We went to a tiny island to get away from it all

by Jobbatical June 21, 2016

I couldn’t find a stock photo where the pin is actually on Muhu. It’s the tiny island to the right of the pin. But look, it’s even got a road! Image: Shutterstock

You probably won’t have much trouble believing what happened next.

Not everyone knows that sometimes summer does come to Estonia — even many Estonians still believe this is a myth. It usually arrives unexpectedly (usually while you’re at work), leaves in a hurry (just as you’re heading out of the office), then comes back again once you’ve given up and dusted off your warmest raincoat. At this point it’s customary for Estonians to do their very best to soak up all the vitamin D they can before winter rolls in again.

To get our share of the sunshine and dust off the old gray cells, team Jobbatical spent two days on the small Estonian island of Muhu, known mostly for windmills, fragrant juniper bushes, and picturesque meadows. We took a cooking class and cooked our own dinner, rode horses, and saunaed till we dropped.

Oh, and meetings. We had plenty of meetings.

Estonians love talking about Estonia, but if there’s one thing we love even more, it’s listening to foreigners talk about Estonia. I asked the non-Estonian half of the group about their experience on the country’s third-largest island. Here’s what they thought.

The team in Muhu. (The Jobbatical team, in case that’s not clear from some very subtle clues in the photo.)

Kwun-Lok from Hong Kong

Favorite thing about Muhu: The quietness and the hammock.

Biggest surprise: The sauna was great although it was super hot. I thought it would be done in a medium way. Why would humans come up with activities to torture themselves, and feel great afterwards?

Kwun making the most of the hammock.

Isabel from the US and some other countries—it’s complicated

Favorite thing about Muhu: I loved experiencing the peace and beauty of Estonian nature, and I really enjoyed having the chance for some one-on-one social interaction with teammates, which doesn’t happen as often at group dinners and in the office. It almost felt like we were in another world — the change of environment was so enchanting. I felt extremely well-rested and refreshed by the end of it.

Biggest surprise: I got into grad school! 😛 (Editor’s note: This is not directly related to Muhu—there’s no grad school in Muhu. But it’s awesome anyway!)

Giulia from Italy, Hungary and Singapore—it’s complicated

Favorite thing about Muhu: The sights—so different from Singapore (where I live) and the Italian countryside (where I grew up).

Biggest surprise: The awesomeness of Estonian produce. Mosquitoes are nastier than in the tropical place where I live — the upside is I would make a great mosquito feeder.

David from the UK, New Zealand, and… you guessed it—it’s complicated

Favorite thing about Muhu: The location, the peaceful place, and the amazing food. Of course the highlight is the time spent with the team. The cooking was fantastic, learning from a real pro; so many simple learnings.

Biggest surprise: I went and bought a fillet knife the next day. The big clear revelation was that I don’t know how to cook half as well as I thought! Also, this team is quite big already and being surrounded by such smart people is very stretching!

Cooking lesson! Three of my test subjects—David, Loni, Giulia—are in the middle.

Loni from mostly the US

Favorite thing about Muhu: Being on a relaxing island, away from the world! I wouldn’t mind taking a jobbatical in Muhu or Saaremaa (Editor’s note: That’s the big island next to Muhu) in the summer rather than being based in Tallinn.

Biggest surprise: As a California resident, it was quite hilarious to hear that there was a “drought” on the island.

Isabel and Loni looking majestic on horseback

Alina from mostly the US

Favorite thing about Muhu: How beautiful and peaceful it was; it was also nice to observe all of us interacting with each other. Getting to know each other and just hanging was great!

Biggest surprise: How inspiring it was to be around people of all different cultural backgrounds, but also of different ages.

You can tell it’s a cooking class because people are wearing aprons and drinking wine. Alina is the one smiling at the camera. She was also the one “surprised” to have enjoyed spending time with the rest of us. Hmm.

In summary…

It’s pretty clear from this evidence that a day or two surrounded by lush greenery and hammocks is good for the brain. If even the tiniest mini-jobbatical has this effect on a person, imagine taking off somewhere new for a whole year!

If you were immediately inspired by our revelations and adventures, perhaps you’d like to join our team? We’re hiring!

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