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And so it begins. Regret. Frustration. And the most acute form of FOMO Ive ever experienced.
Im only five minutes into my year of no-flying and already Im wondering if Ive made a huge mistake. I dont know whether travel companies are secretly trolling me or if Im only noticing the onslaught of opportunities now because Im forced to turn them all down but every exciting long-haul destination Ive ever dreamed of touching down in is inviting me on the trip of a lifetime. And I have to say, No, thank you. Ask me again in 365 days? to every single one.
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1/7 Mont Blanc aerial photographs from 1919 (left) and 2019 (right)
The images show the impact that climate change has had upon the mountain’s glaciers
2/7 Walter Mittelholzer’s biplane
3/7 Mont Blanc aerial photographs from 1919 (left) and 2019 (right)
4/7 Walter Mittelholzer
5/7 Mont Blanc aerial photographs from 1919 (left) and 2019 (right)
6/7 Dr Kieran Baxter photographing Mont Blanc in 2019
7/7 Dr Kieran Baxter in front of the glacier
1/7 Mont Blanc aerial photographs from 1919 (left) and 2019 (right)
The images show the impact that climate change has had upon the mountain’s glaciers
2/7 Walter Mittelholzer’s biplane
3/7 Mont Blanc aerial photographs from 1919 (left) and 2019 (right)
4/7 Walter Mittelholzer
5/7 Mont Blanc aerial photographs from 1919 (left) and 2019 (right)
6/7 Dr Kieran Baxter photographing Mont Blanc in 2019
7/7 Dr Kieran Baxter in front of the glacier
Or maybe I dont. I start frantically entering searches into The Man in Seat 61, the pre-eminent train travel site that tells you, in painstaking detail, how to work the tracks all the way from London to Vladivostok (and everywhere else in between). OK, east Africa and Central America are temporarily out, but what about Uzbekistan? Surely a two-day hop?  
Hmm, not quite. (Considering Im a travel writer, geographys never been my strong suit.) First up its 48 hours onboard a comfortable sleeper train from Paris so far, so good and thenOh. Then three nights on the service from Moscow to Uzbekistans capital Tashkent, before even getting to the mountains. Thats around five days spent on trains on the outbound journey so 10 days round trip, then. Plus the three days or so I would actually want to spend skiing.
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Right. Its possible, yes but suddenly Im looking down the barrel of a fortnight out of the office (sure to go down well) and at least eight nights sleeping on trains. I feel a bit overwhelmed just thinking about it. Thats before even tackling the issue of expense: first the Eurostar to Paris, at a minimum of £58 return; then Paris to Moscow, priced at 313 (£266) one-way, 626 (£532) return; and, finally, Moscow to Tashkent, from around £130 one-way (third-class, of course), or £260 return. Thats oh boy £850. Without adding on the exorbitant price of a Russian transit visa (£101), which is sadistically time-consuming and complicated to fill out. 
All that, for three days of skiing.
Its an eye-opening exercise. Buoyed up by the romance of the idea of roaming the rails, exchanging life stories with my fellow sultry European passengers a la Before Sunrise while my hair blows softly in the breeze, I sort of forgot to factor in the reality of my flight-free year ahead. A year in which I am effectively and permanently grounded. Every trip I take will be a trade-off between time, money and distance. Every excursion will require immense planning, from wading through rail websites in different languages to ensuring I make connections and figuring out how to get online while on the move.
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Somehow Id convinced myself that, because it was new and exciting, it would also be easy. Not so much, as it turns out.
But being slapped with the real-life ramifications also helps focus the mind a bit. Alright, the Stans might be a stretch so maybe closer to home is the way to kick things off? Ive always wanted to see the Scottish Highlands; and the newly revamped Caledonian Sleeper service can whizz me there from London overnight for £45 one-way. I keep hearing about how the Spanish coastal city of Valencias gastronomy scene is on the up; turns out I can get there for just under £100 and in under 24 hours. And Rijeka in Croatia is a European Capital of Culture for 2020; the journey involves one overnight stop in Munich, arriving by evening the next day, all for around £107 each way.
Yes, flying would be cheaper and quicker but not flying is doable. More than that, theres something genuinely thrilling about it, in a way there isnt when blandly entering your bank details into the easyJet website. Researching potential journeys (which in truth feel more like adventures), I sense something a little like butterflies flitting around my gut. Because, lets face it, theres nothing that racy about jumping on the Gatwick Express, getting herded onto a winged metal box and being spat out of a faceless airport some hours later. But spending two days traversing five countries on four trains? Thats something to write home about.