Vacations are all about relaxing unwinding and heading to a world away from the chaos of our daily lives. Therefore, it is important that the journey too is cosy, and we do not end up getting more tired. Isn't it?
What if I say NO?
My idea of travelling is a little different from the people I usually meet on these journeys. I do not mind taking an uncomfortable local bus rides on my vacations. I have travelled in car with my family and friends too. But bus rides are something that I actually prefer.
My tryst with State Transport Buses began when I was in college. I was broke almost all the time, but there were so many places that I wanted to see. State transport buses were an easy way to travel to these places. As they are meant for the general public, the ticket prices are really low, and I could afford them. Eventually, I started earning money but I had gotten used to travelling by these buses. Because affordability was not the only reason I loved these buses. There were many other things that travelling by local buses offered me:
1. Interacting with the locals –
I have travelled with my family and friends. All the topics that we discuss are ones we already know about. There is hardly any heterogeneity in opinions. However, travelling by a local bus brings me closer to various kinds of people who do not consume the same media that I do, and have received a very different education than I have. Interacting with them provides me an opportunity to see the world through different lenses, and also learn local slang, tips and tricks on the go.
2. Witnessing Public Transactions –
Most of us remain oblivious to how the world runs. But buses are the best way to see various socio-economic transactions happening in real time. There are these sellers who sell innovative daily tools in the buses. Another set of people upload raw materials that are unloaded by a relative in a far-off destination, and sent as handicrafts, on the journey back. Bus journeys bring us face to face with many street smart people who can easily give us a lesson or two in marketing and sales.
3. See India unfiltered –
When we have a personal vehicle, we shut our windows to the outside world to be in a comfortable cocoon of ours. If I can write an article in English on a laptop which you can read on your smartphone, believe me, we live a life very distant from those of a large number of people. A journey on a bus is a guide to the unfiltered India where we get to witness hyperlocal fashion, etiquettes and social norms. We get to learn about the struggles of others, and also their aspirations. And quite often we see instances of kindness and love on these journeys.
4. Learning to adjust –
We all want to live king size. But it is when we make space for others that we truly find happiness within ourselves. Given the population of India, making space on buses can be quite literal. It also helps us push aside our preconceived notions about people with accents and appearances different from us, as we spend time with them in an enclosed space.
5. Discovering regional music –
Most of the music I have heard on public transport vehicles is not something I would like to hear when I am alone in my room. But looking beyond what we recognise as good music, lies a large pool of entertainment that may amuse a large segment of people somewhere else. I am into marketing, and to understand what entertains others, and who they find entertaining, is something I can learn easily when the local buses play their own tunes.
6. Tasting regional flavours –
When it comes to food, we usually avoid taking any risk. So when we travel by our personal vehicles, we stop only at places that appear familiar and sanitised. However, the road transport buses stop at some dhabas which may not sparkle from outside, but offer delicious hygienic food made by local cooks. These places offer regional flavours that are not adjusted to suit the tourists from cities, but to satiate the taste buds of the regional population.
7. Spotting places not on social media –
Buses follow local routes and markets. It is possible to give a picture to these places that we otherwise just see as names on the maps. Sometimes, on these routes, we spot some beautiful places that have not found their mention on social media yet. Bus conductors have a wealth of knowledge about every place in the area, and are always ready to help plan a visit to these places.
8. Meeting other backpackers –
Of course, backpackers can be found in hostels too. But it has happened quite often that I found another backpacker who was travelling to some place unknown to me, and I decided to get along. It is always great to have company that is equally invested in travelling, is looking out to explore and is actually on their way towards it.
9. And lastly, economy and connectivity –
As already mentioned, buses are always a lot cheaper than any other form of transport, and connect to a wider area than the railways. Now that I earn more, I might have some money to spare, but can always use that on another trip or for some food and shopping.
Bus journeys may hurt my back a little, but I am ready to tolerate them for all the entertainment and education that I get in return on the road.