The joy of travel isn’t always in reaching the destination, but in taking the journey itself.
By SABRINA MESSENGER
For many people around the world, travel by bus or motor coach is commonplace. In the United States, however, many people feel that bus travel is uncomfortable, unsafe, or something that only “low-class” people do.
If I had $100 for every person who has ever said to me when discussing travel, “Oh, I could never ride the bus!,” let me tell you, I’d be richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined! People who reject bus travel out of hand miss out on a unique travel experience.
As a person who appreciates history and classic movies, I find there is a certain romance in bus travel. It brings to mind screwball comedy movies from the 1930s like “It Happened One Night,” or dramas like the 1955 “Bus Stop.”
I’ve traveled via Greyhound numerous times since 1978. I was 17 when I first traveled from Ohio to New York City on the bus. ..and regaled people with my guitar playing!
Over the past 20 years, I’ve enjoyed many a bus trip throughout the West, with my family or on my own. I take the bus to visit relatives, to get myself to rock concerts or special events…or just to get the heck out of Dodge!
Bus travel encourages communication and camaraderie amongst passengers, and there are plenty of opportunities to meet very interesting and fascinating people from all over the world. Sometimes it’s fun just to be quiet and watch other passengers or eavesdrop.
I can definitely identify with the lyrics in the Simon and Garfunkel song “America.”
“Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”
Bus travel for me has been the inspiration for poetry and songs.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: There currently are at least 40 inter-city bus lines in the United States, most of them in the east. Most are listed here. Some of them connect Chinatowns around the country. Others shuttle passenger between the U.S. -Mexico border and cities in Southern California and the southwestern U.S. G. Gross)
For African-Americans, bus travel in the 1950s and 1960s was “ground zero” of the Civil Rights movement. It was on a bus where Rosa Parks made her stand…by sitting down.
Beginning in 1961, courageous young students, both Black and White, began to taking road trips to ensure that buses, trains and planes were really and truly desegregated. These were the Freedom Rides. Those activists ran into people who jeered them, and many were threatened by violence. Some buses were even destroyed by pro-segregationists.
However, due to their perseverance, travel became desegregated and “we” now can travel freely. Bus travel, to me, was a hard-earned right that we as Black people shouldn’t abandon so easily.
These days, bus travel is somewhat endangered. Many routes are being cut, leaving entire communities potentially isolated. Local and regional bus companies are beginning to pick up the slack, but there is still a need for interstate buses for those who can’t or prefer not to use other forms of transportation.
Okay, so for many people, bus travel really is not feasible. Business travelers on an extremely tight deadline, for example. People trying to get from Point A to Point B in an emergency. However, for some people, like me, bus travel is an enjoyable and preferred method of transportation.
Well, some people either can’t afford or dislike flying. Trains may not be available. Some people either can’t drive or simply prefer to leave the driving to someone else.
For those who think that bus travel is only for ‘low-life’ or disreputable people, consider these facts about the average Greyhound customer:
* One-third of Greyhound passengers make more than $35,000 per year.
* More than half of Greyhound riders have received higher education beyond high school.
* Forty-two percent of Greyhound passengers are between the ages of 18 and 34.
* Nearly 60 percent of Greyhound passengers travel less than 450 miles.
* In many cases, Greyhound passengers report they own automobiles considered sufficiently reliable for a trip of a similar distance, but travel by bus because it is safe and more economical.
* The majority of Greyhound passengers travel to visit family and friends, but more than 21 percent travel for business reasons.
* The average ticket price is $45.
For many young people, particularly from Europe, traveling by bus was the way they got to “know” America because of offers like AmeriPass. For a low fee, you could travel anyplace any time.
Such offers still exist today in the form of the Discovery Pass.
One of the arguments used to promote air travel over buses goes something like this: “Flying is safer than driving.”
Well, I beg to differ. The Greyhound website cites federal statistics showing that inter-city buses like Greyhound, are the safest mode of transportation — over cars, trucks, trains, planes and other commercial vehicles.
As for the ride being ‘uncomfortable,’ even that’s now a thing of the past. The newer Greyhound buses have been retooled to have considerably more leg room.
Also, bus travel is more environmentally friendly than either flying or driving your own vehicle. They’re also touting eco-friendly buses, too. So if you want to ‘discover America’ and decrease your carbon footprint, I recommend using mass transit of all kinds.
Sure, there are some bad people on buses. There also are bad people on planes, trains, driving automobiles, riding bicycles, on cruise ships! The chances of truly being a victim of crime while on a bus trip are very rare. The key is to always be aware of your surroundings and use your common sense, just as you would at home.
Bus travel is the closest many people can come to experiencing what it may have been like for the pioneers of long ago who traveled overland to the West. You can observe a great many cultures and personalities while on the bus, and it makes for a far more interesting trip than some homogenized air trip, when all you see is clouds, and everyone is trying to ignore each other while watching the in-flight movie.
IF YOU GO
Plan ahead. Order your tickets online and they’ll send them through the mail. Ordering online can also save money because sometimes the trips have discounts.
Read the instructions carefully on how many bags you can take. It’s a bit more flexible than airline rules, but no, you can’t take your entire household on the bus!
All adult passengers need a photo ID to board. Minors must either be accompanied by a parent or a legal guardian, or have consent from one i traveling alone.
Keep any medications you may need in your carry-on baggage. The bus company will NOT allow you to unlock your checked bags to get it. If you have a disability and need assistance, let the driver know.
Alcohol is dehydrating. It’s also illegal to bring on a bus. If you’re caught, you will be kicked off. Water is your best friend on long trips. Bring your own as bottled water can be somewhat expensive en route. Don’t bring illegal drugs, either….unless you’re looking to spending some time in the crossbar hotel!
Bring your favorite tunes…but remember those headphones. Also bring your favorite reading material or crossword puzzles, and favorite toys if you’re traveling en famille. It’s YOUR responsibility, not the driver’s, to keep your offspring in line.
Bring a travel guide to spot points of interests en route, and maybe a journal to chronicle your journey. Keep a digital camera handy, too. You never know when an awesome photo or video op may turn up! Some buses have wi-fi, so if you have a laptop, you can upload those vids to YouTube while you’re on the road!
Do bring enough money for meals, but you may also want to bring some chocolate bars, fruit, veggies or other healthy snacks along with you to munch along the way.
I don’t do this, but I’ve known of people who have brought their own toilet paper…just in case. A small pillow and a blanket or warm jacket can come in handy, too…even in summer. Sometimes that air conditioning can get pretty cool.
A smile, tolerance and common courtesy go a long way. However, if someone is being annoying, is harassing you or doing something bordering on illegal, don’t confront the individual yourself. Tell the driver.
For more information on bus travel and to find out routes, visit the Greyhound website http://www.greyhound.com/
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