Since Allison and I got married, we’ve spoken with friends and family about our travel plans. A lot of this has been quite dynamic, with lots of factors having to come into alignment. For many years, she and I have both wanted to spend time living abroad. Not just vacationing, but truly living and “sampling” different places. Even if it’s only for a few months at a time.
Well, we’ve finally moved out of the day-dreaming phase and into the execution phase of our planning. We’re starting in Greece, via Italy.
And yes. We’re excited.
How it came about.
We’ve probably caused plenty of confusion in our circles, with talks of first moving to Cape Town, South Africa, then making our way through Zambia and Rwanda. She has a deep connection with some of those countries and the people there.** I, too, have always felt drawn there (in fact, I was researching apartments in Kenya and Ghana back in 2005—never dared to pull the trigger). But with more thoughtful planning, we determined that moving to Africa might be a longer-term commitment. Maybe we should start with other areas where we want to live that are more accessible; we’ve both wanted to experience life in and around the Mediterranean.
I wrote about my solo wanderings/motorbike-walkabout in Morocco back in 2012. On that trip, I spent precious little time in Madrid. I knew I wanted to go back and see more of Spain—specifically southern Spain. Allison, too, has wanted to live in the Andalucia region.
So we thought maybe Granada should be first. Maybe 3-6 months. From there, I would introduce Allison to some of the cities and spaces in Morocco that meant so much to me, then work our way around the north rim of the Mediterranean, stopping to soak up Italy for a bit before settling in Athens, Greece (where we have a lovely friend who has invited us to stay with her) for another 3 months or so. Utah would be our home base, where we would return for a time and gather our finances and resources before going to do the same sort of thing in Africa. We’re trying to do all of this on a limited budget, and in such a way as to allow us to work our web-media studio (VagabondOriginal.com) from the road.
Then reality hit: Visas.
All of this time, we thought our U.S. passports are good for 90 days in any of those countries. This is true. But there’s a catch.
Short version: The Schengen Area is the area comprising 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their common borders . . . . It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy.
Traveling on a U.S. Passport, you can only travel anywhere within this entire region for 90 days out of any 180 consecutive days.
Meaning that after 90 days we have to leave the region for at least another 90 days. You can apply for a permit that does allow travelers to stay in the region up to a year, but the application process doesn’t work within our immediate time frame, goals, etc.
Well, pair all of this with other factors like budget considerations, being able to work from the road, the hot season and all the tourists . . . plus we’re flying stand-by when we can, and there are seasonal limitations affecting when we can fly from certain airports . . . BUT then add the extraordinarily pleasant surprise of our Greek accommodations opening up for us sooner than we thought . . .
And it became clear.
Let’s make this simple.
- Greece for 3-ish months
- Travel by way of Italy, spending 8 days there on the way to Athens
- Soak up springtime in Greece
- Practice living/packing minimally
- Maybe some weekend trips to neighboring countries?
- Come home to Utah, work on applying for the Schengen permit (allowing us to stay up to a year in the region)
- Work toward our next adventure
So it’s official. Tickets are booked. We leave for Rome in March, just after my birthday.
And yes. There will probably be a motorcycle involved.
**some of you will remember that Allison has traveled to 10 different countries in Africa on 6 different occasions in her outreach work. I think she left a part of herself there. I didn’t know her before, but I know her work there changed her forever. She needs to go back, and I can’t wait to go with her.
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