1,000 Families Project: World citizens Tanel, Maret and their Baby Girl

When the Iron Curtain fell it opened a world of possibility that this young Estonian couple have embraced by circling the globe, first on their own and now as a family.

Both, I and my wife were raised in completely different culture than the one in which we’re raising our one-year-old daughter. We’re from Estonia-a small country in North Eastern corner of Europe. When we were little, it used to be part of Soviet Union.

Back then it was very common for young couples and families to share an apartment with their parents. And that’s exactly the situation both of us were born in.

Since the Soviet Union collapsed, our country and its economy has become one of the most progressive among former Soviet Union states. Additionally, with the Iron Curtain falling we had the whole world in front of us.

When we were in university, we both jumped on an opportunity to spend a summer in U.S. through an internship program. We did well and eventually, my wife ended up doing this for five summers. I got offered a full-time position and spent 11 years with the same company.

The nature of my job was that I had to relocate every summer to a different community in U.S. for three to four months. So we spent most of our early adulthood living in different towns and even different countries. We’ve travelled to about 20 different countries and 20+ U.S. states. Sometimes it was for work, sometimes for a training or incentive trip, and other times just for vacation.

Whenever we travel we trying to experience local life. It’s very rare that we stay in hotels. When it was just the two of us, we stayed at people’s homes (AirBnB or couch surfing) or we rented a place for ourselves.

We got married exactly 12 years after we started dating and few months after that we learned that parenthood was looming. It was both a very exciting and turbulent period.

I was fairly successful in my career, but I couldn’t fit my professional goals and my family life together. We gave it a try when we lived in Canada for five months in 2015. Our baby was four or five months old when we moved there. But it just didn’t work out and I decided to leave my job and stay home with my family (for at least a year).

The decision to stay home was emotional one, but not irrational-my wife was and still is on paid maternity leave and we had some savings as well. So, we really didn’t have to change our life style that much.

Before leaving North America, we spent two or three weeks in Florida. This was very timely, as the weather just started to cool down in Canada. Florida is almost like our second home, since we usually visit it couple of times a year and my wife loves the hot weather.

It was then when we started to think about visiting Australia. We had never been to that part of the world and were pulled by the sunny climate and the fact that the Australian summer was about to start. We’d looked into places like Sydney and Melbourne and absolutely fell in love. The climate was beautiful, the weather would be hot and there was so much to do and see (and not to forget the bars in west melbourne looked intriguing!).

On the spur of a moment we signed up for a membership site for house sitters and started sending out our applications. After 50+ submissions we finally got two positive replies on the same day-one on the East Coast and the other one on the West Coast. So, while at one point it looked like a lost cause, all of a sudden we were in a position where we could actually pick where we want to spend our extended Australian “staycation.”

We ended up taking a seven- to eight-week house sitting assignment near Sydney, Australia. Our baby wasn’t even 10 months old on our arrival. We finished our assignment and got back from Australia just before her first birthday.

If we had extended our staycation and thought about calling Australia our new home, we would have to apply for extended work visas – one that would allow us to continue working there – and probably also go through vevo checks and other employer screenings before being given a job. There was also the prospect of looking for a house to stay in, and many other considerations. I think that could’ve been a route to take, because Australia is a wonderful country and we’d like to live there someday. But, at that point, we chose to return to Europe.

By that time our little “Sprout” had been on 22 flights and travelled to three continents.

At the moment we’re finally back in Europe and trying to settle in to our new home. It’s a rental home, because with us, you never know where we’ll be in six or 12 months. Right now we love the closeness of our families, so they get to see our daughter and we have some babysitters to give us a break. Hopefully, this rental home will be easy to live in and comfortable for us all especially when winter comes along, otherwise, we may need to call up our landlord and ask for a new Furnace Installation because none of us wants to be freezing throughout the winter months.

Sometimes I think about how differently we live our lives from our parents. We were raised in a place and time where it was almost impossible to explore the world and where people valued security and stability more than anything.

And naturally we do need some sense of security as well, but we also embrace and enjoy the freedom to travel to or live (short- or long-term) wherever we want. I guess the times they are a changin’?!

We want to raise our family in the spirit of “our home is where our family is”-it doesn’t matter if it’s just the three of us on a new continent or in our native country with both of our families nearby.

We’re not filthy rich but somehow we always tend to stumble on opportunities to take off to any given direction and more often than not we take our chances and board another flight.

We’re excited about what the future holds for us, now that we’re fairly new parents. Another house-sitting assignment Down Under or a one-year RV-trip in Europe?! There’s something about touring Europe in a motorhome which is very appealing to us. We don’t mind smaller spaces and the idea of being able to go wherever we want, whenever we want is very exciting. We could be in Spain one day and Portugal the next! There are so many different cultures we could experience and we can’t even begin to think of all the food we could try. However, we do love Australia so I guess we’ll have to wait and see where life takes us next…

This is #1000families post number 200! Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Tanel Jappinen

About Tanel Jappinen

Tanel is a husband to his high school girlfriend and a proud dad. He's passionate about becoming a better dad and a husband each day. His mission is to help other soon-to-be and new dads transition to fatherhood and navigate the pressures they face in modern world. If you're just entering parenthood, check out Tanel's blog and his podcast at: www.brandnewfather.com View all posts by