So it’s time to make this public…I am taking a 3 month sabbatical this year and I will be spending that time traveling Europe. How did this come about? Well, a year ago I was fresh off of my trip from Ireland and missing it desperately. I received some words of wisdom from an older woman about not letting my career, my house, my day-to-day life get in the way of dreams. These words came to me at a time when I really needed to hear them (God is so great that way!) and I broke down in tears. Not the reaction she was expecting!
Shortly thereafter, I had my annual review and decided to ask my boss if she would grant me a year’s leave of absence so I could live in Ireland. Her reply? “You would like to take a sabbatical?” Why yes, yes I would! Sabbatical sounds so much better than leave of absence! She said she would support that and I should definitely do it. She would consider hiring a temporary employee in my absence but that my job would be here when I returned.
So I researched this and pretty quickly realized that I could not get a visa to work in Ireland. I wanted to work in a pub or a coffee shop. Something laid back and low key, that would garner me some income but not have a ton of responsibilities. But, unfortunately, there are no visas for those types of jobs. Which makes sense. They want to employ the Irish in those jobs, not carpetbagging Americans. So the dream of a year in Ireland was shot down.
I decided all was not lost and read about the “Schengen Visa”. Basically, one can travel in the Schengen zone for 90 consecutive days without a visa. The Schengen zone is essentially the EU (22 EU countries, plus 3 non-EU countries). So I decided that instead of staying in one place, I might as well see as much of Europe as I can. So I started to plan what a 90-day European trip would look like and when I should go. I realized that I most definitely want to spend my 39th birthday in Dublin (duh!), so that would be a great place to end the trip. I have traveled in September the last two years and have found it to be lovely. So that made sense. Mid-September to mid-December.
So where to go?!?! I decided to start in Poland because I am very interested in World War II and the Holocaust. I was going to start in Warsaw, but after looking through a travel book, I decided to start in Gdansk, on the Baltic. So here’s the plan: Poland (Gdansk, Warsaw, Krakow), Czech Republic (Prague), Austria (Vienna, Salzburg), Germany (Munich–in time for Oktoberfest!, Stuttgart, Baden Baden, Koblenz, Cologne, Berlin), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Belgium (Brussels), France (Rouen, Caen, Paris, Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence), Spain (Madrid, Seville, Tarifa–kite-surfing!, Rock of Gibraltar, Barcelona), Portugal (Lisbon, Lagos), Morocco (day trip to Tangier from Tarifa, Spain), Switzerland (Bern, Gimmelwald, Zermatt–hang-gliding near the Materhorn!), Italy (Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome, Naples, Palermo), Greece (Athens, Mikonos and other islands), Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow), and, last but never least, Ireland (Dublin–day trip to Newgrange and Dun Laoghaire; Wicklow–Powerscourt Estate/Falls; Waterford; Dingle; Kylemore Abbey; etc.).
I am hoping to have some friends come and visit me throughout the trip, so hey, if you’re interested, let me know!! I would love to see you! As for the nitty gritty details, I will be purchasing a 3-month Eurail pass and riding the rails. I will be taking night trains where possible to both A) cut down on accommodation costs, and B) use my time efficiently. The beauty of my itinerary (thus far) is that most of the train trips are not too bad. Everything is pretty close together, for the most part. As for other accommodations, I haven’t quite figured that out yet. I would stay in hostels (with private rooms), but then it’s really almost the same price as a cheaper hotel. I think for the most part, I will see what I can find when I get to a town, with some exceptions (Munich during Oktoberfest…already seems to be sold out, so I may be staying in a nearby town; Paris; places where I have vistors, etc.).
Well, that’s it in a nutshell! Check back as I begin to actually make progress toward this trip, instead of just watching travel videos, reading travel books, and journaling a bare bones itinerary!!