You’re moving where?!
When I started telling friends and family about our impending move to Estonia, the most common question I got was, ‘You’re moving where?!‘
Other common questions included:
- ‘Where is that, again?’
- ‘Why Estonia?
And the award for the top question was from a colleague, who asked: ‘Isn’t that where all of the sex trafficking is happening?’
Nope, that would be our neighbour, Latvia.
But why Estonia? It all started with an Instagram post.
Why I should never leave Drew home alone…
It was the end of June, 2017, and I was in NSW for a business event. Drew was at home alone and, as he has a tendency to do, was surfing online. Probably in his underwear and a t-shirt, snacking on a pack of saladas.
He was scrolling through Instagram, and up popped an ad for some project management software called Scoro. He clicked and, what started as some professional research for work, turned into a realisation that this company sounded pretty cool.
So he went over to their About page and their Careers page, only to discover that they were based in Tallinn, Estonia.
Like many people when we told them the news, Drew’s reaction was, ‘that’s random.’ Unlike most people, who would just leave it at that, Drew hopped over to Google to learn about Tallinn and why a cool tech startup would be based there.
It turns out that Tallinn is the Silicon Valley of Europe – it’s where Skype was founded, and since then a number of other tech firms have congregated in the city, including TransferWise and Taxify.
Moving overseas has been a dream of ours for years, but unfortunately we’re now too old for Working Holiday visas, our families have both been in Australia for too long for us to qualify for ancestry visas, we’re married to each other (so marrying a local is out of the question), and most international companies don’t seem open to hiring and sponsoring foreigners unless you can do a job that a local can’t do. And, while I like to think we’re both pretty good at what we do, neither of us are in professions where there are skill shortages (me: content marketing, Drew: software training).
Yet Estonia seemed to be actively looking for native English speakers, and was happy for them to relocate from the other side of the world.
Not only that, Estonia has a reputation for being the world’s most digital country, and residents even have the ability to vote online!
The seed had been planted, and I returned to my hotel room that night to find a text from Drew reading: ‘Let’s move to Estonia!’
My response? ‘Let’s talk about this when I get home.’
When I got home…
When I got home a couple of days later, Drew proceeded to tell me everything outlined above – Tallinn’s international, and digital, and someone might hire us and give us a visa!
On top of that, he’d also discovered that Tallinn has one of the most well-preserved old towns in eastern Europe, you can get a ferry to Helsinki in two hours, and Estonian is one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn (as grammar nerds, this was a pro for us, rather than a con).
He’d also started looking at job ads, and had found a number of jobs that both of us could do.
On top of that, neither of us had been to this corner of Europe before (the closest I’d been was Warsaw), so the adventure of an unknown destination was a big plus.
Having been nagging him to move overseas for about seven of the seven and a half years we’ve been together, I was sold, but I wasn’t ready to go just yet.
You see, we’d just had a restructure at work, and it had worked out really well for me. I suddenly had autonomy, was reporting to a boss I respected, and felt like I could have a real impact on the company’s growth. While Drew would have been happy to leave the next week, we decided to take some time to get our ducks in a row.
The plan of attack
The next step was the ‘how’. How were we going to make this international move?
We’ve both lived overseas before – Drew in Nagoya and myself in London and Paris – however, in the past we had fewer ties holding us to Melbourne. Now we’re both responsible grown ups (well, we pretend, at least) with a mortgage to pay, so decided to use the extra time I negotiated to relocate responsibly.
This meant calculating the total cost of moving, along with 12 months of expenses back in Melbourne and making sure we could cover it. (If the list is of interest, let me know and I’ll publish another post with our checklist.)
Once we had the grand total, we then figured out what we could save each month without having to sacrifice smashed avocado and flat whites, and settled on a June 2019 departure.
Everything was going swimmingly, until…
A change of plans
Remember a few paragraphs ago how I said that work was going really well and I didn’t want to leave just yet?
That lasted all of two months when another round of redundancies was announced, and my role didn’t make the cut. Fortunately I found another role fairly quickly, and my business was also going well, but without the promise of that role ahead of me, my feet started to itch.
In early 2018, I started nagging. I wasn’t happy in Melbourne and wanted to leave, so how early could we push the date.
After some arm twisting, negotiating and adjusting our savings plans, we eventually settled on October 2018 – close enough for us to start counting down the days, and for Drew to start sending me every potential job he found.
And then I broke my foot
Yes, I broke my foot. On June 30, 2018, almost exactly one year from when Drew sent me that fateful text, I went trampolining without adult supervision. After getting a bit adventurous, I had a bad landing and fractured two bones in my left foot and sprained my ankle.
What does this have to do with our move?
Well, you might remember that our plan was to move over in October. This meant that, even though Drew was sending through interesting job opportunities, we weren’t applying for them, yet. It was too soon.
And then I broke my foot and found myself stuck on the couch with my foot up, wrapped in ice packs. For the first week, I couldn’t put any weight on the foot so was hobbling around on crutches (though this did cause me to devise an ingenious solution to transporting food from the kitchen to the couch by wheeling it over on the clothes horse). By day four, I was feeling very sorry for myself.
Coincidentally, that weekend Drew had sent through another job ad. It was a Content Marketing Manager role at a financial trading company – the perfect role for me, in a field where I already had experience working with the market leader.
Eventually I decided, ‘What the hell! I’m just going to go for it – it will give me something to live for!’ And sent in my application.
The next morning, I had an email in my inbox asking me to do an interview over Skype.
One week and two interviews later, I had a job offer, a remote start date of August 13th, and an expected start date in Tallinn of August 27th.
And then Drew changed his mind.
Drew, Drew, Drew
Okay, he didn’t really change his mind. But he didn’t want to leave in August.
You see, he had a friend who was getting married in October who had asked him to do the photography. A couple of weeks earlier, when he told me about this, it was an off-the-cuff, ‘this is something I might be doing’ comment.
Suddenly, as soon as I had a job offer, it was like he had signed a blood oath. The wedding was non-negotiable. I was going to Estonia alone. And he would be joining me two months later (after also agreeing to stay even later for a work event – grrr!*).
And here we are!
The next six weeks flew by and now, after 27 hours of travel, I’ve found myself in a surprisingly warm and humid country nestled between Russia, Latvia and Finland, surprisingly nervous but cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead.
*Note that Drew and I do actually have a good relationship. :p