We were wrapping up our 3-week vacation with Kristiina. New Zealand had been my dream destination for more than 10 years and now it was done. After driving 4000 km across both islands, our emotions were slightly mixed. Absolutely amazing nature and breathtaking views were complemented by somewhat dull cities, which sometimes appeared to be abandoned, as soon as the office hours ended. My emotions were also mixed about getting back home and returning to the office. After more than 10 years as a CEO of mid-size transportation company with close to 500 employees, I felt that I was approaching a dead end. For the last couple of years, we had been fighting different crises (with reasonable success), but it had taken a toll. I felt that 3 weeks was no longer enough to recover the energy and drive. Also, over the years our views about the future of the business had grown apart with the owners, which resulted in daily low-level friction. There was 8 months left on my existing contract and inside I knew, that I need a restart. I also knew that I was not prepared to jump to the new company right after.
What about exploring the world for half a year?
Vineyards in Portugal (sorry, Rwanda)?
Fretting about the 48-hour trip back to chilly Estonia, we started to discuss, which could be the next destinations to go. Africa is a blank spot for me. I have spent a few weeks in Red Sea resorts, but that’s it. It's not easy with Africa – for many countries there are safety concerns, lack of flights, difficult to obtain visas, missing infrastructure etc. I am not a package tour kind of traveller, but also not a true adventure seeker, so many versions fall out. But there are still plenty of options to consider and after several trips to South America and Asia, it looked intriguing enough to be explored in more details.
For example, what do you know about Rwanda? Not much I suppose. Many can maybe recall the genocide in the '90s, but it’s a tiny country in the middle of the huge continent and still one of the poorest in the world – not a household name for sure. But I had read about its rapid economic development in recent years and growing tourism. It was essentially just random bits and pieces, but in combination, it looked sufficiently interesting to justify further research on the subject. Browsing the fairly limited number of articles you can find about Rwanda (apart from the genocide-related materials) I somehow found several stories about the potential of Rwandan tea industry and whitepapers about the investment opportunities into its agriculture.
Reading it there and then reminded me of another dream of mine. It was a real dream, not like the specific, actionable goal to visit New Zealand. It was a fuzzy "one day, maybe, if things go well" type of dream, that we all have, but which we tend to constantly push into future, as we always find excuses to not accept the risks that are involved. There were actually two of such “fuzzy” dreams, that those articles reminded. First – I grew up in a small town. As a kid, my parents had a small 50 acres farm, where I used to spend my summers, working on the fields or milking a couple of cows we had. Growing up in the countryside, I never fully felt at home in big cities. I am happy to browse the huge shopping malls and I enjoy the view of high-rise office towers, but on the weekends, or when exhausted, I want to get out, away from constant noise and stream of people around me. So, I was often thinking, that one day I will have my own cottage or small farm, place where I could spend my weekends and summers away from the buzz.
Second - you know, what I don’t like in Estonia? The climate. In recent years, it has been literally like 10 months of "autumn" - cold, wet, windy. No proper summer nor winter. 6 months you are waiting for summer and then the temperature hardly gets above 20 °C... hate it. So, my daydream has been to have a small vineyard or olive garden or just a farmhouse in Southern Europe (Portugal being my favorite🙂), so I could somehow escape this nasty autumn from time to time.
And there I was - sitting on the porch of our apartment in Mangonui, New Zealand, reading and thinking... what about a small bright-green tea garden in Rwanda?
As it turned out, this thought was the inception of Renegade Tea Estate...
Learn what happened to Rwanda from here.
Written by Hannes