Why Long Bus Journeys Are Never Long Enough

Looking Out of Bus Window
Picture affectionately stolen from http://moblog.net/view/887901/things-to-do-on-a-bus-journey.

I love bus journeys. Whether it’s getting from Venice Beach to downtown LA on a city bus with bilingual schizophrenic homeless people, or a 30-hour cramped coach journey down the coast of Chile, I love every second.

I said to my friend I travelled to Israel with this summer, “I’ve never been on a bus journey that was long enough.”

“You’re weird, Chirpy,” he said, not for the first time.

“Sounds strange I know, but there’s something wonderful about being in that inbetween state. You’re not somewhere and you’re not somewhere else, you’re somewhere in the middle.”

“I love you dude, but sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with you.”

People Doing a Bus Tour
Picture affectionately stolen from http://www.maketravelfair.co.uk/2010/07/14/a-journey-into-south-africas-apartheid-era/.

“Something crazy could happen on that journey – the bus might be diverted or hijacked and we’d all end up in the middle of a Hollywood movie with cool camera angles and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. Or maybe it’s just the anticipation of what’s waiting for you. Even back in England, on a bus from London to Cambridge where I know what’s waiting for me, I can somehow cling to the belief that something will be different. Something will be better. Something will have changed to make life more interesting. And when you’re out there in Israel, or in Chile, or Los Angeles, you have no idea what’s waiting for you when you arrive. And that’s exciting.”

“I know what you mean, but those journeys are always so uncomfortable. Cramped, painful, boring. And don’t get me started on the types of people you have to sit next to. It’s the scum of society that use buses,” he whined.

“Sure, but for one, the scum of society are usually more interesting than the rich, entitled folk who ride trains and stay in hotels where they carry your luggage for you.”

“I think all hotels do that,” he pointed out, interrupting my important soliloquy.

“Yes. Well. The point stands. And on buses you can watch the world drift past the window; I’ll never get bored of that. It shows you’re doing something with your life; your life is moving, and that’s better than staying in the same place for years, even if you find yourself heading backwards.”

“You get all that out of a 20-minute bus ride across a city?”


“You’re very easily pleased. Anything else you want to add to that great speech?”

“Err, no. I think I’m done.”

We spoke nothing more of the matter until I met my friend again after a few weeks in which we’d gone our separate ways. He went to Greece and Wales (only he knows why), while I went to France. We met up for a celebratory drink in a Cambridge pub.

“You remember telling me you’d never been on a bus journey that was long enough?” He asked. I nodded. “Well, you were right. I took the bus here from Cardiff and I got here way too fast.”

“That pleased to see me, huh?”

He ignored that remark and said, “I realised that this is it. I go home tomorrow. After eight months on this side of the world, it’s over. I never wanted that bus journey to end. I wanted to sit in my window seat, eyes half closed, my backpack containing my entire life on the seat next to me, and I was clinging to the belief that something would happen and I wouldn’t have to go home.”

I nodded sagely. “Yes, young one, you have learnt well. You didn’t have to make it sound so bloody depressing though.”

“Sorry. Let’s have another drink. That’ll cheer me up.”

And we did.

Then we took the bus back to my place.

Local Bus on Nazareth Road
Picture NOT stolen. Yay original content!

31 Comments Add yours

  1. Really enjoyed this post!

    I have to agree with your friend though, whether you bus it, train it or fly it the destination can come quickly enough! πŸ˜€


  2. Jae says:

    I might have agreed with you until I took the slow bus from Cancun to Chichen Itza. Five hours later we arrived at our destination and I wanted to strangle someone. That’s probably my severe cabin fever issues though, I get them on long flights as well. I haven’t flown to Australia yet, and I’m sure I’ll get real crazy then too…

    But I’m glad you can find so much to ponder on during a bus ride. πŸ™‚


  3. Margarita says:

    Back in 2004, I took a bus from Cleveland, Ohio, to New York City. When I got on the bus in Cleveland, the outlook for John Kerry’s election and George W. Bush’s defeat were bright. When I got off the bus in NYC some 12 hours later, I wished that bus ride had gone on a lot longer! I like all modes of transportation, by the way. For me, it’s definitely about the journey!


