Lisbon, Ljubljana, Tallinn, Berlin… This month our heads are spinning with potential digital nomad destinations in Europe as we try to choose the perfect base to work from this autumn. With that in mind, this week we met up with our friend Alyson from World Travel Family, who was our Airbnb host at the very start of our 2013 trip in Port Douglas, Australia. At the time, Alyson was getting ready to travel the world with her husband and two boys and now runs hugely successful travel and homeschool blogs while exploring from a new base: Romania. So, what’s life in Romania like and how does the country shape up as a digital nomad destination?
Life in Romania with World Travel Family
How did you end up as a digital nomad based in Romania?
It was a complete accident. We were invited to help with a promotion, we went because the Nepal earthquake forced a last-minute change of plan. We’d never had any burning desire to visit Romania but we went and just fell in love.
What part of the country do you live in and where are the most common areas for expats to live?
We hang out in the far north, a little village in Maramures county, it’s called Breb and it’s the land that time forgot. We do see a few travellers and nomads passing through the village but it would be more normal to stay in Bucharest, Brasov or maybe Cluj Napoca.
How do you make a living remotely and what’s the internet like?
I’m a travel blogger. Our sites have been funding our full-time travels for the last few years, these days I coach new bloggers too and provide support and help in all aspects of travel. A big part of our income is advertising and affiliate commissions. Romania has some of the fastest internet in Europe but unfortunately, we’re a little “off grid” and we’re at the mercy of phone internet. It has good and bad days but we manage.
How about the cost of living and quality of life?
It’s cheap. As cheap as Asia if you get it right. Romania is certainly one of the cheapest countries in Europe. For us, the quality of life is superb. Immense cultural interest and plenty of fresh air, small scale farming and stunning, unspoilt scenery. We spend our winters skiing, cheaply, nearby. Be prepared for temperatures as low as -25C around Christmas and long hot summers.
For detailed daily living cost examples, check out Numbeo.
Are there many other expats and remote workers around?
In our village we have volunteers coming through, working at the hotel and there are a few other expats too. Mostly though, we are surrounded by villagers and they speak no English at all, great people though, really wonderful.
What’s life like for your two boys in Romania? How would you rate it as a destination for bringing up kids/homeschooling?
The boys love it. The village gave them freedom, no traffic, just horses, fields, meadows and mountains, no stranger danger and unlimited access to trees, streams, mud, sticks and farm animals. They have zero interest in mixing with the local kids though, they always prefer the volunteers and travellers that pass through along with some of the expats. Because they don’t go to school they’ve never seen people as being segregated by age, they don’t seek out kids, they seek out people they like.
Have you learnt any Romanian and is it easy to get by without speaking any?
Some, I can communicate with the neighbours, it’s quite an easy language, very similar to Italian. In the cities all the younger people speak perfect English.
What’s the visa situation for digital nomads/expats like and do you feel welcomed and accepted in Romania?
I’m British, so I currently have no travel restrictions in Europe. Brexit will probably change that. Yes, I do feel accepted, our neighbours are fantastic, they look after us and look out for us and we help them in any way we can too.
How’s the food?
Good, hearty, rustic. Plenty of pork, eggs, dairy, fruit and vegetables, all produced by the villagers. We watch the whole process, the planting, the pig slaughter, the harvests, the daily milking, it’s a wonderful way of life. Vast quantities of alcoholic beverages are produced in the village too.
What are the best and worst things about living and working in Romania?
The best would be living in such a unique and stunningly beautiful location, experiencing a culture that few could even imagine. The worst has to be the internet going down in thunderstorms, and there are many during our hot summers.
You looked into buying a house in Romania, what are the house prices like and what’s the legal process for buying one?
We tried to buy one and it fell through. We’ve been waiting two years now, it’s hard but not impossible if you have a European passport. House prices are very low.
What’s next for you? Do you see Romania as a long-term base?
We’d like it to be but we won’t know until Brexit is resolved. Such a shame that Europe has been spoiled for everyone. We’re looking at years of mess and unknowns. For now, we’re going back to Asia, unless we can buy our own place we see no point in standing still in our village, beautiful as it is. We won’t return to the UK or Australia so I really don’t know currently where we’ll end up. We’re happy with our life the way it is.
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All photos copyright of World Travel Family.
As Andrew and I continue to ponder where we’ll go after our Portugal house sit in September, let us know in the comments below what your ideal digital nomad destination is. If you enjoyed this glimpse into life as a remote worker in Romania, we’ll be bringing you more stories from people living in various digital nomad destinations around the world in the coming months.