Estonia 2011 Archives

June 4, 2011

How We Choose Our Holiday Destinations

Even more than when we chose to visit Montenegro a few years ago, we are getting the question "Really? Why there?" Followed by the question "Where the heck is Estonia?" Followed by mostly blank stares.


The answers to the "Why there" question are pretty much the same for every trip we plan.

First is time. We don't believe that it is worth our time or money to plan a trip to another country if we can't devote a minimum of three weeks - preferable four - to that visit. Your first week is spent overcoming jet lag and acclimating to a slower, schedule-free pace. You devote most of a second week to the must-sees & must-dos. It's in the two 'bonus' weeks that you will have the opportunity to become more of a traveler than a tourist. You will begin to discover what is unique about the personality of a country and its people. You will make new friends and learn new ways of looking at life. Estonia appears to be a country that will teach us much about life and will easily hold our interest for a month.

Second are seasonal concerns. Because I still work as a community relations manager for a Barnes & Noble store, my busy seasons follow the school year calendars of my public school customers. I can't be gone for long periods of time at the end of spring when they are all spending the last of their book budgets to wrap up the fiscal year. I can't be gone at the end of summer when they are gearing up for the coming school year. And, except for a week or two in January, I can't be gone for more than a long weekend the rest of the year because of school fund raising events. This leaves us with a block of time from roughly mid-June to mid-July, making climate an overriding consideration in destination. Mid-summer in Estonia looks to be glorious. And given the northern latitude of the country, they cram much of their festivities into the short season of light and warmth. We love to experience local festivals and cultural celebrations.

Third and most important is ignorance. The more ignorant we are about a potential country, the more we must learn to make a trip successful, the more fun the education is.

Who knows? Maybe in a previous life, I was an adventurer. Perhaps I traveled with those brave explorers who sailed their ships to the edge of the known world. Perhaps I accompanied Lewis & Clark across North America. I just know that "to boldly go", is the way to go.

If I am unable to find a DK, Forder's, or Frommer's guide book devoted entirely to the country on my radar that makes me happy. If the only books I can find written about the country are in its own language that makes me happy. I spent hours and hours of research trying to find a cottage to rent for the week we are going to be in a non-touristed area of southeast Estonia. I griped and complained the entire time. I loved it.

The curse in this world of Google & wikipedia, is (although easy to discover information) how much harder it is to come by that feeling of being a discoverer. And at the same time, the blessing is in the gems of information you learn about the destination of your choice. Information that sends you down delightful paths and to corners of a country you won't read about in guidebooks or on the country's tourist information website.

Six months ago, the only things we knew about Estonia were their love of choral music and the famous "Singing Revolution"; its capital city, Tallinn, is on the Baltic sea just a stones throw from Helsinki & St. Petersburg; and those three cities are (sadly in our minds) hit-and-run Baltic sea cruise ship stops.


A few years ago, we came very close to planning a trip that would have included time in each of those three cities before heading north to Lapland. (I still need to visit the land or reindeer some day.) We opted for Galicia instead and discovered horreos and precebes.

So here we are, six months into our trip planning for Estonia. Travel is booked. Apartments and cottages are rented. Rental car is hired. IDPs renewed. Contacts have been made with new friends. Friends we will meet and break bread with for the first time as guests of their beautiful country.

Let the discoveries begin.

June 6, 2011

A New, Young Country in the Age of Technology

There is a country on this globe that has been in control of its own destiny for a mere two decades. Yet …

It has the highest GDP of any other country in its region. It is listed as a High-Income Economy by the World Bank. The United Nations lists it as “Very High” on the Human Development Index. It is also ranked highly for press freedom, economic freedom, democracy, and political freedom. On the State of World Liberty Index, this country ranks 1st out of 159 countries.

This country is a democratic parliamentary republic. It identifies itself as a “non-welfare-state” with a flat income tax rate of 22% that is paid by both worker and company. With no “exemptions” to be calculated, this country collects income tax fully as the income to which it is applied is earned. No need for a tax industry.

This country has the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP among all EU countries. It has a mandatory balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, free trade regime, and competitive commercial banking.

Its government operation is based on technology with everything from national elections to the payment of taxes being handled by e-services. The ratio of government bureaucratic employees to citizens is the lowest in the EU.

This country supplies more than 90% of its own electrical needs and locally mines its own oil shale, making it nearly 100% energy independent.

It has a 99.80 percent literacy rate among young people aged 15-24. It has less than a 2% high school dropout rate. Post-secondary students who choose to pursue a trade or technical education are as respected and valued as those who choose traditional university.

The biggest challenge this country faces in its breathtaking charge forward is a pressure to rapidly upgrade its post-soviet era health care systems. They have chosen to keep control of health care in the public sector in order to continue to focus on inner efficiencies. They have a comprehensive plan with a 2015 goal line.

If the young new United States of the late 1700s had access to technology of the early 21st century, it would have looked like this country – the fiercely can-do spirit is the same for both.

Even as this new young country is emulating all of the principles that made the United States great, the United States is now sadly, and rapidly emulating the bureaucratically stifling policies that are destroying the economies of its socialistic western European neighbors.

I didn't know anything about this country before I closed my eyes, stuck a pin in the map, and chose it as our vacation destination for this summer. A big part of our yearly trip planning is the research and discovery before we ever leave home.

Thanks to their technological advancement, I won't have any trouble finding wifi hotspots. So I'll be reporting in on our in-country impressions as we travel around the country.

As the United States of America slides further into mediocrity, it might be a good idea to check out the immigration rules for Estonia.


This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Estonia 2011 category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

EITHER/OR is the previous category.

Foods That I Have Loved is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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