I sort of grew up in one. It was not as bad as the grid completely going down; but it went down lot. We always needed to have plenty of wood cut for our stoves and plenty of candles too, because we didn't have oil and you never knew when the electricity would go out and stay out sometimes for days. But we didn't have computers or electronic gadgets so that didn’t bother us. My mother was quite adept at cooking a meal on a wood stove and we also grew all our own vegetables. My father and grandfather provided meat and fish. My grandmother made bread and my aunt made candles and cheese. My uncle kept bees and we traded honey for eggs with a neighbour. My mother and grandmother even made most of our clothes. But we were always warm and well fed.
We didn't have a car. We used bicycles or trains. The trains were one thing that worked very efficiently so everybody used them. The roads were terrible especially in winter so a car would not have been much use anyway and Russian made cars had a terrible reputation for being unreliable even if you could afford one. The phones regularly went out also and the few TV channels we had were often off air, which didn’t matter to us because there was never anything on them anyway; and on the rare occasions when there was something on that interested us, the chances were that the power would go out half way through anyway.
The country had been without a proper grid of any description for a long time and I suppose it was just normal to flick a switch and find nothing happening. We had few luxuries but I still appreciate it and sometimes think it was better than growing up surrounded by electronic devices and staring into screens.
So when I think about my childhood it is full of good memories. I consider myself to have been very lucky.
But we lived in a small house in a small town in the countryside. Life was more difficult for those who lived in apartments in cities because they depended on the grid a lot more; although I did know one family who grew vegetables and kept hens on the roof of their building.
But I have visited a lot of historical sites across Russia and Western Europe too. I know what you mean by going to a place giving you a better perspective. My home area was overrun by the Nazis during the war. They occupied it for a period and brought their usual reign of brutality, before they were driven out. They had managed to obliterate most of the nearest city of Rostov and murder hundreds of thousands of its residents before they were pushed out though. So I kind of grew up with the history.