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Is it possible to stay 6 months in Europe?

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I have researched and researched and can seriously not get a straight answer. We've talked to consulates even. I understand the Schengen agreement fully. But we were hoping to stay for 6 months. We won't be working or students. And getting an extension seems impossible. But what confuses me is that I know of many people (not personally but it seems like everyone knows a friend) who over the last 5 years have travelled Europe for 9 months or a year. I've read blogs of people doing it. So it seems like it's possible. Is it because they are just risking it? Is there a way we haven't figured out yet? Do they actually check passports?

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