In looking through our different options of traveling the world, it finally occurred to us that to get the most out of this trip we should keep it as simple as possible. Our one focus should be on the experience and leave the stress behind. The one method of traveling that we were very experienced in and have always had a great time doing was by just being a tourist. Most hardcore travelers cringe at being called a “tourist.” But, unless you have taken up residence in a different country (expat), or you are there for a working assignment, we are all tourists when we travel. Most people prefer a more dignified title, such as backpacker, adventure traveler, cruiser, sabbatical, safari, etc, but we are all tourists. So, why not embrace it and become permanent tourists! We don’t need a boat, or a residency permit, or a fancy title, or added stress. We just need to be allowed into different countries and enough time to explore them.
Having a US passport is like having a key to the world. For most countries, you just show up at their border or airport, show the government officials your US passport, and they stamp it with a tourist visa letting you stay for 3 to 6 months. You don’t need to worry about paying income taxes to that country, nor worry about following all the stringent guidelines that you would for a residency permit. Traveling the world on tourist visas is the way to go. Or, so we hope!
The one downside to traveling on a tourist visa is the Schengen states. Most of Western Europe is part of the Schengen agreement, which only allows a visitor on a tourist visa to stay 90 days within those countries. After the 90 days they must be outside the Schengen states for 90 days before another 90-day tourist visa can be issued. We really wanted to spend our first year traveling Europe, but we would need to be outside the Western European countries for 6 out of the 12 months we had hoped to be there. But fortunately, Great Britain gives US passport holders a 6-month tourist visa and is not part of the Schengen states. So, traveling on a tourist visa would work great for us, with a little planning.