This couple stopped flying because of the climate crisis and found a more rewarding way to travel

(CNN) – Will and Claire Stedden tied the knot in 2017, but their “honeymoon phase” lasted longer than most.

“We called it a honeymoon with interest,” Will told CNN.

Due to other commitments, the Steddens did not take their honeymoon until three years after their marriage.

Dreaming of a trip, they thought of flying to New Zealand to go backpacking. But once it came time to book, the Steddens were devastated. They had to limit their options to places they could reach without flying.

The ball and chain that tied it to the ground was not the Covid-19 pandemic, it was the commitment to no flights to combat the climate crisis.

“I started learning about the idea of ​​choosing not to fly because Peter Kalmus, who is a climate scientist, was very vocal about not flying,” Will said.

For Claire, who lived in the Midwest, moving to California brought the realities of the crisis to her doorstep.

“Actually seeing the fire around and ash raining down on my car. The village next to us was left without water,” he said. “That was a really big part of it – living and realizing what the future was going to be if you didn’t start doing something.”

Their commitment to stop flying didn’t diminish their commitment to finding adventure, and they decided to spend their honeymoon biking along the Pacific Northwest coast. The couple traveled through northern California to Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, then Mount Rainier and Washington’s Olympic National Park.

“That was the most life-changing trip I’ve ever been on. And it never would have happened if we hadn’t decided to stop flying,” said Claire.

Claire bikes through Wilcox, Arizona.


Not learning to fly

Some have started to reduce their travel habits because of the climate crisis, but the Steddens don’t want anyone to “run away from shame”. Instead, they would like to be inspired.
They started posting their adventures on Instagram under the name Solar Punk Travel. They mostly travel on e-bikes connected to solar panels and have so far visited the Northwest, Southwest, and Central United States. They’ve also taken some trains, which helped when they just moved from California to Wisconsin.

“When our lease started I used to unload my bike,” laughed Claire.

The couple’s clipping of flying wings has led to a more rewarding way to travel. Instead of being ‘frustrated at the airport’, they now enjoy watching the scenery change as they pass.

It is also giving them more flexibility on the road. If there’s somewhere they’d like to stay longer, there’s no need to worry about flight rescheduling or fees. For Stedden, it’s been a ticket to a holiday like anywhere else in the area.

“He really appreciates you where you are,” added Claire.

What started as a plan to go flightless for a year has now stretched to three for Will and two for Claire.

“Part of our reason for continuing to do this is to show how fun it can be and it’s not a hardship. You can have a great life,” Claire said. It’s a thought similar to one of his favorite quotes: “Permanence is not hardness and loss; it’s beauty and creativity.”

But a well-grounded couple doesn’t stop flying forever. They plan to follow up with the report that a flight every 8 years is sustainable. So the Steddens are considering a 2027 flight to Europe. Once there, though, they’d be touring by bike and train, of course, a nice way to celebrate eight years of flightless travel on what will be the 10th anniversary.