"Actually, I'll be traveling this winter for a month. I don't have everything planned out yet, but I'm working on it."


     "You should come to Estonia!"`


     I laughed at the sudden request. I had just begun to get to know Drym over GIO, our first message prompted by a blog he wrote about living in Estonia. I didn't know any other person on the site that lived anywhere in Europe, so to find one even living in Eastern Europe was incredible to me. To go and visit a man who I barely knew and stay with his family who didn't even know I existed was a scary prospect, to his family as well I thought who would be taking in a stranger from the inernet.


     Drym seemed to sense my hesitation and got his mother to say yes the next moment.


     If they were willing to open up to a complete stranger, then so was I.


     Four months later it still hadn't hit me at six in the morning that I was embarking on another trip to a place made on a whim. Then again, aren't all of life's best choices ones made on whims?


     My mind must have still been frazzled as I force fed myself breakfast, wrapped myself in my leather jacket and Rainbow Dash scarf and headed out the door, my backpack stuffed with the warmest turtle neck and flannels I could fit in my backpack and a sack lunch prepared by Elke, my host mother.


     I was afraid of the bus leaving me if I wasn't at the shuttle stop at exactly 7am, so I was running. Only a few days ago did it begin to snow. Before that Lugano was like any sunny day in California, only the wind was freezing to the touch. I wasn't even thinking about the snow until I slipped on black ice. I wasn't badly hurt, more shocked than bruised, yet my right knee is still smarting from the fall. I took the rest of the way at a comfortable walk.


     When I arrived at the stop there were two buses and two men chatting outside in the lights of the buses, making them look like shadows. I asked which one them was headed to Bergamo Orio a Serio in Italy and the lankier of the shadows let me into the empty bus. With nobody else who seemed to be coming, we took off. The shuttle driver gave me a local newspaper to read:

-70% of All Swiss Have Worked in Telemarketing.

-The Rise of Bandits

-Behind The Closings of Club Nyx and the Millions of Francs Embezzled By Owners.

-Mourning in America

    That last one in particular caught my eye as it talked about the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, but from a Swiss perspective. They talked about how people were in mourning, how it was such a tragedy, but what it was critical of was the hesitance of the President to address gun control laws. They said that "while the President did it was time to address gun laws in America, he wasn't specific on how he would go about it."


     I couldn't concentrate on the rest of the text, skipping over the articles about statistics comparing Lugano to other major Swiss cities, how the number of people who don't want to have kids in increasing, and I folded the rag when I came to the advice section where a mother of two young daughters was complaining about how her daughters wanted to be dressing sexy all the time but claimed that the didn't know that what accompanies sexy clothing is sex.


     I tried to sleep, rearranging my backpack and contorting my body to fit the two seats comfortably, but I just couldn't with the sun rising, giving light to the freshly white landscape that covered the road from Switzerland to Italy.


     I managed to strike up a conversation between the driver and I when he finally got off his cellphone. I asked if the train employees in Italy were striking, to which he confirmed. I sighed in relief. My original plan had been to catch the train from Lugano to Milan until I was convinced otherwise by Elke. I will have to tell her thanks when I got back because I would have been stuck at the of border of Switzerland smack dab in the middle of a Italian protest.


     We didn't talk too long before the entrance to the small airport came up, but I must have done something right in order for him to have given me his number to call when I needed a ride back from my trip to Estonia. I wonder how many people bothered to talk with with them.


     I killed time at the airport playing Ace Attorney: Investigations on my 3DS and dealing with pissy RyanAir employees giving me the evil eye and an exasperated gasp handing me back my passport, a common occurrence no matter what time of the day it is.


     At Franklin College there is a famous joke that is told to Freshman who don't get it until they travel on their own:


     "A man is drinking coffee at an airport cafe when he sees a beautiful stewardess walk in and order something. He can't figure out what airline she works for from her uniform, so he goes up to her says various airline slogans.


     'Silky smooth and always good?' The Korean Airline slogan. She gives him a strange look and looks away.


