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Russia: solitude in Siberia

In search of the simple life, Sylvain Tesson spent six months living in a remote hut on the shore of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, on a retreat that reveals much about our need for escape

I stayed at Lake Baikal for the first time in 2003. Walking along the shore, I discovered cabins at regular intervals, inhabited by strangely happy recluses. Five years later I chanced to spend three days with a ranger in a tiny izba, a traditional Russian log cabin, on the eastern shore of the lake. At night we sipped vodka and played chess; during the day I helped him haul in his fishing nets. We hardly spoke, but we read a lot. That was when I promised myself I would live alone in a cabin for a few months before I turned 40.

So, two years ago, I left my home in Paris and spent six months in a little hut on the Lake’s western shore, very far from civilisation: it was six days’ walk to the nearest village, a day from the nearest neighbour, and there were no access roads.

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Happiness is… escaping to a cabin in Siberia – video

After 20 years of journeying around the world, travel writer Sylvain Tesson decided he wanted to stay put and fulfil his dream of “living as a hermit.” Not one to do things by halves, he spent six months alone in a cabin on the edge of Lake Baikal in Siberia, 75 miles from the nearest village. He took books, cigars and vodka – and discovered space, silence, and solitude

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