Beginning in March 2010, and continuing through 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

 

Europe,

with some of North Africa & Western Asia


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We arrived in Europe in Spring 2010 with seemingly endless opportunities ahead of us and a multi-year time frame allocated to enjoy as many of them as we possibly could.  Once a person is in Europe with a vehicle, the horizons are indeed a long ways off.  In addition to the western countries such as France, England, Italy, Germany and the others we Americans typically think of as Europe, all of eastern Europe, Africa and Asia are now reachable by road or ferry.  How can we choose which to visit first and how to proceed from there?  Not surprisingly, we didn’t really know the answer to that when we began.  If you come along with us by following our stories over the ensuing years you’ll learn how our answers developed along the way.  

Now, 2015 is behind us and we have finished our sixth year of European travel.  We find that during our stay we were able to visit thirty-seven European countries, plus Morocco, Turkey and the Caucasus countries of Georgia and Armenia.  Before arriving here, I’m sure we wouldn’t have guessed there were that many countries in Europe.  You can use the links below to follow our chronological path through Europe year by year, or if you prefer you can use our alphabetical Country Index to find our stories on countries of particular interest to you.

When we first arrived, we began, of course, with certain interests and priorities; and also with one overriding imperative imposed on us from above that controls to a certain extent how we will plan our time.  See the sidebar below on the Schengen Agreement for more information on this subject.


Below you will find brief summaries of each year’s journey

along with links to the stories and photos from that year.

   

In 2010, we traveled about 14,000 miles through twelve countries in just over nine months.  We began with two weeks in Paris while awaiting the arrival of our vehicle.  Then we spent three months exploring Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of France, Germany and Switzerland.  In June we ferried across the English Channel and spent four and a half months becoming enchanted with England, Scotland, Wales and both Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Come late October, the cooling of the weather drove us south through western France to Spain and Portugal where we ended the year in Lisbon, flying back to the US in mid-December.  

To access all the stories and photos from our 2010 travels go to Europe 2010.


In 2011, we stayed in the south, once again visiting twelve countries while traveling 19,000 miles in just less than nine months.  We visited nine new countries along with several carry overs from the previous year.  We began the year in late February by seeing more of Portugal and Spain before crossing to Morocco, where we spent a thoroughly enjoyable six weeks before returning to see more of Spain and southern France on our way to Italy.  We spent a wonderful month crossing northern Italy on our way to what would turn out to be a full summer and fall exploration of the Balkans, enjoying wonderful experiences in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia i Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia on our way to Bulgaria, where we spent over a month wandering around that interesting country.  

Go to Europe 2011 to see all the details.


In 2012, we began our year in England at the end of March and flew home from Greece in mid-December.  We covered a bit under 16,000 miles through a total of eighteen countries, thirteen of them new to us.  We began in England, where we had left our Tiger at the end of 2011.  We moved through Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands on our way to Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.  After a wonderful summer in the north, we spent time in the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before moving quickly through Poland, Slovakia and Hungary before pausing a bit in northern Romania.  Then it was on to a couple of weeks of catching up on projects around the ‘house’ in Bulgaria before moving on at last to Turkey, where we basically ended our year, moving out to eastern Greece right at the end so that we could leave the Tiger and return for our annual few months in the US.  As an aside, both Bulgaria and Turkey, along with other countries, stamp your passport indicating you have entered the country with a vehicle.  You are not permitted to leave the country without the vehicle unless you have arranged to have it impounded in a customs facility and acquired the appropriate paperwork. 

Go to our Europe 2012 page to see what we were up to then;


In 2013, we returned to Greece and during the course of the year traveled in thirteen countries and covered a bit over 13,000 miles in seven and a half months.  We returned for another couple of months in wonderful Turkey, then decided to go on to the Caucasus countries of Georgia and Armenia.  We returned to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, eastern Germany and Slovakia and added the Czech Republic and Austria on our way south to Italy, where we ended our year near Rome.

Go to Europe 2013 to see where we went that year;


In 2014, we had planned to pick up where we left off by visiting Rome, then moving south toward Sicily.  Unfortunately, these plans were derailed by a major break-in of our vehicle outside Rome on our very first morning back in Europe.  As a result, we left Italy in order to move on to Germany where we felt it would be easier for us to replace all the things that had been stolen.  We then spent most of April in Germany, May in France, and come June, our three months in Schengen ended and we moved on to Great Britain where we spent the summer months before returning to the Schengen area in the fall.  In the end, we visited a total of eight countries and traveled 11,400 miles in about seven months.  

Go to Europe 2014 in order to see how that year went for us.


In 2015, our featured destination was Iceland, and we spent six weeks there.  As this little country out in the middle of the North Atlantic is inexplicably part of the Schengen Agreement, we had to divide our 90 days of Schengen time into Before Iceland and After Iceland in order to allow time for getting to and from the ferry in northern Denmark.  Ultimately our visa constraints led us to return to Britain where we were able to take in some special events and museums in England, Wales and southern Scotland.  In the end we covered just over 8,000 miles in our shortened five month 2015 season and in mid-October we shipped our faithful Tiger back to the US for some much needed work before embarking again for foreign shores.  So for now we have concluded our time in Europe having driven 82,000 miles in a total of  forty-six months of wandering through forty-one different countries.  A good adventure indeed.

Go to Europe 2015 in order to follow along in our last season in Europe.


An added feature you may enjoy is our Europe by Motorhome summary, which covers many topics of a more practical nature for anyone interested in traveling Europe by motorhome.  We’ve added new financial summary information and other updated information through 2015, giving a full six years of data for you to study.


The Schengen Agreement:

Along with the creation of the European Union with its open borders and the elimination of individual country visa control, limitations were put in place that regulate how long we may legally stay in a large group of countries rather than just one country at a time.  Greatly simplified, what this all means is that as travelers who are not residents of an EU country, we can only stay in most of the EU for ninety days at a time before going outside the EU for at least the next ninety days.  Fortunately, Great Britain, while a part of the EU, is not a part of this separate agreement so that makes one easy choice for us.  

Other than that, we must head east or south periodically in order to remain in compliance with the agreement.  Our options include countries in eastern Europe such as Bulgaria and Romania, Balkan states such as Serbia or Bosnia, or others such as Turkey or Morocco.  We would want to visit all of these countries anyway, but Schengen imposes significant time constraints on our planning.

Further, we know that actual enforcement of the Schengen rules varies greatly from one country or region to the next.  Even within a given country, enforcement may be lax at one point but strict at another, making for a great deal of confusion among long term travelers.  Some do not regard the rules as likely to be enforced at all, while others take them more seriously.  We know of some folks who have been stopped and have had some difficulty, while we know others who’ve never been questioned in years of travel in Europe.  It is left to each traveler to determine how they will regard these rules and to plan accordingly.  The one thing that seems plain to us from everything we hear is that Schengen enforcement is becoming much more stringent as time goes on; not less.  Europe’s current immigration crisis only reinforces the importance of border controls on the edges of the continent.

For a much more complete explanation of all of this, Google Schengen Agreement and go to Wikipedia or other online sources.  Here is a recent article that gives an excellent explanation of some of the ins and outs of Schengen.


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  

Explore.  Dream.  Discover.” 

~ Mark Twain

© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2017