We never thought it would actually happen. We’d joke about “when we live in Europe” or imagine life “working from a different place every month,” but it mostly felt like idle escapism. My partner, Annalisa, had just started a new job as a web developer, and I was punching the clock as a supervisor at an insurance company. Little did we know that within six months we’d be clocking in from the Carpathian mountains, vacationing at a tiny house in the Vienna Woods, and padding our résumés from Prague.
It wasn’t a hasty decision, though. Once the possibility of life as digital nomads in Europe started to become more than a hazy mirage on the horizon, we examined it from every imaginable angle. We made sure we could store our belongings economically, had the right health insurance, and could afford the cost of leapfrogging around Europe. After scrutinizing every potential issue, we decided that, yes, we could do this responsibly.
Now, we’ve turned our planning into reality, and Europe into our office and playground. When we started traveling, we named our website and our Instagram account “The Working Vacationer,” and that pretty well captures the balance of work and fun that we maintain.
Annalisa works regular Eastern Standard Time hours for a company in the U.S., which leaves us free in the mornings to explore the part of Europe where we happen to be. This gives us plenty of time to take a local hike or visit a museum and have a nice lunch before work starts. I’m a freelance writer, which allows me to shape my work schedule around hers, while also handling the constantly morphing details of our travel planning.
Choosing day trips and coordinating transportation is a time-consuming but fun task that becomes easier with practice. On weekends, we take longer excursions, which require research about whatever country we’re calling home that week. Of course, there’s also the little matter of choosing our next destination and booking places to stay. As U.S. citizens, we must navigate the Schengen Area’s rules—we can stay three months at a time within the Schengen Area, then we must spend three months outside it before we can reenter. But by doing this, we don’t need to find visas for permanent residency. This leaves us some flexibility to follow our wandering whims, but also puts some restrictions on our options.
To make the most of our limited time in each place, we find it important to plan as far in advance as possible. If we really want a reasonably priced apartment with a great monthly discount in the center of Rome, we have to act fast as our chances of finding one decrease with each passing week. We also alternate between stays of a month or more and shorter stays, which are rarely less than two weeks. This variety gives us plenty of chances to slow our pace and have some lazy days in a place that feels like home. However, with so much to see in Europe, we love staying on the move.
So far, we’ve been working our way from east to west. We rang in the New Year with a fireworks display outside the enormous Palace of Parliament in Bucharest, Romania, on our first day in Europe. After Romania came Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Croatia. Then, we hopped over to Scotland to soak in the gorgeous greens of the Highlands; that’s where this article reaches you from. Switzerland and Italy will round out our first year of life as digital nomads, and though we’re loving every minute of it, there are days it still doesn’t seem real. Sometimes dreams do come true.