Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

Greetings from Long Beach! After a long night on the Greyhound, I’m at Cal State Long Beach for a few days to help a friend stay sane through her last thesis writing days. Hopefully, my own thesis will progress as well.

If you followed my #bustweets on Twitter, you already know what an adventure the past day has been. I consider myself lucky to have arrived sane and vomit-free. Any complaints aside, I was able to travel via mass transit for cheap (way less than airfare) in a reasonable amount of time. I even  slept for a few hours here and there. So why on Earth don’t more people travel by bus?

This wasn’t my first rodeo. Ok, so it’s my second. Last summer, I took those first teetering steps onto a Greyhound to attend a Surprise Birthday Party in Dallas, TX. Another smooth trip, with some characters along the way. I had planned to attempt to travel the West  this summer with the Greyhound Discovery Pass, but unfortunately there is some distance between National Park entrance gates and the nearest bus stations. An adventure for another time, perhaps.

Have you ever traveled between cities by bus?

My mother is a self-proclaimed expert in the fields of ‘Worrying’, ‘Things That Can Go Wrong’ and ‘Worst Case Disaster Scenarios’, so if anyone has insight into this quandary, it would be her.
Her telling text message advice before my departure:

“Don’t talk to strangers, wash your hands, and put a towel down on the seat!!!”

She hits some pretty pertinent points.

  • Bus safety is questionable. These people didn’t go through rigorous scanning, frisking, and searching.
  • Sanitation is not a high priority on buses.
  • Always travel with a towel.

But how do buses compare to planes and cars in terms of speed, price, safety, and environmental impact?

I turned to the Internet for some quick answers. (Sidenote: always question what you read on the Internet, including here!)

Speed: Plane
For all but the shortest trips, planes are the obvious choice. There is no way that I am capable of driving by myself for 12 hours, so bus takes 2nd, leaving car in 3rd
I bought my round trip tickets a week before departure. No airline could dream of matching the price and gas for a single passenger car would also add up quickly.
Safety: Plane
Buses follow closely after. If one bus can carry 100 people, it would take at LEAST 25 cars to carry the same load. That’s 24 more opportunities to get into accidents.
Environmental Impact: Bus
Lot of passengers and less fuel needed compared with air travel.


As a grad student exploring new energy sources, I place importance on price and environmental impact. For me, taking the 17 hour bus ride is a no-brainer. I can spend riding time reading, sleeping, or people-watching. I can bring my own snacks and drinks. I can confirm that at the very least, the Phoenix station has goldfish crackers. Also, when I’m lucky the buses have free WiFi, another advantage over most airports.

Safety and time would be useful to consider for families and business travelers. The young mother with three little girls (including The Vomiter) was mostly likely grateful that she didn’t have to drive and handle her crew.  But once the eldest can entertain and watch over her sisters, then perhaps traveling by car will once more be practical.

Travel is always going to be give and take with time, money, safety and comfort, but when the destination is worthy you will find a way. Luckily, I don’t have to depend on funding from the government, international cooperation, and years of innovation to visit my friend. If we as a global community truly want to explore and visit Mars, we’ll find a way. We may have to pick and choose our priorities, and exhibit endless patience, but the destination is a reward like no other.

Question of The Day:
What is your favorite form of travel?
What is your limit for time spent traveling by bus?
What are your favorite travel snacks?


4 thoughts on “Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

  1. For short distances (half way across country or shorter), I prefer driving. Longer distance (from one coast to the other or international), flying is the way to go. I've never traveled between cities by bus (well, one time on a charted bus, but it was a private group and the bus had a restroom, so I don't think that counts) and can't really comment but, from what I gained of your experience, I don't think its for me. I like to drive the open road, stop when I want and take random detour adventures, camping to save cost, etc.

    Snacks – love them all. But, more of a coke guy (as opposed to any other soft drink) and usually favor 3 muskateers or a snickers (compared to any other candy bar) and cheetos tops all other chips. The one thing I abhor is the rolling hotdogs under a hot lamp.


  2. I do appreciate the ability to stop and wander about when driving your own vehicle, but when I'm driving alone I always just try and push through. I did stop once on the drive from Albuquerque to Colorado Springs at a vista point to take in the view.

    Also, Greyhound buses have potties, just not very nice ones. I was surprised at the amount of people who just could not 'hold it' until we stopped for a break!

    I would never spend more than one night on a bus! Even 17 hours was pushing my limits. Any further and I probably would have flown.

    Little known fact, but the absolute BEST road trip snack is a can of bean dip and Fritos. I don't think it would work with Cheetos though. Goldfish and M&Ms are other staples of mine.


  3. I'm afraid I'll have to disagree. If you want to talk about the BEST road trip snack, then that would be the slim jim. It's undisputed. Might be terrible for you from a health perspective but, it is the ONLY road trip snack. It was designed for road trips and rumor has it the space ship is gonna be packed full of 'em on the flight to Mars.


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