Being such a big advocate of responsible travel, I decided to try taking the most carbon-efficient mode of travel to get back to GDL from Vermont after xmas: long-distance bus. More than anything, I wanted to prove that it`s doable, if not enjoyable. I was tired of the hypocritical dissonance between my climate idealism and my penchant for flying. And, admittedly, I didn`t want to wuss out on my former roommate Andy`s challenge to travel the 3,000 miles by bus. So off I went!
I cheated from the start, taking a train from Montpelier to New York City to save a few bucks and 5 hours. After 3 great days catching up with friends in NYC (thanks for the futon Fergy!), I woke up at 4am on a freezing Thursday morning to make it to the Port Authority terminal for my 6am bus. Got my ticket, an accordion of perforated glossy sheets for each of the stops on the my trip. It read like a band`s reunion tour through the south: New York, Washington, Richmond, Raleigh, Winston Salem, Charlotte, Duncan, Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson, Monroe, Shreveport, Dallas, San Antonio, Laredo, and finally Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey, Mexico.
The next week and half was a bumpy ride of travel highs and lows. There was a great conversation with a young Iraq vet-turned pacifist on the bus from San Antonio to Nuevo Laredo. There was the anxiety-inducing run from the bus station to my hostel in the freezing early-morning darkness of Zacatecas, a city I`d never visited, using only a hand-drawn, un-labeled map I`d picked up at another hostel and a bumpy commuter bus. There was the quiet wonder of hiking lone in the mountains in Chinpinque park, outside Monterrey.
But there were there were also the drivers`terse, early-morning wake up calls blasting from scratchy loudspeakers as we rolled into depressed Southern towns in our fluorescent-lit, jam-packed buses. The physical discomfort of days without a shower, or real food. There were the desperate-looking riders waiting, sleeping, or sometimes just swaying in place in shabby greyhound terminals. And there was the sobering moment when I crossed the border into Mexico with just my passport and a signature, while hundreds of people die every year trying to do the exact same thing, but in the other direction, in the surrounding deserts.
Coming back to Guadalajara was like coming home after a long trip. The warmth of rekindling memories and friendships from last year was great. But the let-down of not being on the road anymore, of not being in motion, in emotional and geographic flux, made me feel idle and impatient. Living life on such a wide emotional spectrum is addictive. Even if you`ve just spent a whole week on cramped buses and dirty terminals, sometimes coming home can be the most uncomfortable part of traveling.