Some things work out quite nice as a trifecta. When I began thinking about the importance of traveling alone, I thought of my first time truly taking the plunge, and sharing that story became a necessity. Divided into three parts, this my mini narrative.
As you might recall the two previous chapters are On the Path to Solo Travel
and here: The Silver Lining/Solo Travel Pt2
So, after a crushing defeat, we find glory. (A proper silver lining) This glory is two fold. One of the first aspects is that when it comes to travel, toss those expectations right out the fuckin’ window. Toss em. I’ve known folks who have the most insane itineraries, allocating absolute minutia, building in “15 min break” slots into their schedules. Control wound that tight…is going to lead to a tense, frustrated mess. No thanks. Learn to embrace some element of flow and flexibility for a much improved experience.
I had found my ticket, but it was last minute. My Balkan fantasies would be put on hold for a bit, because my only real option was Vilnius Lithuiania…With a 12 hour stop over in Stockholm, Sweden. This sounded great to me. I was hell bent on embracing this new sense of enlightened adventure. I had completely transformed my feelings of disappointment and anxiety into ones of wonder and excitement. I was doing this as a personal journey as well as a European adventure. As I mentioned before, this was a starting point of epic proportion. I booked this ticket last minute, and was set to arrive home the night before the fall semester began. Logistics be damned, lets get on the road!
I made it to Chicago, and boarded my flight. Watched a few movies, and promptly woke up in Sweden. That morning is mostly a blur. I took an incredibly nice, and incredibly expensive train to the city center. Grabbed a pastry and walked the Swedish capital. Stockholm is clean, efficient and easy to navigate. Swedes are courteous and a bit cold in an appropriate “Nordic” style.
Stockholm was an appetizer. I was here, and I did it solo. after a day of wandering about, meatballs, and viking heritage, I made my way back to the airport, for the propeller powered jump over to Vilnius.
I was only a bit nervous, but mostly excited. I had planned on a few days in Vilnius, then taking a bus to Riga, and then finally onto Tallinn. I had no reservations, no expectations, no damn travelers checks, just my phone and serendipity.
I land, clear customs, and make my way to the ATM for local currency. The person in line ahead of me turns around and says “Go green”!
I was a bit shocked and tired, so I didn’t immediately grasp his meaning. Pointing to my
t shirt, I realized I was sporting a large Michigan State University Spartan logo.
This guy hailed from Royal Oak, Michigan, and was visiting a friend who had moved to Lithuania. I was stunned.
His local based buddy had a great group of friends and I was soon welcomed with open arms. I found a local boutique hotel in the old town, and most nights we met for beers and general debauchery. I absolutely loved it. Vilnius is large enough to have a plethora of activities, and yet small enough to maintain at least a somewhat intimate feeling. I implored my new comrades to join me for Riga, and we took the party on the road.
Before this trek, I was racked with doubt about logistics, about enjoying that amount of solo time, etc. Mid way through this journey, I had embraced the uncertainty and was never going to look back.
” You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom (when hibernating becomes dangerous and might degenerate into death): absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken.”
This was my moment of awakening. On the long bus trek to Riga, and then onto Tallinn, I had decided. This was the road for me.
After Riga my comrades went back to Vilnius, and I went on to Tallinn. I want to write a more indepth review of these cities, and this post isn’t that. This bit is meant more to discuss the journey.
This ten day journey covering a few thousand miles proved absolutely what I needed. By the time I made it back to Vilnius for the flight home, i was already looking at tickets for winter break. I was going for a long haul month long trek after exams to the Balkans. It was going to a twisted savage affair that would change me again forever after.
Exploring these Baltic streets of the three capitals in late August has stayed on my mind over the tears. I met so many incredibly friendly and inviting people. I left the region utterly inspired on every level to keep exploring, and never stop wandering this incredible world of ours.