Where did you go in 2022?
Stays are listed in chronological order. We’ve defined long stays as a month or more. Short stays generally lasted from one to four days, usually as we were driving from one long stay to the next.
Portugal / December ’21 – January ’22
Long stay: Lisbon
Short stays: Coimbra, Obidos, Porto, Lagos
Germany / February
Long stay: Hatten (Lower Saxony)
Czech Republic / February
Short stay: Prague
Austria / February
Short stay: Vienna
Croatia / March – May
Long stay: Split / March and April
Long stay: Brna (Korcula Island) / May
Italy / June – July
Short stay: Venice / June
Long stay: Sovicille (Tuscany) / June
Long stay: Mantua / July
France / August
Short stay: Nimes
Spain / August
Long stay: Bizkaia (Basque Country)
United Kingdom / September – November
Short stay: Folkestone (Kent), England
Long stay: Aberdeen, Scotland / September
Long stay: Glasgow, Scotland / October
Long stay: Woodchurch (Kent), England / November
France / November
Short stay: Tours
Spain / December
Short stay: Burgos
Short stay: Seville
Long stay: Agaete (Grand Canary Island)
Total long stays: 11
Total short stays: 12
(And it was STILL cheaper than living in Quincy, MA!!!)
What have you learned while traveling full time this year?
It’s still a work in progress, but I think one of the healthiest things I’ve learned this year is that I need to quit worrying so much about doing things the right way all the time. Out here in the world I’m really just a speck moving along in a sea of many, MANY multitudes of other specks. Which means it doesn’t matter a whit when I screw up the small stuff, like saying the wrong words or getting in the wrong line. These are just silly fears that hold you back. When you’re traveling full time you’re NEVER going to know all the rules because the rules change everywhere you go. If someone yells at you because your dog pees on the curb, you say sorry, notice that other people are carrying squirt bottles of water to dilute their dogs’ pee, and start carrying one yourself. I’m going to make mistakes. When we’re traveling like we are — in a new place every few weeks or every few months — it’s impossible not to. It’s a work in progress, but I like to think I’m learning how to just be, rather than how to be right all the time.
I’ve learned that I’ve totally got this. When we were sitting at home in the U.S., full-time travel appeared to be a mountain of unsolvable, complex problems (especially considering that we were bringing our large dogs), but in reality it isn’t. My previous travel experience was either solo trips where I surfed/stayed in places for a limited time, or it was an exercise in crisis management (as anyone who has traveled with their family knows), where there was never enough time to do everything and also to chill out. In contrast, this *is* our life: we have time to plan, and time to live daily life; if we want a lazy day, we take it. Everyday activities (working, shopping, cooking, walking the dogs) are essentially the same everywhere. Doing those while adapting to different cultures is much easier than I’d expected. This realization has built my confidence in my ability to thrive in unfamiliar environs. Now I look at each new place as presenting incredible learning opportunities (language, history, culture, exploration), with explosive growth opportunities. I absolutely love this life and want to continue doing this as long as we are able.
I’ve also learned that having a flexible and growth-inducing relationship is a must: we do/read/see/process things differently and that improves our combined experience. We are complementary. We encourage each other in ways that make us each better. I can easily imagine relationships that aren’t built for this kind of travel and am very thankful to be on this journey with Sarah & Turbo — something I would have never fully appreciated until I was in this situation.
On the downside: full time travel makes it very difficult to maintain daily routines (exercise, diet, etc.). Maybe there’s no yoga studio, gym, pool, or area to run where we’re staying; maybe there’s no space in the apartment to exercise. It requires a very flexible mindset to be able to get back on track again and again, when you have the chance.
What was your favorite (and least favorite) stay, and why?
