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Internationalisation of spatial mobility, developments and dilemmas

Sweden Flag
Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Network corridors
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Environmental/Emissions aspects
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The project focuses on the ongoing internationalisation and globalisation of personal mobility. Movements across international borders have become an increasingly important aspect of transport development. For the past two decades, international passenger transport has grown faster than domestic mobility in Europe as a whole (EEA 2001; ECMT 2000).


This trend is also apparent in the development of long-distance travel patterns in the Swedish population in recent years. While domestic long-distance mobility within Sweden barely changed between 1994 and 2000, the distances travelled internationally increased by more than 50% in this short period (Frändberg and Vilhelmson 2003).

This fast increase in international travel distance reflects the fact that the growth in international mobility entails also a trend towards more distant destinations; travel to countries outside of Europe grows much faster than travel to nearby destinations.




The general aim is to contribute to a better understanding of possible long-term developments and dynamics of international travel patterns.


In order to understand the implications of the above-described conflict between the trend towards increased international mobility on the one hand, and demands for sustainability on the other, a better insight into how international mobility is actually used, valued and integrated into social life, is needed. For this purpose, internationally mobile groups in the Swedish population will be investigated, with a particular focus on the international mobility of young Swedes.


Young people are particularly interesting in this context, for several reasons. One is the notion that the young do, to some extent, represent the preferences and habits of a future society. Another reason is that the strongly positive values, with which long-distance travel in our culture is charged, are also more or less directly associated with youth and the lifestyles of young people. But many young are also critical of the materialistic and consumerist lifestyle of western societies.


Taken together, this implies that the 'social dilemma' which is latently embedded in the possibility of long-distance 'fossil-energy-intensive' international mobility, may be more pronounced and accessible among young people, compared to older groups.



Large-scale travel surveys are needed to get a general idea of the structure of mobility. When it comes to an improved understanding of probable future development paths, more intensive research methods are however required.


The project is being carried out as a combined questionnaire and interview-study. The questionnaire part includes 163 students, all in the last year of secondary school but in eight different educational groups/settings. The groups were chosen with the purpose to access people with very different experiences of international mobility, both in terms of character and extent. As part of the questionnaire, the students were asked to account for all international trips conducted during their childhood and adolescence ('travel biography'), for planned future trips and other mobility-related information. 26 students were subsequently selected for personal interviews, in which travel experiences and plans for the future could be contextualised and issues such as the meanings and perceived expectations of travel discussed more in-depth.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Formas - The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


As a way to present the findings  there was developed a special charts which schematically depicts each individual traveling during childhood. The point of this is that the picture presents  a summary and overview of how much and how far a person was traveling. 

There was also finded the possible links between migration and traveling which was characterized by regularity. Taken together, these charts are a sample of how society's internationalization and globalization are expressed in individual people's physical movements. 

The study shows that the extent of traveling abroad differs considerably, not only between individuals but also between the eight secondary school students surveyed. A group differs clearly from the other by a very high average level of mobility, especially when it comes to air travel. 

This group went in the academic program at a private school in central Gothenburg and is different from the other groups because a majority have a parent who works in a managerial position. These young people traveling  was motivated predominantly by various leisure activities, often several recurring activities related to the different seasons of the year. 

The study further shows that foreign travel is not to any great extent problematized from an environmental perspective at the time of the survey. One contributory factor is that awareness of the environmental impact of aviation was generally low among young people, but also among those who were well aware of aviation's environmental problems. There were many who never reflected on this in connection with their own trips. 


An overall conclusion from the project is that  so far only among certain privileged groups of young people who travel abroad it can be considered as something casual or a habit. Among the high mobility of young people included in this study there was no social connections to people in other countries which could have led to frequent foreign travel, but rather recurring leisure activities that require long-distance physical movement to be implemented, such as skiing or golf in the winter. 

For young people with immigrant backgrounds play visits to relatives and friends abroad, a relatively larger role. Possibly this will be of great significance for the Swedish population's long-distance travel patterns in the future. 

Another conclusion is that young people generally do not experience their own travel as an environmental dilemma. Although awareness of aviation's environmental impact has increased significantly since the young people in this study were interviewed, suggesting later conducted research that this awareness does not lead to their own travel problematised the same way as other activities. Information on aviation environmental impacts seem inadequate as a tool to achieve voluntary adaptations and reformers of travel patterns. 


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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