Q&A with Andrew Evans from National Geographic: An Epic Bus Ride from Washington to Antarctica

Q&A with Andrew Evans from National Geographic: An Epic Bus Ride from Washington to Antarctica

As part of our goal to make life easier for bus travelers, we contact travelers who’ve had firsthand experiences around the world. Today we’re happy to feature an interview with Andrew Evans,  digital nomad and correspondent for National Geographic. Andrew is speaking this Wednesday about his adventures at the National Geographic headquarters. For event details, check out: Digital Nomad: Bus to Antarctica and Beyond

In 2010, Andrew embarked on an epic bus journey from the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. to Antarctica. In total, he traveled 10,000 miles on 40 buses through 9 states and 17 countries. We’re grateful that he took the time for this interview and we’re happy to share his answers with you today.

Andrew Evans
Andrew Evans from National Geographic (@WheresAndrew)

1. What were your goals, expectations and fears when setting out on this adventure?

My goal was to get to Antarctica traveling as much as possible by bus. I expected that it would take a long time and that I would need to be flexible, but I also expected that I could make it, as long as I kept traveling South. My biggest fear is that I would get to the end of one road and find my way ahead closed, forcing me to backtrack. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Andrew visits the salt flats in Uyuni, Bolivia
Bus in a salt flat in Bolivia. Photo by Andrew Evans for National Geographic

2. How did taking the bus change your perspective on the countries you visited? (as compared to taking the plane for example?)

Traveling overland by bus shows you the heart of a country and the breadth of its physical landscapes. Winding up and down the mountains of Guatemala and crossing the vast deserts of Peru offered me much more vivid experience of their unique geographies than even a small plane flying overhead. I now appreciate the size of each of these countries so much more. For example, Colombia is a huge country while Argentina is simply endless.

Passing by wonderful swirled sandstone hills in Argentina
Passing by wonderful swirled sandstone hills in Argentina. Photos by Andrew Evans (@Bus2Antarctica)

3. Bus travel across of South and Central America can be very different from country to country. How would you contrast the different types of bus experiences you had across the 40+ buses you took in 17 countries?

I think I had the best of the best and the very worst, too. I rode “chicken buses” where I literally had chicken sitting on my feet. Then I rode first class buses where I had my own flat screen TV to watch whatever movies I wanted. Greyhound in America fell somewhere between those two extremes. Across my travels, some buses were too hot, some were far too cold, some were very bumpy and some allowed me to sleep all through the night. Honestly, I liked the diversity of it all. Each time I boarded a new bus, I new I was embarking on a totally new adventure.

4. Finally, what’s the most rewarding thing you experienced from your travels? And if you have one piece of advice for people considering traveling by bus rather than the train or plane, what would it be?

Traveling by bus drops you into the arms of the locals–the people I met on the bus made my journey so much richer. You can meet people on a plane, too, but it’s not the same as traveling with someone for 30 hours where you form a bond of trust and help one another out along the way. My advice is TAKE THE BUS! No other form of transportation offers such an intimate view of the destination you’re visiting. Find out which buses and routes the locals take, and follow suit. But don’t be afraid to be spontaneous–hopping on a bus to a place whose name you can’t even pronounce is one of the greatest adventures out there.

Thanks Andrew!

You can follow Andrew Evans’s travels on his blog, National Geographic’s Digital Nomad, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. If you have suggestions for bus travelers you’d like us to interview, please contact us.

Finally, check out this Bus2Antarctica video: Riding Guatemala’s Colorful Buses