5 days and 4,700 some odd miles all on a bus is the preferred method of travel for my first expedition. Most people would opt for the slightly-more-expensive-by-about-$100 flight that takes only 12 hours with layovers over the 105 hours it takes a bus. And I would too, I will probably spend more than $100 on food alone even if it’s just Twinkees and coffee.
However, most people aren’t carrying several bags of equipment that all has to get through customs in one piece. In addition, saying funding for this expedition is tight is the understatement of the year. For this very important first in my life, I much prefer to be close to all my gear, perched right above it knowing that I can access any bag at any stop. And what’s more important, having this time to myself, mostly out of reasonable range for any cell phone signal as I narrow through the Canadian bush, gives me the opportunity to write and work on the finer details that get swallowed up by daily nuisances such as updating social media.
I’ll take a bus over a plane any day
To be honest, I actually prefer bus. The fact is, a bus is a very manual form of transportation; you get to see the land, meet the people, watch the scenery change delicately through the window, and notice the fine details as they change. There is certainly room for appreciation for the convenience of covering thousands of miles in only a handful of hours, but planes remove you from the journey. You effectively get locked in a metal tube with climate control and “windows” that, let’s be honest, can be replaced with a screensaver of clouds that flicker the sun twice a day during sunset and sunrise. Unless you are literally next to the window, all you really see is a porthole that has three settings; bright light, pitch black, or closed (not under your control either).
And I’ve done it before, just last year; and it was rough and wonderful all at the same time. I remember the bus breaking down, as Eric Larsen put it “literally in the middle of nowhere,” sleeping upright until I thought I lost a couple inches in height, and nothing but gas station food… But at the same time, I remember the incredible bus drivers who told me rich stories, making friends with the people who take those routes more often than you would think ( I might even run into one of them again), The sunrises and sunsets that changed the world from the outside in, bathing light over us all and unwrapping a landscape more beautiful each day.
How To Do It
Taking a bus across the continent is not as easy as you think. Punch in New York to Whitehorse, our HQ, into Greyhound and you’ll come up with a blank page. You actually have to look at a map (what is this 1990!?) and look at the cities along the way for connections. And don’t think the people on the phone will be of any help; if it was up to them, the trip would cost just as much as the plane. They just pick the first thing that comes up and its usually the most expensive connections. No, you’ve got to do the math yourself.
Your best strategy is to pick popular cities and connect them. Chances are, there’s competition between such points and, since buses must run all the time to compete, you’ll get better rates. I picked Toronto because I know that’s a major city and it runs through the popular tourist spot of Niagara Falls. From there I was lucky to grab the remaining line that runs through Vancouver, which added a couple hundred miles to the trip. It’s possible Greyhound will split the trip up in the future, but if you’ve got an itch for a road trip to a beautiful destination, I recommend this.
BUS = $185.33 total
$137.83 + $47.50
FLIGHT = $385+ flight
base cost + taxes and fees + baggage fees $25/50/etc.