As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we keep in touch with travelers who have had firsthand experiences traveling around the world. Last time, we featured Gary Arndt from Everything Everywhere. Today, we are happy to feature Seth Kugel, the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler.
This traveler’s path is quite atypical. After teaching in public schools, Seth worked in immigrant and child protection services. Then he started as a columnist for the City section of the Times before taking up the torch as the Frugal Traveler for the New York Times in 2010. You can read more about his career path here.
In 2010 you started your adventure as the NYT Frugal Traveler with a 13 week trip from Sao Paulo to NYC. How often did you travel by bus during this trip? How were your experiences traveling by bus?
I really like traveling by bus, because it’s cheap and so different everywhere you go.
In some Latin American countries buses are still old and in many cases they are old United States school buses that have been repainted. That’s not the case everywhere, so it’s interesting to see the contrast between different bus services.
One of my first trips was a 36-hour bus ride. That was an interesting journey. I sat next to a coca leaf dealer, which is all legal business in Bolivia, but as an American it seemed kind of funny to be with a guy who was transporting coca leaves on the bus. He was able to explain to me how the legal trade of coca leaves works and that was totally fascinating. We stopped in little towns, saw this llama entertaining passengers.
There are always tons of crazy things that happen on bus rides.
In Central America it’s more the school bus thing, it’s actually very uncomfortable because you have no cushioning at all in the seats. Luckily, countries in Central America are smaller than Bolivia, so you don’t have that far to go. You travel in the mode of transportation that everyone travels with there. In most countries, especially in the developing world, not everybody can fly. In fact, most people have never been on a plane before. Everybody takes the bus so you get to interact with better mix of society.
It was also very interesting to see what the system is like, sometimes how inefficient it is, and it can surprise you sometimes with how comfortable and efficient it gets.
Source: New York Time Frugal Traveler
Any advice for first time travelers? Those who long to travel but fear to take the jump?
I’d just say to do it a little bit at a time. If you wanna do it all at once, take a big jump, a year around the world, going to crazy places, that’s fine, but you can certainly also just start small. Take a small trip, be a little more daring than you usually would be.
There is a rule that I always like to follow in many situations: if you’re ever wondering if you should do something or if you shouldn’t, like if you should take this street of if you shouldn’t, if you should talk to this person or you shouldn’t. Within the balance of reasonable physical safety, you should always do it. That’s a good rule to follow. You’re on vacation and you’re not sure if you should do something, then you should probably do it if it doesn’t involve a physical risk for yourself.
Photo: Patricia Stavis
At Busbud, our mission is to make bus travel easier. Especially allowing travelers to search, compare and book bus tickets anywhere in the world. What do you think about this mission? Do you think this type of service would help travelers during their trips?
Well, it sounds like a very difficult task because there is no worldwide regulation of buses like there is in trains, right? My experience is that in a lot of places in the world you still can’t book a bus online, and even if they have a website, it’s usually impossible to use it if you’re not from the country. I think that if you guys can do it, that would be fantastic! It sounds to me like a very hard job, you have a ton of language issues, it would be great if it works.
Of course, it’s a hard job, but it’s what we love to do. Our 20 brains and pairs of hands stay busy to keep making bus travel easier anywhere in the world and to get more and more coverage. We are now serving bus schedules for over 9600 cities in 81 countries in the world.
Thanks a lot Seth!
You can follow his adventures as Frugal Traveler on Twitter.
Read his column on The New York Times