Favorite stay – Split, Croatia
I loved our cozy cave in Split’s Varos neighborhood, just to the east of Diocletian’s Palace and tucked under Marjam Park. It was the perfect location and the perfect two-month home. I loved the time of year we were there — we arrived in early spring and while it was still cold, it wasn’t unbearable. And even though many places hadn’t yet opened up for the season, there were still plenty of restaurants and other places to go to. It was lovely to witness the weather turning warmer, more restaurants opening, boat tours beginning to go out, and we even had a chance to swim! And, importantly, we left before the city was overrun with cruise ship tourists. I also enjoyed getting to meet and make friends with a few other expats/digital nomads. Laura from the U.S. (the girl who loves Spain), Maja from Poland (the party girl), Eva and Herman from Germany (the couple with all the dogs and the pool business). Going out to group events where I don’t know anyone is never something I particularly enjoy, but I do like having friends and I’m really glad we found some in Split.
Favorite stay – Split, Croatia
For a long-term stay, I agree with Sarah about Split for all the reasons above. Split also had great local restaurants, unbelievably cool day trips, museums, ruins, castles, viewpoints, the Adriatic sea, a public swimming pool, hiking, and fun, outgoing people that we met and became friends with. Our AirBnb was incredibly cozy and cute and in an historic old neighborhood with narrow winding walkways. Marjam park provided the best dog walking (and stair-climbing exercise) that we had all year.
For short-term stays (less than one month), my favorite is a toss-up between Nimes, France (so many awesome accessible Roman ruins!), and Prague, Czech Republic (we had such a fun time going out and I loved the gothic architecture, the views, the people, and the cheap delicious beer!).
Least favorite stay – Bizkaia
John was back in the States for a week during this stay, which definitely figures into the reason for it being one of my least favorites. But that aside, I think I disliked Bizkaia because it felt so inaccessible to me. Our apartment was fine from a purely utilitarian standpoint, but I hated hitting my head on the sloped ceilings all the time, the bed was too small, there was no air conditioning (and it was HOT!), and it was on a heavily trafficked main road so we always had road noise. We did find a couple decent dog-walking routes through town, but there was no town square and no feeling of community at all. There was also nowhere that I really wanted to go and explore. The hills were gorgeous and the ocean was beautiful, but getting from our place to any other place was scary! The driving felt very difficult with extremely small roads hairpinning around mountains and through towns. And this is even after getting a hefty dose of the same on Korcula island in Croatia and in Tuscany.
Least favorite long-term stay – Brna, Korcula island, Croatia
There was nothing to do and even in May it felt like the off-season. We had nowhere to walk the dogs safely; if we left the road the dogs ended up covered in ticks. We got strange looks everywhere. It was a lovely little harbor, but it never felt comfortable. We did however have one of our most memorable experiences there (see my answer to question 3, below).
My least favorite short-term stay: Vienna, because it struck me as way over-rated, disneyland-ishly curated, and heavily touristed. I’m not a big fan of baroque architecture. It also seemed ultra unfriendly, with people that do not hesitate to make derisive comments publicly if they think you are doing anything incorrectly. Our apartment felt like a college dorm in a bland suburb.
Least favorite AirBnb: the ground floor apartment that we had during the historic heatwave in Nimes, France. It was brutally hot and that place had no airflow… Windows that open at street level and us needing to wear no clothes due to the sweltering heat was a bad combo. Also the place was very dirty. To boot: they gave us a bad review because they said we left the apartment dirty! What a shithole.
What were your top 3 experiences?
1. Ziplining near Split. We took a day trip to the Cetina river in Omis and had the most awesome zipline experience mountain to mountain over the river, followed by a walk up to a castle ruin and a dinner right on the Adriatic. We saw dolphins from the restaurant, a magical day!
2. Dinner with Mladin in Brna. The owner of our Brna apartment cooked us a fish dinner at his house, and drove us around the harbor for drinks afterward. He knew everyone and was fun and funny to talk to. He was in his late 70’s (a guess), had a limp, probably fought in the “homeland war” in the 90’s, and had traveled extensively as a merchant mariner. He served local fish and wine that he and his brother made from grapes on his land (in a plastic coke bottle). It was a completely local experience with a colorful character!
3. Obidos castle, Portugal at night. We got there at sunset. You can climb the walls and there are no railings! There was a bookstore built into a former church! We were essentially all alone on the entire castle walls. We ended up walking through a small unlighted path that led off the castle walls down to a swinging bench overlooking the lights of the city – outstanding!
