Andrew Evans has already conquered the United States and crossed the border into Mexico, and offers a snapshot of the people he’s encountered so far.
I may be traveling by myself on this trip, but the great thing is that I’m not riding alone. But who are the people who take the Greyhound in the U.S.? After 36 hours riding a big silver bus, I’m beginning to get a better idea.
In America, all active duty and retired military personnel (as well as their dependent family members) receive an automatic ten percent discount off Greyhound tickets. An even better deal is the “maximum fare” option for the military, where they only pay $198 round trip for travel to and from anywhere in the continental United States. On some of my buses, as many as a third of the passengers were U.S. military going back to work after the holidays.
A lot of people are afraid to fly. I guess I’ve always know that, but now I’ve met some of them, I’m a lot more sympathetic to their plight. This isn’t the usual jitters before getting on a plane–true aerophobes have a crippling fear of even stepping on a plane. I met dozens of such people on my ride across America. One woman who was traveling from New York all the way to Key West, Florida had paid $100 more for her bus ticket than the plane would have cost. Another woman had flown from Alabama to Chicago in order to return home on the bus with her elderly, scared-to-fly mother, and a man I met was busing from Minnesota to Miami because he couldn’t stomach flying that far.
All across America, college and high school students take Greyhound. They also get a good discount, so that in most cases it turns out to be a good deal cheaper than flying. I met several teenagers traveling on their own, including a sixteen-year old boy traveling from Pennsylvania to Mississippi.
People from other countries travel by bus a lot more than Americans do. Some of them can’t understand why we don’t use it more. In 36 hours on the bus, I heard a whole mix of languages being spoken and met a range of travelers including a Mexican immigrant heading back to Mexico, a mother from Africa with her young baby, and a Middle Eastern man who read a copy of the Koran by flashlight.
People Without Cars
America is an auto-centric society so if you don’t have a car (because you can’t drive, because you can’t afford one, because you don’t want one), well then life is tough. I met several people with disabilities who took the bus because they couldn’t drive: a blind man with his young son as an escort, a couple with Down Syndrome, people recovering from injuries and still on crutches. They were all grateful for a bus system that allowed them to go places.
Short Distance Travelers
It’s often the case that the shorter distance you fly, the more it costs–especially from smaller airports. The bus comes in handy for covering these shorter distances and a lot of my fellow passengers found that to be the case over the Christmas holidays. It’s the very reason that I took Greyhound from Dallas to Houston years ago. Little did I know that my next trip on Greyhound would start me on my way to Antarctica–which is not a short distance trip at all.
Photo: Andrew Evans