Tag Archives: bus

Do you prefer fast or slow travel?


I just got back from a whirlwind bus tour of Hokkaido, Japan. It was called “in depth” but what they meant by it and what I thought that meant were two different things. It got me thinking about the different approaches people have toward travel.

This bus tour was fun, and we got to see a lot (their version of “in depth”) but each place was rushed and there wasn’t time to really let anything soak in (my version of “in depth”). In some ways this was similar to parts of the road trip I went on. We had three weeks but we still rushed through many things because our time in each place was limited.

Spending a limited amount of time in each place isn’t guaranteed to cause fast travel though. I’ve done family trips where we only stay one or two nights in each place, but we don’t try to do as many things in each place. This means we get to spend more time at each museum, national park, and other interesting features (petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks, etc), but can’t see as much during the trip overall.

That’s different from some of my other family trips where we basically live with our grandparents for a month or so, doing daily life and seeing a few things here and there. It’s more relaxing and we get to really go deep into the museums, take our time watching a sunset, or spend all day at the beach or pool. I feel like I have a better appreciation for the places where we’ve done this, but I also recognize that there isn’t the urgency to try to see everything because we know we’re going to come back soon. It’s more like the approach I use where I actually live, spending time doing interesting things on a weekend.

While the whirlwind trips were fun and I saw more in that time than I thought was possible, they left me a little burned out and a bit frustrated that I couldn’t spend the time that I wanted when at the museums or cultural/historic areas. We got to see many things but it was at the expense of really knowing them. At some places, I learned more after I left because there was no time to read the signs or brochures, just enough to run through and take any photos or collect stamps (US national parks stamps and Japan tourist stamps).

Fast travel like this is good for letting me know what I want to come back and see again, so I know where I want to go in-depth the next time. Slower travel is better for feeling like I know a place and its culture. It lets me relax and enjoy the trip as I experience it rather than only in retrospect as my brain and emotions catch up with the rapid itinerary.

Someday, I think it might be fun to experience travelling very slowly, living in a place and working remotely, exploring for several weeks to a few months, and then moving again. If you’ve done this, or know someone who has, I’d be interested to know what your/their experience has been.

Also, I want to know what you think about fast and slow travel. Which do you prefer, and for what kind of trip?

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Travel by bus

Bolt Bus

Photo credit: GoToVan via Flickr – Used unmodified under CC BY 2.0 license

There’s something innately exciting about every mode of travel, but travel by bus is the very picture of budget travel from books and movies, allowing you to have more travel experiences with the same amount of money, especially when compared to flying.

I went from Seattle to Portland on the Bolt Bus, which had an interior like that of a small puddle-jumper airplane. The driver was friendly and the seats were comfortable enough. The bus was air conditioned, and there were two free Wi-Fi channels, one for streaming video/music and the other for everything else. Power outlets were in most rows of seats (mine didn’t have one for some reason, but luckily I didn’t need it). The bus was only half full on both trips so I got the full row to myself (it’s choose-your-own seating), which made it even nicer. Even in the rows that had both seats filled, the people still had as much room as they would have had if sitting next to each other on a budget plane.

I’d heard horror stories of bus bathrooms, but on the return trip I decided I was brave enough to check it out myself. Anticipating a tiny, disgusting box that could rival the gas station bathrooms we used during family road trips, I was pleasantly surprised that it was clean and about the size of the bathrooms on small airplanes.

There were only two small drawbacks: the legroom and the location of the bus stops.

The legroom wasn’t much of an issue for me (yay short legs!) but for taller people or those with longer legs, you might feel that you are as cramped as on a small plane, despite Bolt Bus’ efforts to give more legroom (according to their FAQ page, it’s 3 inches more than a standard bus seat configuration).

The bus stops were okay if you were trying to get somewhere central/downtown (Seattle’s is in Chinatown and Portland’s is in the Downtown neighborhood). There are many local bus routes that serve each area and getting to where you need to go from there, so it isn’t much of a problem, except that they’re in high traffic areas and it can be difficult to estimate where the traffic will be at what time if you’re not from the area. I ended up needing to get a ride from someone back to the bus stop because I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in time on the local bus during rush hour. However, now I know to plan ahead for things like traffic, and am more mindful of the time I book my trips for, so I doubt that it would be as big of a issue in the future.

The only other thing I was bummed about was that, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky people to be able to buy a $1 ticket (a few tickets each route are offered at $1 one-way), but it was still so much cheaper than flying. Round trip, the cost was $34. I could have also brought one luggage free, which would have gone in the compartment near the wheels, plus two carry-ons.

Overall, I think it’s a great deal, as comfortable as flying on a small budget airline, and with the same perks (or more, depending on the airline). I’d travel by bus again in a heartbeat.

Do you have bus travel stories? Share them in the comments!