While travelling the world you are faced with many challenges and obstacles that you need to overcome. Some will test you mentally, some will test you physically, and some will encompass all of that and fully push you to your limits… this is what we like to call the overnight bus. As backpackers, saving the extra few hundred dollars that would’ve been spent on a plane ticket is crucial as that is another bungy, skydive, or activity you can do if you don’t pay for that flight. When the bus ticket is a mere $45 and the plane ticket is $300 there is no comparison, the bus wins no matter how hard the struggle may be. After countless East Coast trips across Australia and long treks from the North of New Zealand to the South, I have finally been able to gather all the fool proof ways to survive the dreaded 17 hour bus trip so grab your headphones and of course some snacks and take note.
I had to put the most obvious choice first because these are two things you do not want to forget especially on a 17 hour bus. On a plane usually there is a way to find a spare set or buy one while on board, but on a bus you will be a lot less likely to encounter any of these items so don't leave yourself stuck.
If the seats are not already assigned this is crucial! Get there early so you can get the seat of your choice, stay as far away from the toilets as possible, and of course a window seat which is best for sleeping and photo ops. Also, as a general rule of thumb for travel, it is always best to be early because you never know what could unexpectedly get in your way.
Try to be sleeping as much as you can throughout the journey, if you have to stay awake the night before try to do it so you aren't wide awake the whole time. If you normally take supplements for sleep on public transport be sure to bring those along as well. Come prepared with extra clothing and layers as the bus usually gets colder at night.
Sometimes it seems almost impossible to make time to journal and do activities where you need to sit down and focus while you are travelling, which is why it is always best to save those things for planes, buses, trains, etc. If you are in school or have a blog going, save all that stuff for your bus ride so you have things to do that don’t require WiFi (in case the bus doesn't have it).
This sort of goes without saying but there's nothing worse than being stuck on a long ride and being hungry. Make sure you bring plenty of snacks so you are set when hunger hits during the trip. Also make sure they aren't perishable as the last thing you want is Friday nights leftovers spoiling in your bag.
Unfortunately, no matter where you are, you always need to watch your valuables. Since you will probably be sleeping on most of the bus ride it’s important to make sure all of your valuables are in a place where you would wake up if someone tried to snag them. Another great reason to have the window seat is you have extra space to wedge your valuables in while you sleep so you would clearly wake up if someone was trying to take them.
Okay maybe meditation isn't for you or maybe you’ve been thinking of starting but just don't know how. Long trips are always a great place to start because all you have is time and you are pretty much stuck in one place and one position. Grab your head phones, throw on some meditative music, and give it a try, maybe you'll fall asleep, maybe you'll end up entering another dimension and having a major life revelation.l Either way, it's worth a try.
I cannot stress how important it is to take advantage of the rest stops! Even if you don't have to use the toilet, get out of the bus, stretch, walk around, and breathe in some fresh air. Usually the stops have everything you could need like snacks, drinks, maybe even some souvenirs. It also gives you time to get out and make some friends on your bus that may have been hard to approach from 4 rows back.
The 17 hour bus ride is never anyone's favorite but we must appreciate that we are lucky to be able save so much money while travelling - it's worth it. Make sure you come physically and mentally prepared to take on the bus and you will be fine. Just keep reminding yourself that it’s not forever, the bus ride will end at some point! Use this time to take in everything you’ve been seeing and doing on your travels because once you get off the bus you wont have a second of free time with all the crazy new activities you'll be doing.
By Sylvia Spanos