When it was time to depart the East Coast and North Carolina the issue of how to move forward was pressing. We wanted to continue our trip as close as possible to the ways and methods we had used while abroad and treat our time in the United States like we were simply traveling through another country. Not having the population as other countries of comparable size (China) and with a developed culture and auto industry focused on the American family owning automobiles, we have found getting from A to B more difficult.
Taking the train from Florida to South Carolina, we already had found it to be comparative to a flight price-wise. However, it was much more enjoyable. Traveling by public transportation in the United States is difficult in the sense that there are fewer schedules, they are more expensive, and although you can get around by these means, you are stuck at your destination unless you have a car or someone picking you up. When you arrive in town you can’t simply take a bus or walk as you can in other countries. This was confirmed as we walked for hours in the rain in Columbia, SC. Luckily we found a bus driver who explained we could not walk that far, switched buses twice, waited for about an hour, and found a bus driver nice enough to drop us off in front of the hotel we were looking for – which was actually way off her route.
Naturally, we would have loved to take the train from North Carolina. We even got excited when we learned we would have to take the Northbound train to Washington D.C., where I have family we could have visited, and then take the East / West bound and travel to Chicago. However, the price for doing this per person was $240 USD. Direct buses to Chicago were slightly over $100 USD per person, but would have left us in downtown Chicago. We would have then had to take a $18 USD p.p. bus ticket to Rockford. I then searched for hours and discovered that we could rent a car and pay for gas to transport the two of use from Winston – Salem directly to Rockford for a fraction of the price. I was surprised to discover this and was at first really disappointed that this method was cheaper, but then I appreciated the American importance on independence and easy of the highway network system…although it would sure be nice if public transportation was a little bit more affordable.
I must have looked pretty pathetic the morning we arrived at the Avis agency in Winston-Salem because I pretty much begged the guy for the cheapest possible option, and a hybrid if possible to save on gas. Unfortunately, that was not an option, but he took pity on us, set us up with a 15% discount, and a $20 discount for taking a car that “had not been cleaned.” We ended up renting a car for $150 and only spent about $50 in gas. Therefore, we got from A to B for exactly $100 a person and it was much faster and thrifty than the bus or train. If you are interested in traveling through the U.S. make sure you ask or search for these discounts or coupons when making your arrangements. If you are not from the U.S., I highly recommend using couch surfing or similar websites to find a place to stay once you arrive in your destinations, as we have heard that many a times, these people are willing to come pick you up at the train or bus station once you arrive. Although making these travel arrangements in the U.S. is more difficult, once you decide and arrive on a particular method, it is pretty much headache and hassle free, which is something I can not say about most other places we have been.