Tomorrow morning I head once again to Thailand, starting from my local Valley Transit bus stop a block from my front door. As part of my growing awareness of how my movement around the planet impacts the very Earth I am filled with an unquenchable wanderlust to experience, I have started avoiding travel by plane whenever possible, relying mostly on the bus and train.
Of course, some plane trips are unavoidable. A bus, train, ferry to Thailand from Midwest, USA is nearly impossible, unless you’re able to secure a rare berth on an ocean-crossing cargo vessel, a time-consuming and costly option. So in this case I am limiting the number of flights necessary to reach Bangkok. Instead of using the regional puddle-hopper from Appleton to Chicago or Minneapolis, I will take my local bus to the Appleton bus station, catch the daily intercity bus to Milwaukee, then transfer to the commuter Amtrak service to Chicago. There I will catch my flight to Bangkok, with a long layover in Dubai.
At first it may appear to add hours to my trip, but it’s roughly the same if you add in security, check-in, travel delays, and layover time. Added bonus: an overnight in Chicago chilling with old friends before I catch my flight from O’Hare (one of the many dimensions of hell, especially in winter storm season, but for some trips O’Hare is truly unavoidable).
It’s also a much more relaxed journey – less stress from multiple layovers, infinitely more leg room (even on the bus), much better food (Korean BBQ! Old-world German! Polish sausage!) and more control over my baggage (instead of having to gate check my carry-on for the smaller regional jet).
I also save a surprisingly hefty chunk of change. Those shorter regional legs of a plane ticket itinerary add up quickly. By flying to Bangkok out of a major hub like Chicago, I am saving roughly $500. That’s enormous. That $500 will get me through 2 weeks of travel in Thailand, including my obsession with shopping at the night markets.
So off to bed and dreams of fresh mangoes and giant bowls of khao soi. Tomorrow I lock my front door and roll my pack down the street to the bus stop for my next adventure.