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A year without flying: a Skype family album

Should it not be possible to see by telegraph…?“- Alexander Graham Bell, April 11, 1891.

In 1930, New Yorkers- using a huge apparatus and a small loudspeaker- tested the first “2-way television in phoning“, but it took the arrival of the Internet for video phoning to become available to the average public.

Today, anyone with a webcam and an Internet connection can make a videocall and that is changing the way we communicate and could change the way we move about. If you can see and talk to our family and friends at any given moment that we’re both online, shouldn’t we be able to fly or drive just a bit less? Businesses are cutting their travel budgets thanks to telepresence systems so why can’t we apply the same concept at home.

Obviously, other senses like touch are more important to families than to co-workers, so while we won’t entirely give up traveling to see loved ones, I think we can fly or drive less and still be just as happy if not happier for it.

For the sake of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, I- one former-frequent-flier- have decided to not fly for a year (or thereabouts) and instead use Internet video calls- in my case Skype (though there are plenty other free video chat services like ooVoo, ViVu, TokBox and TinyChat)- to stay in touch with friends and family.

Since I live 6000 miles from my parents and several thousand from most good friends and family, I can’t simply fall back on a bicycle to avoid air travel and instead, I’ve had to change the way I communicate to make the distance- at least momentarily- disappear. I’ve substituted intense camped-out-at-mom-and-dad’s-house visits for more frequent let-me-see-the-weather or check-out-my-new-dress type chats.

Now 6 months into my experiment, I don’t feel isolated, but instead I’ve talked to a more diverse range of friends and family members than I normally would have in the same time period and I haven’t missed many moments.

In this video, I’ve edited together moments from my video calls for the past year. It’s part family album (my parents watched my belly grow and met my 2nd daughter online while I watched my older sister’s stomach stretch with twins and met her two boys) and part adventures in babysitting (my parents mind my daughter- and have helped potty train her- via Skype). I’ve met friends’ new boyfriends, my daughter has watched my parents put the angel on their Christmas tree and my parents have watched us brush our teeth (a lot). Basically, what happens in our house, happens on Skype.