A Chapter in the Life of a Traveller – Tallinn, Helsinki, St Petersburg

[BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP]

SUNDAY MORNING – My alarm begins to ring in our large 12-bed dorm room and I swiftly sit up to grab my phone to prevent any of my new best friends from waking up. I swing my legs out of the bed and sit on the edge, looking on at everyone else sleeping. There are clothes and backpacks scattered across the room. A girl in the bunk next to me groans and turns over to cuddle with her boyfriend. Luca and Jan fast asleep in the bunks to the other side of me.

“I can’t even imagine what it would be like to travel long-term with someone else, especially a boyfriend. I have been alone for so long now,” I thought to myself. “I don’t know if I would even like it? Or maybe I am just trying to make myself feel better.”

I rise out of bed and head to the kitchen for breakfast. There is an Asian couple in the kitchen, already dressed and eating breakfast. They have their cameras on the table, the guy is looking at a map and they are discussing together what they want to see in the city.

I quickly pour a cup of coffee and grab a piece of toast, throw some jam on it and head to the common room. I open the window and sit on the window ledge, looking down at the few people walking along the street. The cool morning mist is starting to fade as the sun begins to rise.  I start to daydream, looking out at the buildings, the leaves falling from the trees, reminiscing from last 4 days. Swimming in the freezing Baltic Sea at 6am, eating Elk soup and fishing for cucumbers in a medieval style café, going on a pub crawl and to an outdoor nightclub, new experiences and meeting dozens of new people. Smiling to myself, I finish my cup of coffee and run upstairs to shower and grab my backpack. Today, I will head to my next stop, to St. Petersburg, Russia.

It is still very quiet as I am leaving the hostel. I drop my key at the empty reception desk and walk down the crooked stairs onto the cobblestone roads of Old-Town Tallinn. Again, I am alone. After the last few days of meet new people, spending everyday with them, I am walking in silence to the docks where I will find which ferry I need to take.

I don’t think words can explain this feeling of leaving yet another city and you don’t know if you will ever see these ‘friends’ again. There is a strange understanding of travellers in hostels. You know that you will only be there for a few days, where everyone is arriving and leaving on different dates, all going to different destinations, but for a short segment of time, you were someone’s best friend for a day, or two, or 5. All solo travellers rely on these moments with other travellers.

But today is not a normal travel day, and for the whole journey to the ferry and trip to Finland, I cannot wipe the smile off my face. Today I will meet up with another traveller, Adrian, whom I met in Stockholm. I will first take my ferry to Helsinki and we will meet in the city centre. And what’s even better, when I return to Helsinki I will meet up with Luca again and Daniel when I arrive in Lithuania! The idea of seeing people again, to see a familiar face when you are so used to saying goodbye, this is priceless. To top it off, I am headed to Russia! A completely unexpected, unplanned idea, but thanks to Adrian, I will be joining him!

I arrive at the docks in Tallinn and sit with my feet hanging over the edge, dangling above the water. The sun is shining on my face and I am listening to music, just smiling in a most tranquil mood. “How good is life?” I whisper to myself. “Is this really my life?”

I watch as my ferry that was in the far distance is now slowly getting closer and closer to me. The Finnish flag is blowing in the breeze. I get up and hoist my heavy backpack onto my back, clip my smaller backpack to my front and walk to the ticket office, through the boarding passage and onto the ferry. I find a seat at a table next to man, with a huge backpack like me, and a woman, whose travel partner was a cute, grey dog sitting in the chair next to her. His tail was wagging and he kept wanting to jump onto the table whilst his owner continued to tell him off, in what sounded like Russian.

After attempting to connect to the Wi-Fi so I can load Helsinki on Google Maps, which wasn’t working, I take out my book and begin to read for only a few short pages before my eyes become heavy and I fall asleep. I wake up to the grey dog licking my leg and at the same time, the woman is tapping my arm and smiling at me. In a few moments, I feel the ferry come to a stop and everyone is getting up. I grab my backpack, get off the boat, through the ferry terminal and to the front of the building.

“OK, where do I go now?” I wonder.

I walk to a tram stop and try to look on a map of which direction I should walk in, but there was a huge crowd of people and I didn’t want to stare blankly at a map for too long because I hate looking like a tourist – like my backpack didn’t give it away in the first place!

I walk back down the main road and decide that if I went in the direction of left, it would bring me to a residential area, so I will just walk right and hope I will arrive somewhere that looks like a city centre. Along the way, trying to connect to any free Wi-Fi spots but after 10 minutes walking, I decided to ask at a hotel which way to go. Luckily this was still in the direction I was planning to go, but at least now I knew I wasn’t lost.

I walked along the streets of shops, busy with people, and along a park where everyone was sitting in the grass and eating ice cream. I arrived at the road the receptionist told me to turn right on and continued straight until I came across the huge square in the centre – and Adrian! He and his friend were laying in the shade of a tree, using their backpacks as pillows. I run up to him with a huge smile and gave him a hug and I was introduced to his friend.

We continued to talk, exchanging travel stories and what has been happening the last few cities we have visited, like my many stalkers, being followed, or drunk stories, as we headed to a supermarket to load up on vodka and snacks for the overnight ferry to Russia (as you do).

Despite still having a couple hours before our ferry was to leave, we got onboard and found our rooms. I had a separate room to the guys but ended up bringing all of my things into their room, so we could have a party. We had our music playing, card games, and vodka shots. I am sure we were already drunk by the time we felt the ferry engines turn on, and we went to the upper deck to watch Finland fade into the distance. The sun was setting and it was just beautifully exciting knowing that we were off to another country!

We walked around the ferry, which felt like a cruise ship, with its restaurants, shops, casinos, bars, movie theatre and game rooms, but it wasn’t long before we returned to our drinking den and continued our private party. Our roommate, a Russian guy, enters the room, with a priceless face of shock. We invited him to join us and he taught us some Russian card games, drank with us, and later we did a few more laps around the ferry together, only to end up in the nightclub until the early morning hours. Waking up to hear the captain on the intercom, speaking in Russian, and then the engines turned off.

“We are in Russia!!!! We are in Russia!!!! WOW!!!!!” I shrieked and jumped around the room, while Adrian pulled his pillow over his head, mumbling something about never drinking vodka again.

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