Europe, an amazing, incredible 15 months of travel

We have had an amazing adventure for 15 months. The map below gives a summary of where we travelled. It also shows how much we actually did!  The red pins are our 22 housesits.

Where did we travel?

Between October and January we did seven housesits (marked 2, 4, 6-10 on the map). We started our adventure with two lovely days exploring Bordeaux and then went onto the first housesit in the South of France in Salies de Bearn. We then visited South African friends at their house in Cordes sur Ciel (3). Next up there were four house sits in Germany, (Selbitz, Neuberg am Rhein, Grünstadt and Trier) and one near Zurich, Switzerland. Trier (number 9, the oldest city in Germany) was our base for Christmas 2021 and New Year.

In January 2022 we set off for Straimont (10) in Belgium where we experienced snow and beautiful forests whilst looking after three dogs. We enjoyed two nights at an Airbnb in the lovely city of Reims, France (11), my favourite cathedral so far. Two lovely cats then had our company not far from Annecy (12) with stunning views of Mont Blanc. Then we had a five-week sit (our longest) looking after a Doberman and two cats in the lovely French town of Josselin (13). Kyle joined us here for his 21st.

We then gave ourselves a break from house-sitting and spent over two months exploring many parts of the Balkans (14-22) which we just loved. We visited many parts of Albania, Prizren (19) in Kosovo, and spent a month in North Macedonia based at an Airbnb in Lake Ohrid (22). Airbnb often offers a huge discount if you book accommodation for 28 days or more. This gives you a chance to have a base at a reasonable cost. We took advantage of this for our stunning place in Ohrid. This was the view from the Airbnb:

We went to a Queen Revival concert in Skopje (18) the capital of North Macedonia which was a highlight of our trip. It was so amazing to see so many youngsters knowing each and every word of Queen songs. Also, after experiencing the effects of covid on socialising this was a unique experience.

We then returned to Albania and did our amazing Lake Koman ferry ride (20), saw the stunning scenery near Permet (21) and spent a week in Saranda (22) on the Albanian Coast.

Making use of a ferry ride to Corfu, we then flew to Slovenia. I had always wanted to visit Lake Bled, the magical castle on the middle of an island. We went there as a special birthday treat (23).

The tenth housesit was in Slovenia (24) just near the border of Hungary and Austria with three old cats. We then did a repeat of the Salies housesit in France (2) with the cute three doggies and views of the Pyrenees. Our last French stop was looking after two Salukis in Aigre in West central France (25).

We wanted to visit the UK to explore and get away from summer heat of Europe. We completed ten housesits over four months in the UK. Our first was the sweetest little dog in Cornwall (26). We booked longer sits first and then jigsawed in shorter ones. We concentrated on the Southern half of England to keep transport costs down. After Cornwall we visited friends on the Isle of Wight for two nights which was lovely.

We housesat twelve dogs and two cats in the UK. Of the twelve dogs, eight were labradors. We also looked after many younger dogs. Many families bought dogs over the Covid pandemic and many were first time dog owners. We were also lucky enough to visit Oxford and Cambridge. Our time was not only spent in England, we also did a dog sit near Edinburgh (34) and visited my godparents in Perth (35) Scotland. Finally, we did our last England housesit in Louth (36, same latitude as Manchester) with three labradors.

In late October we flew to San Vito dei Normanni (37) in Puglia, Italy for a month for housesit number twenty-two with two cats.

The last part of our 15-month journey was a trip to North Portugal for ten days in November. This was more of an explore than anything else (38 and 39 on the map).

Highlights of our trip

Some friends have asked what were the highlights of our 15 months. Here are our top highlights:

  • There were stunning walks in the countryside of Salies in the South of France, often with views onto the Pyrenees.
  • Trier was a stunning, walkable city with a beautiful cathedral and the famous Porta Negra.
  • The Reims Cathedral in Reims, France
  • The forests in Belgium.
  • The Queen revival concert – North Macedonia.
  • The amazing 3-hour ferry – Lake Komani (this is probably my top highlight).

