To meet or not to meet

Quinta Kools, Fontys, Tilburg, The Netherlands

April 30th 2021

Travelling for Erasmus-projects has lead me to many European cities. Since 2015 I visited Berlin, Ljubljana, Tübingen, Aberdeen, Leiden, Leeds, sometimes more than once. In between, there were also conferences I visited in Estonia, Finland, Croatia, Portugal, Luxemburg, Slovenia, Sweden.

Photo: own picture
Photo: own picture

I really love to travel and especially I love to fly. But somewhere during that period between 2015 and 2020, ecological awareness became more apparent. We already knew that flying was not very beneficial for the climate, but more and more this became a topic that was addressed in Dutch newspapers. So my personal awareness on this topic grew. And when we were about to meet in Tübingen for the PROMISE-project in 2019, we booked the train.


A German high-speed train worked its way through the landscape, coffee was served, wifi provided and we could even walk and stretch our legs! So much more comfortable than a plane. The next trip for the project was to Aberdeen and although we considered taking a boat and a train, this would be too time consuming (two travelling days) to fit in our working schedule. We  regretted this, but were convinced that we would consider other sources of travel for our next meetings.

And then. A pandemic disease caused a rigorous stop to all kinds of travel. Partner meetings now became online video meetings. Does it work? Yes and no. Yes: because we have met before, we already know each other. Meeting online is easier if it is a meeting with familiar faces and voices. We can talk about the project, divide tasks, make smaller groups and work on the project. NO: because we miss the social aspect which took place in between our meetings, during walks or during dinner. Small talk is an essential ingredient for bonding, especially in an international project like PROMISE.

So, although my ecological footprint now seriously is diminished, the former ecological damage I caused with my travelling behaviour does help me with my online meetings. My online meetings can run smoothly because I have met the people in real live. This is a strange perception, having to conclude that my history of travelling somehow paid off. Although it can’t be calculated in CO2-values, the benefits are in human values. My human values are the many memories of my travels on the one side and the people I got to know on the other.

I am glad we have met so now we can meet!