My sustaina-bus-ility journey​

My sustaina-bus-ility journey

By Amalie Holmefjord

 9356 km.

153 hours travelling.

11 countries.

0,25 tons of CO2 (vs flight = 0,84 tons)1

Many stiff muscles

Endless impressions.

Amalie Holmefjord

Hello, I am Amalie from Norway, currently studying for a master’s in Climate Change Management at the Western Norway University of Applied sciences. I joined SciCultureD’s course in Athens, Greece from the 20th to the 24th of June 2022.

My journey to Athens started on the 16th of June from the Netherlands, however, my five-week long Europe adventure began when I travelled by bus from Norway to Germany to attend the Bonn Climate Change Conference 2022.

The start of the journey

I was doing a remote internship with the Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) team at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat. One of ACE’s key elements is climate change education and I was lucky enough to work with my team in-person during the Bonn Climate Change conference. There, representatives from all over the world came together to negotiate the various agenda items under the convention.

These two weeks were pivotal to give me an understanding of how climate change and sustainable education are negotiated at the international level.

Right before starting my journey to Athens, I visited two friends in the Netherlands and,
luckily, one of my friends joined me as my travel partner. After the visit, and fresh with the knowledge of what was discussed at the Bonn conference, I started my journey to Athens. Here we would dive deeper into sustainable education in the Greek context. 

But before I could do any sort of diving, I had to sit. A lot. A thirty-hour long bus trip from the Netherlands to Serbia was waiting, and that was only the first part of the journey.

A map of Europe. Certain countries are in colour, signalling the countries Amalie travelled through. Location pins mark the cities were Amalie spent time in. A red line connects the cities she visited on her way to Greece. A line in black connects the cities she visited on her way back to Norway.
Amalie's journey from Norway to Greece and back, all by bus.

The sustainable choice

Now you might be thinking, “oh no”, this poor girl got hit hard by this summer’s flight strikes. On the contrary, I made a conscious choice to travel sustainably. Even though a bus journey like this requires more time and effort, the difference in emissions made the effort worth it. The emissions from my travel were 70% lower than the minimum emissions of flying the same distance. Because of this difference, flying wasn’t an option for me.


Nevertheless, I was both frightened and excited to embark on the long bus journey from Arnhem, The Netherlands, on the 16th of June. I honestly didn’t know what to expect as we started moving through the flat landscape with its whopping windmills, but with a quick stop in Prague and Budapest, we made it to our halfway destination, Novi Sad, Serbia.

On the 18th of June, with a much-needed night’s rest in Serbia, we buckled up for yet another 16 hours on the bus. After a small stop in Thessaloniki, we reached our final destination on Sunday afternoon. The three-day long journey from the Netherlands to Greece made our arrival to Athens feel like when Pheidippides, the Greek messenger, arrived after running the first marathon. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I am certain both journeys involved some sore muscles.

Amalie with her luggage

The Course

Finally settled in at the hotel, the bed welcomed me as a warm embrace after the grand voyage. Still a bit bus-lagged I woke up Monday morning, as ready as I could be to start the ScicultureD one-week intensive course. Our schedule consisted of field trips, workshops and group work, and throughout the week we worked within the framework of design thinking.

During our field trips, we visited a primary school with some groundbreaking projects, where students are involved in monitoring seismic activity, creating art exhibitions and making astronomic observations through the school’s very own observatory! The experience center we visited afterwards had multiple interactive exhibitions that presented how life would be in the sustainable city, Ellinikon, planned to be built in Athens’ old airport area. This visit surprisingly caused a joint provocation in the group, as it turned out that only the wealthy will afford to live in the city. Nevertheless, this became a great bonding exercise for us.


At the Ellinikon center, testing one of the exhibitions
Art Exhibition at the School

Throughout the week we also had various workshops, exploring different ways in which we could learn and teach about sustainability. We learnt about the use of movement, soundscapes and maker-workshops to better understand and feel sustainability through our body and senses. Who would have thought that playing with playdough and lego, and recording myself laughing while jumping on a trampoline, would be central experiences of the course?

Lastly, we also got challenged in collaboration and group work. Throughout the week we worked in groups, trying to solve the challenge: how can sustainable educational communities in Greece evolve?
In the end every group presented their solution, and it was inspiring to see all the different creative ideas coming to life: from performances using elements of movement and sound, to interactive sessions where we, as participants, took part in creating the solution.

Not to forget, our free hours were wisely spent going to the beach and exploring the city. I will never forget when I saw one of my co-participants smile from ear to ear when he swam in the sea after 3 years, or the jamming session in the taxi when we sang “I want to break free” so loud the taxi driver just had to boost the volume. I don’t know if he was actually enjoying it or just wanted to drown us out.


A dinner at the beach during the SciCultureD course

Returning home

All in all, my experience during the course was all-encompassing and challenged many of my previous notions on sustainable education.

After an intense week where connections quickly grew strong, it was with a heavy heart I left my newfound friends. All the while I was trying to carefully digest the new knowledge, as well as a massive amount of Greek food, that I had taken in during the course. A quick pitstop at a Greek island was necessary, just one week of beach, Mamma Mia and relaxation.

