5 cities in 5 years - who, how, why & where?

Fuschl am See, Austria 2015. Photo by Jaanus Ree.

Fuschl am See, Austria 2015. Photo by Jaanus Ree.

I started my expat journey 5 years ago, and although my Instagram says otherwise, I’ve been through some major struggles and setbacks, before reaching my expat Nirvana. Despite that, I wouldn’t change a day of my past 5 years, as with the fear of sounding like an inspirational quote, the rewards, learnings, friends, personal and professional developments that I’ve experienced while living abroad, are priceless and one of the most valuable gifts I could ever have given myself.

My career got an early kick start at the age of 22, when I got my foot in the door with Red Bull and went from a uni job to becoming their brand and communications manager. Working for a international company which is such a strong global brand, opened up a whole new world for me and made me hungry and ambitious quite early on at my career.

My job set me off on amazing travels and events and I find myself being incredibly lucky to have been able to experience that.

Tallinn, Estonia, 2013. Photo by Jaanus Ree.

Tallinn, Estonia, 2013. Photo by Jaanus Ree.

After six years at Red Bull Estonia, I decided that it is time to move on. I quit my job, my flat and pretty much my whole life as I knew it. Did I have a plan? No, not really. I packed one bag, bought a one way ticket to London and decided to put some faith in the universe and my own willpower to make it. I jumped on the freelancer train in London, and the Red Bull background gave me a good kick start to land a role as a senior project manager for a big sports agency. My first gig was managing the NBA account, which flew me to Spain for most of the summer, and concluded with the NBA global game in London in 2015.

London was by far the toughest experience of my life so far. I can genuinely say that I matured into an actual grown up there.  Freelance life, juggling between projects, trying to make ends meet, paying half my salary every month for rent, managing my travels while having a dog and never having any time to do anything as commuting from A to B takes half the day - that was pretty much my life in London in the beginning. During my first expat year, I also realised how important it is to have a family away from family while living abroad - the people you surround yourself with either make or break the experience.

Barcelona, 2014. Private archives.

Barcelona, 2014. Private archives.

Pretty much by the time I was fully settled in London, the universe decided to mix things up again, and I got an opportunity to join the global communications team for Red Bull in their headquarters in Austria. I’m not even kidding when I’m saying, that this was my career goal ever since I started in the company. Filled with excitement, but also intimidated to the core, I packed my 2 bags, my dog and took off to my next adventure in Salzburg for almost 2 years. Moving to a country which language I did not speak, not having a driving license, not knowing anyone there and accepting the most challenging job I could imagine for my career at that point, was terrifying but oh so exciting at the same time. During those 2 years I learnt more than I have ever learnt in my career, while leading global projects and working with talent from various sports disciplines. I met some amazing people who became friends for life and got to collect pretty kick ass experiences in both, personal and professional life. Some of the highlights would include being on the road in Russia following the Trans-Siberian railway, or being flown to Santorini to watch athletes jump over rooftops, or in general being half an hour away from the gorgeous Alps and the mountain lakes.

Austria, 2016. Private archives.

Urals, 2015. Photo by Jaanus Ree.

Madrid, 2016. Private archives.

Santorini, 2016. Private archives.

I left Red Bull in the end of 2016 and moved to Munich to work in the MTB industry. I always wanted to get involved in athlete management and this role gave me a very close outlook for a little over a year, working with some of the world’s top mountain bikers. I spent almost half my summer on productions in the mountains, got to follow the growths of the action sports athletes and spend time in the breathtaking nature of the Bavarian, Swiss and Austrian Alps.

Kochel am See, 2017. Private archives.

Sölden, 2017. Private archives.

Swiss Alps, 2017. Private archives.

Saalfelden Leogang, 2017. Private archives.

Nürnberg, 2017. Private archives.

Nürnberg, 2017. Private archives.

As you get older, your goals change, right? For me I started having thoughts about setting up my own company and this was a trigger for me to leave Munich after a year. I went home to Estonia for a month, set up my company called Gravity Sisters and started working as a consultant.

In addition to giving marketing, PR and social media advice to brands and doing some TV reporting for Red Bull TV, I work pro bono to consult young female action sports athletes, as the industry is still very male driven - that’s also where my company name comes from. This is my passion project and I will continue this in the future.

One of my projects under my company was for an Estonian bike brand Ampler Bikes, as they were about to open a showroom in Berlin, and so I found myself back in Germany. My aim was to stay in Berlin for two months, but the universe once again had different plans.

Berlin, 2018. Private archives.

Berlin, 2018. Private archives.

I stumbled upon a cool opportunity in Berlin to lead a social media team for the world's leading football platform, Onefootball. I had my job interview with them while being on a holiday in Bali, and everything clicked, so here I am now. I was thrown deep in the football industry just before the World Cup started, so this was a massive challenge, which I was very excited to jump on. Also, I cannot stress enough, how I’ve once again been lucky enough, to have surrounded myself with inspiring people who made this city a home for me very quickly. Berlin is a whole new universe, and now after 6 months, I feel I’ve settled in and the city feels like a good fit for me.

There are days when I sit in my flat with my dog and think to myself - why did I ever leave home, I miss home, my family and my friends, the Estonian dark bread and the familiar streets of Tallinn’s Old Town. But then another day arrives, when I once again feel so thankful that I have a job I absolutely love, in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, or I discover a new corner cafe in Berlin or end up talking to a street musician, whose life story should be written into a book, and it all makes sense again.

People from other cultures and backgrounds widen your mind to the extent you never imagine it to. I am an extremely curious person and I feel every person we meet, has something to teach us. It’s up to our own interpretation on what to take out of it. If you are not ready for a full on expat life, then relocateme type of communities and projects are an excellent way how to dip your toes in the water and see how it feels. I’m not saying that everyone should spend some time abroad, it’s definitely not for everyone, but I genuinely believe that in order to understand how the world functions and how small you actually are, it would definitely make sense to jump in, at least for a minute.

One other important realization for me was, that at some point I thought my capacity for close friends is full, as I have been lucky in life to surround myself with amazing family and friends. Wrong again. Some of the people I’ve met during my expat journey are friends for life. They also enrichen my point of view of my work tactics and inspire me to reach higher.

Berlin, 2018. Private archives.

Berlin, 2018. Private archives.

Why and how did I get involved with RelocateMe.co? I’ve known the founders of the company since the early days of my Red Bull Estonia time, as we were working on some projects together already back in 2011. When one of the founders, Endrik, came to Berlin and wanted to catch up, his idea immediately caught my attention and without much thought, I agreed to spend my winter holidays in Cape Town in early spring next year, to lead a marketing workshop together with a few other inspiring people, share my experiences about expat life, global marketing, PR and social media.

Being an expat is definitely not easy at all times, adjusting to a new culture, new people, settling in, finding your new family away from family - it all takes time and energy and it doesn’t always work out the way you imagined it to. But I will end my expat blog with the only inspirational quote I have fully tried to follow in life:

If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same spot.