1. Walking two days on the West Highland Way in Scotland! Doing the entire West Highland Way has been on my bucket list for years and years but I didn’t think we could do it this trip because Turbo is too old and his arthritic knees have gotten pretty bad. But John figured out a way for us to get two full days of walking in (14 miles and 8 miles, quite a bit of it in the rain) with an overnight stay to dry out (and drink whisky) in a campground hut. It was GLORIOUS!
2. Walking the dogs near Kastel Novi outside of Split with Maja and Eva and the BBQ at Eva’s house with the Germans (FYI, boiled sausage vs fried sausage is a very important debate, but everyone can agree that weissewurst and weissebeir belong at any self-respecting Bavarian’s BBQ).
3. For all the reasons John mentioned above, BBQ and drinking with Mladin in Brna also hits my top three. Followed perhaps by one of my personal worst days – the day-after hangover (and the ignominy of Mladin dropping my phone off the next morning because I’d left it in his car. Head hanging in shame.)
Honorable mentions: Walking to Dunnottar Castle outside of Aberdeen, Scotland; Seeing all the cool venues and listening to kickass local bands at Glasgow’s Tenement Trail music festival; and ziplining in Omis. Also, I have an inexplicable affinity for those Guinea hens in Woodchurch! 🙂
What would you do differently?
If we had a do-over, I’d look at staying in individual locations a bit longer. I loved seeing as much as we saw last year (it’s hard to believe we were in so many places in one year!), but I think staying longer might make each stay even more enjoyable. We likely wouldn’t feel as rushed to complete all the items pinned on the map and I think we’d feel more grounded if we had more time to settle into our daily routines and more time to take regular breaks. It’s also really nice to see how a place changes over time.
And while going out is fun, and trying new drinks is fun — and hey, drinking in general is fun, I would opt to kill those nights when we went out and got completely tanked. John and I get along unbelievably well — which is kind of miraculous actually when you think about the stressors that constant travel and living in someone’s hip pocket can bring on. When we did fight, it almost always seemed to be because we were either too drunk or too tired. Both can be changed. We’re planning on cutting back the alcohol and to combat being too tired, driving fewer hours each day when we travel between destinations. Hopefully that’ll do the trick!
I agree with Sarah: if a place isn’t worth staying longer in, don’t go there.
If you could re-do a stay, which one would it be, what would you do differently, and why?
Bizkaia, Spain. There are so many wonderful parts of Spain, and while Bizkaia is naturally beautiful, it looks more Bavarian than Spanish. I’d either stay in San Sebastian or go further inland (Burgos). I wanted to show Sarah Spain since I’d spent eight months in Madrid many years back, but I kept saying, “this is lovely scenery, but it’s nothing like the Spain I remember.”
I’d redo our stay in Germany, and get an AirBnB instead of staying with my brother and his family for that month. I love them to death, loved seeing them, AND loved staying with them, but in hindsight it probably would have been better if we’d had our own space. Especially for that long a time and with the two big dogs in tow. We all had so many things we were trying to do during that time — they were moving (!), we were buying a car, my brother’s wife had just started a new job, etc, etc. And it was raining the whole time (which is never good for my mood). They were so gracious, welcoming, and helpful, and we so appreciate being able to stay with them. Not to mention they sure do throw one kick-ass birthday breakfast!! But what is that old adage? Ah yes, ‘Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.’ Sorry we were so stinky, Doug & Kathi!
What surprised you the most?
It’s petty, but I’ve been surprised at the general lack of variety in vegetables offered throughout Europe in grocery stores and how quickly several packaged items — like fresh spinach — turn bad within two days in the refrigerator even though they’ve been pre-washed. We are very lucky to have the variety of choices in fresh produce at our U.S. supermarkets!
LOL, I went in a different direction on this one than John. I was most surprised by how much I liked Croatia. I was worried because the war and tensions between the local groups was not that long ago. You could sense it a little when we were in Brna (suspicion of the local people), but that was the only sign of how bad things were. I was also a bit worried because Croatia was, gasp, eastern Europe. Not as well-traveled or as well-known as western Europe. What was it going to be like? Were the roads going to be OK? Would we find things we wanted to eat? Could we flush the toilet paper?
