The ferry was pulling into the little port in Tallin when I felt the rush of panic course through my body. I scrambled through every pocket in my bag, every nook gathering lint, every stitch, and fold. No luck. I could feel my head start to pound as my survival instincts started to take over, adrenaline on overdrive; fight, flight? In this case, neither were realistic options. I just had to come to terms with the fact that I had forgotten to bring my phone.
It was the summer of 2011; I was living in Moscow, far from any family member or childhood friend. On a whim, I had packed my bag for a long weekend trip to Finland and on an even less well-considered whim, I had decided to ferry over to Tallinn. A few months before that, I wouldn’t have been able to pick out Estonia on a map, but here I was, headed over to the quaint medieval town across the Gulf of Finland. I am not entirely sure how people traveled spontaneously pre-smart-phone but in that moment on that ferry, as I grasped for some miracle that would help me find my phone, I had no idea how I was going to survive this trip without it. I had done no research on the place, hadn’t booked myself into a hostel yet and didn’t know the first thing to do after I stepped off the ferry. I realized how dependent I was on that 3X6 device to feel oriented and safe in unknown territory. I derived comfort from it, the comfort that even when I got lost, I could be found, even when I was in danger, help was a quick phone call away. When you are a women traveling solo around the world, your head filled with stories of murders, rapes and other worst-case scenarios, safety nets become so crucial to your confidence.
How in the world, I asked myself, would I survive Tallinn without google maps and data roaming?!
That trip based on a weekend whim was incredible in many ways. While I might have been truly disoriented without my phone in a bigger, busier city, Tallinn’s charming, cosy and cobblestoned old town was perfect to get lost in; you were always only a few turns away from where you began. I also chanced upon a hostel to stay in where I met a group of incredibly fun people who became my friends to explore the town with. I never felt alone in Tallinn. That weekend, I found myself at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. Maybe people are kind everywhere and I just never had the opportunity to test it, but in Tallinn, a friendly stranger was always willing to point me in the right direction when I was turned around.
I would love to say I became less dependent on my phone while traveling after that experience but I went back to my crutch. But from that time onwards, I never felt quite as alone in a foreign place.I knew that the world had my back if I needed it. I knew that if I did get irreversibly lost, I would be ok.
I knew that the world had my back if I needed it. I knew that if I did get irreversibly lost, I would find a kind stranger to be my compass.
This post is part of the Solo Travel Series; short vignettes that showcase the adventures and misfortunes of a female solo traveler. These stories cover the span of around 7 years and 5 continents.