What I Learned from a Week at the Russian Dacha

By on Aug 19, 2013 | Personal Finance | 8 comments

What I Learned from a Week at the Russian Dacha

Unless you are Russian, know somebody who is, or have been to Russia in the past, you probably don’t know what a Russian dacha is. A dacha can be described as a summer or vacation home, where many Russians go to relax from the stress of the city – although just how enjoyable it is can be disputed by some. Last week I came back from a much overdue visit to Moscow, a week of which I spent at my family’s dacha.

So What is a Russian Dacha?

Everybody’s dacha is different, but most consist of a plot of land, the main house and maybe a couple of smaller buildings. Russian dachas are usually built in remote areas of the country, away from cities and civilization. My family lives in Moscow, where I grew up, and our dacha is about 80 miles away, on the bank of the Oka River.

We have a 2-story house, a smaller building with a traditional Russian banya (a type of steam sauna) and a covered workbench area – all built by my grandfather over the course of 20-some years. As with many dachas, there is electricity, but no indoor plumbing. There is an outhouse instead of a bathroom and one outdoor faucet with cold water. The house and banya are both heated by wood-burning stoves. The local government recently ran a gas pipeline to our area, so we now have a gas stove as well.

Russian Dacha – Workbench and BanyaDaily activities at the dacha usually include some sort of labor. My grandmother has a large garden with a variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers that constantly needs work. If something breaks, you have to fix it using what’s available on hand. Washing dishes and taking a shower are a pain in the butt, since you first need to heat up water. And if you are running low on food – the closest grocery store is about 2 miles away.

During my stay at the dacha, the lack of a cell phone, internet or any other kinds of digital devices left me with a lot of time to think. It was a unique experience that allowed me to live a life very different from my normal routine and to look at things from an entirely different perspective.

Money Isn’t Everything

It may sound cliche, but that was one of the reoccurring themes in my mind. I haven’t seen my family for several years and our happy reunion reminded me that there are more important things in life than my net worth. I frequently write here about building wealth, but what is the point of all this money if you don’t use it to share life’s joys with somebody you love?

I think we all occasionally lose sight of what’s most important and focus too much on the pursuit of riches. If you keep telling yourself that you will have more time to spend with your family or friends after you retire, you may lose a lot of amazing moments in the meantime. The sad truth is that those closest to you may not even be around when you “have more time.”

Besides Basic Necessities, Everything is Frivolous

Russian Dacha - Wood-Burning StoveOn the way to our dacha there is a small village where people live year-round. They live in simple wooden houses, grow most of their own food and I doubt many of them even have a TV in their homes. Are those people less happy than somebody who has an excessively large wardrobe collection, 2 brand new cars and a huge house? I sincerely doubt it.

In fact, once you strip away the materialistic tendencies that are so common in the modern culture, you will see that most of your possessions are meaningless. Take a look at your monthly budget. Is everything on there directly contributing to making you happy or sustaining your basic needs? Do you really need another car loan when your old ride still gets you around just fine?

Learn to Appreciate Nature

Russian Dacha – Picking MushroomsThere is not doubt that we live in the technology age. But there is more to the world than what you see out of your windows or the scenery depicted on your desktop background. For a week, I didn’t have my phone or computer and I didn’t watch any TV (we have one at the dacha, but the reception and channel selection are very poor). But I did spend a lot of time outdoors, saw some gorgeous sights and went mushroom picking.

Afterwards, I felt revitalized, motivated and happy. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, but this experience showed me that it has a noticeable effect on my mood, productivity and happiness level.

Will You Survive in the Post-Apocalyptic World?

Russian Dacha - Cooking ShashlikYou may laugh, but who really knows what the future holds? Living at the Russian dacha has been as close as I have ever got to living in, what I imagine, would be a post-apocalyptic world. No technology, no infrastructure, sometimes not even running water or electricity. It may not sound like your ideal vacation, but we learned to get by and even enjoy ourselves in those conditions.

Jokes aside, how many people who have never lived out in the country will make it if there were no cities to go back to?

You may not have a dacha, but I’m sure there is a place you can occasionally go to get away, relax and re-evaluate your life. You may be surprised at what you discover!

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8 Comments on “What I Learned from a Week at the Russian Dacha”

  1. Amanda L Grossman

    Welcome to the Yakezie Challenge!

    Neat post. I had never even heard of a Russian Dacha before. My family has a hunting/vacation cabin in the poconos and it is for the same purpose. Up on a mountain, away from civilization, and built by our family. Very neat!

    • Anton Ivanov

      Thank you for the welcome! It’s great that you and your family also have a retreat where you can get away and relax!

  2. Simon @ Modest Money

    Huh, prior to reading this I’d never heard of a dacha and gauging by your experience and narration, I think its worth every moment of it. Town life with all its civilized people does get monotonous and once in a while its great to retreat, recharge and gain a new perspective on life.

    And look at the lessons, simply priceless :)

    • Anton Ivanov

      That’s definitely the point of going to a remote place like this. I think people need to retreat now more than ever since we are constantly “plugged in” and bombarded with all kinds of information.

  3. Lyubomyr Ostapiv

    Good post Anton, I included it in my top 3 articles from your blog. I guess it’s because I understand the “Dacha” concept really well :)

    • Anton Ivanov

      Thanks, I really appreciate it!

  4. Keerthika Singaravel

    I’m 100 percent with you. I feel exactly like this when I go to my farms.

    • Anton Ivanov

      I’m glad that you have a place to get away once in a while!

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