Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

For a 16-year-old girl, true liberation is becoming a licensed driver. The headaches of almost failing my driver’s test (then begrudgingly having to wait for a few hours at the DMV) all became irrelevant the moment I sat in the driver’s seat of my mother’s Mazda CX-9 without an adult to accompany me. I drove through my hometown with every window down, my music so loud my rearview mirror shook. As the warm summer breeze swept across my face and through my hair, the world became my oyster.

friends road trip california fall break windows down music
Molly Peach / Her Campus

Flash forward two years to about a month ago, and here I am. Freshly moved into my college dorm. I bid my final farewell to my family as the newest chapter of my life unfolds. I don’t have my car, my family is a road trip away, and I am officially by myself, on my own. No big deal right? I naively went into college thinking that being by myself could not be that hard. Previously I would go run errands, take myself anywhere I needed to be, and attend doctor’s appointments by myself all the time. The only difference in my life now is my lack of car and again, that I am now completely on my own.

 I had never taken a public bus before, nor any other form of public transit, for that matter. Convinced it would only take me a day or two to get used to public transportation, I was blissfully unaware of how learning to navigate public transit is a beyond-exhausting process. With that said, I spent my first two weeks of college lost and in constant transportation failure. 

The first time I tried using the bus system, my roommate and I were going to explore downtown Boulder. Simply locating where our bus stop was and the right bus to get on (with little to no help from the Transit app) was the first challenge in the process. The Transit app, by the way, (the alleged handbook to everything bus), might as well be written in cipher. So while we patiently waited at what I was led to believe was the right bus stop, something felt wrong. As I yelled at an unresponsive Transit app screen, trying to figure out what every random symbol, color, and letter meant, our bus arrived at the bus stop on the other side of the street and left without us. Such revealed that not only were we at the wrong stop, but we were waiting for the wrong bus as well. One three-minute walk and a forty-five-minute wait later, we thankfully made it to our destination. 

You would think we would have learned from our mistakes and pulled off a smooth journey back to our dorm, yet we found ourselves repeating the same process over again. Only this time I managed to lead us to the wrong bus, we missed the stop we needed, and we got stranded in a neighborhood 10 minutes away from where we actually needed to be. If I had a dollar for every time I ended up displaced because I either got on the wrong bus, off at the wrong stop, or missed my stop, I would have just enough to pay for one of the many Uber rides I have had to shamefully take due to my poor navigation skills.

My Downtown Boulder transportation failure wasn’t a one-time event either. The process just seemed to loop over and over again just with slight variation each time. Frustration doesn’t even begin to express how I felt anytime I had to get anywhere. I was met with nothing but defeat time and time again and my Uber fees were stacking up. Public transit has found me standing helpless in four torrential rain storms, sprinting great distances to catch my bus, enduring bus doors slammed in my face, the list goes on and on. The fact is: public transit isn’t easy. Every day during those first two weeks after I got back to my dorm, I would be in bed at 9:30. This was not because I was so tired from all these fun and new experiences, which, yes, that was a factor, but I was genuinely so mentally tired because of how lost I was all the time. 

Moving out was as scary as I knew it would be, but I reassured myself by thinking that I already knew what it was like to be on my own. Just by having a driver’s license, I subconsciously developed this crutch I didn’t even know I was using. Each time I drove my car to run all these errands, go to all these places and even brave going to the doctor, I was under a false impression that I knew what being fully independent was like. Of course, I wasn’t fully (technically) independent, at least not yet, but being in the grocery store picking out which apples looked best or sitting and waiting for my name to be called in my doctor’s office led me to think otherwise. After all, I was not the one who made the grocery list I was using, and I surely wasn’t the one who made any appointments. It seemed like whenever I attempted to go somewhere, I would only be met with bitter disappointment that maybe I am not as capable as I’d thought, which is in itself a very defeating mentality to take on. Before being at college, I didn’t realize how much I still relied on my family or other people when it came to navigating the world, and public transportation was my wake-up call. When it came to taking the bus, there was no one I could call to walk me through it. I only have myself to figure out how in the world I am going to get myself to the nearest grocery store.

No one’s at rock bottom forever. While I was trapped at the rock bottom of public transport for maybe a bit longer than expected, I have slowly begun crawling my way toward the title of “pro bus rider.” In actuality it sounds trivial, but to me it is a sign that I have taken a successful step in the right direction of being independent. As of recently, I have found that it is easier when going places and that I am more confident in my knowledge of public transit. While public transit might be the biggest learning curve I have had to conquer so far, I know that this is just the beginning. Just because I can confidently say I know which bus to get on, that doesn’t mean I know everything about living on my own yet. I still have a lot left to learn, and it is both nauseating and exciting to think about the long road ahead littered with mile marking signs, each a testament to how I’ll have navigated the logistics of the real world. At least I know how to get to Target, and that’s enough to satisfy me for now.

Gabrielle Goodwin

CU Boulder '27

Gabrielle is one of the newest additions to the Her Campus writing staff this year. A freshman and a first year writer, Gabrielle is excited to write about her experiences, culture and society, as well as her love of music and art. Gabrielle is currently an undergraduate studying micro and cellular biology and pursuing her love of science. Gabrielle hopes to graduate school with the intent of going into the field of biotech engineering. Outside of Her Campus, she participates in club girls lacrosse and works at a ziplines and high ropes course in the summers. When she's not writing, blabbing about her love of music and pop culture, or even trying to drag you to the nearest concert, you can find Gabrielle with her guitar, hiking with friends, baking, or curled up with her latest read.