I hear you, I really don't like buns either.
How about a half-ponytail (the kind where the elastic breaks up the knob-like effect a bun would have)? I'm not very good at these, but when I don't try to do any one style, get good results. Something twisted (French twist style) works well for me, too, as do braids pinned up.
My hair is frizzy with lots of different lengths, so the only way to get a sleek updo is to oil the heck out of my hair, something my hair and scalp really don't like. So I do a lot of messy updos that tend to look like they are messy on purpose, holding my hair off my face yet covering my nape (I have those wiry, weird textured short curly nape hairs), and framing my face.
Coronet braids (two side braids braided upside down, then pinned in a coronet along the top of my head) are one of my favorite "elaborate" updos. Even though they get messy as the day goes on, if I get them right, they still look good messy, and a headband helps at least keep the mess from falling into my eyes.
The longer my hair gets the more I am able to do different things - usually a variation on one of the above - to get it up and out of the way (I bike daily, so don't want it tangling in the wind) but still be able to take it down and have it look good.
don't worry, you are not alone in not liking the look of buns, I don't either, and can wear my hair up without having to get that severe scraped back look.