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The meaning of Freedom
You can attribute the word freedom to a lot of actions. You might feel free when you come out of a bad relationship or when you quit the job that you hated. Freedom is also interpreted as an escape from reality. That certainly seems to be the case if we are talking about travel. Escaping the day-to-day life by travelling sounds familiar to everybody. During travelling, you might find a different kind of freedom, like Gerhard, when he was travelling in Norway with the bare minimum.
In this article, I will talk about how Estonians see freedom and what it might mean for this small Nordic country.
A little bit of History
Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. In monetary value it ranks as the second richest country in the world and even though the Norwegian Krona has fallen in value over the last years it can not be compared to the rest of Europe. Especially food, which is essential for cheap traveling, is expensive. But also hostels are three times more expensive than in other European countries. Not to mention Alcohol and cigarettes.
Freedom of a Nation
For most people reading this blog, it might be hard to imagine 50 years without our own country. How did we live? How did we think? How do we feel towards our occupiers? These are all good questions that people ask me and I will answer them in another blog post.
Most of the people in their 80s and 90s remember when Estonia was free and have passed on their memories to their children. That means that even when the Soviet Union enforced their rule, local people were keeping their own secrets. Secrets of a better life and dreams of a free country.
Everything changed when Estonia regained its independence and we could express ourselves in a way that wasn’t imaginable before. We could express our ideas of our future without the Great Leader looking at us from Moscow. And we have done it for only 26 years. For my parents, the change was huge and as it usually goes, parents influence their children too.
And that is why I feel the responsibility of the past that is on the shoulders of my generation. I feel, that I have to keep this small nation alive, that I need to keep the traditions alive. For Estonians, the freedom to express our nationality is something new and exciting that we haven’t done for a long time. And that is something you don’t think about in your everyday life. For us, it’s natural to respect and honour the culture of others because you might never know how much people have fought for the right to make their own decisions.
Expressing that Freedom
And how do we express that freedom? By singing and dancing. The massive song and dance festivals that happen every 5 years gathers about 300 000 Estonians to sing out our patriotism. To fully understand an Estonian, you have to see the shining eyes of an the people who enjoy the sunset at the Song Festival Grounds on a beautiful July weekend and who sing along with the choir. The next Song Festival (the 27th) happens in 2019, so time your trip for that time.
In the video below, you can hear the song from the Youth Song Festival that was held in 2017. The song was written by Rasmus Puur (it’s his debut on the song festival). And the song is called “We”. The main idea is, that our generation doesn’t want to stay unnoticed in history. We want to leave our mark on the world. And isn’t that also a way of expressing our freedom? The liberty to leave your own mark on the world.
Freedom of Nature
People strive to be away from their everyday life. The wilderness experience for the people living in the city is something exciting and for some reason we always think fondly about it. If there are a lot of mosquitos that are biting and tormenting you, you will still remember the peaceful campfire with friends more than the insects. And living in a tent, with less stuff to bother you and keep you entertained, means you can clear your head from the junk that has gathered there over time. You can say, that hiking is a way of emptying the recycle bin in your head. And Estonia is one of the undiscovered gems in Europe concerning hiking in nature.
Estonia is one of the most forest-rich countries in the world and about half of our land is covered with forests. And about 40% of the forests belong to the Estonian state. And that is good, because the State Forest Management Centre (RMK in Estonian) is keeping the forests clean and safe, but also finding new and beautiful hiking routes to mark for the average tourist.
Nature has a unique meaning for Estonians. We even have one of the biggest databases in the world for natural holy places. That means, that all over Estonia you have small corners of the forests, small hills, stones, that have been known to have a special meaning for the locals and you have a chance to recharge your batteries. These holy places are even known to help against different kinds of diseases (from bad eyesight to cancer). Only in Estonia, you can see the power of Nature affect the human life so strongly. Our view of nature goes deeper than you might imagine. For Estonians, to hike and enjoy nature isn’t a luxury. It’s a way of life and not everybody in the world has that chance. But you have to come to Estonia to see that!
Freedom of Technology
I know it might sound strange to talk about the IT-industry right after talking about nature, but in Estonia, you just can’t ignore the freedom and stress-free life, when you can do everything online. And isn’t that also a way to free your time from your obligations and to hike in nature instead?
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, we weren’t so technologically advanced. Our government didn’t have any legacy of technological advancements, because of our past. So Estonians decided to turn their face to the west and see how fast and how quickly can we become a modern country and leave the Soviet past behind. And it took us about 20 years. In 2007 we became the first country to allow online voting in a general election. Estonians helped develop Skype and Transwerwise (a billion dollar start-up located in Tallinn) and we can do our taxes online.
And you can’t forget that we are the first country to offer e-residency to everybody. The Estonian government will issue a digital identity card for anyone interested. With that you can set up and run a business online in a safe environment by using all the online services that Estonia offers to their own residents. And did I mention, that Estonia was one of the first countries in the world to classify internet access as a human right?
Freedom of technology allows us to feel connected, even when you are hiking and enjoying nature. Connectedness allows us to express our ideas and culture in a way that wasn’t possible before. And that is our way of expressing our freedom and hopefully I managed to give you an idea of how it works.