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Surviving Winter in Romania

Winter has done its worst and the mercury is starting to hit positive numbers during the short days here in the remote mountains of Romania. This area is beautiful, harsh, inspiring and difficult and it’s where we choose to be. Why, when we could live anywhere in the world, do we choose to spend winter in Romania where temperatures dip to -25C, snow and ice lie thick for months, the water freezes and outside toilets are a necessity?

We’re digital nomads, we have the world at our fingertips, so why here? We’ve just come back from Thailand, on purpose, to spend Christmas and January in Breb Romania. Are we insane? Well possibly, yes, but let me explain why Romania holds our hearts in her fist.

Winter in Romania

We Love Romanian Winters!

Nothing in the world beats skiing with your whole family on an amazing day. It’s around -9C here but the sun is shining and everything sparkles.

It’s true, we dig snow. We ski, so how could we not? I love crisp walks in the hills with my husband, trudging and crunching through hard crusted powder enjoying nature’s creation under a high blue sky. The kids love hurtling down the lanes on toboggans with no fear of traffic and catching fat flakes on their noses.

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We love chopping wood, building fires and rustic life in this 100 year old oak beam cottage. We love our friends and neighbours here. They’re the best of the best, we’re very social and we all pull through winter together.

Community and support are important, when you leave home to travel the world you build new community.

I love seeing horse-drawn sleighs laden with wood, blankets, bells and red tassels glide past my house. That’s magic. I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where we could see history come to life like this.

On Sundays when Breb villagers dress up in traditional winter costume to walk through snow past wooden houses to church, it’s like living in a movie set. But it’s very real.

But obviously, there’s more to it than that.

The Hardships of Winter in Romania

winter in Romania keeping warm
The locals know how to keep warm in winter. The Christmas festival of tradition in Maramures, Romania.

We’ve had no water at all for about 7 days this month. It’s usually just half a day to a day here and there, but for the last 3 days of January, nothing. Nothing at all.

The taps froze solid when we left for a weekend ( for deep, hot baths and a luxury apartment in Cluj Napoca.) and I struggled to defrost them again. The indoor flushing toilet became unusable about 2 weeks ago, I think the cesspit has stopped draining into the frozen ground.

There is no modern heating in the house, wood stoves only. At night indoor temperatures can be, and have been, well below zero. We do have an electric radiator that we’ve occasionally left on through the night, but generally we find we don’t need it.

Once we’re snuggled under duvets we’re not cold at all. OK, the night it was -21C I was a tiny bit chilly, but we forgot to put the radiator on that night. It reminds us of when we were trekking in the Himalayas, some of our best family memories have been sub-zero.

Think about that when you look at your winter heating bill in warmer climates ( yes I mean you Britain!), it’s unnecessary.

If you’re reading all the above thinking life must be a struggle, don’t. An unhappy, miserable life is hard, we’re happy. We laugh at what the climate throws us, family bonds grow tighter and we relish the extremes. Not many people get the chance to connect so closely to mother nature of feel her this raw. We consider ourselves privileged. Yes, even when we’re sitting on the outdoor wooden throne in the snow. I’m not kidding, you should try it!

I think in summary you could say, we enjoy a challenge.

Helping You, Helping Me

Winter snow in Romania Breb Maramures
The village that keeps calling us back, in the winter snows of northern Romania.

It may seen a little dull to you to spend winter half way up a mountain in Romania, but, other than the things I talk about and the sheer beauty of the place, I really love my jobs. #1 educating and caring for my kids and #2, helping you and me through working online. When we’re on the road full-time, hopping on buses and trains every other day, I don’t have so much time for those two things.

Back in 2012 when we jumped into our new travel lifestyle we wanted to live more as a family, have more fun, have more adventures, reduce financial needs, de-clutter our lives and give the kids an amazing education.

We’ve checked all those boxes, but in the process discovered that at the bottom of our wanderlust was a need for freedom.

Romania gives us that for a few months a year, breathing space, and these days a lot of my drive comes from helping others find their own freedom. Corny, maybe, but it’s what I do and what I love. Be it through alternate education, earning online or just travel, I love meeting people with hopes and dreams and giving them confidence and practical advice to see them on their way. We meet them in real life and through social media and Skype, it keeps me happy and it keeps me busy when I’m done chopping wood and melting snow to make tea.

steffi and family travelling
This lady is one of my favourite people in the world. I’ve been helping her for months now, getting her out into the world, planning, explaining, reassuring, removing anxiety. She’s there now, in Thailand, having obscene amounts of fun with her kids. It’s fantastic and gives me a real buzz. To me this travel is simple, straightforward, every day life, but I see her friends’ reactions on Facebook and it’s very much “Wow!” It makes me feel that what we do is a little special. You rock Steffi xx

Another lady sent me this message not 10 minutes ago, my 5am start got brighter when I read these words.

“I just wanted to drop you a message to say how you inspired me via your blog.. helping me to live my dream ! I started up a little blog too ….every time I get a friend to follow I get this warm, fuzzy glow inside so big, big thanks”

I’ll share Lucy’s blog when she’s ready, she’s in Thailand.

I’m guess what I’m saying here is job satisfaction, I got it in spades!

 

It’s Cheap

Romania winter skiing
At the top of the hill on a beautiful day. Free to enjoy the blue skies, perfect powder and lack of other skiers on a week day.

We estimate that living here, including rent, electricity, good wi-fi and firewood, costs around $8/day.

Food is our biggest expense on top of that, but a big shop costs around half of our London or Australia grocery bill.

We use little petrol because in winter we stay indoors often and the ski slopes are only 10 minutes up the road on days when blue skies call us out to play.

