Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Today, I wait

I am sitting at the Tiete bus station in São Paulo waiting for a bus to Brasilia. There is something comforting about waiting for a bus (or train), especially when you have a few hours to kill. Part of it is that I know exactly what I need to be doing. My day is planned for me, which gives me time to relax and think about the next city*. Also, bus stations are so similar that once you've experienced one, you know them all. Their lack of identity allows me to write them off in most instances as something I've already experienced. The waiting area encapsulates the whole experience, as the shops and coffee stands blend together from one station to the next. All the expectation is pushed back a few hours till you board.

Now, obviously bus trips can be horrendously long (todays trip will be 14 hours), but I think they tell you so much more about a country than flying from one city to another. When I was in Israel last year, I took a bus from Tel Aviv to Haifa, which was not very long, but it showed me so much of the country and landscape which a quick flight at 30,000 feet could never do. We stopped off several times at gas stations to eat ice cream and buy snacks. It was a road trip, through and through.

And that's the best thing. Buses and trains afford you plenty of window time (and something to see), where the journey informs the experience. On an airplane, the journey is something I want to forget.

* I have very basic itineraries in each city, containing interesting areas to visit, along with specific buildings I want to see. But there is no schedule for when I will do what. So these moments of downtime let me develop a better understanding of where I am going. I essentially cram for the next city. I like to travel this way as I can let outside events alter the course of the trip as the unexpected things are usually the most exciting.

1 comment:

  1. I have gotten some of the best insights about the places I have visited while sitting in airport and bus terminals. I have met many people there who want to share their views of their country. A few years back, in the Kabul airport, I met two sons of the guy who makes Karzai's qaraqul hats. They were in their 20's -- very interesting perspective of the country.

    Glad that you put up a blog. Will look forward to following your journey.