It’s all about the journey, not the destination
American writer and transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Life is a journey, not a destination” and the same goes for travel. Over the last 50 years, the commercialization of travel has meant the industry became focused on selling destinations. Most often, at hotels that separate you from the reality and true culture of the place you’re visiting. It seems the sanctity and true purpose of travel have become forgotten as a result. Buslife, on the other hand, is about bringing travel back to its true purpose. It’s about travel for the sake of exploration and experience. It’s about travel as a journey, not a destination.
However, in our focused, goal-oriented nature, we too as Buslifers can get distracted by destinations and forget to make the most of the journey too. Sometimes, this means we miss out on the wildest of adventures and most authentic of cultural experiences. In this article, I reflect on my experience as a Buslifer and what I learned along the way about making the most of my journey. Whether you’re a seasoned Buslifer or preparing for your first adventure, I hope it gives you some inspiration for living your best Buslife too.
Leave room for spontaneity
Before you leave for your Buslife journey it’s useful to make plans, but don’t make them thorough. It can take away the joy found in spontaneity. Rigid itineraries that tell us where we need to get to by what date can be stressful. They force us to have our minds focused on the road ahead, rather than being in the present moment and there’s so much we might miss out on as a result. The beautiful scenery. The cultural quirks of a new place. The potential friends we could make. Most of all though, a rigid itinerary doesn’t allow room for us to say yes to unplanned adventures.
The beauty of being on the road is that it presents so many adventures that we couldn’t possibly have planned for. I, for one, fell in love with places I didn’t expect to and felt compelled to stay longer; I made new friends that had plans of their own and I joined them instead. And I discovered places that weren’t even on my travel list. It didn’t take me long to realize the best adventures are always the ones you didn’t plan for.
Be curious, take detours
In fact, don’t just wait for adventures to present themselves to you, go out there and find them. Take detours from the tourist trail (or the Buslife trail) and see what life has to offer on the path untrodden. In our article Adventures off the Beaten Path, we delve into the reasons why avoiding the tourist trail is so rewarding. Aside from the obvious absence of tourists, the path untrodden is where the true essence of travel lies. The article also discusses the ways in which you can travel more on your own terms such as scrapping the maps and making friends with locals though.
In some places, the tourist trail is so carefully carved out for us that it’s hard to get off it. In these instances, carving your own path can seem a little tricky. However, I have found that as long as you stay curious and willing to take detours, despite the fact they may well lead nowhere, you’re going to make progress. On occasion, it’s fun to simply take a less direct route to a destination. Or to trust your instincts rather than the road to take you to spectacular unmarked places. Why not also spend time looking at Google maps to see what you discover when you zoom in on random locations? It’s surprising how rewarding this technique can be.
Take frequent rests along your journey
Buslife can be stressful with all the responsibilities it comes with like finding water, gas, and showers. And don’t even get me started on the continual cultural adjustments you have to make along the way. Sometimes it can take a while just to remember where I am when I wake up! When we pressure ourselves to reach destinations within a strict time frame, these extra responsibilities that come with life on the road can seem overwhelming. There’s simply not enough time to do everything in a day. I learned this the hard way. I found myself being too busy to stop, breathe, and appreciate just how magical life as a Buslifer is.
All this to say, don’t rush to get where you’re going. Let life take you there in its own time. Rest in the knowledge that you’ll get there regardless of how fast you go. After stopping to recharge you will feel refreshed and ready to embark on the next part of your adventure with a clear vision and an eager spirit.
Expect the unexpected
They say life happens when you’re busy making plans, right? Like life, the road is unpredictable. So, when you have certain expectations of what you’re Buslife trip is going to look like, or what kinds of experiences you will have, you’re more likely to be disappointed with the reality. After seeing so many deliciously adventurous VW Bus pictures on Instagram, I was guilty of believing my Buslife would be just as peachy as others’ appeared. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, and it took a while to accept the reality for all its bumps and roadblocks. Therefore, I find it important to practice leaving my expectations of trips, places, and people at the door.
