Tag Archives: cheap travel

What Do Bad Coffee, Buicks and Budget Films Have in Common? They’re Awesome.

imageThe first car I drove was my parents’ (formerly my grandmother’s) ’89 Buick LeSabre Limited Edition. It was a beautiful, bronze boat and it was a pretty big deal. No one would ever accuse the Buick of being a fancy car, but it was the car I drove and it was perfect. I loved how it felt rocking over the speed bumps and treated it like it was my chariot. When it was finally totaled, it was probably worth no more than $1,000 but to me it was worth at least $8,000. I didn’t have a good grasp on the worth of the dollar back then, but $8,000 would have seemed like a ton of money.

Since my first car, I’ve ridden and driven many vehicles. I’ve made money and tasted fancy food and spent $14 for a cocktail. In a particularly low moment, I think I paid an extra $6 for one pancake at a restaurant. One mother-flipping pancake, just so I could have a bite of it. How embarrassing.

The city I live in, San Francisco, is fairly shiny in that you’re likely to have a curated experience in whatever shop or restaurant you enter. Things (not everything, but many things) look professional, perfect, and take themselves seriously. And if you’re a young professional like I was, then it kind of makes sense. You have all this money that you’re making and no kids and you’re just kind of living for yourself so why not blow it all on jeans for your dog and artisan caramels after investing.

And I don’t have a problem with that. I really don’t. Artisan caramels should exist because they provide artisans with meaningful employment and dogs deserve to wear comfortable, fashionable clothing made just for them. I just feel like in getting caught up in all this business of seeking out the nicest or the best things, we miss out on other equally interesting experiences.

There was a quote in this book I read once on how formality tends towards uniformity, and I think it’s true. So maybe that’s why I’m drawn to the everyday wonders and the backstage freaks. These places have the stories. They have the stench of humanity all over them and I love it because they’re imperfect just like I am.

Watery coffee from a Jewish Deli. Greasy menus with strange trivia from a Greek restaurant outside of Chicago. The dollar cinema in Cupertino. A giant blue hippo sculpture. Second rate museums. Church bathrooms. Ridiculously cheesy Baptist artwork. The unrefined. The unpolished. The cheap, functional and random. The amateur and homemade. The tacky. The ugly. The gaudy.

These are the things that make up the spectrum of life, and all of it is interesting and fairly wonderful in its own way. So here’s to you, golden chariot. May you forever boat over speed bumps in the sky.

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Everything I Need to Know about Life, I Learned from the Overnight Megabus Trip from Washington D.C. to Boston



1. Happiness is a choice. You can either spend your 8 hours wallowing in self pity and regret, or spend your 8 hours thinking about coffee and the possibilities of the future.

2. Get work done and don’t procrastinate. Because you never know when you’ll be able to blog, wash your face or brush your teeth again.

3. Every moment can hold something special. The journey is not the destination, but it’s not nothing either, so take advantage of those miles in the middle of nowhere.

4. Don’t give up. Just after you’ve tried every possible sleep position, you just might stumble upon the one that will allow you to rest longer than thirty minutes.

5. People make life incredible. Nothing beats seeing the smiling face of a friend in the wee hours of the morning in a city you love after 8 hours of purgatory.

6. Assume nothing. The person behind you may have terrible taste in music, but they might be going through a hard time in life and need the crappy music to get them through. You don’t know.

7. Baggage sucks. The less you have, the better. That goes for personal baggage as well as possessions.

8. Other people exist besides yourself. The bus was not made for you and your needs. There are other people with different life stories, different clothes, different allergies and literature tastes, and their way of life is just as valid as yours.

9. People are people everywhere. This one goes without explaining.

10. Smile. Your smile will open more doors and give you more free donuts than your fist.

11. Think. Preparing ahead of time and thinking about the repurcussions of your decisions can lead to better, more effective outcomes. For example, bringing a pillow would make sleeping easier and the next day less exhaustion-filled.

12. Think positive. Since you’re already thinking, you might as well make it positive. Stress causes your brain to ferment, and too often you spend it worrying about things you can’t control, like what you’re going to eat for breakfast at South Street Diner.

13. Call Mom when you get in. She really cares about you and wants to make sure your trip went safely.

14. Sleep more. You probably need more sleep than you’re getting and especially more sleep than you’ll ever get on the overnight bus.

15. Bring warm clothing.

16. Infinity is everywhere. It is in the lengthening hours of the bus trip, it’s in the distance between your legs and the back of the seat in front of you, and it’s in the distance between you and a golden time in your past that you can never return to.

17. Love others.

18. Beauty is everywhere. It’s in the way rain hits the windows, in the color of a German’s hair and in the rich brown of a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

19. Care. Care about other people, about yourself, about the bus and the cities that you’re passing through. Care about the quality of work you produce and about the state of the nation and the world. Care even though it’s risky, even though it might hurt, even though it takes energy. Care.

20. Remember that life is heartbreakingly beautiful for reasons you will never quite understand, and that your great privilege and duty is to chase this beauty for as far as you can go, until your Megabus reaches its final destination and not a second sooner.

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