March 10, 2019

Overseas and Off-Campus Programs Blog

The Trials and Tribulations of Public Transportation

Author Name

Isabel Bowen

Author Program

Ireland: Social Sciences

Program Semester and Year

Spring 2019

Student Major


Public transportation is a relatively new experience for me. I grew up in a smaller rural town that had one single bus that went from our downtown to the mall and that was it. It was pretty much impossible to get from downtown to my house using the bus only. When I moved to Portland, I started trying to take advantage of the transport system and even mastered the journey from downtown PDX to Hawthorne street using the number 14 bus of course. However, the public transport in Ireland that I have had to regularly use comes in the form of trains instead which is a whole new territory for me.

During the reading week, I became a little stir crazy staying in my Dublin apartment and decided to travel to Ennis Ireland in the West for a spontaneous tattoo appointment. I planned like crazy beforehand and felt fairly confident in the route I had chosen and the stop and changes I would have to make between trains. Well, boy was I wrong. I, trying to be efficient, decided to start my day at 6:00 am in order to get to Ennis but ended up arriving at the wrong train station in the middle of nowhere in the cover of darkness. As a female, I undoubtedly have to think of the potential issues I could run into while I am alone in a new place while it is pitch black outside. Understandably I began to panic and rushed to the correct train station, hoping to catch a minute to myself to figure out the whole ticket issue and which platform I needed to be on. I did manage to do this and sat in my seat and tried to rest. This did not last long, however. Not even an hour into the 4-hour long trip I planned, I realized that I in fact needed to get off the train and change to another train before the sun was even set to rise! I had not anticipated this platform change and, not wanting to seem like a novice train rider, absolutely refused to ask anyone for help.

This interchange itself proved to be a lot easier and after yet another train change after this, I ended up in the quiet town of Ennis. I couldn’t help but think of how alone I was in an incredibly isolated place. There wasn’t anybody who could share these stresses that I had faced and having to let go and go where the experience wanted me to go. It was nerve-racking and a new experience and I couldn’t help but think it was a mistake to travel by myself. I always feel like there is strength in numbers, especially in a foreign country. But I was forcing myself to be alone. Looking back on the experience it was beautiful and terrifying but what scared me more was thinking about how I wished I wasn’t by myself. How I wished that there was someone else there to act as a buffer for me in this new territory and transport system. I am a smart woman and unfortunately, I have been forced to learn how to avoid certain situations and keep myself minimized and blended within a group. I was frustrated with myself but ultimately learned that sometimes I have to let go of control and see where the journey, or train quite literally, takes me.

I got to see an amazing sunrise, got a beautiful tattoo and watched the sunset all in the span of one day and although I was forced to reevaluate and change my plan, everything worked out overall and I think I feel just the slightest bit more comfortable with taking the train.