We’re just a little shy of two years since the creation of the-ramble and we’ll be rolling out a few additions to this website over the next few weeks. (Or, all at once depending on whether technology cooperates.)

One of our long-term plans for being in Europe is to create opportunities for long stays in places. (As an example, a bucket list item for John is to live in London for a year so he can see everything playing at the theaters.)

We’re not made of money, as the saying goes, so we’ve always known we’d need to be creative about how we made long-stay travel possible. Back in the day, pre-Portugal, our plans had to factor in long travels days as well as lodging costs. Now, it’s basically the high cost of lodging. Sheer practicality: even a cheap accommodation of $75/ day adds up if you stay there for a month. Back when we were working we could occasionally splurge, knowing we would make that back over time. Now we are on a fixed income and it feels scary to dip into our pool of moolah for such a large amount.

As a side note: our residency also carries a restriction about how much time we spend outside of Portugal. For the first two years its capped at eight months; then its eight months again, but it’s over a three year period. Permanent Residents, which can be requested after five years, are allowed to be out of country as much as six months each year.

As a side-side note: All of this is subject to the Schengen 90-day rule which states that you can stay no more than 90 days in any 180-day period within the 27 countries of the Schengen area. As a practicality, this means that can’t travel in the EU for more than three months, even if you are crossing borders during that time and not staying in one country.

The Schengen Area (SA) is made up of these countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

There are four EU countries that are NOT in the Schengen area: Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, although the last three are in the process of becoming members.

Sneak-minded readers may have figured out the “loop hole” of the Schengen Rule, which is that one can stay 89 days in the Schengen area and then travel to another country for at least 90 more days before resuming their stay within the SA for up to 90 more days. For example, you might spend 90 days in Italy, then step across the border to spend the next 90 days in Switzerland, before moving along to France. This is known as “doing the Schengen Hop”.

Side-side-side note: Future readers: as of 2024, visitors from 60 countries (including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all EU member states) will need to apply for an online ETIAS, which is essentially a visa waiver, when entering the SA. The waiver will be valid for 90 days within a 180-day period.)

[Yes, this is a very long side note.]

So, unless we become permanent residents or EU citizens, we’ll always be conscious of the time spent out of country and within a Schengen area. Nonetheless, long stays are eminently possible, as long as we have the budget to support paying rent while not living in Braga (we’re ignoring the daily costs of food and such because that’ll be similar n matter where we sleep).

[Thanks for hanging in so far, btw.]

All of which is to announce (really, can this lede be buried any further?) that we’ll be adding a Page to this site for our new availability as house- and pet- sitters!

All props to our (fantastic) house sitter, Barbara Farfan. She first sat for us during our honeymoon in 2012, and returned again in 2017, and 2019. She was (and is) a full time ‘sitter who creates income with writing gigs and inspired us to contemplate using house sitting as a way to get to travel the world in our retirement. We figure that we’ve got some value-add as experienced pet owners who have had animals with behavior issues, as well as elderly/special needs critters who got all sorts of medications over the years.

We found her (and the others who covered other travel events) through an online clearinghouse ( where we’d found the people who sat for us in previous world travels. Since those early days, a number of sites have sprung up and are doing a roaring business. What we noticed was that the successful sitters had references.

Obviously we didn’t have references as sitters, so we’ve being doing sits for friends. As it turns out, our community of immigrants here in Braga is a den (heh) of animal lovers, so there’s been no shortage of friendly acquaintances who could use the help. Plus, bonus, we get to have pets for a few days without the actual commitment of having pets. Win win win… win? Four wins, I think? Maybe three. Anyway. It’s been a lot of fun to hang out with kitties and pooches again, with the added bonus of helping out people we genuinely like. And our friends appreciate that we aren’t charging for services rendered; not that we would charge friends even if it was just for kicks, but the fact that we’re just looking to build our resume makes it an easy sell.

The various pet-sitter clearinghouses online have actually become pretty competitive, especially if the ‘sit is in a popular destination. When we finally decide to start doing this for real we’ll have a few things (hopefully) going in our favor. First, we’ll have built up a good portfolio of references. Second, living over here and being retired, we can prioritize people who emergency/last-minute requests with little hassle. And third, we’re not too picky about exactly where we go so long as it’s interesting. We were just noodling on a ‘sit on the west coast of Scotland, in a little village. Nothing world-class sexy about it, but hey, it’s Scotland; plus, since it was “just” a cat-sit there’d be some travel flex and rail travel is dead easy over there. It may be a little hamlet that nobody has heard of outside of Scotland, but who cares? It looked pretty and it was logistically sensible. Anyhow, we didn’t try for it but it’s definitely the kind of thing we’ll be looking for in the future. Stay tuned!

Comments (2)

  • Liz 11 July, 2023 at 12:27 am Reply

    Sounds like fun and a great way to get a little travel in alongside pup and kitty snuggles. I look forward to more pet-sitting adventure blog posts (post the cute fluffy pics please!). Although I do love the life in Braga/Portugal rambles as well.

    Slight note re the above – Switzerland is part of Schengen and therefore doesn’t work for the Hop. Croatia used to be a popular spot to reset the clock, but now that it’s part of Schengen, it doesn’t work either. I think Albania might be a feasible option, as they are not Schengen and allow US citizens to visit for up to 1 year (at the time of this comment).

    • John 31 July, 2023 at 9:42 am Reply

      ooo good to know. We aren’t ready for the hop just yet but it’s always in the back of our mind. Would suck to screw that up!

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