All travellers are subject to visa requirements in certain countries. What many people don’t know is that you very well may need to apply for a visa in order to travel Europe. European countries are divided into two zones: the European Union and the Schengen Area. This division is a result of the Schengen Agreement of 1985, which was intended to allow for easy border crossing between countries. Eventually, this treaty eradicated the border checkpoints, allowing for unrestricted travel within the Schengen Area. You can easily find a map or list of countries that are included in the agreement, but generally speaking, the Schengen countries include nearly every one on your standard Euro-trip checklist, so for many young backpackers there is a limit on how long you can actually stay abroad for. Lucky for us, countries like Canada and Australia allow citizens entry into the Schengen area followed by a ninety-day stay without having to actually obtain a travel visa. If you are planning to stay for more than three months, you are required to apply for a visa through your embassy. When I first found out about this trip restriction, I figured I could just head to a country that wasn’t yet part of the Schengen Agreement (such as the United Kingdom or Bulgaria) for a few days before heading back into my trip. Unfortunately for us travellers, this is not the case. The uniform ninety-day visa specifies that your allotted ninety days must be expended within a six month period, which means if you were to spend three months within the area, you would have to spend another three months outside before returning. For Joseph and I, this was going to be a problem seeing as we had just invested all our savings into our self-converted campervan and were already over two months into our stay.
Being the spontaneous vagabonds that we had quickly become, we didn’t anticipate having to actually fill out any paperwork or visit an embassy, so we were cutting it pretty close when we left Budapest only five days before our time was up. Of course we were aware of what had to be done in order to extend our stay, but we had basically been winging it since the day we left Lagos. We were nowhere near either a Canadian or Australian embassy and weren’t prepared to digress our route much, so our only option was to head straight for the Netherlands in hopes of getting a Dutch Working-Holiday Visa. We made it all the way from Budapest, Hungary to Rijswik, Holland in two days, just in time for our interviews at the Immigration Office. Thanks to our countries’ good-natured relationship with Holland, our visas were granted almost instantly and we were able to spend the remainder of our trip travelling freely through the Schengen countries. This was a great alternative, mainly because we were able to spend the following two and half weeks enjoying the country’s gorgeous countryside and coastal towns. Joey and I are now legally eligible to work in the Netherlands for the next two consecutive years and are seriously considering heading back simply because of how much we loved being there. The country as a whole, with the tenth largest economy in the world, is beautifully kept, eco-friendly and filled with friendly and welcoming people. I’ve ranked Holland as one of my favourite countries visited and I’ve now been to a total of twenty-one. That’s one country for every year I’ve been alive and I aim to hit thirty before I turn thirty. Joey’s been to a total of twenty-four different countries and, at twenty-six years old, he’s only got six more to go! We are well on our way to becoming citizens of the world and cannot wait to share our experiences with everyone we meet along the way! Stay tuned every Thursday for a new article and more information about our expanding brand, Home Is What Moves You.