Estonia: A Travel Story Case Study

Arriving in Narva

Arriving in Narva

The Journey

A trip to Estonia with the British Army set me on the path to the New Iron Curtain. After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Estonians were worried that the Kremlin might turn its irredentist eye from the Black Sea to the Baltic. There had been civil unrest amongst Estonia’s Russian-speaking population back in 2007, and there was concern that their ‘protection’ could be used as the pretext for a Russian invasion, as it had in Crimea.

NATO’s enhanced forward presence was sent to Estonia to deter such a possibility, and so began my interest in the Soviet legacy in Europe. I concocted a plan to travel overland from Arctic Norway to Crimea, along Russia’s European frontier. Estonia would be the fourth country on my journey, after Norway, Finland and Russia.

I planned to cross into Estonia at Narva, then head south to explore Setomaa, a region that was divided in 1991, and partly absorbed into Russia. Next up was Tartu, then Sillamäe and Tallinn, before crossing into Latvia near Pärnu.

Hara abandoned submarine base.

Hara abandoned submarine base.

The Tourist Board

I contacted the Estonian tourist board through their UK PR representative, to see if they could support some of my costs and assist with my research. They were incredibly helpful, putting me in touch with people across the country and suggesting places to visit.

The benefit for the tourist board lies in growing Estonia’s profile as a tourist destination, through articles in newspapers, magazines and websites. As a writer, I try to get as many commissions as possible for each trip. Firstly, because commissions pay the bills. And, more importantly, more commissions mean that I go in search of more stories.

The Output

My first commission was a piece in City AM Magazine, focusing on Estonia’s growth as an innovation powerhouse. You can read it as a PDF here.

The Telegraph then commissioned the Edgelands podcast series, and the very first episode was about Setomaa. Estonia reappeared in the Aurora episode, too, and each episode was accompanied by an online article and video.

Next was a video commission for World Nomads. The video will be released on their site shortly, but you can see an older version here.

Finally, the Estonian tourist board got in touch to ask if I could make some branded content for them. They knew that I’d been filming my journey, and were looking for influencers to create content for their “Estonian Way” centenary campaign. I made videos of canoeing in the Soomaa National Park, Easter in Setomma, and created a compilation video that included off-road driving. The Estonian Tourist Board used these videos as part of their own campaign on social media and websites.


Estonia was fantastic, with regional variations that belie its small population. People were keen to share their stories of independence and identity, which shaped my understanding of this liminal space between East and West.

The trip was a textbook example of how to work with a PR agency and their client. The Estonians went out of their way to help me find the stories that I needed for my commissions, and I over-delivered in terms of PR exposure in newspapers and magazines. Finally, their commission of branded content meant that they had unique video for their own campaigns, and also meant some additional income for me.

The combination of research assistance, print commissions and branded content worked very well for everyone: the destination got what they needed; the PRs were happy; and I made some additional income. In doing so, I’ve found an excellent model for structuring press trips, and its one that I will try to emulate in future.

Thank you Estonia.

Train tracks in Estonia

Train tracks in Estonia