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Free Wheeling – On The Road With A Bus Pass

Approaching Dunstanburgh Castle from Craster

Since my childhood, I have enjoyed exploring mountain, moor and meadow on foot or on two wheels. My travels took me all over the world and they were excellent fun.

However, collateral damage effected in the removal of a skull tumour left me unable to walk far or to cycle at all. I turned my energies to other pursuits from renovating a French farm to exploring the back roads of South Africa’s Western Cape. And they were all great fun.

The arrival of my bus pass, claimed in celebration of, and surprise at, reaching ‘old age’, heralded no sea change. After several years, the realisation has dawned that I could embark on a series of  Senior Gap Adventures, exploring on four wheels, free of charge. Buspacking™ rather than backpacking.

Free travel, short walks, new places, fresh faces and different perspectives beckon. Camping, champing, bivvying and bedding down in barns appealed but the vagabond romance was soon tempered with realism.

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” ~ Freya Stark

These days, towns and villages appeal almost as much as wild places. For now, inns, hostels and B&Bs make more sense than camping. Not least because there would be no need for loads of gear.

Spontaneity would be key after so many years of planning treks and days out so no timetable was to be consulted. Serendipity is the watchword and the unknown the big attraction. I’m keeping an open mind about tent, stove and sleeping bag as regular options.

Rural routes are the most appealing but are not renowned for their regularity or even existence. That’s partly where the element of adventure came in. Hardly adrenalin-pumping but definitely the challenge of the unknown.

Living in Northumberland, next to the North Sea, a coast and castles jaunt seems to be just the ticket for the inaugural buspacking expedition. The route lies not in the lap of the gods but in the schedules of bus companies. And setting out will really feel like an adventure. Over the summer, I’ll share my experiences of people and places.

‘The road is life.’ – Jack Kerouac

Buspacking tips

  • Wear comfy shoes and socks
  • Smile at strangers – but not weirdly
  • Chat to fellow passengers for local insights
  • Don’t worry about fluid intake; worry about its disposal
  • Don’t pack spare clothes; wear smart fabrics and wash overnight
  • Travel light; as with backpacking, each gram will feel like a kilo at the end of the day
  • Carry a personal survival tin – power bank, toothpick, mints, nail clippers, plasters, toilet paper, torch

© John Traynor 2022

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