If there is something I have learnt in the last year, it is that humans are very capable of adapting to any residential situation. I’ve lived in a big house and a tiny apartment. I’ve lived on a ship, in the middle of the ocean, where doors constantly swung open by themselves, responding to the sway of the waves below us.
Where the hum of motors and thrusters and engines became a sort of white sound, barely noticeable with time. However, it was my last experience, my home from September to December, that made me truly realize how adaptable we are.
While on tour for Shopkins Live!, I lived on a moving bus with 9 other girls for 4 months.
Though I couldn’t fathom living in such a small space, and still struggle with the concept, the four months in question were exciting and very much enjoyable. Every single day, I woke up in a different city, performed at a different venue, and saw different things. The only constant were the people. And they were wonderful.
As we traveled through 82 cites in 100 days, our bus rolled through big cities, desert terrain and snowy mountains. Every morning, I would lie in my top bunk and thank my new best friend Google Maps for telling me where I could eat, explore and enjoy that day. I learned very quickly that googling things to do in “insert city here” always brought up the same results: museums, gardens and churches. If I was going to be sight seeing every day, I needed to find a better way to discover.
Some of my favourite moments on tour were planned completely last minute: hiking the desert mountains of El Paso, where we were constantly warned about tarantulas and rattle snakes. Finding the most adorable bookstores and coffee shops in underrated cities like Des Moines and Reno. Waking up to see the sunrise over Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
These moments, though completely spontaneous, were always what reminded me how lucky I was to be living on the road. Waking up every day, with a whole new place of possibilities I’d never encountered before.
When it came to actually living on the bus, we found a system that worked for us. We had to shower in the theatre and most of us spent time in our dressing rooms to take advantage of the extra space.
WHAT THE BUS?
The bus itself had three sections. The front lounge comprised of couches, a TV, a bathroom and a kitchenette with a microwave, sink, kettle and storage space. The middle section (also known as the “quiet area”) had 12 bunks: 10 for sleeping and 2 for all our bags. These junk bunks were immensely helpful in organizing the space. The back lounge was a smaller version of the front, with more couches, storage space and a second TV. The bus also came equipped with internet.
Because we travelled at night, we kept our large suitcases in the bays of the bus and carried a smaller duffel bag with us during the week. On our day off in the hotel room, the floor would be littered with laundry and souvenirs as I switched out clothes for the following week.
On the rare occasion I would forget to pack something, I had the wonderful task of opening my suitcase on the sidewalk for the world to see in search of whatever I deemed important enough to find.
Though sleeping on a moving bus did bother a few of my cast members, I slept well the entirety of the tour. It only took about a week before I got used to the occasional bumps and sharp turns, though at first, every curve felt like the entire bus was going to topple over. Our bus driver became a part of our family and I took pleasure knowing that every night was a slumber party with my friends.
I came to understand quite quickly that living on a bus is somewhat of a social activity. Not only was I sharing my space with 9 other girls, I was sharing it with 9 performers, all with strong personalities of their own. We had amazing moments: movie nights, the discovery of the “melovator”, earthquake parties.
I came to understand quite quickly that living on a bus is somewhat of a social activity.
But it was in these 4 months that I truly began to understand the value of being alone. With time, I not only accepted alone time as something I needed, but as something I required. Sitting in silence reading a book became a luxury that I craved and savoured when I had the opportunity.
In reality, living on a bus proved to be an enlightening experience. How many people can say they have woken up in a different city 100 days in a row? I traveled, performed and adventured. What more could you ask for?