Five Things I Miss About Estonia
By Isabel Hirama, Marketing Chief @Jobbatical
This spring, I spent three months living and working in a city most Americans have never even heard of: Tallinn, Estonia. I learned that most Americans, as well as much of the rest of the world, are missing out!
Tallinn is home to Jobbatical, as well as many other tech startups (most famously, Skype). I spent April through June working at the Jobbatical headquarters, before setting off to work remotely (from Virginia, Connecticut, Canada, and who knows where next). I already miss some of my favorite things about Estonia — let me share my top five.
1. Long evenings and late-night sunsets.
I lived in an apartment by Stroomi Rand, a beach on the edge of Tallinn where the land met the Baltic Sea. I would watch the sun set over the beach out of my kitchen window, later and later each night. Because Tallinn is so far north, when I arrived in April the sun was already setting at around 9:30pm, and by the time I left at the end of June it was still light at 11:30pm! I happily soaked in the sun and loved being able to go out to meet friends for dinner and return hours later in what felt like broad daylight.
2. Biking everywhere.
I biked to work most mornings, and on the weekends I sped down a beautiful endless bike path along the beach. In the evening I biked to the supermarket, then took my detachable bike basket/shopping basket into the store with me (how cool is that??) to carry my groceries.
At first I got lost a lot, but this meant that I discovered at least six different routes that would get me from home to work. When I had a lot of time and was feeling brave, I would take the forest route. My blue dot on Google Maps would float through a big grey triangle on the screen, which was actually a lush green forest full of mossy birches and unmarked trails. Sometimes we would pass teachers with groups of school children who were, I think, having recess out in the woods.
When I say “we” I’m referring, of course, to me and my bike. It was my trusty sidekick throughout my three months in Estonia and we made a great team.
3. Old Town Tallinn
Old Town sits in the center of Tallinn, and whenever I took the tram there and saw its ancient stone walls and towers rising into view it always felt like I was on the train to Hogwarts. It honestly feels magical.
You can easily criss-cross Old Town by foot multiple times throughout a day of exploring, and everywhere you look it’s so picturesque that it sometimes feels like you’ve walked onto a beautifully crafted medieval movie set. Yet somehow it avoids feeling artificial or touristy. I love it!
4. Team Yoga
Every Friday, we had a team yoga class for all the Jobbatical team members who were in Tallinn. We’d go down the road to a yoga studio and forget about our to-do lists for an hour and a half. It was wonderful. If every startup did this there’d be far fewer stressed out entrepreneurs in the world!
5. The perfect napping spot(s).
Hammocks are my happy place. I’m always on the lookout for trees that are the perfect distance apart for my hammock, and the forest next to my apartment were full of them. I would set it up and settle down with my Kindle, and inevitably fall asleep to the sound of the birds chirping and wind in the leaves above me.
The Jobbatical office didn’t have any sturdy beams to hang my hammock from (I looked), but in my final month in Estonia I walked into our building to an amazing surprise: the pop-up shop two floors below us had rotated to its next monthly guest, a hammock store! The owner had set up a hammock on display outside their door, and I took to power-napping in it most days after lunch. I figured I was only doing the store a favor by showing any passers-by that the hammocks really were as comfortable as they looked!
I had no idea what to expect when I arrived in Tallinn. Estonia had only ever been a tiny corner of the map of Europe to me. Now it’s so much more to me, and I feel like I’ve been let into a great secret that not a lot of people in the world know about. I’ve returned to my own continent for now, but don’t worry Tallinn, I’ll be back!