by Niall Doherty

The past few years, I’ve taken a lot of long bus journeys, including scores of overnight buses, several lasting 24 hours or more. It’s what you gotta do if you want to travel around the world without flying.

It was tough in the beginning, but nowadays long bus trips don’t phase me at all. 30 hours from Fortaleza to Belem? No problem. Overnight from New Orleans to Orlando? Bring it on. I even did three overnight buses in a row through Venezuela last year.

If you have a long bus trip coming up, try these tips to ensure your survival:

1. Listen

In advance of your trip, load up a few lengthy podcasts or audio books. The Joe Rogan Experience is my favorite podcast to listen to on a bus. Episodes run 2-3 hours each.

2. Read

I used to think reading on buses was off the cards for me because I would suffer from motion sickness, but I trained myself to overcome that. Here’s what you do:

  • Read until you start to feel woozy.
  • Stop, relax, and take some deep breaths until you feel okay again.
  • Repeat.

This worked for me, and it didn’t take very long to kill my motion sickness completely.

As for what to read, I love a good book of course (see my recommendations on Goodreads), but I also like to send the Wikipedia and Wikitravel articles for my destination city and country to my Kindle and read those while in transit.

3. Talk

If you’re traveling with a friend, you’ll have plenty of time to chat about anything and everything. If you’re traveling alone in a foreign country, a long bus trip can be a great opportunity to practice your language skills with the locals, or just make new friends.

4. Meditate

Meditation is a practice which helps you develop such skills as happiness, compassion, and resilience (yes, those are skills). Whether you’re already a meditator or just a beginner, you’ll have plenty of down-time on a long bus ride to practice.

(If you don’t know where to start with meditation, I highly recommend Dan Harris’s book, 10% Happier.)

5. Sleep

Overnight bus trips are great because you can sleep through and save on a night’s accommodation. Some buses will have nice sleeper seats/berths where you can recline or lay down flat. Other times you’ll just have to make do sleeping in a regular bus seat.

I used to believe I couldn’t sleep well on buses. As with overcoming motion sickness, however, I was able to train myself to do it. Using earplugs or listening to podcasts can help you drift off.

6. Look

If it’s a daytime trip, look out the window and appreciate the scenery. I’ll never forget waking up on a bus from Lima to Cusco in Peru and being wowed by the spectacular view of the mountains.

7. Fast

This won’t help you with boredom, but for a while now I’ve been fasting on long bus journeys and have found it very beneficial. Not only are there numerous health benefits to intermittent fasting 1, but it also saves you money buying crappy food at expensive rest stops, and you won’t need to use the toilet so much. You also get to practice patience and self-discipline.

Plus, you can look forward to a nice big meal to break the fast when you arrive at your destination.

8. Play

Bring some playing cards with you and play a card game with friends or strangers. If in a foreign country, you could have someone show you how to play a local card game.

Assuming you have someone to play with, you can also play games that don’t require anything but your imagination. One of my favorites is called, “Would you rather…”, which requires you to come up two options and ask another person to choose between them.

Example: would you rather have a leg for an arm or an arm for a leg?

9. Stretch

Stand up and stretch every so often. Get off the bus at rest stops and stretch your legs a bit.

10. Write

Spend some time writing whatever you want. Pen and paper or laptop. If you’re worried about motion sickness, the aforementioned tips apply.

11. Watch

If you’ve got a laptop or tablet or something along those lines, you can have a movie or TV show loaded up in advance and wile away an hour or two watching that. Some buses will have a movie playing, and some will even have personal media screens, but don’t count on them being available.

Anything to add?

If you have a survival tip I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear it in the comments below.

Footnotes

  1. Read more about IF here: The Benefits of Fasting
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