Our lifestyle isn’t conventional. We travel and have done for over 2 years now, we do unusual things like falling in love with Romanian village life and buying houses in rural Romania, some people think we’re crazy, but that’s cool.
Sometimes I think we’re crazy too.
Yesterday I reshared an old post, a reader had asked “What do you do all day?” We were on Ko Phangan Thailand for 6 weeks, partly the result of my husband’s emergency surgery, partly just because we liked it.
This reader couldn’t understand how we managed to pass so much time, pleasurable, in the absence of apparent things to do. Y’know, work, school, all the boring stuff. That post seemed to go down well so I thought I’d give you a new version, what are we up to now, up a mountain, in one of the last, if not THE last, peasant cultures in Europe. So here goes, Romanian village life as we know it.
Where Are We Living?
We’ve rented a little oak beam house, two bedrooms that double as living rooms, a kitchen and a very basic bathroom with shower. We have hot and cold running water and an inside toilet, we weren’t expecting to have any of those luxuries in rural Romania, so we don’t take them for granted. We anticipated Indian style bucket washes with a scoop, so to be able to take a hot shower is brilliant.
The house is costing us little, under $10 per night and comes with a huge orchard, garden and barn. A stream flows down one side which the boys enjoy poking about in. It’s very simple, very basic, filled with traditional furnishings and decorations, we love it.
We had a few days of stress while we found this place, it seemed nobody in the village wants to rent out houses, I just don’t think they need the money, but it all came good in the end.
Modern Technology and the Problems it Brings
You may know that we’ve had massive problems with the websites over the last few days, this one has been totally down, which cost me a lot of money and brought ( still is bringing) considerable amounts of stress. The change in hosting companies didn’t go smoothly and I’m still trying to sort out problems. It’s not easy here on TERRIBLE internet, particularly as most of my time is taken up by the kids, cooking and cleaning.
Romania has excellent wifi, some of the best in Europe, but for some reason we just can’t get a decent signal in this house, we’ve bought a booster aerial, which does nothing, so I’ve been offline a lot, not-working on the websites.
At the moment I can clearly see how nice life would be without computers.
Not Living Like The Locals
Romanian Village Life
So how are we filling our days?
This is the ultimate in slow travel, really getting to know a place yet still not “living like a local”. I don’t like that expression. We don’t work in the fields all day, we don’t have to milk cows and feed pigs, the kids don’t go to the village school and I don’t go to church on Sunday in my best floral skirt and headscarf. But we can observe, this is slow, in-depth learning about a place, people, language and culture. I like that right now. When itchy feet kick in, I don’t. I seem to be needing this quiet time.
The language they speak here is different to that in Bucharest, simpler. Very easy to pick up. For the first time ever my schoolgirl Latin is actually useful. I can’t have a conversation yet, nowhere near, but we get by.
Below is an account of how we spend our time in Rural Romania.
Good Morning Rural Romania!
I wake up as the sun rises. Admittedly, we’ve had a lot of late nights in the last few weeks, drinking and carousing with fellow ex-pats, so that hour creeps further and further into the day, but dawn is my preferred time to wake up. I don’t want to miss a second of sunshine.
The boys and Chef will still be slumbering in our solid and supremely comfortable beds, made just last week from bits of wood from the barn.
I flick on the kettle. I always fill it the night before because our water supply is unreliable. It’s a long story. Swimming pools up the road take all the water on hot weekends and holidays so sometimes the taps dry up.
If it’s cold I pull on jeans straight away. The days have been hot here, 36 degrees, but nights can be chilly.
Bun Bun Blood-Bringer the rabbit goes outside. She’s been sleeping in the covered porch to protect her from the cold and any fearsome Romanian predators that might be prowling. We have polecats, foxes, wolves, and bears, in theory. I sweep the floor.
Flick on the computer which lives in the kitchen, check email/Facebook/Pinterest, etc. over coffee. If I can get a signal.
Make myself some breakfast. My digestive system seems to have been destroyed by the antibiotics I was given for a suspected Indian parasite, so for now, I’m off gluten and dairy and feeling MUCH better ( thanks for asking!). So breakfast for me normally involves eggs, potatoes or polenta, always with lots of garlic. They eat a lot of polenta in Romania, which reminds me, I need to write a post on Romanian food, it’s good.
Settle to do some work until the family wakes up, or listen to a podcast, I’m into Tim Ferris. (see the book that got me into our new way of living here)
Watch the villagers heading to the fields in horses and carts or pushing wheelbarrows.
Not Boiling Eggs
They wake up, slowly, usually Boo first. Sometimes he makes himself pancakes or fried eggs, he’s enjoying cooking on our little stove.
I saw some ridiculous chart the other day of “chores” kids should be able to do by particular ages. One of the chores was to boil an egg and I think the suggested age was 6. Well, he can’t boil an egg, we don’t eat boiled eggs, but he makes killer pancakes! Sometimes he’ll even make enough for his brother and dad. Boo reads as they eat at the table in the porch. I don’t care if it’s bad table manners. I love that he reads so much.
