We Made It are the three words I told Brad I was looking forward to saying when we moved to Europe. Well, I got to say those words as we sat on our balcony in Montpellier, France. I was a little teary as I made the toast and practically shouted ‘WE MADE IT’, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to scare the neighbors. It has taken exactly three years and three months to get to this very moment. All the planning, sacrifices, and research that went in to getting here have finally paid off.

The plan took a lot of turns and twists, and COVID didn’t help. We were hoping to take three big trips including New Zealand, a safari in Africa, and a river trip on the Yangtze River in China. We were not able to do any of those due to COVID, but we still hope to take them some day. Applying for a residence visa also become very daunting with COVID. Wait times went from weeks to months with no predictability as to when we could get one. We decided it was probably for the best we didn’t pursue a residence visa because we didn’t know exactly where we wanted to call a home base.

We are now moving in and out of the Schengen Zone, which is a single border control area including most European Union (EU) and a few non-European Union countries. That means we really must pay attention to the 90 days in the Schengen Zone and 90 days out to travel as tourists with no visas. We must be in a non-Schengen country for at least 90 days of the rolling 180 days. Confusing?  It took us many hours of research, information from friends already living here, conversations with immigration attorneys, and YouTube videos to get a good grip on what we need to do. At least I hope we have a good grip.

Another challenge was what we were going to do about a car or van while we traveled around. We looked at buying, leasing, and renting a vehicle. All with major drawbacks and again countless hours of research. A friend of mine that lives in Europe suggested looking for companies that would perhaps register the vehicle in their company name, but we still own it. We can’t register a car on our own without having an address. We finally found a company in the Netherlands that does just that and the process was fairly smooth. We are the proud owners of a new Ford Nugget campervan. We named her Gretchen because she was bought in Germany and she is so darn cute.

We stayed the night at the place she was stored in the Netherlands and then the next morning we were off to France. We stayed the night in Nancy, France on the way and arrived at our temporary home in Montpellier for the month of January. More to come about our experiences here, but I wanted to let you know ‘WE MADE IT.’