Running into an old friend when it’s been a while. A long while. You know the feeling. “so what have you been up to?”, you’re lost for words. So much has happened.
This is where we’re at right now, you and I.
As the new year begins I’m reflecting on my European sabbatical. I’m asking myself “so what have you been up to?”. Well, many things. A lot of things… This year concludes my life-long dream finally realised.
2019 was the year I lived in Europe!
I can’t believe it’s been a year already since I “sold everything I owned” [except the bike], took leave from work flew to Europe on a one-way ticket with my wife.
Wow. And am I’m planning to do it again!?
Of course such a decision didn’t happen on a whim.
My interest in Europe began in my very early days. In a days of playing with electric Lima train sets and tiny model European towns. That landscape picture inside the box of a Hohner harmonica. Studying world maps as a kid. That confusing “musik” spelling on some of our vinyl records. Our family’s stories. Europe was always a feeling which grew to love in time.
In 2006 I visited Europe for the first time and since then returned pretty much every year. Can you imagine flying between Australia and Europe about 13 times?
The sabbatical in Europe has allowed me to experience so much. It’s been an amazing year. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything and I’d everyone try it.
What other’s think
Surprisingly, the sabbatical idea has been met with negative opinions. The evil eye, jealousy, disbelief and even mockery. Not everyone “gets it”. I’m not everyone.
There are however many people who understand, have pursued something similar and are a source of inspiration. Actually there’s an entire community of people out there on quest to live a meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable life abroad.
Luke Bland – an American who left the US for Finland tells it well. His moving “My American Dream was in Finland” story, in raw emotion has many points to draw from.
There are others I’ve come across this year. Many of them. All living in Estonia or another European country pursuing an interest or a life different from their original place of birth. I’m very grateful to have met you.
From time to time I’ve heard people say “I wish I could do that”.
The truth is they could and probably should. You can, anyone can in-fact take a year off [or longer] to pursue something. But not everyone wants an alternative lifestyle especially if it requires regular financial sacrifice spanning years. The thought of a significant lifestyle disruption is for some too terrible to even imagine.
We live in an era where consumerism’s instant gratification vies for stakes in our lives.
Plans for 2020
In 2020 I plan to write a series of posts related to minimalism, travel, saving money and general guidance for those of you looking to have your own sabbatical or Europe experince.
I hope you’ll stick around for it.
A few honourable memories
1] Karl: The birth of our son Karl and the beginning of a new adventure as a family unit. We were also fortunate to see family and friends start their own families with Kaur, Hanna, Emily, Henri and Mikk. Congratulations to you all!
2] Mum’s Euro Trip: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, UK, France, Sweden and back to Estonia and Finland (in 2 weeks).
3] Winter Running: Running in Viljandi’s snow and ice, middle of winter with -23 degrees. I managed a 5K run, by half an hour icicles formed on my eyelashes.
4] A Wedding: A friend’s wedding in Cyprus. It was an honour to witness their Greek Cypriot wedding in a traditional orthodox church. The experience also involved a very memorable trip to Cyprus itself!
5] EU Travel: I visited 6 European countries including Estonia but also: Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Cyprus. A special thank you to all the people I met along the way, travelled with or had some involvement in those journeys.
6] Bicycle Road Trip: 500K in 4 days with Raido and Kalle (Tartu-Riga-Viljandi). That trip just makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.
7] Bolt Food: Playing a very small role in the start-up of Bolt Food as a cyclist doing deliveries and writing a couple of blog posts about it which to this day remain the most popular posts (thousands of views). I’m very grateful to the hard working people at Bolt and for the hundreds of Euros!
8] Eesti Keel: Learning some of (give me a break) the Estonian language at Tartu University’s Viljandi Culture Academy. Thank you Kristine and the class mates!
9] Ice-Skating: Ice-Skating on a frozen lake. It was nice. I did it a couple of times. One evening there was a bit of a party on the ice. Hey, it was fun.
10] Generally living in Estonia on a day-to-day basis. Joining a running club (My Fit Run Viljandi). Waking up every morning with a beautiful view of the lake. Not sleeping in the summer. Sleeping by the fireplace in the winter. The famous Rohelise Kohvik, the “pagulased klubi”, all the picturesque places in town and the trips across Estonia too. The friends, the family and that I got to spend time with. All of it!
Low points (in a positive way)
1] A Funeral: The passing of a very special person and his funeral.
2] Seasonal Depression: I never realised it to be a real thing… I recall not necessarily the winter itself being the hardest, but rather its re-appearance after a promising glimpse of spring. We even had snow in May. In May! Summer felt so close yet so far.
3] Snow & Car Troubles: running out of petrol, being unable to close my car door because its lock was frozen and being unable to fuel up because the petrol cap was frozen too – all at the same time. No fuel, 1 un-closable door, 1 un-openable fuel cap.
4] “TRNC”: Seeing the Turkish military occupation of Cyprus or the so-called “TRNC”. The temporarily abandoned homes since the 70s, the United Nations towers and a dark orange sunset – it all made for a sad and eerie trip which I had to have.
5] An Injury: After training more than 300K running in the snow for Maijooks, I pulled a groin muscle doing sprinting intervals on a treadmill. The injury took months to heal and by the time it was better summer was almost over and I lost a lot of fitness.
6] Dude, Where’s My Car? : Most recently – in Rakvere I attended a night running event. It’s winter. It’s cold. There’s snow and it’s dark. So I was late to the run. I parked on some random street in the snow and ran to get my bib number. I made it to the run, afterwards I realised, in the dark and snow that I forgot where I parked my car. I walked around for almost 2 hours and was unable to find it so I checked into a hotel for the night…
Aitüma! Thanks everyone who read my blog posts, especially those who shared a post or made a comment. It means a lot. I wish all of you a happy and successful 2020!