Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On the Greyhound Bus

On move-out day my sophomore year, I found myself sitting with a backpack stuffed with useless possessions (dead Sharpies, a pair of heels, some granola bars, etc.) on the curb at the Baltimore Greyhound station. I'd procrastinated a little too hard on packing up my stuff (hence, my haphazard assortment of salvaged belongings), and now I'd missed my ride and was about to be late to my brother's college graduation. It took me 12 hours, $86 dollars, 3 buses and at least four coffees to get to get to Pittsburgh. I'd taken the bus before, the Greyhound, especially, as it was usually the cheapest way to get to New York or back home to Rhode Island. Every other time, though, I'd spent plugged in - to my phone, my computer, my headphones, my GPS so that I could determine exactly how far I was from my destination - from the moment I set foot in the station. I regret this detachment, to an extent, but I can't disagree with Sal's observation that these stations "give a feeling of sadness that only bus stations can" (Kerouac) and I suppose I needed some way to ignore that. Regardless, on this journey I was in dire straits - no computer, a quickly dying phone, no headphones, not even a book to read - and dreaded the journey ahead of me with mounting doom. 12 hours later, I was waving goodbye and good luck to my fellow weary travelers (it was about 2:00am at this point) as my mom looked on in bewilderment. 

Sal's entire journey is so fascinating because he is traveling for the sake of travel. Like me on that Greyhound, he is devoid of any distractions - he just wants to experience travel with no ulterior motives. He hasn't been ale to plan his trip through a combination of Trip Advisor, Google Maps and continuous GPS instructions - he doesn't even know if he will have somewhere to stay or a way to get there when he sets out for a new city. Yet it is this unknowing, this lack of distraction that would detract from the experience, that allows him to have the most interesting of his adventures - hitchhiking from town to town, partying (maybe a little too much) with old friends and new strangers, brief and wild love affairs with girls from different states. It is his willingness to be disorientated and accept the uncertainty of travel that allow him to weave such an interesting, sometimes scary, sometimes incredible path across the country and hear (or live) the stories he does.

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