     'Fly with the best?" American Airlines. Her mouth turns into a frown.


     He says one more when she finally turns to him and screams 'What the hell do you want?!'


     Ah, he thinks. RyanAir!"


     They are the stingiest airline I have ever flown with. If you forget to check in online and print your boarding pass they will charge you 40 Euros. If your checked luggage is overweight they will charge you 40 Euros for every 5 kilograms overweight. If your carry on exceeds 10 kilograms it has to become checked luggage. When the boarding gates open, they don't lead directly to the plane. Instead, they have the mass of people wait at the gate at the bottom of the stairs until they open them and make you walk a quarter mile to the plane.


     Yet, for all the grief I have to endure at the hands of the Irish company, I will continue to fly with them. They are the cheapest company in Europe (quite possibly the whole world) and they have a 90% on time rte, something any other airline would kill for. So every time I have a gripe about RyanAir, I just think of the low price I paid and shut my trap.


     Looking around at the faces in the crowd as we waited for the gates to be opened by our handlers, I couldn't help by let my jaw drop just a tad. Take it from someone who knows, there are beautiful women all over the world, but Estonian women are exceptionally beautiful. They are a beautiful mix of Russian and European ancestry, their slim, fit figures combined with lustrous blond hair (which I fall for every time) had my heart aflutter. There was one girl in particular who held my attention. She had golden locks, chiseled facial features and a slim figure. I stood next to her during the whole wait, dying to at least say hi to her. What kept me from opening my mouth was that there was some  lanky dude next to her who was speaking Russian to her. The guy wouldn't have been a threat if I didn’t have the sneaking suspicion that the guy was wealthy and I  was heading straight into his turf.


     As I was napping on the plane, I realized that I had made a grave mistake: I didn't know where Drym lived. I knew that he would be waiting for me at the bus station...but what if I wasn’t able to get there for some reason?


     The anxiety built as I rushed off the plane and ran for the bus stop with dozens of other travelers. My fear became more plausible when the bus to Tartu arrived half full and was filling up quick by people who had already purchased tickets online. There were four of us waiting in line to grab whatever seat was left for us. I moaned at the thought of being left behind, unable to get another bus for two more hours.

     “Don’t worry,” the girl told me. “If we don’t get spots, we’ll hitchhike together. It’s easy and safe to do here."


I had never hitchhiked in my life, the only knowledge of it came from my mother’s warnings and what television and books taught me. Yet, I was ready to do it. Hitchhiking! The thought of me hitchhiking my way to Tartu with her, braving the frozen tundra at the last leg of the way excited me.


It almost made me wish that I had not gotten one of the remaining seats along with the girl.. To further add to my luck, the bus had Wi-Fi so I shot Drym a quick message telling him I would be there soon.


     I was restless, a combination from the lack of sleep and the excitement of finally getting to meet Drym face to face. I struck up a conversation that lasted the whole ride with the girl. Her name was Katlin, a vegan who had been traveling around Italy since August, living in Sicily for the last two months with a boy she met, and finally coming home for Christmas. An Italian by the name of Alexandro joined the conversation at the mention of his home country. We talked the whole ride about veganism, animal rights, what we had or were currently studying, the journeys we had been on, our country’s cuisines, and decided that while we were here in Tartu that we would meet up for dinner.


     It wasn’t hard to spot Drym once I was off the bus. He towers over me at 205 centimeters. We hugged, joyous that we had the opportunity to finally meet and get to know each other. His family has also been very welcoming, with a delicious dinner of chicken and pasta and a basic introduction to the Estonian language.



     I am running out of time to write out my complete thoughts about the end of the day, and the last couple bits about people I felt were rushed (tomorrow that won’t happen), but I will end it on this note.


     To me, traveling is about connecting with others. You can admire the landscape, the architecture, the culture, your experiences, but all of it comes to naught when you never talked to a single person and connected with your fellow man. That’s why being taken into this home, a complete stranger, for an entire week, has astounded me and has further solidified my faith in the common man.

~Arnulfo “Arnie” Hermes (Glasses)