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keyesmm Mar 21st, 2021 07:30 PM

Where to go for a year in Europe
My husband and I are in the initial stages of planning a year in Europe with our four year old twins (who will be five by the time we leave). We both work remotely, so this isn't a year of backpacking or pure leisure travel. Our hope is to spend one month at a time in each location, not moving around but staying at one base for the month. To comply with Schengen requirements, our intention is to spend three months in Schengen countries, three or four months in the UK, three months in Schengen countries, and the remaining two to three months in the UK again.
My question for anyone willing to weigh in: if you were choosing six locations in continental Europe, what places would you choose for home bases?

dreamon Mar 21st, 2021 07:45 PM

Can you set some parameters about what sort of places might appeal? Otherwise there are many thousands of options. Do you want larger cities, small villages, warm climate, cool climate, is cost of living a priority, will you have a car, etc, etc? Your question is too broad and there are too many possible answers.

keyesmm Mar 21st, 2021 08:35 PM

Climatewise, we are hoping to keep our experience fairly mild, so winter months in warmer locations, summer months in somewhat cooler locations. We come from a state where it snows a lot of the year (or at least it feels like a lot of the year...), so we are looking for a difference winter experience, especially.
As far as larger cities vs small villages, something inbetween probably works best, or if it's a small village, at least having a bigger city accessible. We will have young kids to keep entertained, after all.
We will either rent a car or pay for public transportation, depending on what makes sense for each location. I know that's not terribly helpful, but we are flexible at this point of planning. In whatever bases we choose, we would like to be able to visit nearby attractions without having to stay anywhere overnight more than once in any given month.
We are flexible on cost of living, but it would be great to balance out a location with a higher cost of living with something more moderate.
I appreciate you taking the time to answer! I know it's not a ton of information for people to go off of, but I'm grateful for even off-the-cuff answers given the very open question.

Tulips Mar 21st, 2021 10:38 PM

That sounds fantastic!
If you want to include The Netherlands, for summer it would be great to be in or near Haarlem. Bloemendaal is particularly nice. The beach is nearby, easy cycling, and a short train ride away from Amsterdam. Or go for a smaller city (Den Bosch?).
For Belgium, look at the leafy suburbs near Antwerp or Gent. Or if you want to be in town, the art-nouveau district of Berchem (Antwerp) is nice and near the station.
I would also look at Sweden for summer; or in June, with midsummer.
And Ireland, also non-Schengen.

Traveler_Nick Mar 21st, 2021 11:41 PM

Originally Posted by keyesmm (Post 17224781)
We both work remotely, so this isn't a year of backpacking or pure leisure travel. Our hope is to spend one month at a time in each location, not moving around but staying at one base for the month. To comply with Schengen requirements,

Many rentals may not have high speed internet connections. Assuming that's something that matters you'll need to prioritize that. Smaller towns are usually worse for this.

Many warmer countries don't tend to have great winter heating systems. Especially in tourist rentals. With kids make sure whatever place you rent has a good winter setup. Don't rely on the landlord. Try and find winter reviews. Likewise some northern cool weather countries may not have the sort of cooling you're used to. Bigger cities tend be more year round destinations but some beach or ski towns there is no point in the landlord worrying about off season heating or cooling.

Technically the three month tourist Schengen rules don't allow any sort of work. Something to keep in mind.

bilboburgler Mar 22nd, 2021 01:50 AM

Winter in the Canaries, Spring in Cornwall, Summer in France or Italy, Autumn in London/Kent

dreamon Mar 22nd, 2021 02:46 AM

There are a thousand (or more) possibilities but larger places that I've visited that would appeal most to me would be: Seville (in the cooler months); Amsterdam or Utrecht (in the spring); Nice (beach was not toddler friendly though, if that's important); Lucca (autumn); Bologna (not in summer); somewhere in Alsace (in December); Ljubljana; Split; Ioannina (spring). But there are many, many others that I could easily spend a month in, and even more that I've yet to visit. Pretty envious really. Hope you can make the visas swing. It won't be cheap but I guess you know that already. In the end, you have to take people's suggestions and decide which ones appeal - everyone has different tastes, different interests and different memories of places so don't be too swayed by other people's wish lists. You have to have some sort of criteria against which to decide, including how far you want to travel from place to place. If you want to learn more about the countries you visit, then you could perhaps have, say, three months in Spain (or whichever country) in three different locations. I'd love that. I am so busting for a holiday!

