More than thirty years ago I’d developed a preference for bus travel in foreign countries, over rental cars, over high-speed trains. We had been on our honeymoon in Ireland, and Bob had assumed we’d rent a car.
“If we’re squeezed into an isolated little box,” I argued, “we won’t get to talk to the Irish.”
So we bought combination rail and bus passes and discovered that the trains were more cramped, more closed-in, more impervious to conversation than the buses. Soon, we chose only bus travel, and Mick, the driver from Tralee to Limerick rewarded the decision. Mick made us sit behind him wile he narrated the trip in the poetic manner that only an Irishman could do.
He described the people on the bus. “This ship’s name is Murphy. Eighty last week, and been riding my bus for fifty years.”
He pointed out the “undulatin’ hills” and converted us. Ever since, buses have served us well, making us “travelers,” some might say, in touch with the people, not “tourists,” in touch with the sights. Of course, the sights are incredible, and Bob describes them to me. But because I can’t see them, he has fallen into my habits, lots of talking to people, lots of attention to the other senses. My four remaining senses offer many gratifying details. And traveling without sight sometimes offers a small advantage. It seems to trigger the same positive response of touring with a child or a dog–an excuse to make contact. And as I travel blind, I realize more and more that conversation is my passport.