the new Bradt Travel Guide to Armenia, whose 5th edition I’ve co-authored, is shipping now.

But — given that until now I’ve seen travel writing mainly as a hobby — how did I manage to add ‘guidebook author’ to my growing roll-call of spurious professions?

Well, it’s a long story. But here’s the Medium-length version…

Exploring routes for the Transcaucasian Trail across Armenia. Photo by Dave Katz.

Last weekend I flew to London for the annual Explore expedition planning conference at the Royal Geographical Society (the one chance I get to catch up with a lot of people I wish I saw more often). On the Sunday I joined the expedition photography workshop to share my thoughts on the storytelling medium of the still image, and figured it was worth reproducing that advice here.

The word ‘storytelling’ is key, because the typical focus for attendees of this conference is a journey of some description, and what they want to communicate through their photography is the story of…

The ruinous 13th-century monastery of Matosavank is perhaps the most characterful of the sites you’ll stumble upon on a hike through Dilijan National Park.

The experience of exploring Armenia on foot is characterised by three things:

  1. an abundance of breath-taking landscapes,
  2. being invited in by locals to drink homemade oghi (vodka), and
  3. stumbling upon at least one ancient church or monastery per day.

Dilijan National Park — part of the forested northeastern province of Tavush — is no exception to this rule. …

Over the last few years we have seen the rise of a new sub-discipline of bicycle travel.

It’s called ‘bikepacking’, and it’s become such a hit that almost every mainstream bike manufacturer now produces at least one ‘adventure bike’ or ‘bikepacking rig’, or includes the word in their marketing spiel for bikes that might fit the bill.

Specialised bikepacking luggage, too, has proliferated, from a few cottage industries turning out bespoke, hand-stitched frame bags to pannier giant Ortlieb launching a line.

Someone I know who helps run a bikepacking website told me they get over one million hits per month.

Bedding down for the night under the stars in the Sudanese Sahara

When you get into a car, or onto a train or plane or bus — even when you leave the house on foot — you almost always do it with the intention of arriving somewhere. You have a destination in mind, and your chosen mode of transport is simply a means of getting there.

Similarly, when you pack a suitcase, buy a ticket, plan an itinerary or open a guidebook, you are participating in a kind of travel that casts experiences as commodities and places as discrete destinations. …

Tom Allen

Self-unemployed creative explorer. Often found riding a bicycle. Building the Transcaucasian Trail. Co-author of #Armenia: The Bradt Travel Guide.

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