I’m just dying to weigh in on my present adventure. In case you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to travel by long-distance bus in the United States, or to read some anecdotes about non-US bus experiences, read on!
This upcoming weekend, my brother is graduating with his A.S. in Tennessee, then moving to Washington state to finish his engineering degree. Since I’ll be in Colombia for his four-year grad, I wanted to make sure to attend at least one cap-throwing, family-picture-taking ceremony (last time I skipped out on a family photo op, the dog took my place in the Christmas photo!)
As you may have heard, Megabus is taking North America by storm, shuttling over 24 million passengers across North America since 2006. As an avid shoestring budget traveler, I had to check it out.
A roundtrip ticket from Washington, DC, to Knoxville cost me a total of $30.50 ($5 one way, $25 the other.) The same trip by family car would cost at least $100 in gas. It gets better: this price includes free wifi, electrical outlets at each seat and FREE TOILET PAPER. Yes, folks, it’s astounding what $30 will get you these days.
Let’s take a moment to compare and contrast, for those who failed to jump up and down with excitement at the prospect of free toilet paper.
My prior long-distance bus experiences have all been outside of the States: tour buses in Europe, overnight adventures in Indonesia, various trips in Cuba, Brazil and central Argentina, and countless overnight hauls back and forth to the ADRA site in the Argentine desert. As you can imagine, these each provided their own brand of memorable adventures: in Cuba, we handed over our passports at every police checkpoint; in Indonesia, the white people paid for toilet paper and soap, though that didn’t include a toilet seat; in Argentina, we stopped for donkeys, llamas, forgotten chicken dinners and chain smokers.
Megabus is a new level of magical. From the first moment that I didn’t have to tip the driver to load my luggage to the discovery of hand sanitizer in the lavatory, this bus has surpassed all expectations, at a fraction of the price. How often can you give that review to anything, much less public transportation?
And here I’m sitting now, tapping away on my fully-charged laptop, sipping gas station coffee while the Blue Ridge mountains slide by the window. My fellow passengers bask in the aroma of lemon-scented soap and the faint swish of the air conditioner and go back to their respective Facebooks.
Oh, who am I kidding? I would trade the internet and toilet paper any day for humid, stuffy air, kids hawking cans of Fanta, crates of chickens down below and a nosy seat mate asking me about American politics.
Traveling is a human experience: you get to rub shoulders (literally) with vibrant people and colorful cultures. You get to see, taste, touch and especially smell the world, and share that with people you’ve never met.
So this developed nation, 21st century bus ride is fantastic, but it’s a temporary adventure, a placeholder for my next global affair: Colombia.