Travelling across the seas: How hard is it to leave Australia without a flight

By TravelWiseNov 29, 2023 17:17 PMNews
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Travelling across the seas: How hard is it to leave Australia without a flight
Travelling across the seas: How hard is it to leave Australia without a flight. Source: Sasha Shaw

However, in other parts of the world, it's not always plain sailing, as Sasha Shaw discovered.

Sasha Shaw decided to move from Melbourne to Canada without flying. His experience is described on Theguardian.com.

The environmental researcher and freelance journalist hadn't even left the shores of Australia when he realized that it would be harder than he had originally thought.

Shaw travelled to Mount Isa by bus and train in January and then hitchhiked through the Northern Territory to Darwin. He  then contacted various cargo shipping companies heading to Indonesia. Subsequently, he posted what he calls his "lost dog poster" around the port of Darwin, which simply read, "Are you heading north and looking for a crew?" It took a month for someone to call and say they were sailing to Timor-Leste and then to Indonesia.

According to him, the voyage was anything but ordinary: an engine failure, a storm that tore the ship's sails, and a medical emergency on board. They had to be pulled into the port of Dili by a port authority vessel.

Since then, his journey has become easier and he has now made his way to Dubai via Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Tibet, Nepal, northern India, Pakistan and Iran. The journey was a combination of ferries, passenger ships, trains, buses, motorcycles, and hitchhiking.

"There are so many ways to travel without flying. The only problem is crossing international waters," he says.

Cruise ships

There are, of course, many cruise ships departing from Australian shores, but their environmental records are hardly cause for celebration. In 2022, the International Council on Clean Transportation found that travelling by cruise ship almost always creates more carbon emissions than flying and staying in a hotel.

Whether you're a seasoned sea dog or sailing for the first time, there are a number of websites, including Find a Crew or Crew Bay, that match yachts and sailboats with potential crew around the world, including from Australia.

Travelling across the seas: How hard is it to leave Australia without a flight
Travelling across the seas: How hard is it to leave Australia without a flight. Source: pexels

Cargo ships

There are websites all over the world, such as Cargo Ship Travel and Maris Freighter Cruises, that offer a limited number of seats for passengers on cargo ships. But don't expect them to be cheaper than flying, and their schedules are irregular at best.

A representative of the Maritime Union of Australia said that although cargo ships used to accept passengers, this practice has stopped because these ships are usually staffed by foreign companies and workers who rarely have systems in place to accept passengers.

Other options

If giving up flying entirely is too difficult, once you get to Indonesia, it will become much easier. Of course, you'll have to set aside more time for travelling. Shaw spent six months travelling from Indonesia to Dubai and says he had an amazing experience. "After I left the sailboat, I just used the local ferries and it was a fantastic way to travel, faster than you would expect, although it can take a while. The longest boat trip I took was about 50 hours with about 2,000 other people. I was one of two foreigners and had a great time," Sasha adds.

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