A steady hiss of escaping air greeted my ears as soon as the Greyhound pulled out of the Vancouver depot. I looked over and realized I was sitting in an exit row, in one of the two seats left on the bus. I had come with twenty minutes to spare, but was turned back at the gate because I didn’t have a tag for my backpack.
“You guys need to be at the gate 30 minutes before boarding. Especially on holidays.” A cross security guard took the bag from my hand and ushered me on with a scowl.
I slumped into the remaining seat almost as soon as the bus pulled out of the depot. Normally opting to take a plane, I was headed to Calgary for the long weekend on a 14 hour overnight bus ride through the Rocky Mountains. The bus ride was almost $200 cheaper and in my mind, that justified an uncomfortable night.
A Greyhound is its own atmosphere and with not much else to pass the time, I tried to read my fellow passengers. There were a single travelers in worn-down clothes that badly needed a wash. They settled in fairly quickly, immersed themselves into their music and tried to find the most comfortable position to grab some sleep.
A family was spread across a middle row furiously distributing snacks and carrying far too many bags, the edge of two of them were sticking into the aisle just like their children would be within an hour.
The elderly were near the front, spiritedly chatting about their upcoming trip. Their voices, only audible a for a few rows due to the drowning roar of the engines, was the only sustained conversation on the bus. Most passengers were already dealing with the fourteen hours ahead.
And then there were people like me, scattered around the bus. We were the ones in obvious discomfort – shifting around to find a softer spot on the upright chairs. We were the ones awake all night, staring out at the fog and the darkness, waiting until morning.
A few hours into the ride, we reached Kelowna for a mandatory break which brought over two dozen tired bodies into the dilapidated bus depot. With no other place open at 2 am, passengers were splayed about in a chaotic manner. Once back on the bus, seats had changed and I was stuck with a smoker and the fumes hovered for the rest of the ride.
I got off the bus at around 10am, squinting in the early morning Calgary sun, eyes unable to adjust to the brightness after spending the entire night seeking some sort of distraction from the ride.
Long bus rides are not the most comfortable form of transportation. Some of my tips to make the trip smoother are below:
- Get to your bus early! You’re going to be stuck in one seat for half a day, so why not get a seat that you are comfortable with?
- Get comfortable. Bring eye masks, travel pillows, headphones or earplugs. The driver normally turns on lights at each stop and there are about 10 stops on a 14 hour journey.
- Avoid the back row (personal preference). The washroom can be a major annoyance, especially on long trips when all you really want to do is sleep.
- Bring plenty of food and water. Pit stops aren’t always near a coffee shop or a fast food joint.
- Dress comfortably – most people will be in sweats. Don’t worry, everyone is in the same situation and nobody will judge your onesie.
- Respect public spaces. Putting your legs across the aisle or taking up more than one seat may make you comfortable, but for everyone else, it is a nuisance. You wouldn’t believe how many people are selfish and oblivious to others
In conclusion, I didn’t enjoy bussing, but it was certainly something I told myself I’d try. I thought driving would be exhausting, but the lack of sleep really took a toll on me once I got into Calgary.