To be honest, I have wondered.
Should I be attempting a 40-day, 28 country trip while the COVID pandemic is not done, and with a war in Ukraine raging on the border of the European Union?
But for now, I think the answer is yes, I should go ahead.
I have developed a plan for the trip that means I should be able to conduct it all safely. European countries are in the process of loosening their COVID restrictions at the moment – perhaps a little faster than I personally might favour – but that makes the planning easier. Making the trip during the summer months allows most of the meetings and events to take place outdoors, and I will take precautions – with mask wearing, testing and a CO2 meter – to make things as safe as I possibly can.
The conflict raging in Ukraine does not touch my trip directly – I had not planned to go there, even before the outbreak of war, and I am lucky enough that it will not put me personally in danger. The pic above is from a previous visit to Lviv, in 2019. But should I be focusing on something so normal, so mundane, as cross border rail when in a part of Europe their needs are more urgent? And trying to crowd finance such a trip against that political backdrop?
Some will doubtless say no, now is not the time for a trip like this – and that’s a view I respectfully disagree with.
As I see it the fundamental issue is not going to go away – faced with the challenge of climate change, more trips have to be made using green transport modes, and rail is the greenest public transport mode. You could even make the argument that the conflict in Ukraine – and the need for the European Union to wean itself off Russian gas and oil – makes the imperative to switch to greener forms of transport more important than ever.
If my effort to crowd fund the trip is wildly successful and I exceed my fundraising target I will contribute the extra funds to the work my partner organisation, MitOst e.V., is doing to support civil society in Ukraine.