07 October 2016

Getting There

After a month filled with travel by bus, auto, train, tram, airplane, along with a lot of walking I have had a lot of time to reflect on what it means to go. When I arrived at the Prague airport recently and awaited my transfer to my hotel for the weekend, it struck me about how many different ways I could make the journey.
As I made my way past the customs doors and into the Arrival terminal hall, I was met by an earnest looking Czech man who asked if I wanted to take a taxi.  Travel by taxi is one way of making the journey into town.  Be careful though, Czech taxis have in the past been known to overcharge foreign visitors.  Still, this is one way to go local and remain in control.  There is a familiarity with taxi service - you get in and tell the driver where to go; they let a central dispatch know where they are headed; you depend on her/his knowledge of the area or ability to use a navigation device; and you trust that they will not over charge you.  

My smart phone offered me another way to travel when an advertisement for Uber popped up during my search for my hotel on a map.  I admit that I have not used Uber before.  But as I understand the service, it is like a taxi but with a free-lancing driver.  This is going local with a bit of risk involved, isn't it?  It is almost as familiar as traditional taxi service.  However, there's the added excitement of realizing that your ride is not backed up by the reputation of a company like Yellow Cab Service, for example.  You are taking a ride with a local who has chosen to go it alone.  I may try Uber one day.

I could have rented an automobile I suppose.  By doing so, I do not have to go local at all.  I remain in control.  All I need to do is access local knowledge about my destination on my own and hope that I can understand the directions enough to find my way.  There is comfort in the control that comes with renting your own automobile.  I get to listen to the music I want and do not risk having a talkative taxi driver who wants to tell me how their cousin lives in the United States or that how Elvis is really alive (so said our Maltese taxi driver on our way to the Valletta Airport). 

Then there's the bus.  Talk about going local!  You are at the mercy of local, central planning as the routes are predetermined.  You have to share the ride with both locals and non-locals.  You have to know whether casual social interaction is welcomed or shunned - can I open or close the window?  Do I make eye contact?  How will I know which stop to take?  The risks are many when you take the bus since you give up most control over your journey.  You can chose to get off whenever there is a stop, sure, but you do not get to control where the stops are.  You will likely have to walk from the bus stop to your eventual destination. 

As you go, you will find your own comfort level at how you make the journey.  If you need to be in control, get your own vehicle.  If you are willing to engage the local while still maintaining a sense of control over your destination, better try a taxi or Uber (and tell me about how it went for you).  If your need for control is low and you are willing to risk the uncertainties which come with trusting another's planning and being in the presence of others, then take the bus.  

If you do decide to take the bus from Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport, walk over to the Departure terminal and catch the bus there.  It is the first stop and you have your choice of seats.  If you get on the bus at the Arrival terminal, there are a lot more people and you will likely end up standing.  Whatever way you go, enjoy the journey.