This is the way…we travel!

Statue of St. John the Baptist by Giuliano Vangi, Florence

Note: The photos in this article are meant to give an overall impression of our travel…

We are full-time travelers with two large dogs, and one small car. We stay 1-3 months in furnished apartments with free parking. That usually puts us amid people that work in the city and live in the outskirts. We live where they live, walk where they walk, shop where they shop. One of our goals is to get a holistic feel for the city and its people. We love exploring the city we are in on foot in order to get to know it. We aren’t on vacation when you either unwind and do nothing or you’re on a mission to see as many of an area’s sites, and to do as many unique experiences as you can in the time you have. This is our life so we have to try to keep up with a healthy diet, with exercise, and to try to get a good night’s sleep—or else we won’t have the energy to enjoy the hikes, drinks, nightlife & culture. We go out to dinner about the same amount we did in the states: a couple of lunches or cafes a week, a few dinners a month.

We’re not couch-surfing, or backpacking: we can’t just show up to an area and hope they have dog-friendly apartments with free parking. We can’t bail and catch the next flight if we don’t like the area. We have to plan far in advance for border restrictions, for places that have dog-friendly public transportation, for places which offer foreigners health care visits (when we need check-ups), for interesting sights and things to do while we’re there. We also have a lot of diverse interests…we manage to get a ton of accessories packed into that car! (Here’s a list). In a few years, we will have crisscrossed a lot of Europe & the UK, so we keep a running list of places that we wish we’d stayed longer at. We plan on doing this for a long time so if we miss seeing and doing things this time around we don’t sweat it. But we do move around a lot, we’re never in one place long enough to put down roots as you would if you got a local job, met many coworkers, expats, locals, and had time to learn to fully communicate in the local language…it’s slow travel, living for awhile in many different places.

What do we look for in a place?

We look for culturally interesting, historic places that have plenty of things to see and do, where the climate is hospitable and many day trips are possible. Our “want to go” list is extensive. We try to learn the history of a place before we go there as well as communication basics in the local language. Our dogs require two long walks a day, so finding green space is a priority. We keep our eyes open, alert to find unique sights in unexpected places, it’s more important for us to experience each area than it is to see all the sights.

Why 1-3 months?

Although we use many other platforms (Here’s a list of our research and planning resources), Airbnb is the easiest one to find dog-friendly furnished apartments with free parking. It’s by no means the cheapest option, nor is it always straightforward, as some hosts play fast and loose with some of the categories (is it truly free parking, or is it parking on the street where you can find it, or is it only free at nighttime?). In order to get a monthly discount on Airbnb (the discount varies widely with each listing) you must stay a minimum of 28 days, so that sets the minimum time for our long stays. Without a work visa, you must leave the Schengen Area (essentially Western Europe) every 3 months, and you cannot return for another 3 months. That is a simplification of the rules, for more info, go here. So 3 months is our maximum for long stays. Finally, since we are driving we need to allow a week each time we go in and out of the Schengen area, meaning that we have several short term stays interspersed between our long-term stays. See how that worked out in 2022 here.

How do we decide where to go?

The first decision involves temperature and cost. Since we’ve both experienced many winters in Massachusetts, we like to go where it’s warm. Unfortunately most of the drivable Schengen area is very expensive in summer, and most of it is cold in winter. Do we really want to go to London in winter? Amsterdam in July would be awesome, but can we afford to stay for 3 months? (Not this year!). Also, the Schengen area is expanding: Croatia joined last year, and Romania and Bulgaria hope to join this year. Since we want to avoid the war in Ukraine, and political tinderboxes (hello Serbia and Kosovo), and since we are traveling by car, out of Schengen currently means the UK, Ireland, the Balkans, and Turkey.

The second decision is which cities we want to see, and how long we want to/can afford to stay there. We sift through a ton of travel blogs, podcasts, tourist board sites, wiki pages. Look here for our planning resources. Where we end up staying depends a lot on what is available, at the time when we want to go there – and how expensive it is. Compromises are always necessary!

I am at a loss for adjectives…this trip has been unbelievable, and, 18 months in, we’re just getting started!

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