In Part One, I reluctantly follow my husband aboard a Greyhound bus in Ottawa, bound for Vancouver. Can I last four days on a bus? Can our relationship?
Our travels west from Ottawa to Vancouver by Greyhound bus were sadly disappointing. Not because there was anything wrong with the journey—it all went rather smoothly.
That’s precisely why I found it disappointing.
Because I expected the trip to be a flop—uncomfortable at best and rife with disaster at worst—I was planning on gaining some relationship currency from the whole sorry episode. You know, the “Remember the time you made me go to Vancouver by bus?” sort of guilt trip that allows me the right to be catered to. I planned to dine out on this trip until at least December.
I’m not sure how it all went wrong. Maybe having low expectations helped.
I was never worried about the physical journey. I love road trips! Whether I’m in a car, bus, or train, I can just gaze at the passing scenery contently for hours. Give me a window seat, and I’m a happy traveler.
Three anxieties plagued me going into this trip. First, I worried that, because seating isn’t reserved, I would end up sitting next to some stranger instead of my traveling companion. Second, I worried that, with several consecutive bus journeys, we would miss a vital connection and experience inconvenient and expensive delays. Finally, I worried about being able to get adequate sleep on the bus, not to mention adequate food.
The first two worries were the big ones, and I was wrong on both counts. For the whole journey, we sat in the second row of seats—together. As for the connections, there was no problem. Since many passengers were continuing on to the next westbound bus, Greyhound would have held the next bus if necessary to ensure we all made our connection.
That leaves the justified worry about adequate sleep and food. However, on the overnight segments, fewer passengers meant that most people could stretch out across two seats to sleep. Armed with my airplane-grade blanket, eye mask, ear plugs, and inflatable neck pillow, I didn’t get a great sleep, but it was good enough. For food, we left nothing to chance and brought two bags of non-perishable food with us. Between the packed food, and quick meals grabbed at the longer stops, we never went hungry. And with an overnight stay in a Winnipeg hotel, we got one fortifying meal—and one good sleep—halfway through the trip.
After four days and almost 5000 kilometres, I was glad to get off the bus—I felt like I didn’t want to sit down for a week. But honestly the whole trip had gone amazingly well. I got to see a great deal of the country once again and absorb the incredible vastness of Canada. The trip was an opportunity to relive memories of other times and other trips.
As a relationship test, rather than being the wedge that drives us apart, the journey highlighted why we are together. We both possess a spirit of adventure and a zany sense of fun. (A 5000-kilometre bus journey is not the craziest thing we’ve done.) We both like to research and plan in order to reduce unpleasant surprises. Knowing where to find food and flush toilets are high priorities! We are indulgent of each other’s foibles. He indulges my preference for the window seat so I can be the photographer, and I indulge his preference for the aisle seat so he can be the manly protector. (Okay, I admit It’s probably more about my need for the window seat.) Before, during, and after the trip, we had fun in planning, experiencing, and reminiscing.
Would I do it again? Not often, and not soon, but I would definitely consider another Greyhound bus journey again. There’s a lot of Canada east of Ottawa that I’d like to re-explore. And someday, I’ll be heading west again when I attend my AU graduation ceremony. The bus is far and away the least expensive way to travel. And, don’t forget, he owes me.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.