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Author's profile photo Jason Palmer

The Next Decade: The Actuality Challenge

My reality is my actuality… or is it? After all, flying between Dallas and Houston is much better than taking a motor coach, right?

As I prepared to return back to work after the close of another busy year, I spent some time reflecting on the good, bad, and ugly of the past year. And since we rolled into a new decade, I found myself reflecting back on my accomplishments (and failures) over the past decade and decided to establish new goals for the next one. So, this year I decided to challenge myself to have a few new experiences, regardless of my predisposed ideas or bias perceptions. I decided to call this my “actuality challenge”! I do have the self-awareness and accept the unnerving fact I am programmed. Okay! I am not a robot nor a designer alien, but I do have programmed predispositions implanted from my life experiences, ethnic culture, education, family, and community influences. One such bias is I am a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I admit this actuality to you since I recently read a quote from Bill Cowher that sparked my actuality challenge journey. Whom by the way, was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Cowher stated, “Perception is reality, but it may not be actuality, and you have got to be able to keep the difference between that.” So, I wanted to put my preconceived perceptions to the test with my own actuality challenge.

My Actuality Challenge

My first actuality challenge was to experience a new mode of work transportation. You see, I work at SAP and live in the northeast suburbs of Dallas and commute occasionally to Houston for business meetings. The distance between these two cities is approximately 250 miles. On average it takes me about a 4-hours door-to-door when driving.

This past year I made a dozen roundtrips between Dallas and Houston.

  • Six roundtrip flights departing from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) via United Airlines arriving at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Two roundtrip flights departing from Dallas Love Field (DAL) via Southwest Airlines arriving at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
  • Four roundtrips in my personal vehicle departing from Dallas to Houston

One of my SAP colleagues (Robert Davis II) mentioned he used an executive bus transportation service to commute between these Texas cities. My immediate gut reaction was; you got to be joking. You see, I once rode on a Greyhound bus across many states with my mother when I was about ten years old. My reality was shock and awe! The bus was large, loud, dirty, and smelled; and a few of the passengers were just downright scary to me! With great apprehension I embraced my new actuality challenge and I booked an executive bus roundtrip on Vonlane Dallas to Houston. My experience was so different than I anticipated I wanted to share the it with you. Here is a summary of what I learned.

Pros: Flying vs Vonlane Motor Coach

Flying Vonlane
Faster (fastest in transit travel time) Lapboards (for notebook use)
Higher safety standards Business Class for all
More daily departure/return options Loan Accessories (e.g. power cables, umbrella, etc.)
Airport terminal food/entertainment Snack selection much broader and more frequent
Significantly lower ticket prices
Personalized service
Complimentary Wi-Fi
Fast onboarding/offboarding
Close vehicle parking
No bag check or size limits
AC power at every seat
More mobile work or leisure time
No carry-on bag restrictions
Any available seat selection at ticketing
Less carbon emissions than flying


Cons: Flying vs Vonlane Motor Coach

Flying Vonlane
More expensive Slower (longer travel time)
Economy Class for most Lower safety standards
Limited snacks Fewer daily departure/return options
For fee Wifi More turbulence (road vibrations)
Slow onboarding/offboarding
Bag check and size limits
Carry-on bag limitations (e.g., 3oz liquids)
Limited seating selections at ticketing
Carry-on restrictions


Service & Amenities Commonalities: Flying vs Vonlane Motor Coach

Although two distinct transportation methods, they do have some service commonalities. Below is a list highlighting a few of the similarities of service between the two modes of transport. I also included a Vonlane website snapshot of amenities they provide to their passengers.

In transit entertainment – Each provide Wi-Fi-enabled Live TV and/or on-demand movies/shows. Although the Wi-Fi internet connection did drop and pop right back up a few times for me during my Vonlane transit.

Vehicle terminal parking – if you drive your own vehicle; then you will need to pay for parking. In my case Vonlane provided parking via the terminal hotel lot. I paid the daily hotel parking rate ($12.00) which was less than I normally pay for off-site airport parking ($15.99).

Bathrooms – Single bathroom on the bus while the plane (like a 737) commonly has three bathrooms. Passenger to bathroom ratios for the bus is 22:1. For the plane with around 160 passengers that would be a 53:1. Since only first-class passengers are allowed to the front of the plane restroom; the people ratio per bathroom is actually much high for non-first-class flying passengers.

Beverage service – Both provide beverage service and it is very similar. The bus is a bit more limited in beverage selections. Water, juice, and sodas are complementary. Of course, you can purchase beer, wine, and liquor using your credit card at comparable prices.

Service attendant – Each provide in transit service attendee(s) to serve the passengers. I found the service attendee on the bus to be much like business class service, but better. They provided a better service by offering more variety of snacks, more service options, and being more proactively available to me to ensure I was comfortable and happy.

Door-to-Door Travel Time

Flying Vonlane
Home departure 3:30am 4:30am
Vehicle parking lot 4:15am 5:15am
Parking lot to terminal transport 4:17am n/a
Terminal arrival 4:35am 5:16am
Security check


(w/ TSA Precheck)



(w/ United Premier Silver)

Departure 5:30am 5:30am
In transit time 1hr 15min 3hrs 45min
Arrival 6:45am 9:15am
Offboarding 6:55am 9:17am
Baggage claim n/a 9:18am
Terminal departure (via Uber) 7:13am 9:21am
Office arrival 7:58am 9:33am
Total door-to-door travel time 4.5 hours 5 hours


I am excited about the next decade and how I will be challenged to change, adapt, and accept new realities. At times change is challenging, but if you try it you just might like it, and it can be extremely rewarding. As for me, I am now a Vonlane motor coach fan!

The entire bus is filled with extended seat recline business class like leather seating. The experience provides a comfortable personal space with great legroom. With only 22 passengers on the motor coach; the on-board attendant made me feel valued and appreciated.  The ample seating space and complementary Wi-Fi allowed me to work and relax in my own private space without disturbing others. The entire door-to-door motor coach commute took me about 5 hours which is only 30 minutes longer than my typical flying mode of transport. I Ubered to my final destination, but it was a short 15 minute commute and only cost $9.00. Since no security check or restrictions on the motor coach, less commute time from parking to terminal, and less wait time before departure; I saved a lot of transition time. I can also carry-on liquids and my pocketknife, which for me is a nice perk. Overall the cost was less than half what I would normally pay for flying. The unexpected benefit was how much more relaxed I was at the end of my trip. I also had more work productivity during transit compared to flying. I will most defiantly use this form of transport again in the near future.

I hope you found this informative and please let me know if you decide to have your own “actuality challenge”!

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views and not those of SAP.

Images courtesy of Vonlane

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