Part I: how the Schengen Zone made me her bitch.

photo-9While there are varying visa restrictions throughout the continent for long and short-term stays, the majority of movement throughout the EU’s internal borders is protected by the Schengen Visa, a rule that governs 26 countries in Europe. The Schengen Area is a delightful (sarcasm) little area that consists of all the EU countries excluding Ireland and the UK, as well as a few non-EU countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania; additionally, all four European Free Trade Association member states-Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, have signed the Schengen Agreement, even though they are outside the EU. schengen This is where is gets complicated. The Schengen Visa is a 90-day tourist visa for the Schengen Area. All of the 26 countries in the Schengen Area have a border-free visa agreement (which gets infuriatingly more high-tech even as I type) that allows EU residents to move freely throughout without needing a passport. FOR NON-SCHENGEN CITIZENS (SQUAMISH), YOU ARE ONLY ALLOWED ENTRY INTO THE AREA FOR 90 DAYS WITHIN A 180 DAY PERIOD. The days are cumulative, they don’t need to be consecutive, and once day 181 hits, the count resets. You can fly into and leave from whatever country you want, but once that passport gets stamped, your 90 day count begins. Sound confusing? it is. It is very sweet for EU residents and decidedly un-sweet for those of us not currently residing or holding passports in any of the EU countries who wish to eat, play, love their way through Europe. So, you can spend up to three months in any of the countries that make up the Schengen Area before having to hightail it to the UK, Ireland, or one of the few countries not part of the agreement. Now as you can imagine, this type of imposition on our perceived year of free-travel and borderless country-hopping is significant. I have lived on the internet for the last two weeks trying to find a way around it (legally), and there are loopholes, freelance visas and all sorts of shady business dealings, but half-truthing and the risk of big red stamps in our passport have left us with one option: know the Schengen; be the Schengen; align our schedule with the Schengen. Is that three? As of five minutes ago, our plan is as follows: Ship the van and fly into London and spend a month touring Ireland and the UK before entering France, and . . . da da da . . .the Schengen Area-where our 90-day count begins. We will have three months to travel through France, the north of Spain, and Italy, before reaching southeastern Europe, where we will live for the remainder of our 180-day count in the non-Schengen countries of Croatia, Bulgaria, Albania Montenegro, and Turkey. From there, and with a fresh count, we will spend 90 days going north through Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands. The van will return home via the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium. I am mopping my brow just typing it. This is route in its infancy, and I am curious to see how it will develop from here. One thing that works in our favour is the fact that Europe is a relatively small geographic region. What seems like a lot of ground to cover is comparable to our trip down the coast to California.* Sometimes we seem so close. Then there are moments like the one I had today-when I went to start the van and realized the battery was dead-when it seems far away. But . . . but . . . the omnipresent map and my google search history showing temporary vehicle import permits and overseas insurance . . . those mean progress. Patience-not my strong suit. 20140713_134659*as measured using fingers on a map not-to-scale.


4 thoughts on “Part I: how the Schengen Zone made me her bitch.

  1. We spent our 90 days in the schengen zone. I wish we would have had longer. Next time we travel long term I think we will probably check more into the freelance (or digital nomad type)visas.
    It sounds like you have done an awesome job planning! I can’t wait to hear more about your plans and trip! Good luck!

  2. If you cross France near the ZIP code 42190, it will be a pleasure to welcome you for an overnight ! Or if you travel not far, what about having a drink in a pleasant place close to ours ?

    A french follower

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