33 Things to do on a Bus

33 Things to do on a Bus

I have spent more hours on buses than the average person. I’d like to say “more hours than I’d like to admit”, but lets face it: broken-down-bus stories are right up in the realms of hostel sex and infectious diseases survived in the seasoned wanderer’s repertoire of bar tales. My longest trip to date, not including a number of forced detours and breakdowns, was 34 hours spent on the Lilongwe-Dar Direct, a trip that – like all good memories – involved a mugging, lots of cheese balls, a run in with Tanzanian immigration, three books and just a little bit of vomit.

Slotting into someone else’s bum print on suspiciously stained velour is not an uncommon way to pass a day for us penny-poor travellers, yet time is such a precious commodity in our young adventuring lives that it seems cruel to let it go wasted like the current Parliamentary payroll or the workout plan I bought in June. So instead, let us embrace the endless hours and say yes to the stuffiness; make travel time a part of the experience rather than a break from it. In honour of above trip, here’s 34 ways to do just that:

  1. Make abstract art on the chairs. Every hobo is a modern day Banksy when armed with a permanent marker.
  2. Ask the person next to you for a chip. Take an inappropriate number of chips.
  3. Origami with useless travel guides (e.g. Lonely Planet).
  4. Practice yoga on the seat (tucking toes behind earlobes not permitted in some buses).
  5. Pelvic floor exercises. The hobo motto: be prepared.
  6. Learn a language. One of my fondest bus memories began with me opening up the little notebook I’d been jotting down little bits of Swahili in, and ended with half the bus perched around my seat telling me how to say “three goats, please”.
  7. Write threatening notes on your possessions as pickpocket-preventers.
  8. Play musical chairs.
  9. Hum at a really low register and pretend it’s not you when people start looking around.
  10. Send lewd notes to certain bus members from others, complete with graphic representations.
  11. Throw up in a questionably stained paper bag. Not ideal but almost inevitable.
  12. Strip Poker.
  13. Give everyone on the bus a running commentary on your surroundings: “AAAAND we’re off, odometer climbing to 40 and Marcus behind the wheel is taking that corner as tight as a catholic school prom queen, we’ve lost a bag or two but that’s alright, still good ratios there! What’s that?! Doooooo we have our first vomit YES WE DO! We have a winner friends; in the back in the purple shirt thank you sirrrr!”
  14.  READ. Reading is second only to travel in broadening the mind, making long hours pass quickly and happily and spurring on wandering feet.
  15. Take a nap in the luggage rack. You’ll never know what you’re missing until you try.
  16. Start singing happy birthday to a mate at obnoxious volumes and see who joins in. Wait until the part with the name where everyone is waiting for you so they know what to yell, and stay silent.
  17. New drinking game. Every time you can’t pronounce a word on a sign, you drink. It’s a vicious cycle.
  18. Just drink. No games necessary and guaranteed to make all other activities more entertaining. Also guaranteed to make #12 more likely.
  19. See how many adjectives you can come up with to describe your feet; a new, more practical and pungent form of boggle. There you go, (1): pungent.
  20. Sleep. Night buses are a hobo heaven; don’t pay for accommodation and wake up in the morning in a whole new country.
  21. Watch out the window. Before you scoff, just watch for a little while. You’ll be amazed how many little bits of humanity you pick up when no one knows they’re on show.
  22. Write.
  23. Make friends. Start up a conversation with the person next to you, and more than likely you’ll get off the bus having picked up the name of the best local chai hut, a mate to help get your tickets at the next stop so you don’t pay weak-looking-white-girl price and a bed to crash on for the night.
  24. Estimate the number of hairs on your leg, then count.
  25. Make yourself a new life story, complete with accents, for every new person who sits next to you… “Yeah, actually I am the guy from 127 hours, I try not to make a big deal about it. No, it’s a prosthetic. Realistic huh?”
  26. Play “fuck one, marry one, kill one”. Try to explain the game to bus neighbours.
  27. Imitate everything the person next to you does and see how long it takes them to notice; an oldie but a goodie.
  28. Play naughts and crosses with the weird velvet shit on the chairs, or with old bits of gum for less fancy travellers.
  29. Try to figure out how to use the Swiss Army Knife your uncle got you before you left.
  30. Do some repairs. Packing needles and thread will be the most practical 3 square centimetres a hobo invests in on a long trip where no one cares how many times your t-shirt’s been sewn up, as long as it stays on your back.
  31. Play bowls down the aisle.
  32. Re-live Year four school excursions and play sweet and sour.
  33. Read Global Hobo.

bus2Cover by Jenine Chesbrough, inset by Sherwin Techico