However, it’s not just beneficial for saving yourself from disappointment. It’s also beneficial for creating opportunities. We often dismiss opportunities because we expect they won’t be rewarding. But how many times have you been pleasantly surprised by something? While some things might not meet your expectations, others will exceed them. So always go into your trip with an open mind and allow it to guide your journey. I promise you’ll end up loving places you thought you might not enjoy, making friends with people you wouldn’t usually talk to, and finding new hobbies you never thought you’d try.
Don’t be afraid to talk to new people
One of the best parts of Buslife is the community of like-minded people it can surround you with. People with a passion for VW Buses, adventure, and alternative living. These days, there are so many great strategies for Finding Community on the Road like Facebook groups, VW events, and checking out popular P4N or iOverlander spots. Whether you’re on the road or at home planning your next trip, it’s always worth reaching out to fellow community members. They will add value to your journey in ways you didn’t know possible.
It can be hard to reach out and talk to new people, but it will always pay off one way or another. The friends I have made on the road have completely shaped my journey and looking back, I believe it wouldn’t have been half as valuable without them. Many have given me a few days of excellent companies as we crossed paths. Many more have given me invaluable advice I wouldn’t have found out by myself. Some helped me solve mechanical issues. Others took me on crazy once-in-a-lifetime adventures I wouldn’t have otherwise dared to do. A few became irreplaceable life-long friends and travel companions.
If you struggle to make friends, remember this: The beauty of Buslife is that no matter where in the world you are, you automatically have something in common with the fellow Buslifers you meet.
Remember bad situations don’t last forever
As we travel, we are bound to hit a few bumps in the road. A pothole that has burst your tire. A road closure that scuppers your plans. An exhaust that has decided it has had enough and would prefer to live on the ground instead. Those kinds of bumps. When they happen, it’s easy to think the worst and become overwhelmed with anxiety and panic. Thoughts of “what now?” and “why me?” start racing through your head. It’s totally understandable since our VW Buses are our homes and we rely on them for our safety. Unfortunately, these things are unavoidable and we are bound to be challenged by these experiences at some point on our journey.
Hopefully, it won’t be two days into your trip and cost you $1500 in repairs like it was for me. At the time, I felt defeated. Was it a sign to turn back? Was it a bad omen? After all, I just had my vehicle serviced! The fact is, though, that bad things happen. I had to accept that I was living in a mechanical moving vehicle and it was going to require repairs and maintenance every now and then. It’s just as much a part of Buslife as the scenic drives and beautiful beach park-ups. The sooner I accepted that, the easier the journey became. Just like the good times don’t last, the bad times don’t last either. The Buslifer’s journey is full of highs and lows and that’s part of its brilliance.
Ok, now the serious reflective stuff is done, here are some more light-hearted tips for making the most of your Buslife journeys.
Take time to make great road trip playlists
A road trip isn’t complete without that perfect playlist. Instead of trusting the radio or Spotify to DJ while you drive, take the time to make curated playlists to suit different moods. It will make your journey that bit more special. Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, the movie theme tune is a winner for any driving occasion.
Keep an eye out for scenic laybys
Rather than speeding to your next stop, take your time on the road. Watching the road is often a good idea, but there’s nothing sweeter than seeing mountains or the sea pass by you as you drive towards your next adventure. Plus, you’re more likely to notice scenic laybys where you can stop for some fresh air and fun pictures.
Treat yourself now and again
Buslife is about being minimal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t splash out every now and again. Rather than cooking and washing up every evening, go out for a meal occasionally instead. Not only are you giving yourself a break, but you’re contributing to the local economy. The same goes for buying new things. They may not be necessary, and you may not have space for it in your bus, but if it holds great memories from your trip, then it’s totally worth it.
Take lots of pictures
These days, we are often encouraged to get off our phones and enjoy the moment more. While I agree with that, it’s great to be able to keep tangible memories too. So, get your phone out and record the moments of your journey you don’t want to forget. The good and the bad! Buslife gives you experiences you’ll want to treasure forever.
Remember, it’s all about the journey, not the destination!
Whilst we hope these tips have given you some inspiration for making the most of life on the road, you really just need to remember one thing and you’ll be set. Buslife is all about the journey. The ups and downs, the unexpected turns, and the surprises it brings along the way. As long as you’re ready to embrace it all, the journey will almost always be better than the destination.