New York: Experiences on a Greyhound Bus

Mounted police stand guard in downtown NYC
United States: Touring on a Greyhound Bus

A street vendor in downtown NYC.A street vendor in downtown NYC. By Andy Christian Castillo

7240252 origStepping out into the evening drizzle, just outside of the Port Authority. It was a cold December afternoon when I boarded an old Greyhound bound for Las Vegas. Slush had been carelessly kicked up onto the platform and my boots left rugged imprints as I climbed the grooved steps into the coach.

Heat blasted from the front and the bus was crowded. Almost every seat was filled. I squeezed past a middle aged man and crammed my bag under the seat. I didn’t trust my luggage in overhead compartments -- too accessible to prying fingers.

Hosteling in the States

Some people say that traveling through the United States is difficult and expensive, but I disagree. My entire 10 day trip across the states cost me about $500 (not including expenses such as souvenirs or beer). I booked Greyhound, slept on the bus, sparingly booked hostels, and ate peanut butter sandwiches.

While traditionally, hostels are thought of as a European commodity, especially in the bigger American cities, they are prevalent and inexpensive.

They’re just as clean as hotels and usually offer complimentary (and delicious) breakfast and inexpensive or even free tours -- just like in Europe. The travelers who stay in U.S. hostels are usually excited about travel as well, so it’s easy to make friends.

And, at least in my experience, it’s more common to meet foreigners in hostels than it is to meet Americans -- perhaps because the hotel industry is so established and travelers simply don’t know they exist. Cultural diversity is always a welcome presence to me while I’m on the road.

New York City

In New York I pushed through a long bank of double doors that led from the Port Authority and stepped out into the evening drizzle.

A homeless man sleeps inside the Port Authority.A homeless man sleeps inside the Port Authority. The city hadn’t seemed to have changed since the last time I was there. The same homeless man slept against the dirty wall outside, the same sausage vendor dumped a bag of potatoes into the frier, the same frazzled woman in a ruffled suit raced to catch the door -- or at least it all seemed the same to me.

New York was so big and had such vivid character, that it was difficult to separate my past experiences from the present moment. Every trip blended into one memory.

A crowd swept me down the street, beneath scaffolding and resting pigeons and past the blinking lights and long-legged models which graced the billboards along Eighth Avenue. The city was so large and diverse that it was easy to get lost in -- especially for someone just passing through.

Nobody cared about me, where I wanted to go, where I was from, or where I was going.

A Bad Breakup

Back in the terminal, a young woman was loudly talking on her cell phone while waiting for the bus.

“I don’ care how ol’ he is, you don’ act like that.”

She paced back and forth through the sprawled luggage.

New York City.Mounted police stand guard in New York City. “An’ she done hit me in the face with a brass knuckle and what was i supposed to do but self defense? And everyone been telling me to wait for him to come back around and then, every time we break up this happens!“

Another pause. I shuffled my bag off my shoulder and used it for a seat.

“Huh? Wha’? no my frien’ -- she's 34 years ol’! Yo’ can't be acting like that when you're 34.”

The door opened and the driver came inside. The boarding announcement was made over the loudspeaker.

“We was s’pose to get married this month but then i forgot my ID and so i was gonna go back and get it. But it's really her -- she don' want us to get married.”

I handed the driver my ticket, slung my bag into the luggage compartment and boarded.

“My homeg’rl she been telling me that if he really loved me than he would stick up for me -- but noooo. He was totally sticking up for his sister. I mean really!? She been up in other peoples’ bizz’ness. She been trying to break us up and say that we're not really in love... and I know what love is -- I’ve only been with two mother eff'in' guys in six years! b'ch, I know what love is."

We pulled out of New York listening to the same story repeated in different phone calls. The bus driver finally told her to shut up after we crossed the border.
The bustling crowds outside of the Port Authority.The bustling crowds outside of the Port Authority.
She lowered her voice to a whisper and continued talking.

Chicago, Illinois

The bus droned on into the night. I propped my head against the window and slept as the wheels rumbled underneath the floor, until we arrived in Chicago the nextmorning.

The downtown district was uninteresting and boring -- I didn’t stray too far from the bus station because I didn’t have time, but I wasn’t impressed by what I saw.

In contrast to the bustling chaos and magnificent architecture of New York, the wide streets and towering glass buildings of Chicago felt abandoned and discarded.

After a few hours I was back on the bus, heading for the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Mount Rushmore.