Kandace_York Mar 22nd, 2021 05:26 AM

I don't have serious input but just wanted to say, what an opportunity!

keyesmm Mar 22nd, 2021 05:43 AM

Thank you for bringing these points up—definitely factors I want to consider when looking for accommodations and deciding on locations.
As for the tourist visa, I've been trying to find the wording of the agreement, but so far haven't been successful. Do you know where I could find it? Or how strict they are on this? I thought the agreement allowed for temporary tourist or business travel. I'm an author, so I can work from anywhere, and since I write historical fiction, a lot of what we will be seeing and doing is sort of casual research.

geetika Mar 22nd, 2021 07:36 AM

That’s a terrific opportunity, I’d love to spend a year moving around in Europe!

I second the suggestion of southern Spain in winter, either Sevilla or Marbella. Next maybe move up to the Barcelona area for early spring, then into Languedoc/Provence. Summer in the UK, lots of options there, you could spend a month in a few different locations.

Then back to the Schengen countries, maybe Belgium/Holland, Alsace and then move down to Italy for the fall.

As mentioned above you’ll need high speed internet, so you will necessarily have to be in a larger town or metropolitan area. Rural locations, while idyllic, probably won’t have good connectivity.

Another option is getting a wifi router. A few years back a severe summer storm knocked out the wifi in the village where we were renting in Bourgogne. We absolutely needed wifi as my niece was taking online classes that summer, DH too had to be in regular touch with his office. So we rented a couple of wifi routers and they worked perfectly, not particularly expensive either.

No idea about the exact Schegen regulations, you may want to contact one of the embassies for specific information. But if you’re an author, that isn’t really like you’re employed with a regular organization, so maybe it won’t count as ‘working’.

Traveler_Nick Mar 22nd, 2021 07:57 AM

Originally Posted by keyesmm (Post 17224857)
I'm an author, so I can work from anywhere, and since I write historical fiction, a lot of what we will be seeing and doing is sort of casual research.

I'm sure that would be fine but I wouldn't say you're working when you fly in.

Tulips Mar 22nd, 2021 10:10 AM

Originally Posted by Traveler_Nick (Post 17224922)
I'm sure that would be fine but I wouldn't say you're working when you fly in.

Agree with that; if you're going to ask a consulate if that is OK, they'll have to make a decision. People traveling and writing, I wouldn't declare that as working - even though it is. Easier to say you're on a sabbatical.

I don't know if you really have to be in a metropolitan area to get good internet. Certainly in the Netherlands and in Flanders, where I live, rural areas have internet that is just as good. You'd want to be close to shops and other facilities anyway.

nonconformist2 Mar 22nd, 2021 10:52 AM

Technically speaking remote working isn't allowed anywhere on a tourist visa/visa free travel. I wouldn't count writing a novel as work though.

Christina Mar 22nd, 2021 11:06 AM

Yes, I was going to say you aren't allowed to work.

Writing a novel isn't really work unless maybe you have a signed contract, I suppose, for the book. It sounds like you actually have a published and have actually sold something, though, not just wishful thinking or a vanity press, I presume.

So that probably is working if you have a contract with a real publisher, not just a vanity press, but authors might be exempt as they aren't really taking work away from locals. I don't know.

janisj Mar 22nd, 2021 11:33 AM

Writing you could probably get away with since you aren't being paid (other than advances) before publication. But it sounds like maybe your DH is employed and works remotely. Working/earning a salary is not allowed when visiting most countries. The time allowed (six months in the UK/90 days in 180 in Schengen) is just the maximum. No one is ever guaranteed those times. It is up to the Border agent when you arrive to grant admittance. I travel to the UK frequently and the Continent every few years - I even had one instance where I was allowed two days in the UK. During my entrance interview when I mentioned I was staying in a specific London hotel, he asked where I was going from there and I said "Eurostar to Belgium in a couple of days" . . . and he stamped in my passport "Leave to enter for forty-eight-hours" even though almost all other stamps say 6 months (even when I was traveling on to Paris or Italy or wherever after a few days in the UK. )

So they can allow any length of stay up to the maximum - it isn't automatically 6 months/90 days. They'll ask how long are you staying - if its 6 months (or the Schengen 90 days) they'll likely ask how you plan on supporting yourselves for 6 months - if work is mentioned the interview could go down a path you don't want.

rialtogrl Mar 22nd, 2021 12:33 PM

You do not need a visa unless you want to stay longer than the allowed days. Do not call the consulate to ask them anything. Just do not overstay and you will be fine. There are a gazillion digital nomads living in Europe these days.