  4. Katie says:

    Great post. I totally agree with you, but I can only enjoy a good bus ride if no one’s sitting next to me making mindless small talk the entire trip.


    1. ambigram0 says:

      Haha, I like a mix. Mindless small talk can be fun for a few hours if you get an interesting person!


  5. Jillian says:

    What a bright way to look at bus riding! I tend to sit next to people who make the ride… difficult. Like the large man who took up his seat and half of mine on the ride from Dublin to London, or the smelly people, etc. >.< But I have sat next to some really awesome people on trains and planes, so if I got someone like that, the bus journey could be really enjoyable πŸ™‚


    1. ambigram0 says:

      Haha, I had a Chinese guy on a bus from North Carolina to NYC and he had a twitch. So weird and I really struggled to sleep (overnight bus).


      1. Jillian says:

        Ooooo! Definitely harsh!!


  6. haileyjw says:

    I can relate to that for sure! Great post. There really is something about taking the bus, and seeing the world from the windows. Makes me want to hop on one and go somewhere new just for the sake of going there. πŸ™‚


  7. This brought back memories of a late- night ride on a sparsely populated bus in Egypt; the whole bus cracking up while some guys were trying to teach me Arabic! Heaven only knows what I was saying πŸ™‚


  8. juxthpose says:

    Love your post. Same here..I always think a bus journey is never long enough. Though there were some that were pretty long…like one where I boarded in the morning one day and arrived at my destination somewhere the next morning in Laos.


    1. ambigram0 says:

      Those types of journeys can be tough, but it all comes down to whether you’re able to sleep on what are usually pretty uncomfortable seats!


  9. BonMinou says:

    Loved this post! Once in a while I have a “bus day.” I get out the bus maps and see how far I can go on local routes. One journey took me some fair distance from central London and when I told my friends about it they said, “but a train goes right there.” Maybe, but where is the adventure in that?


    1. ambigram0 says:

      I always take the bus from London to Cambridge now, even though it takes twice as long. You get to see more interesting stuff out of the window, not just fields!


      1. BonMinou says:

        That’s so true. Loving your blog, btw.


  10. Always by train, by train! Oh how I hate buses. Trains can be interesting, some of my greatest adventurous journeys have been by train. By train you always feel like you could be in an Agatha Christy plot, especially overnight journeys. Trains you can get up, walk around, meet people, go find food. Love them.


  11. notnyet says:

    You were inside your optimistic, contemplative head so long, the tedium didn’t have a chance to suck out your soul.


  12. Victoria says:

    This is beautiful, I always seem to have the most interesting conversations on buses and I love the idea of being in between. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I’m really enjoying looking through your’s.


  13. I hate the bus everywhere in Seattle. I always wonder who will sit next to me, or rather hope people will sit next to me. No one wants to sit next to a stranger if they have to here, it’s quite unfortunate. I try to send smiles at people letting them know the seat next to me is free but they only will if there are no other isolated seats available. Humans these days, we’re all strangers aren’t we?


    1. ambigram0 says:

      Living in England that kind of attitude is everywhere. Plus a lot of people would consider it weird if someone sat next to them when there are isolated seats available. Could easily be construed as creepy, which is unfortunate.


      1. I figure I’ll take my chances in being creepy if I can meet an interesting new stranger.


      2. ambigram0 says:

        And in my mind, being creepy more often than not makes someone interesting!


      3. That makes perfect sense!


  14. *I take the bus everywhere


  15. pubnknit says:

    I like long bus or train rides too. It’s nice not to have to worry for a while. Everything is out of your hands until you hit the next station.
    However, I did get crammed into one old school bus somewhere in Panama where some guy pressed his crotch up against my arm for 3 straight hours. While making eye contact the entire time. With his friend staring at me aggressively over his shoulder.
    That one could have wrapped up sooner.


    1. ambigram0 says:

      I’ve heard so many similar horror stories about journeys like that in India and places. Think I might change my mind when I eventually get there!


      1. pubnknit says:

        Yeah with Latin America apparently “machismo” is blamed for general sexual harassment. Haven’t been to India yet, hopefully not too many crotch-pressers there.


  16. mjthecreator says:

    ca me kife- it’s all about the journey. Trains are awesome too


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