Incidentally, he can’t tie shoelaces either. He’s never owned shoes with laces so why would he learn? Just another of those things kids are expected to know by the “right” age that are actually, totally ridiculous. Update: He got his first hiking boots for Nepal a year or so later. Shoelaces were mastered in no time.
The morning sunshine streams in and warms the boys, I flit around providing drinks, condiments, coffees, and general support.
After breakfast, they usually go outside, collect bunches of clover and dandelions for Bun Bun, ride their bikes or generally muck about.
I wash up and clear the decks.
I do the laundry by hand in the mornings and peg it out to dry, it dries fast, the days are hot at the moment.
Sometimes Maria, our landlady, turns up to do something in the barn or garden. They’re busy harvesting plums, pears, potatoes, carrots, beans and apples ( don’t think they’ll eat the fruit, they all get distilled into halinka or tuica, a fearsome and ubiquitous homemade spirit and cure-all).
She usually cuts a block of grass from the orchard too, cuts it with a scythe and takes it away by wheelbarrow for her milk cows. The boys have been known to help, sometimes disappearing with her to try their hand at milking.
She often brings us gifts of food, some fat home-smoked bacon, milk or fruit and veg. Her visits are really helping my Romanian along, she’s a gem and has taken a shine to the boys.
We don’t do much. We use resources such as Studyladder ( when the internet works) and the Carol Vorderman books (her textbooks and workbooks, we like both a lot).
Sometimes we learn a bit more Romanian and sometimes I find a great documentary on YouTube for the boys to watch. They’ve been into the Ancient Greeks this week. Rarely I persuade them to do some art, they really aren’t into art but occasionally see it as a soft option.
We are now the joyful owners of a printer, something we haven’t had for the last 2.5 years, it’s so good to be able to print out maps to colour. I’ve been longing to do that, so the boys can really see where they’ve been and create a record.
I have to cook, no convenience foods or take-aways here. I usually have to peel potatoes, something I normally do once a year, at Christmas. Strangely, I’m enjoying cooking here, I’m known for my usual loathing. I’ve been roasting, stewing and souping up a storm.
We have a small supermarket about half an hour away along with several huge ones 50 minutes away. We also have two tiny village shops that stock bread, crisps, sweets, beer and, sometimes, OK wine. Drinks are really cheap here, a large bottle of beer about $1, a bottle of wine well under $5. Food is cheap.
Lots of hours disappear in food preparation and washing up, which often has to be done with a bucket and a kettle when the water fails.
Other Time Fillers
Maybe a walk or a bike ride, maybe a trip somewhere. We have some great attractions in the area and we often visit local markets to check out the animals and produce. The Merry Cemetery is a short drive away, as is the Barsana Monastery complex. The churches of Maramures County are UNESCO listed and really spectacular.
We have plenty of people to hang out with here. There are currently half a dozen young volunteers, Australian, American, Russian, Argentinian and Brits, working at the Village Hotel. They’re great people, travellers like us. The boys love them and want nothing more than to hang out and help. They haven’t bothered to approach the village children at all, they gravitate towards these guys. Maybe when they leave, which should coincide with their Romanian being passable, that will change.
There are two small village pubs. We meet up with the volunteers and drink cold beers at the end of the day. I take along one of our trusty card games for the boys, or they play with kittens and puppies while we chat.
Occasionally we have campfires and toast marshmallows or share meals. I’m having to force myself to stay in and have quiet nights.
In a week or so we fly to London, spend a few days with friends, then drive back across Europe to our new home. We’ll be visiting France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, possibly Austria and finally Hungary. More adventures to come!
By the time we get back here it will be cold, we’ll have to start using the wood-burning stoves. We’re hoping for snow by Christmas and a chance to do some skiing, at Cavnic, just up the road.
In January we will migrate to warmer climes, probably India and Nepal, to travel more, learn more and hide from the fierce Romanian winter. Then we’ll be back to build our house, we hope, if everything comes together in time.
I never thought that our story would take this turn, but I’m very glad it did. This is a lovely time in our lives and the boys are getting so much joy from it.
It’s difficult to write a travel blog when we’re not really travelling, I seem to have lost a lot of my drive and inspiration lately in the face of this simple village lifestyle. Does this post cover everything? Anything you’d like to know? What can I write about? Leave me a comment and thanks for still sticking with us. Back to our main Romania Page here.
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Tuesday 21st of August 2018
Hi Alyson. Great post. Which village(s) was that?
Tuesday 21st of August 2018
Breb Shuki. We lived there for 3 years. This was our first post from there I think. Breb has it's own category, loads of posts about it on our site.
Wednesday 8th of March 2017
I have enjoyed reading your day to day living in Romania. I have been out of the US only once to Italy for fifteen days. Fascinating your adventures and self made travel very fascinating.
Wednesday 15th of June 2016
Very interesting. I visited Romania as a child in the 70s. It sounds as if life goes on much as it did then. I've always been interested in how life is lived in different countries. Thanks for keeping us informed.
Tuesday 22nd of December 2015
Hi, it's so nice to see how you and your family accomodated to the Romanian lifestyle. sometines it can be tough in small villages, bu most locals are usually very friendly. the countryside is just lovely, isn't it?
Tuesday 13th of October 2015
Love reading about your adventures, big and small.