When I was a kid, I did a bit of traveling with my folks. And, no matter how far we were going or how long we were on the road, my mother would always say we were just “a hop, skip, and a jump away.”
Well, the other day, I hopped from Berlin to Helsinki, skipped around the airport for a bit, and then jumped to Osaka.
It was a long day, but it was really a wonderful experience.
On the first flight, I sat next to two lovely people.
Pascal is 28 and is traveling for a year before dedicating himself to university. He was really excited when I spoke to him because he’s really trying to become even more fluent in English. He even had a little guidebook with English phrases. He told me that likes machines and engineering and will likely pursue that as a career. Interestingly enough, Pascal was on his way to Bangkok.
Nirmala from India was in Germany on business and was heading home. She works for an NGO and focuses on trying to change the behavior of people in regards to water conservation and sanitation. That is a huge issue in India, and I had seen a number of news reports about it.
Nirmala used to travel more before she had a her daughter, and this was her first big trip away from her.
Anadita is three. Her name means “the one who brings joy,” which seems apt because Nirmala lit up when she spoke of her daughter. I, of course, started talking about my daughter, and poor Pascal found himself trying to keep up with a flurry of English spoken between two proud parents.
“I would wake up at 4:30 every morning to FaceTime with my daughter and go back to sleep,” Nirmala said with a smile.
When we landed, I wished them both well and started hustling through the airport. I wanted to make sure I was clear on from where my flight would leave. When I got all of my ducks in a row (another of Stella’s favorite phrases), I decided to enjoy a bite to eat.
Since I was in Finland, I ordered the Nordic Pizza which had a healthy helping of reindeer meat on it with greens and dabs of horseradish. I texted a couple of friends, and one told me that I “was going to hell for eating Rudolph.”
Gotta say, though. Worth it. He was tasty.
When it was time to board for the flight, I got onto a bus with a horde of Japanese travelers who were returning home. As we drove across the tarmac, I watched the snow fall everywhere. I was excited about Japan, but now I wanted to see more of this wintery world in Finland.
When I met Tero, I became even more convinced that visiting Finland would be fun. Teri is a flight attendant for FinnAir, and, when I mentioned how much I had liked the snow, he immediately started sharing about his home.
Finland could not have a better cheerleader than this guy. He really loves it.
“Finns are super cool,” he said with a laugh. “Actually, we’re a very quiet and shy people. We could sit together in a pub quietly with one another and not say a word.”
And then he added again with a laugh, “I suppose it would depend on the number of beers.”
He told me that the people are very friendly and helpful, but that you need to ask when you need help. He told me about Nuuksio National Park, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Helsinki, and even showed me how to use the public transit system to get there.
“You must go to Finland,” Tero insisted with a smile.
I told him that I would definitely try to make it one day.
The last person that I met on my way to Osaka was from Osaka. He was sitting right next to me. He was quiet for a long time, focused on watching both The Dark Knight Rises and then Batman Begins (in that order). He also pulled out his laptop and watched an anime show. When I saw his laptop, I wondered if he was a gamer too.
So, I started asking him about Batman and video games, and sure enough we were just having ourselves a right friendly discussion that involved broken English, broken Japanese, and Google translator.
Kensuke is a university student who is studying Asian history. He had been to Manchester. I asked why.
“I love football,” he said. He had been to see a Manchester United game and to vacation.
I asked him about Osaka, and he was as proud of his home as Tero was of Finland.
“Osaka has many good places, very kind and friendly people,” he said.
He explained that Osaka had a more family feel to it, and his competitive nature came out a little bit.
“Tokyo is not bad. But Osaka is a little bit better,” he explained diplomatically.
As in most of my experiences on planes, trains, boats, and buses, I found my fellow travelers to be a delight to meet and to get to know a little.
It had been a long journey, but, when I got off the plane, I felt more refreshed and ready to head into the land of the rising sun.
Until my next post, keep looking to the heavens and seeking your own star.