Planning A 7 Month Journey
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Planning Travel Is Never Smooth Sailing
When I sat down to begin the process I had some major misconceptions.
Part of what drove me to spend the year abroad was a feeling that I was stuck in my career. I felt tied to it in a way that wouldn’t allow me to have any life outside of it. I wanted to live spontaneously again and I thought this time away would provide that. I am fortunate that my husband also loves to travel, and works from home, so moving around for the year was an option for us.
The Schengen Zone
Once I started looking into things I realized that the trip would have to be planned pretty fully to work within the guidelines that are already set up for travelers. Coming from the US, a traveler can move freely within the Schengen Zone (click for the full explanation) for 90 out of every 180 days. The Schengen is a grouping of 26 countries in Europe that are bound together by a border-free agreement. You can move freely between the countries for 90 days, then you must leave all of those countries for 90 days. As you can imagine this sets up some interesting parameters.
Use a Spreadsheet For Travel Planning
I sat down with a spreadsheet and all the patience I could muster. My husband and I had some other parameters as well. He is working from home during our travels, so he needs to stick within a certain time zone, thus we were confined to Western Europe for the most part. There are no lack of amazing places to see there, but the in and out narrows the possibilities.
The Extended Visa Problem
I looked into applying for visas in several different countries, but each posed a unique problem.
There is no Schengen Visa extension- this would have been ideal, because we didn’t plan to stay in any one country for more than a month- unfortunately, one must apply for a visa to a particular country, to be able to stay in the zone, and each country has a different set of rules and requirements.
After some research, I found that Germany and France would be the easiest to move forward with.
Germany looked like the best option for a while, I started processing the information they needed. Financials, Agreements not to pursue work in Germany, Background checks, but when I got to the health insurance requirement I knew I had hit a dead end. Germany requires that you maintain German Health Insurance to the tune of several hundred dollars a month- this wasn’t going to work for us because we were only planning on being in Germany for one month out of the year.
France seemed like a viable option for a bit until I learned we had to have a French lease agreement for the entire 6-month duration of the visa we were asking for. This wasn’t going to work for us, again because we were only going to be spending one month in France, and paying for a 6-month lease wasn’t an option.
So, it was back to the spreadsheet to figure out how we could make entering and exiting the zone work for us. Once we settled on the first three months inside the zone I had to figure out where to go for the next three months outside the zone. If you have the freedom to bounce around time zones, this wouldn’t be an issue at all, there are so many amazing places in the world. But since we were somewhat constricted it took some work. I did quite a lot of searching travel blogs to see what seemed interesting and viable. You will just have to feel this out for yourself, there are a lot of countries within a short flying distance each with their own set of pros and cons. A few are Croatia, Albania, Ukraine, Turkey, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Morocco, Moldova.
Once I had the locations locked down it was time to find lodging and travel between locations.
Airbnb to the Rescue
I found that Airbnb was the best option for apartments. Craigslist has too many scams and local boards tend to have more unfurnished apartments. I have recently read that some European countries are trying to do away with the service, I really hope that doesn’t happen. Hotel stays for full months are extremely costly and not very homey. When you are traveling for long periods of time and working from home, hotels aren’t an option, in my opinion. I love to cook so I need a kitchen and my own space. Airbnb has all of this.
When using the site here are some tips that I learned through trial and error.
Research is Key
You really have to do a lot of research as to what part of each city you want to stay in. After that is narrowed down, you have to look at tons of listings to see if they have everything you need. Since my husband is working from home, reliable internet is a big one for us. Reading reviews is crucial, which takes quite a bit of time. Once you’ve chosen several places you come to the request phase.
It’s best to contact all of the hosts first, to see if the dates you want are indeed available- some people don’t update their calendars as often as they should. I say this because once you request to book someone’s space, they have 24 hours to get back to you. In this 24 hour period, you cannot request to book another place- even in a different city- you must wait to see if your request has been accepted by the owner. This can cause serious time delays in planning, which can cost you money and the place you want to stay. Once they offer the space to you, you can either accept or reject the offer. We decided to stay in each city for one month, because most listings on the site offer a significant monthly discount, making them a much better value than a hotel.
After securing all of the apartments, it was time to plan the travel between cities.
Planning Travel Between Cities
I found that flying was actually cheaper, faster and easier in most cases than taking a train. Searching google for your departure and destination cities will give you a list of flights, then you can go to the individual airline sites to book.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but when planning your flights and apartments don’t forget you need to plan an overlap day. If you rent an apartment from May 1-31st, you need the next apartment to start May 31st – June. I almost forgot this simple fact and would have been staying in an airport or hotel one day a month.
Planning for 7 months at a time can be a daunting task, but I feel that for us it was the right decision, especially given the restrictions set forth by the Schengen zone. Now the Journey begins, and we’ll see if all of the planning comes through for us. I know that even with all of the time spent things will still not go exactly according to plan, that is just how it goes.