First, it was all about the external
I fell in love with Estonian nature since the day one. I can remember some fuzzy scenes from walks my grandmother took with me. Thanks to those “small adventures” I believe I could recognize some of the most common birds at age 3 or 4. Later, my grandfather introduced me fishing and as you may guess it became one of the most exciting activities a child could do. So I spent numerous summers in our summerhouse near Pärnu. The river was about few hundred meters from house, so it was quite safe for a young man to spend his time this way.
What I’ve realised later, is that those few activities have actually developed my entire life philosophy – how I see perceive and interpret the life around me. Curiosity, the need to experience both very pleasant and uncomfortable environments directly by myself and not to depend on someone’s judgement has driven me all my life. So as I got older, things evolved naturally – I knew the basics of the surrounding natural environment and it was time to dig deeper.
I picked up ornithology as a hobby and also started taking photos with Zenit (an old Soviet camera). My trips took me further and further – I explored my home county’s bogs, forests and swamps. As I went to school I was able to participate in environmental projects that took place on small islands of Western-Estonia. What a great way to spend summer break on uninhabited islands! No electricity etc. 🙂
From external to internal
Fast forward to 2015. Almost ten years have passed since the graduation of high school. Im not happy with my career choices, feel empty inside and I somehow acknowledge the fact that spend too little time in wilderness. Thanks to interactions with my friends and acquaintances I’m starting to recognise patterns that could help me on my journey to meaningful life. I feel this urge inside to spread my excitement about Estonian nature and at the same time I notice how more and more people say good things about my writing skills.
At the beginning of 2016 I finally had the courage to come up with my own blog in Estonian. The idea was just to write down the thoughts and ideas that came up when hiking around Estonia. I didn’t know much about digital photography and neither did I have proper equipment, so I used my phone to add some illustrating photos to my blog posts. I believe I had like 3-5 people who read my posts at that time. But what’s more important is how this habit (writing down my own thoughts) helped me to understand better what’s going on in my head. I knew it will take persistence to get this clear vision out of my writings. After 10-20 posts you will be able to see what catches your attention the most. As I look at my blog, the keywords are: self-awareness, senses, perception, interpretation, connection between human and nature, special traits of Estonian nature, experience.
A year passed and I started 2017 with about 90 followers on my Facebook page. I just had bought DSLR camera to raise the quality level of my photos. I felt that people still didn’t realise how insanely beautiful experiences I had on my trips. It took about half a year to develop my photography skills (still learning!) to a level where I was able to have greater impact on people’s emotions. Positive comments on social media, e-mails and empowering conversations gave me the confidence to believe that I really have something valuable to bring on the table. I saw how people are actually missing those wild places and silence. It’s just they had forgotten their childhood relationship with nature.
6 months passed and with half a year I managed to increase followers from 90 to about 500. I thought to myself that I’m definitely on something. But how exactly should I proceed? Well…life decided this for me. At that time I was working for one startup as a sales manager and due to economic difficulties it was decided to reduce the headcount. Although it came as a complete surprise to me, I wasn’t neither sad or angry. The excitement took over – I fantasised how I would organise trips for small groups to different Estonian landscapes and mix up scientific facts with my own experiences and tell great stories that would inspire people to discover mother nature on their own.
As you may guess I did it! I’ve always been fascinated by nights. Especially summer nights in Northern hemisphere. And I know how much people are afraid of the dark forest, bog etc. So my first trip was a night time trip to bog. I cannot imagine better time to understand how your senses operate in unknown circumstances, to notice details that cannot be noticed during daylight, to share spontaneous emotions/thoughts with fellow hikers, to get direct connection with the environment.
Those night trips turned out to be unexpectedly popular. I was stunned how much people were actually interested in this kind of experience. As a result I decided to seek for options to use my passion to serve the others. Although Estonian consider themselves as someone who spend a lot of time in nature, they rarely go further than public hiking trails. A lot of beautiful places remain unknown. I believe this is the problem why we are not very good at introducing our county from nature’s perspective – our lifestyle tends to drive us away from wilderness. One our beloved author even claimed that our problem could be that the paradise is too close – we Estonians don’t appreciate it.
But I do appreciate it! I want to take both my dear Estonians and visitors of our country to wild places. To let them experience this environment with all their senses and to share emotions/ideas that come up during those trips. Thanks to conversations I’ve had so far I’ve learned so many new ways to look at the nature. And the more organise those trips, the more I understand that it’s more about ourselves than the external world. Nature seems to be reflection of ourselves. Estonians have very common ways to interpret the world. And it totally makes sense, because we live in the same geographical area and share the same values. The connection between human and nature seems to be the origin of the culture.
And this is why I welcome all the people from other cultures – come and experience our natural landscapes from Estonian perspective! 🙂