Yeah, I know that these are all stupid questions based on ignorance and probably more than a touch of general western arrogance. I’m an idiot, but I’m getting better. I loved Croatia — it ended up being one of my favorite stays of the year. Not only did I adore where we stayed in Split, but I loved 90% of the other places we explored including Trogir, Šibenik, Omis, the Kaštels, Solin, Klis, Brač. I wasn’t a huge fan of Dubrovnik, but probably would have loved it had we been there 10 years earlier before Game of Thrones mania had set in. Same with Krka National Park; it was stunning, but over-touristed (and we shouldn’t have hit it on a national holiday).
Which place would you be most likely (and least likely) to re-visit?
Most likely for an exact revisit — Split. Most likely for a same-country revisit — Scotland (Aberdeen was fantastic, but I’d also like to explore Edinburgh and maybe take a camper/campervan trip through the Highlands and Islands).
Least likely for an exact revisit — Bizkaia. But that might have been based on the apartment and location of the apartment. I can see the potential of going back to the region (Basque Country) if we tried Pamplona, Bayonne (France), or San Sebastian instead. Least likely for a same-region revisit — Tuscany. I loved it, but we covered it pretty extensively and I’m not sure that we’d get much more out of a repeat trip.
I’d go back to Aberdeen and Split, but not Woodchurch (small roads with crazy fast drivers!), Brna, or Vienna.
What are the hardest (and easiest) things about full-time travel?
The hardest thing is to keep up your personal routines, including healthy eating; the easiest thing has been adapting to different cultures.
For me, the hardest thing is the driving. I like driving, but these tiny little roads with zipping traffic and sheer drop-offs are hair-raising for both driver and passenger. I knew John would say the hardest thing is keeping up our routines, which is also true, but it’s something we have control of … whereas we have no control over the roadways.
Easiest: Living with John and our dogs 🙂 They are my home wherever we are and being a unit with them is the easiest thing in the world. Miraculously and almost unbelievably, we just fit. Square pegs, square holes.
Looking forward, what would you like to see / do / accomplish / experience in 2023?
I’m really looking forward to our stays in Romania and Bulgaria, and also our stay in Greece at the end of the year. (And we just this morning talked about doing a campervan through Scandinavia this summer – whoop whoop!!). This year I’d like to plan the ultimate Camino de Santiago so that we can do it in either 2024 or 2025; the planning will involve a lot of moving pieces as we’ll likely need to adjust our in-Schengen months so that we can be in Spain in the spring (we’re currently on a winter/summer in-Schengen schedule). I also want to learn any single language well enough to have a simple conversation with a local — I just need to figure out which language!
I’d like to learn another language, live on a boat in a canal in Scandinavia, go out on a whale watch, and try to expand my horizons with countries I am not familiar with, like the western Balkans, Turkey, and Morocco.
What are the best (and worst) aspects of full-time travel with dogs?
Best: fantastic, loving companionship, getting you outdoors to walk them twice daily, hiking, taking care of them, meeting people that have dogs and are out walking too.
Worst: having a pet limits how long you can do a day trip. We would have gone to some fun events in Scotland (Highland Games) and in Italy (small town summer festivals) but that required 2 hour each way drives we needed to be back in time to take the dogs out. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, though. Having the dogs means that we are always home, not on a vacation. We are all at home on the road.
John touched on this one in his answer. For me, the best thing about full-time travel with dogs is the best part of having a dog regardless of where you live or what you do — having to walk a dog several times a day forces you to get outside your apartment and get to know the area where you live on foot. You notice so much more that way. And being out and about with a dog makes it easier to talk to people, whether they have dogs or not. Dogs are an icebreaker.
The worst part is that … I can’t really think of a worst part!! Maybe that where we go has to be dog-friendly? For example, we’re feeling a little hesitant about Morocco because we’ve heard that the Moroccan people might not like dogs all that much (we’ll probably go anyway, so we’ll report back). Also, we may miss out on some really spectacular AirBnBs because dogs aren’t allowed. But hey, if you don’t look at the listings that don’t accept pets, you won’t know what you’re missing 🙂
Any advice you’d give to someone considering full-time travel?