The car is a big expense, she breaks down and needs maintenance. I’d rather not need a car but for this period of our lives she’s absolutely essential. We’ve done without a car for 3 years, it was fine and environmentally kind, but here, no go.

Skiing costs us about $90/ day for the whole family. We can afford that because we spend less on the things that don’t interest us.

That’s one of the cornerstones of a nomad life, stay somewhere cheap for the long periods

 

We Get to Work Hard

winter in Romania village Maramures
No, not a film set. This is real and we love it.

Life is simpler here. We have no appointments or schedules, the kids are happy in what they’re doing and don’t need constant distractions or activities. We can sleep as long as we like or work through the night, no buses to catch, airports to get to or inconvenient hotel check-ins to negotiate.

Certainly no school run or work schedule. We are home, in our own space and we’ve been killing the work.

Chef has been working like crazy on his website, in between stints of tough physical work chopping wood to help him stay in shape for his international Ironman competitions.

I’ve been teaching him how it’s done, the quick way, and he’s finally showing an interest. This month he’s tripled his traffic and is able to make money through affiliate sales on his blog. I’ve had time and space to grow and make-over a lot of the website. We’re in a good place.

Millionaire Lifestyle, Lower Income

wood delivery Romania
Our winter wood arriving before the snows. We chop it, stack it and keep the stove burning all winter long. Its harder than modern living, yes, but weirdly more enjoyable.

It’s a cliché maybe, but that’s how we feel, we love life and thrive on the contrasts of Everest in February, London in Summer, Thailand in Autumn and Romania in winter, it keeps life interesting and us thirsting for more adventures. We earn way less than back in the days of paying mortgage and utility bills but the value we get out of life is so much more. We’ve done it, we’re loving it. We hope, that if it’s what you want, you can get there too.

Now, hands up who thinks we’re crazy for loving the cold.

Tell me in the comments.

If you’d like to experience life in our corner of the world, Breb, Romania, check out The Village Hotel or Casa din Vale ( we highly recommend both and spend a lot of time at both. Our friends run a little bar / restaurant- a terrace-at Casa Din Vale- great food ! ) You can step back in time too. Also take a look at our post on Christmas traditions in Romania, these things are special and surprising.

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nomadic family life

Alyson is the creator of World Travel Family travel blog and is a full-time traveller, blogger and travel writer. A lifetime of wanderlust and now over 7 years on the road, 50+ countries allowed the creation of this website, for you. She has a BSc and worked in pathology before entering the travel arena and creating this website. World Travel Family Travel Blog has been helping you travel more, better and further since 2012, when Alyson and James first had this life changing idea. On this site you can find endless travel information, tips and guides plus how to travel, how to fund travel and how to start your own travel blog.

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Richard Jones

Friday 4th of January 2019

Looks wonderful! We are coming to Bucharest next week and plan to get up to Brasov for a couple of days. How are the trains in winter? Are they 1) reasonably reliable and 2) warm? I see you do your travelling by car....

Alyson Long

Friday 4th of January 2019

We have taken the trains, yes. The sleeper train from Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei. The trains aren't luxury but they were very, very warm when we travelled. Romanians don't like opening windows so verging on the stifling. We only know what the sleeper compartments are like sorry, never travelled in a seat carriage. You could also take the bus, buses are pretty good. Roads should be clear, they're very handy with the snow ploughs. Hiring a car is very cheap there if you take that route. Parking is horrible in Brasov but the train station is quite convenient.

Luminita

Wednesday 1st of March 2017

The last winter was one of the best we had in long time here in Romania because we actually had some snow not only in the mountain regions. Nevertheless, I think Romania's winter resorts are very good budget friendly alternative for those who like snow and cold weather during the winter season.

[email protected]

Friday 3rd of March 2017

Yes, we had snow on the ground here from October last year. Nothing like that the year before. But now, March, all gone and it's quite warm. I'm not sure if we'll be able to ski again or not, there's still snow on the mountains but I don't think there's enough. Will pop up and look next week.

Susan

Tuesday 21st of February 2017

Found your blog as I was researching our summer roadtrip through Eastern Europe with Romania being the main attraction. Love what you are doing and you have inspired me to make more concrete plans for our family to do more serious travel! If you are interested in a house swap for a week or two this summer, we live in a nice farmhouse in France with a swimming pool. :0). I will be spending some time checking out your blog as I plan our trip....thanks so much for what you are doing.

[email protected]

Tuesday 21st of February 2017

Susan, we very well might take you up on that, shoot me an email, we'll be heading that way in summer for sure on the annual car tax/MOT trip. I'll warn you, no luxury here, but an amazing, authentic experience. Cheers :) And good luck with your adventure!

Sandra

Friday 17th of February 2017

I'm so happy to found your website here! Greetings from Croatia! I hope you and your family will visit it in future - I see this post from Romania - we have similar customs/costums, but not for Christmas - in Croatia we "dress" up for carnival period.

[email protected]

Saturday 18th of February 2017

Croatia will happen this year! Hi :)

Chrys Tan

Monday 13th of February 2017

This makes me want to check out Romania! How's the internet speed though? One of the major pains of working on the road is finding great internet speed, which has been a problem for me for the past couple of months in Latin America. Even the speed in Mexico City, where I am currently based, is a quarter or half the speed in Europe/US/Asia.

[email protected]

Monday 13th of February 2017

Romania has some of the fastest internet in Europe Chrys. It's superb. We're half way up a mountain in a tiny village where people have horses and carts and no running water and the phones pick up brilliant 4G. They just put in new internet cables too. They've got their priorities right! Internet is also cheap here.

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