And yes that is in support of Ukraine – April 2022!

  • My visit to Green Park to lay flowers for the Queen, following her death.
  • The Yorkshire Dales were just such lovely rolling hills – true English scenery.
  • The waterfalls and views in the Penada-Geres national park in Portugal

What are we going to do next?

We plan to explore central Italy, central Portugal and possibly central France over 2023. Our first stop is Umbria, Italy. We are going to make use of Airbnb reduced monthly rentals (especially over the winter months). We would like to eventually find a reasonably priced bolthole and we think one of these countries might be where we want that to be. We think that the central part of these countries might be best for weather, not too crazy hot, and not too crazy cold, also with less humidity than the coast.

We think we will look again for housesits in the UK in the European summer months, but perhaps more in Wales and Ireland. We are hoping my Dad might join us in Italy or Portugal and Samantha might come across to the UK for her 21st in August. But nothing is set in stone. 

A few reflections 

Many people ask how we handle living out of a suitcase. To be honest, we really don’t have a lot of things, so it makes it easier to unpack. We each have one case (under 20kgs) and I have a small overhead case and Adu has a backpack. These hold our electronics. We also have clothes for multiple seasons and work in layers. I find the packing cubes indispensable. Depending on the season, I keep one filled with the other season’s clothes and do not touch that at all. One really does not need a lot! I also have my roll-up tempur cut down topper and I now have my pillow!

I have a British and South African passport. Following Brexit, a person is restricted to 90 days in the EU. But since I am married to an EU passport holder (Adu), I have spousal right to stay in the EU if I am with him. My British passport is filled with stamps. We have had holdups twice where we had to produce a marriage certificate as I was over 90 days. But there is always the worry that we might have an issue with an uninformed border official. A bolthole will solve this.

We are also not sure how ETIAS will influence things at the end of 2023. Perhaps ETIAS with proof of our marriage and Adu’s citizenship logged on an EU system will make things easier.

We loved travelling around the Balkans. It was very reasonably priced and friendly. We plan to visit Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina at some stage. We might return to Albania.

Our biggest costs involved travel. We will try to reduce this in 2023 by moving less between countries. We saved huge accommodation costs in 2022 through housesitting. To read my tips on housesitting look here

We had a wonderful holiday for two months over December and January in South Africa. We spent many weeks with my Dad and were with him for his 84th birthday. This period allowed us to see friends again and spend time with Kyle and Samantha.

Thank goodness we live in this easy social media world where we can easily keep up using WhatsApp. I would be lost without it.

All the postcards my Dad has received over the 15 months

We are so pleased we started this adventure. We have seen so many amazing things. We have had magic experiences together. The world is huge and there is so much to see and appreciate. We are so lucky to do this together.

We are looking forward to our slow explore of 2023 😀

6 thoughts on “Europe, an amazing, incredible 15 months of travel”

  1. Wow…amazing adventures. You’ve certainly given me the desire to travel and explore! So you’ve finally decided on Italy, Portugal or France to settle. I could certainly tell you were smitten with Italy – the simple delicious food, the countryside and the relatively low living costs. Enjoy your travels in 2023 and I hope you find somewhere you can lay down your cases. It will seem a luxury not to live out of a suitcase and have to continually move on! You can do it at your own pace! A brave decision to upsticks. Well done!

  2. Great memories of all your recent adventures Ashley and Adu! Four legged friends looking very contented too. Love the postcards to your Dad.
    Onward and upward.

  3. Hi Ashley, I can’t find the blog where you said the 3 countries you would most like to live in after seeing so many. Please can you direct me to it. Thanks, Mary

    1. Hi Mary, sorry I have not done any posts this year. I just found it very time consuming and we wanted space over the year to make a decision. But once we have decided I will start this up again. I will contact you offline. I’m so pleased you have enjoyed this blog.

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