It’s easier to do than you think it is! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to travel like this. In my head, I didn’t call it “full-time travel”, but I always told people one of my life goals was to “live somewhere outside the U.S. long enough to know what it’s like to live there”. Yet there was always a reason why I couldn’t: I had dogs, I had credit card debt, I needed a steady job with a steady paycheck. I should have looked at it harder — there are ways to travel full time even with all those caveats. Then again, if I’d looked at it harder and done it earlier, I would have likely never met John and we wouldn’t now be living the best lives ever 🙂
Like Sarah said, just do it: it’s a lot easier than you’d expect. Everything is solvable, and if you wait too long (for enough money, time, or until everything is perfect), you will miss your chance. It’s worth noting that if you are in a relationship, being thrown together on the road in foreign countries will stress test it; it’s important to have a loving, supportive, and flexible partner with whom you don’t need much personal space or physical distance. Finally, most of the places we’ve been to are not well adapted for the mobility-challenged: I’m glad we are in shape and we exercise often, and I’m especially glad that we can do this trip when we are still relatively young and healthy.
What’s the best thing you left home with and the best thing you picked up on the road? What, if anything, did you dump during your first year?
Best thing I left home with (3 way tie): my laptop has proved invaluable for work and entertainment (used daily); my waterproof day-pack is essential for hiking; and I’m glad to have a good quality yoga mat for daily exercise in tight spaces.
Picked up on the road: the car. It makes travel with large dogs much easier. Otherwise, I really haven’t picked up anything (there’s no more room in the car!).
Things I’ve dumped: almost all my nice clothes – we like to dress casually and, with the exception of the opera in Vienna and the Hamilton show in London, we don’t go anywhere that requires formal clothes. In contrast, having hiking clothes and multi-use clothes has been essential.
Best things I left home with: my boyfriend and our dogs ❤️(hahaha – John usually claims he’s a sap but I think I just beat him!). Practically, though, my laptop stand and mobile keyboard, a backpack instead of a suitcase, the wifi speaker.
Best things I picked up on the road: my snood (it’s so practical – now that I have one I’ll never go without!), our blender (green shakes for the win), and the car, without a doubt.
Things I dumped after one year: the ethernet cable and the mobile wifi router. I’m about to dump my extra laptop monitor. I guess I was expecting that we’d have tech hurdles to jump through.
What do you miss the most (and the least) about the U.S. (excluding your friends and family)?
The few things I miss the most are: being able to buy specific brands of things you know you like (i.e. Fortify probiotics, NYDJ jeans, ripskirts) and knowing where everything you need is (i.e. you get shoes at DSW, hiking boots at REI). Perhaps I should call this “the ease of the U.S. shopping culture.” Also in terms of shopping, I really miss grocery stores with great fresh produce sections and lots of options on the shelves throughout the stores. I never realized how fortunate we are in the States to be able to buy pretty much anything we have a hankering for. It’s definitely not the same here.
Pulling a completely different thread, I also miss camping and campfires. Camping here isn’t the same — we haven’t yet seen a campground that isn’t more-or-less a bumper to bumper parking lot. Nothing like the big spaces we have in wild places. Even smaller state parks in the U.S. have space to park and space to set up camp including individual fire pits. Plus, of course, we don’t have our equipment.
Maybe surprisingly, I don’t really miss 99% of my stuff at all. And what I do miss is pretty silly (my gray VS sweatpants and my Pearl Harbor sweatshirt — they fit great, looked decent, and were totally comfy). Related in a way, I don’t miss the “gotta have it” culture and all the marketing that goes along with it. I was such a sucker for buying things because they were on sale (it’s a bargain! I might not be able to get it at such a great price ever again! I’m talking about you, Roomba via Prime Day). But that might just be a “me problem” 😁. Comparatively, I’ve bought very little this year, and what I have bought has been because it filled a need, not a want. And it has to be something I’ll use frequently, preferably in multiple ways.
