The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

29 April 2008

Holidaying without leaving your room

This is the ultimate in eco-tourism, to have a holiday without leaving your room. This is what 27-year old Frenchman Xavier De Maistre did in 1790. He was arrested after a duel and imprisoned in his room for six weeks, with only his butler and a dog for company. He filled his time by embarking on a journey around his bedroom, later writing an account of what he had seen. Eight years later, he made a second journey traveling at night and reaching as far as the window ledge. He wore a “traveling outfit” of pink and blue pyjamas. Read his classic travel book: “A Journey Around My Room”.

Graveling goes traveling
In an attempt to keep fit and do his bit for the environment, Gary Graveling began cycling to work. His current commute is just under 27 miles per day and takes him from Bristol to Bath and back, mainly along the first Sustrans Cycle Route – the Bristol-Bath Railway Path. He cycled 2,350 commuter miles in 2007.

To make the journey a bit more interesting/challenging in 2008, and to add to the mix, he decided to take a virtual trek across North America, transposing my commuter miles (red line) onto my virtual route (blue line) on the map on his Just Giving website and raising money for Sustrans at the same time.

In January 2008, Gary started this virtual journey close to the area where John Cabot landed on his first voyage from Bristol to Newfoundland. He is currently making his virtual way down to Chicago, where he will follow Route 66 and on to Los Angeles.

The trip according to the Google route planner is 4,145 miles long. He aims to finish before the Christmas holiday break, by when he should be at least 15kg lighter, healthier and will have saved about 1.5 tonnes of CO2 (compared with driving the same distance to and from work for a year) – never mind the CO2 saved by not flying to America.

Sustrans works on practical projects to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport in order to reduce motor traffic and its adverse effects. Sustrans's flagship project is the National Cycle Network, where it is creating 10,000 miles of bicycle routes throughout the UK:

Some further options for virtual travel
1. Plan a great route, full of interest. A journey that you’ve always wanted to take but never got around to.
2. Follow your route on Google maps and Google Earth photographs:
3. You don’t even need to get on a bike. Forge the fresh air. Don’t worry about safety. Buy an exercise bike and do your virtual journey without leaving your room.
4. Then link up your exercise bike to an electricity generator, and as you pedal put electricity back into the grid.