Filled with peace of mind and sunburns, my travel partner (the same that came with me from The Netherlands) and I wistfully began our return to the North. This trip also entailed a stop in Novi Sad, Serbia, and as my travel partner stayed here, I continued my journey to Vienna and Hamburg. Even during these days, the sustainability aspect was always with me, as I ate delicious vegetarian food made by my lovely hosts or when I learnt that my friend is starting up an innovative recycling company in Hamburg. Brimming with new inspiration, I finally bussed my way home to Norway.


Throughout my entire journey, sustainability has been a key focus. Naturally because of my choice of transportation, but even more so because of the people I met who are all in different ways working to tackle the big challenge ahead of us. I don’t think this feeling of connectedness to people and nature can be felt without experiencing the real distance from A to B.

The goal of my journey was to prove that travelling in this way is not only possible but also fun and enriching. Travelling sustainably is not a sacrifice, if anything, it made my journey exceedingly more interesting and rewarding. Not to mention the life skills I have gained. Put me on a bus or train now, give me five minutes, and I am sleeping like a baby.

Altogether it was an incredible experience, and I hope to inspire people to reconsider how they travel because if you have never experienced sunset through a dewy bus window, you are missing out.

1 Sources for CO2 calculation: Klimasmart semester – Chalmers 2021 & BBC News (used the gCO2/km number for coach as this refers to long distance buses and the flight calculation is based on gCO2/km for economy class and is calculated based on the minimum kilometers of flight distance between destinations (direct flights)).

When you can’t see the wood through the trees

Peckforton Forest, Cheshire, UK

When you can't see the wood through the trees

Does metaphor help or hinder Scicom?

Chris Styles speaks to science communicator and poet, Dr. Sam Illingworth from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Metaphors are a powerful tool in language, although we may not realise just how often we use them. You may think that they are only used inadvertently or to add an unnecessary flourish to creative writing, but you may be surprised at just how much we all use metaphors (or analogies) in our everyday speech. We use language to shape our conscious thoughts, and analogies allow us to portray an idea from a familiar starting point, upon which we can build to create stepping stones to more complex concepts. Language is one of the principal ways we have to communicate what is in our brains but while words by themselves are limited, with a slight sprinkle of creativity, we can unlock our imagination to fill in the gaps that words leave unspoken, a glimpse of the ineffable……. a description of something that is hard to qualify, what are known as “qualia”.

Does this mean that having a creative mind and a skillful grasp of language gives you an advantage when it comes to science communication and innovation? We need to delve a little deeper, so we asked science communicator and poet, Dr. Sam Illingworth from Manchester Metropolitan University tells us what he thinks.

Dr. Sam Illingworth
What came first for you, curiosity or creativity? How were these nurtured?

Definitely curiosity. I remember always trying to try and determine how things worked, usually by taking them apart and annoying my family and teachers in the process! My inner creative was probably nurtured during my early school years, and I have been fortunate to always have teachers in my life who have encouraged both curiosity and creativity.

How has a skilled grasp of one of these skills helped the other?

Having a curious nature has certainly given me the confidence to be creative, and to make many, many mistakes in the process. It has also encouraged me to enjoy the process itself and to realise that this is actually where I am often at my most creative.

Do you think developing a creative vocabulary can help you process new information and idea creation? 

I’m honestly not sure. One of my biggest failings as a human being is my inability to speak any language fluently other than English, as I truly believe that having access to different languages is an excellent way to better understand different needs, cultures, and experiences. And with such understanding comes creativity.

What is the potential hazard of a poor Metaphor?  

Metaphors can be difficult to use effectively. A poorly chosen metaphor will likely cause confusion, at best, and could even act to alienate or offend. I always think that maps are strange metaphors to use (e.g. the map of the human genome), as maps are such politically charged objects; you are literally staking a claim for what does and does not belong to certain communities.

Can this creativity be instilled early (before science knowledge is known), is this important? 

Absolutely! Creativity does not need to be fuelled by scientific accuracy and in many instances the truly bizarre or inconceivable need to be imagined before they can be realised.

How important is maintaining the status quo of spoken/written communication?

I think that language is an incredibly important tool that all of us potentially have at our disposal. However, there can be a real snobbery with language. In reality, it is constantly evolving, and in my honest opinion, it should be used to include and diversify rather than to exclude or alienate.

Do you think speaking to people with different backgrounds and nationalities- People who may use language in a different way, can lead to the generation of novel ideas? 

Absolutely! See above.

There is a dark side of language, which come with applying coding and potential bias (either intentionally or not) – what responsibilities do creatives have to police their own work? 

I think that any discipline has a set of ‘jargon’ that can be used to alienate, and which experts in that particular field can turn to in order to convince others of their worth and intellect. Creatives, scientists, and indeed human beings more generally have a responsibility to try and make their work as accessible as possible to a variety of different publics, as doing so also opens up such work to a range of interpretations that can ultimately lead to its development and eventual improvement.

Hear what Sam thinks about the importance of combining the arts and science.

Dr Sam Illingworth  is a Senior Lecturer in Science Communication at the University of Western Australia, whose research involves using poetry to develop dialogue between scientists and non-scientists; in particular he aims to give voice to audiences that are traditionally under-served and underheard. You can find out more about Sam and his work by visiting his website or connecting with him on Twitter @samillingworth.