Things I miss the most: the ease of going to a hot yoga class. The ability to maintain and grow through routines (piano lessons, running, the gym, etc.)… something that’s very hard to accomplish when on the road, especially in countries where you don’t speak the language. If we were on a vacation I’d know I could suspend those routines for the short duration of the trip, but since travel is our life I’ve had to find a way to incorporate those good habits wherever we can fit them in, and to scale down my expectations.
Some foods: Steak. Everywhere except Germany and the UK have things that look like steak, but they sure don’t taste like it. Europe, I’m sorry: prosciutto isn’t bacon. Finally, what’s wrong with fresh milk? Ultra pasteurized milk may last on the shelf for months but it has no flavor.
Things I miss the least: big box stores, having to drive every day to get anywhere, and the boring nature of many choices in the U.S. (Shall we go to Applebees, Cheesecake Factory, or Outback? Dunkin’ or Starbucks? Shaws, Market Basket, or Stop n’ Shop?). I love how all those choices are now unique to every place we go, so every decision feels new and exciting. Nothing is stale, boring, or monotonous. I love that!
What was the best (and worst) food compared to your expectations?
Best food: Tuscany, Italy and it wasn’t close. Their charcuterie, cheeses, pasta, and bread win hands down. After eating in Portugal, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and Croatia we were pleasantly surprised — Italians know how to do food! That said, however, the *best* pizza was in Split! I don’t know what they do with the dough at Bokamorra Pizzaria, but both Sarah and I thought their pizza was the best we’d ever had! And (ahem): we have extensive pizza-eating experience…
Worst food: Portugal. I was probably set up for failure by blogs of excited foodies lauding Portuguese cuisine, but the worst soup of the year, the worst Bacalao (salted, dried cod), and the worst vegetables were all in Portugal. We didn’t splurge to eat at really fancy or super expensive restaurants as we always try to go to local, traditional places, but still …
Bonus answer: Best and cheapest wine: Portugal, Spain and Croatia (tie). In all three you can buy a good tasting red wine for 4 Euros ($4.25). Try to do that in the U.S., UK, France, or Italy! Italy in particular had no correlation between price and quality.
I don’t really think about food all that much when traveling, except for wanting to try the popular local dishes (especially the ones we don’t really eat in the states). But I guess I’d have expected the food to be the best in Italy and France and the worst in the UK and Germany.
Expectations for best food mostly holds true — as John said the food in Tuscany was phenomenal and while we only spent a few days in France, what we ate there was outstanding. But the pizza in Split?!? Wowzers!!
I also agree with John on the worst food: Lisbon. Portuguese food was not special / bordering on not good. They do, however, make a fine bottle of Vinho Verde (green wine). Unlike my expectations, food in the UK was excellent and Germany pretty good (we didn’t go out much in Germany). I also in general really like little sandwiches (I loved the ones in Venice — cicchetti — even though John didn’t like them), but the little sandwiches (pintxos) we had in Bizkaia were nothing to write home about. The wine in Bizkaia (Txakoli) was delicious though!
Thank you both for sharing your 2022 travel experiences. I miss seeing you in class John, but it is great to see you so happy! Cheers to many more adventures!
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Thank you Karen! Miss you too. Nothing we’ve done yet has beaten HPY!!! All the best to you and your family, John
I really enjoyed this post! It made me envious but your writing is so informative. My husband and I have been married for almost 33 years now and we actually do well living together in small spaces (3 months living in a camper this summer proved that) and we have yet to visit Europe. I hope we don’t put it off too much longer. I look forward to reading more of your adventures 🙂
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Thanks Rhonda! We also did a three-month camper trip (winter 2021) – we didn’t know it then but it was a GREAT test for traveling fulltime. We’ve even thinking about trying to recreate it a bit with a camper (or campervan, or maybe just hipcamp) in Scandinavia this summer. I hope you guys do get to Europe – it’s pretty amazing 🙂
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Wow, what a journey! I’m genuinely happy to see you both having a great time and adventure. Best of luck in your travels this year