Wednesday, January 18, 2012


First, by way of introduction: I’m Kirsten. And I’ve decided to take a trip.

This isn’t my first trip- I’m lucky enough to be able to say I’ve been to Europe twice and made my way through a good many countries there.

However, after surveying my travel history, I realized that despite the many European capitals I’ve seen and thoroughly enjoyed, I hadn’t yet made time to explore my own country. So that’s what I decided to seek to do, after I graduated from college (at long last) this December.

A trip, by my definition, is not a vacation. I’m not necessarily working, but I’m not kicking back at the hotel pool with a mai-tai either. My travels through Europe, although unbelievably entertaining and incredibly enlightening, were also pretty exhausting and, in truth, composed of a little bit of luck, some mild discomfort, and a whole lot of effort. I see this trip across the US as occupying a similar vein, although admittedly made easier by lack of both language barrier and exorbitant currency exchange rates.

These “trips” are a means by which I challenge myself- test my mettle, as it were. I tend to put myself in situations that are strenuous, difficult, and maybe even scary (although seldom do I feel afraid.) Prior to my departure, my friends would ask if I was frightened, nervous, or anxious. I immediately attempted to assuage their concerns, assuring them I could handle whatever craziness got thrown in my path. To tell the truth, I hadn’t even allowed myself to feel those fearful emotions. If I had, it was only subconsciously. I had decided that since I’d hoofed/trained/bussed/flown (without health coverage or a particularly large budget) through countries where I was unable to speak or read a word of the language, I could certainly handle the good ol’ US of A, country of my birth. If I’d started thinking about everything that could go wrong, I’d probably be hiding under my bed in Niagara Falls right now instead of curled up on a yellow zebra-striped kidney-shaped couch in Jamaica Plain Massachusetts.

I’d decided sometime in the beginning of my last semester as a Bachelors candidate in the Art Education Program at Buffalo State College that I wanted to make a cross country trip. The idea gestated as a sort of gift to myself for graduating from college; something I'm sure I don't deserve. I decided on a US venture rather than, say, returning to Germany or England for a quick stay in the company of friends, for a couple of reasons; one being cost and ease, two being that I'm in some ways preparing myself for a "settling down" to come in the future. I'm open to the possibility that one of my destination cities will become my home, even though I'm currently set on Brooklyn for that. I’m still not sure if I’ve made exactly the right choice in taking a cross country trip as opposed to a "last hurrah" (but not really) jaunt to Europe, but as some people who know me are aware, once I decide on some hare-brained idea, I become laser focused on it and there’s no going back.

So on January 10th I took the plunge and put my plastic where my mouth was- I bought a two month Discovery Pass from the Greyhound Lines Incorporated (headquarters in Dallas Texas.) For those that don’t know, the Greyhound Discovery Pass is a deal proffered by Greyhound Lines Incorporated that allows the buyer to travel as many times, as far a distance as they like, for the tidy sum of $446 USD (for one month,) or $556 USD (for two months.) Considering a round trip ticket to New York City from Buffalo can cost upwards of $100, not to mention the three-hundred-some-odd-dollar amount a bus ticket to the West Coast would cost, I deemed the deal “not bad.” Especially in comparison to the Amtrak version of the Discovery Pass (over $800 with the same travel times) or the cost of flying about the country (astronomical, I presume.)

Now, the next question that most people weren’t keen on actually asking me but were obviously thinking or talking about amongst themselves was that of my finances. “How is she affording this extravagant bus venture around the circumference of these United States?” they all seemed to want to know (I guess.) Well, for starters, the Greyhound pass is, as aforementioned, $556 for TWO WHOLE MONTHS. That is less than the cost of a month’s rent for most people. Also, like a whole lot of American twentysomething women, and a whole lot of American’s in general, I own and use credit cards. I know this isn’t the wisest financial practice. Hell, I even had to use a debt relief program in my early twenties. (Don’t judge.) But I’ve wised up somewhat along the way, about how many cards I have open (precious few) their interest rates (fairly low) and how I pay them off (quickly.) Not to mention that I’ve already swung this travel-on-credit-and-pay-it-off-immediately gig before… twice. And I even have a little (very, very little) cash to my name to boot. Top it off with gracious and lovely friends willing to host me in their respective cities (and to fall back on,) and the whole thing becomes quite affordable.

In spite of the possible longer term financial implications, I've decided to grant myself this voyage across the US of A, with destination cities of Boston MA, Austin TX, San Francisco CA, Portland OR, Seattle WA, Chicago IL and the big ol' Apple. I think it's worthwhile for me, as well as relatively cheap. I'm in a position to do it, as I've just graduated and don't have a job, and my graduate program (should I be accepted) won't start until September anyway. That gives me plenty of time when I return home to save up money for a real move.

So there you have it. The genesis of the idea and subsequent fruition of my fantastic voyage across the US of A. Hang out with me here, I’ll have lots to talk about and plenty to show you along the way.