This fall break, I went to New York, came back to Bryn Mawr for a few days, then spent the last half of the week in Boston! All good times, but I spent overall about 18 hours on a Megabus last week. I love bus systems like Megabus and Bolt Bus because they are so cheap, though they have few other redeeming qualities. The seats are medium comfortable and I have boarded plenty of buses that were up to an hour later than scheduled. However, they’re generally pretty clean and seem safe (if a little lurchy) and attract a diverse crowd that is pretty fun for people watching (a lot of college students, but lots of other people from different walks of life. My favorite are families with teenagers and parents who are middle-aged business people because everyone involved clearly feels like they are 100% too good to be sitting on their bag and waiting for a bus). In my long years as a bus traveler, I have found some behaviors make the process easier, including:
1: Get a huge scarf that you don’t mind putting on the ground and wear it. A huge scarf is highly portable and has one thousand uses. On my journey back from New York, I used my scarf to sit on when the bus was late, draped it over my shoulders when the bus got chilly, and used it alternatively as a blanket and a pillow. For extreme situations, a large scarf also makes a great tent.
2: Don’t count on the internet. They claim to have free wi-fi and outlets, but those things work around 35% of the time. It’s not terrible to be unplugged for a few hours, but it is terrible to have an assignment you’d like to email to a professor sitting uselessly on your computer while you wonder if you know anyone who would be willing to take a dictation of your paper over the phone and turn it in for you. If you are thinking of using a laptop on a bus, be sure to charge it beforehand unless you want to spend a portion of your journey crawling among the legs of your fellow travelers looking for an outlet that works.
3: Find an advocate at every checkpoint. This is important for safety and for giving you the upper hand when your fate is to be determined by the mercy of strangers (or lack thereof!) I get lost a lot, and one of my (many) coping mechanisms is to make sure at least someone took note of me and got invested in my safety at every stopping point in my journey. Find someone who you think looks trustworthy and responsible and strike up a conversation with them– best case scenario, they watch your bags while you find a bathroom, worst case scenario, when your party asks, “Has anyone seen a short 20-year-old with brown hair? She seems to have wandered off.” Someone will be able to say, “She went that direction.”