I wanted June 2015 to be my first year attending the Free State Project's annual gathering, Porcfest. However, the event was coming up quicker than I had expected, and plane tickets had shot up to more than what I was used to -- and what I could afford. Desperate to get to the East coast, I chose the only option that was available to me: I purchased a round trip cross-country bus ticket.
I knew during the 2014-2015 school year that I wanted to embark on traveling adventures the following summer. Becoming more active in politics, I realized that by attending seminars and conferences, I was able to get my hands on more resources and develop friendships with fellow activists. Porcfest was at the top of my list for events I yearned to attend. Because who doesn't want to mix camping with speakers and workshops? With all of that anticipation for Porcfest built up in my body, I knew I had to find a way to get there. And get there I did. My roundtrip Greyhound ticket cost about $170. Both trips left on Monday evenings, but the first one ended on a Friday morning, while the second one ended on a Thursday afternoon. Being unable to purchase the ticket on their website (it was around $140), I had to endure a painfully long phone call to purchase what I wanted. On top of that unbearably drawn-out call, more fees were added to the price since I purchased over the phone, marking it up by $30. Great start to the adventure. Still less than buying plane or train tickets.
Traveling (usually by plane) was no new ordeal for me. Bussing for days at a time was. Most of the bus rides I have had to endure were usually no more than four hours. Surviving on a bus for only a few hours is a matter of having good music to listen to. Before this trip, the longest bus ride I had taken was from Seattle to San Francisco. Most of the trip occurred during the night. You may be thinking, "Oh, it was good that you could just sleep through it!" but you would be wrong. I do not sleep well in vehicles, waking up whenever there is a lane change, a less-than-smooth stop, and more. In the middle of the night, a couple of men on this bus decided to play some music out loud. I was unable to fall back asleep, and I was so irritated that I pushed my usually introverted self aside to snap at them. I was afraid that my cross-country trip would also harbor inconsiderate passengers.
From Seattle to Boston, my trip had me go down to Salt Lake City and Denver. When I arrived in Boston, I took a five-hour nap at my aunt's house, not waking up even when my set alarm had gone off. On the way back to Seattle, I traveled along the northern states. This route shortened my ride from the previous ride by less than one day. Personally, I preferred my trip back to Seattle, since there were fewer transfers. I enjoyed the views throughout the trip. Each location had something visually appealing to offer, whether it be skies, landscape, or flora.
I didn't have to eat much since I was sitting down for hours at a time, so I usually only ate one meal a day and satisfied any other hunger with snacks. My snacks consisted of Luna Bars, beef jerky, and fruit leather. Unlike other passengers, I did not rely on meal stops for food. One day on the way back from Boston, I was tired of eating my snacks and had a craving for a real meal. However, the bus didn't make any meal stops the entire day. The next meal stop we had was at 3 am. I was too tired to get off the bus for that. My need to go to the restroom dwindled as well, since I only had to go once every five to ten hours.
All of the tickets I had did not accurately represent how many buses I needed to take. I was given reboarding passes for when I had to get onto another bus, which made the process more confusing. It seemed too easy to miss a bus or get onto the wrong one because of this, especially when sleep-deprived. (I almost missed a bus just once.) A kind of camaraderie was developed among people headed in the same direction, especially when we were confused on which bus we had to take. Definitely the worst part of riding a bus is when there are transfers in the middle of the night. Despite St. Louis having a nice station, I wasn't able to fully appreciate it because we stopped there at 2 AM and didn't leave until 4 AM. The bus we left on was the same that we had arrived on, but we still had to get off of it.
Traveling by bus for a long period of time is not something I recommend if you cannot set aside the time for it. I am unsure if I ever willingly want to bus even 2,000 again. Nevertheless, it was an eye-opening experience, and I recommend that everyone spend at least 24 hours traveling by bus once in their life.