Consider Venice for one month as it would be really unique for the kids. Tarragona one hour south of Barcelona, or Barcelona itself would be fab and has good weather in shoulder seasons. Split, mentioned above is a great recommendation, from there you can visit islands and other places on the Dalmatian coast. Also Croatia is not yet in Schengen so does not count against your Schengen time.

KayF Mar 22nd, 2021 03:41 PM

If you find the year-long idea too difficult for some reason, you could always go for 3 or 6 months. Either way it would be a wonderful memory for your family. I'd also consider some of the practicalities, especially with two children. Try to travel over to Europe with as little as possible. Just take enough to get by and try not to accumulate too much as you go.

One of the issues you'll have is getting the four of you, plus all your stuff to the next destination. Even with a car it will be hard and flying will be difficult with a lot of luggage. We lived overseas (in the UK) for about 5 years and it was actually quite freeing to have very little but I can understand with kids it might be different. We tried hard not to accumulate things but still ended up shipping stuff home. We left home originally with a suitcase each. It's easy to buy basic kitchen/bathroom/bedroom things once you arrive plus it can be fun.

I'd be very careful of the visa/work rules, it would be awful to get turned around and have your trip ruined. I know in the UK they are very strict, best to answer immigration control questions briefly and truthfully. I'd include Greece and maybe somewhere like Czech Republic, Slovenia or Hungary for something different.

travel_tea Mar 22nd, 2021 04:53 PM

We travelled in Europe extensively with our twins, who were 8 the first time they went and, 11 the second time, and we spent several months there when there were 14 years old.
One suggestion I would make is that if you have any friends/ family in Europe, it would be good to be in some kind of proximity to them for part of the time. It was a great adventure, but it was even better when we stayed near friends in Germany and saw family in a few other places.

These are places I would consider spending an extended period of time in Europe: I have spent extended periods (2 weeks- 3 months) in these places, all of which were carefully chosen based on culture, size, ease of travel to other places, and quality of life.

Lucca, Italy (fall or spring)
Naxos, Greece (September is a great time to be here, many things close in Oct. & very busy in the summer)
Seville, Spain (NOT in the summer or early fall - too hot; we spent October here and it was nice)
Wengen, Switzerland (this would be a pricey choice, maybe not for an extended time period, but if cost isn't an issue...)
Isle of Skye, Scotland (summer months!)
Regensburg, Germany

Other places I have only been to for a short period of time but I think they would be great long-term possibilities:
Stresa, Italy
Barcelona, Spain
Lucerne, Switzerland (cost can be an issue here)
Stockholm, Sweden (LOVED it here, Stockholm is great for kids; also pretty pricey.)
Doolin, Ireland (this was a long time ago, I think it has become more touristy since we were last there - another place to be in the summer months)

Places I have not been to yet but would consider staying for a long period of time:
Provence or Alsace in France

Happy planning!

dreamon Mar 22nd, 2021 05:34 PM

If COVID means that your kids are 6 instead of 5 by the time you can travel safely (for them and the places you visit), does that mean that you need to consider education? There's a lot to consider at any time but especially in the current situation.

lavandula Mar 23rd, 2021 02:12 PM

Actually I would give serious thought to the Netherlands. You do not mention any language skills and it is one thing spending a week or two abroad but if you stay longer there will inevitably be medical issues or having to interact in some way with authorities. People in the Netherlands almost universally speak good English and don't mind doing so. This is not to dis your trip, I think it sounds wonderful. You could probably think of just applying for a visa if you want to stay longer, they're not impossible to get, and with your work you have a reason to stay. Get some advice from a consulate.


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