I am planning on taking a year off to travel down the south east coast then slowly out west (southern route) to California, volunteer farming along the way for occasional food and housing. I was wondering what everyone thought would be the best way to travel. I do not have a car and do not really want to rent one. I've never hitchhiked before, but I am not disregarding doing so. I was looking at Greyhounds "Discovery Pass" where you pay a ton of money to get unlimited rides all around the USA for a few months, but I don't completely understand how it works. Has anyone done this before? Can you get dropped off anywhere you want? Is it one specific route? What are you guy's thoughts?
"Volunteer farming along the way for occasional food and housing" - good luck with that, but I seriously doubt you'll have much success.
I am going to guess you are under 25 and from the UK. There is no information on your profile.
Easy one first. I would forget about hitchhiking. It is illegal on our major freeways and dangerous for both parties. Not a viable option IMO.
You have read about the Discovery Pass offered by Greyhound. $556 for 60 days. You would need 6 of those to cover your 1 year in the US. Over $3K for your year. I don't think this option makes sense for you either.
What I suggest is to use the 'rideshare' feature on 'craigslist'. Every craigslist city has a list of those offering rides to other cities. Basically you help with the cost of the trip. Usually just petrol, but could include motel costs on longer trips. Since you have the time, you could monitor the rideshare list in the city you are in until you find someone driving to where you want to go. This is where couchsurfing might be the perfect option for you.
I am assuming you are going to use WWOOF for your volunteering. I would contact the farms you prefer before arriving in the US to establish a relationship. Find out when they could use your services.
Here is what I suggest you do. Find a couch in your arrival city. Then monitor craigslist until you find a ride going to your next destination. Line up a couch online for that city. A laptop is almost required for this plan to be successful. A mobile phone as well. Contact the farm where you want to volunteer. See if they can pick you up from that city. With some planning, I can see this working all across the US.
Hope this helps with your planning.
I spent 3 months traveling the US late last year using mostly Greyhound and Amtrak. I found the prices to be pretty reasonable. If you are a student or are eligible for a young persons card you can get a discount with Amtrak as long as you book 2 days in advance. The trains can be slow (unlike the UK, slower than coach travel) but are worth it for the extra comfort and spectacular views. Some trains have a viewing cabin and bar which is great.
As for Greyhound, they're pretty good. They have started to update there fleet and if your lucky you'll get one of the new ones with leather seats. One piece of advice, try and avoid Greyhound stations at night, they're usually in the slightly shady parts of town (especially LA) However I saw no problems whatsoever.
Hitchhiking is still done by some people. I met a German girl traveling alone who Hitched the whole way through California. But as mentioned above it is illegal and highly dangerous.
Domestic flights are also an option. If booked far enough in advance can be very cheap too (sometimes cheaper than the Greyhound) Southwest Airlines are usually the cheapest, Priceline also worth checking.
Craigslist and Couchsurfing are great for finding a place to crash. If not most cities have hostels.
As for you farming, try helpx.net. I think you have to pay a small fee to join but they have plenty of farm stays on the west coast.
Hope that was of some help, any other questions just ask.