Gianluca (2/3): “Travelling on a cargo ship was fantastic!”

In a way it started gradually and I got more and more involved in environmental activities. So I thought to take a train instead of flying would be the best way to respect the environment.

I started travelling by train or by coach within Europe. I did a journey from Spain to Finland which lasted about 54 hours. I only had one stopover that was for 3 hours.


After I did that I thought “maybe I can go even a step further”. So the next big travel I made was from Spain to Beijing by train. In this case I stopped in Riga for 1 day, in Moscow 2 days,then 1 day in Eatkerinburg and 1 in Irkutsk. Overall it took me probably less than 15 days.


I did that once (traveling by train long-distance) and I saw it was possible. It takes a little bit of time to organize the travel. Twice I travelled from Hong Kong to Europe by train and coach.


One time I travelled from France to Colombia by cargo ship to do research there. That took 2 weeks.

Photo by Gianluca_From the cargo ship

I found a website of a company that is an intermediary, they buy tickets for you. The company itself doesn’t deal with the passengers, so they send tickets to other travel agents and I found this travel agent called


It’s quite expensive, it was about 120€ per night, including food. Of course it’s much more expensive than flying but the experience is fantastic!


It was difficult to make my institute understand that it was not a holiday. And I said “it’s not a holiday, I’m making a point. I’m getting to that place because it’s the most ecological way to travel. I am going to work. Of course I would be out of internet contact but I still am going to work”.


And it was very very productive not having internet


I had a project, I had an article to finish, a lot of statistic I had to do. That was very effective. There was one space on the ship where you couldn’t hear the engine anymore, there would be just the sound of the waves. So I created a little office space there where I could do my reading and work with my laptop.


(On that trip) We were 5 passengers and 30 crew members and I think the crew members were much more interesting. The other passengers were 3 French men and one French woman, we spoke in German because they couldn’t speak English.


One of them was a Trade Union Member, now retired, and his wife. It was his 18th travel with a cargo ship. Once he completed to travel the world by cargo ship. He would be a person who would walk maybe 10km every day. He would walk on the ship for 2-3 hours every day. When he walked he was very focused.


There was a world champion kickboxer with whom I played Ping Pong sometimes.


There was an actor who was writing a comedy.


And then there was me, going to Colombia doing research on exposure to violence, the effects of being traumatized.


But the most interesting people were the crew members. Most of them were Filipinos, there were about 25 of them and 5 Croatians.


There were 3 Officials and then there would be 20-22 seamen. The 3 Officials would spend 6 months of their life on the ship and 6 months at home. But the seamen would spend 9 months on the sea and only 3 months at home.


One time I saw their payrolls and I couldn’t refrain myself from having a look on what they actually earned.


The common seaman would earn US$800 and the second Officials would earn US$2400.


Almost all of them were young guys, I would say all of them were already married. They were building a home for their family. So they can go back and say “I have realized something”.


This made me feel to be aware how lucky I am.


I remember one episode: The Captain of the ship wanted to organize a BBQ and I liked to spend time with the Filipinos. We would have breakfast, lunch and dinner in the official room. So there would be a room just for the Officials and the passengers. And a room for all the other seamen.


But the Filipino Officials never joined the other room, they would stay with the other Filipinos. So in the end there was one restaurant for the Filipinos and one for the others, and the kitchen would be in-between the two.


I heard from the Filipinos that they were looking forward to the BBQ because it’s a tradition that when the ship travels the Atlantic, it’s 2 weeks without any stop. And the Captain likes to offer a BBQ open for all people. Open to everyone.


I remember it was the French passenger, very experienced traveler, who told me in every travel he made the whole crew would take part in the BBQ.


Except in this case. The Captain decided that the BBQ would only be for the Officials, the Croatian engineers and the passengers.

It would have been a complete discrimination of the Filipinos.


I decided to take a stand up as a passenger and said “ok, I’m not going to the BBQ, I’m going to have dinner with you (Filipinos)”. There must have been some discontent and maybe the Captain heard this and in the end the BBQ was cancelled.


I really wanted to make a point that it’s not fair.


That was just one episode that was about inequality.


Overall, travelling on a cargo ship was fantastic!

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