G is for Getting on a Chicken Bus

I encourage young people from western nations like the United States to do their traveling to less developed countries while they are young. They need to be old enough to make reasonably thoughtful choices, but not so old that they have spent literally decades being swaddled in the false sense of security that comes with living a middle class life in the midst of laws intended to keep a person safe from themselves.

We have seat belt laws, speed limit laws, building codes laws, car safety laws, stop signs that should be heeded… the list seems almost endless. And we have laws about how long a commercial driver can be behind the wheel when taking passengers or freight over our roads. These laws seem like good common sense laws. We get used to them and take them for granted.

This doesn't look like a country I am traveling to. But, um, NO.

This doesn’t look like a country I am traveling to. But, um, NO.

We have lived such a swaddled life. And in my protected world, I do not ride chicken buses. In fact,  I almost never ride public transportation even here at home because, hello, I don’t go anywhere that makes it necessary. If I lived in Seattle, it’s likely I would ride the bus frequently because driving and parking in Seattle is a nightmare. There is good public transport there, unlike here in Tacoma. Still, I like my buses clean, on time, in good repair and not overly crowded. HAHAHAHAHA! Can you say, “Good luck, Melissa. Didn’t you say you’d be traveling to Mexico and Central America?”  Yeah. I did.

I probably wouldn’t be very concerned about any of this if it weren’t for my friend. Her 16 year old daughter went to Bolivia to study on a Rotary Club scholarship and never came home. Her daughter got on a bus with a bunch of other students. The driver had been driving for over 24 hours. He fell asleep at the wheel. The bus went off the cliff and killed her. Sure, that’s not likely to happen to me, but remember: Amy G. Dala does not play odds. She plays to survive.

Our clean, efficient, regulated buses with drivers who may be cranky but are unlikely to drive off a cliff.

Here’s what my mind tells me riding a chicken bus will be like: crowded, smelly, hot, filled with noise, with people sitting in my personal space, and just possibly dangerous. Why would I choose such a thing? Why would I willingly get on a bus like that without wearing a respirator and protective bubble wrap suit? Because some places I understand that’s just how you get around. That or walk. Part of the entire point of this trip is experiencing how they live in other cultures, something Fran ‘the frontal’ Cortex looks forward to but Amy G. Dala really doesn’t. Besides, I know Mike will be the first one on that stupid bus and he won’t even save me a seat. That being said, check out the Fear-o-Meter.

Well, okay, it’s maybe a little irrationally high. I mean I kind of want to do it for the adventure part of it, and to say I did it. Probably if we aren’t going a great distance I am going to be fine.  But if we’re going to someplace far away, and there are mountains involved, it’s likely I’m going to want to ask the driver if he got a good night’s sleep.

Nah, I’m totally going to do it. Just shut the hell up, Amy.

15 thoughts on “G is for Getting on a Chicken Bus

  1. I’m beginning to look at anxiety in a different light. I’m so going to use that line: “Just shut the hell up, Amy.” Thanks.

    Donna/Denali Rose

  2. YES ! I have lived in France almost as long as I lived in the US and am always amazed when American friends come for a visit and are APPALLED when we go to the farmers markets and buy meat and fish that are not wrapped in plastic, or buy a baguette where the baker hands it to you and you carry it un-wrapped and exposed all the way home. And yet, the French don’t drop dead from intestinal infections as we would expect from such reckless behaviour. How much of our anxiety is culturally imposed ?

    • Yes, I do think there is a lot of truth to what you are saying. I have never lived anywhere but the US, but my kids have and they do well with it and actually prefer some countries to our own. Part of me looks forward to experiencing the differences in cultural mores. As a rule, of course we are more comfortable in our own space. They don’t call it a ‘comfort zone’ for nothing. Those challenges are part of travel but I did want to bring them up because theses are the conversations people have in their heads about going to a place that is so much different than where they live.

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