Everything glowed orange, flooded in the warmth of the almost-gone sun. The mountain alive with the laughter and shutter clicks of our group of adventurers as we said our goodbyes to the long day of bus travel just passed. We’d all met only hours before in the cozy hostel common room, hasty hike plans set over a map and the advice of a local guide – but in the growing shadows on the impending night, it could have been weeks. There’s something about exhaustion, smiles and open-minded adventure that connects travellers on a deeper level. For the next 4 days, hiking our way around Zakopane and the Polish Tatra’s we’d fill those voids in one another, the one’s that often settle in the separation from the familiar. Before the week was through, some of these strangers would come to feel like home.
Such is the spirit of Busabout.
In the time I spent travelling on the Go-East from Paris through to Split, I’d meet countless people who would make a huge impact in my life. Short-lived, but deeply rooted relationships that reach in and touch your heart, the sort of friendships that make you want to re-live the adventure all over again. I’ve often wondered about how it happens, perhaps it’s the long hours spent side by side on Busabouts big blue busses, or the balmy nights spent drinking into the early hours – whatever it is, the magic of adventure opens people up to one another in a long lasting way. Add some of Europe’s best-kept secrets into the equation – and you’ve got a recipe for one of the greatest trips of your life. That’s exactly how this trip came together – in a whirlwind of some of Eastern Europes most impressive cities, and lesser travelled counterparts – met with a bunch of bright and excited minds.
I’m no stranger to the trip from Paris through to Vienna – having done the road before with Busabout years ago. This time though, instead of heading south into Italy at Vienna, I’d loop up north to join Busabout newest and most intriguing loop into Eastern Europe. Using the powers of a flexi-pass, I made the decision to change my itinerary early on, replacing a few big-city stops with longer stays in the lesser known places that Busabout had on offer. I did little research, instead putting my trust in Busabouts well trained guides and drivers – I wouldn’t be disappointed.
In Bratislava, over traditional Slovakian goulash and liter beers, I’d discover the true strength of “girl power”. I’d learn that a day spent with kind strangers, can very quickly turn into a slumber party on a pile of mattresses in the hostel dorm room. In Olomouc, I’d discover that you can bike ride an entire day with a group of people and that in that day, you can love them like siblings – and still not be 100% sure of everyone’s names. In Krakow, we’d discover true merit in the dining suggestions of other travellers, and how eating your body weight in dumplings before a pub-crawl can interfere terribly with an “hour of power”. In the same Polish city, we’d all feel even more connected in the despair and heaviness that followed tours to Auschwitz – and the awe that followed the Salt Mines.
By the time we reached Zakopane, I’d crossed paths with many of the Busabout travellers I’d met in previous cities – stories from other loops were shared across the network. In Poland, I met a girl whose story of an accidental dislocation I’d heard about from other travellers earlier in the trip. She laughed about becoming Busabout famous. Such is the big blue grapevine. Here, everyone’s met someone at one point, and conversations are often inclusive with “Have you met ___ along your travels yet?” Chances are – you probably have. Chances are – someone’s asking someone the same question about you too – because like everyone else you meet along the way, you too, become a part of the Busabout story, making your own powerful and lasting impact on the people you meet.
As the sun faded on the shadowy layers of the Polish Tatra’s, in a rare moment of stillness, I was reminded of how fast and chaotic travelling can be. How exciting and exhausting the process of moving and travelling every few days can feel – and how leaning into the support and energy of our fellow adventurers is what pulls us through. Busabout offers a truly connected experience off the beaten path into Eastern Europe, with a wonderful network of enthusiastic learners and educators. It’s a truly free-spirited experience that creates a lasting impression.