Our Summer Abroad | Three Months of Slow Travel in Europe
For years, I've had a few things on my official bucket list, and 'achieve expatriate status' has always been one of them. I've loved traveling for as long as I can remember so it's not too surprising that Harrison and I decided to spend a summer traveling through Europe, leaning into the autonomy of freelancing and our ability to work from anywhere. Along with being incredibly thrilled and grateful for the chance to travel long-term, we knew we had our work cut out for us with planning, coordinating and packing for twelve weeks abroad.
In the end we pulled it off with plenty of research and some late nights working remotely, and returned home with countless stories and over 30,000 photos (we just might be posting them online forever, and you can follow along with #mhsummerabroad). Today, I'm here to share how we planned our summer abroad without a backpack or a hostel in sight, how we packed for an entire summer, and every destination we visited along the way.
Planning the adventure
After some research, we decided to avoid dealing with visa applications and planned our trip for 90 days within the Schengen Zone. Starting in Paris, we would travel through France (Harrison had never been), Switzerland (new to both of us), and Italy (new to me!), ending the summer in Rome. Searching through travel magazines, Pinterest and Instagram, we saved the places we most wanted to see and slowly narrowed down our choices.
Not wanting to rush around the whole time, we spent an average of seven days in each spot; twelve destinations in twelve weeks. For longer stays we reserved vacation rentals (mostly through Airbnb) and booked hotels for our shorter stops. With an itinerary planned, we left ourselves a few weeks of flexibility to move things around if we wanted, picking up ideas along the way.
Once we booked our airfare and our first few accommodations, we had to tackle our packing method. How do you bring enough clothes for three months and still feasibly carry your luggage onto trains and up narrow streets? For me, the answer was a capsule wardrobe which I designed in the weeks before we left.
Our MAP & Itinerary
Two Weeks in Paris
Three Days in Loire Valley
Ten Days in Provence
Ten Days on the French Riviera
Five Days in Corsica
Three Days in Switzerland
Three Days in Milan
Ten Days in Lake Como
Two Days in Venice
Ten Days in Florence
Two Weeks on the Amalfi Coast
Two Days in Rome
1. Paris, France: Two Weeks
We began with a rainy two weeks in Paris, visiting plenty of museums and running to Berthillon on Île Saint-Louis whenever the sun was out. We also enjoyed a fantastic food tour of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and took a day trip out to Versailles.
2. Loire Valley, France: Three Days
After renting a car, we drove out to this fairytale land of castles and wine for a long weekend. It's magical enough as it is - spending your days exploring chateaux and gardens and local wines - but a hot air balloon ride over Château de Chenonceau put it over the top in the best possible way.
read the post: Three Days in Loire Valley
3. Provence, France: Ten Days
Driving down from Loire Valley, we were based in Aix-en-Provence while we explored the region. Between visiting plenty of provincial towns, each with its own charming personality, we shopped the weekend market in Aix and hiked through the calanques near Cassis.
4. The French Riviera: Ten Days
On the Côte d'Azur we based ourselves in Nice as we explored everywhere from Saint-Tropez to Menton. It's difficult to choose favorite day trips, but some of the best were to Cannes & Île Saint-Honorat, Èze Village, and Monaco.
5. Corsica, France: Five Days
Corsica feels like a world unto itself, and its uncommon allure also adds up to a fairly challenging visit. We ended up bringing our rental car over on the ferry from Nice, then driving around to explore the wild mountains and beaches.
read the post: Corsica
6. Interlaken, Switzerland: Three Days
Switzerland wasn't originally on our itinerary, but it turned out to be one of our favorite destinations. Even a busy few days in the Bernese Highlands felt like a peaceful escape - don't try for a moment to resist marveling at the incredible Alpine views dotted with charming villages.
read the post: Three Days in Switzerland
7. Milan, Italy: Three Days
We finally returned our rental car and took a short city break in Milan. From shopping and cafés to The Last Supper, we saw all we could in a long weekend before heading back out to the countryside.
read the post: Milan City Guide
8. Lake Como, Italy: Ten Days
In retrospect we could have spent a bit less time here, but we took time to work, resolve some transport issues, and meet up with a friend. Our favorite days were spent exploring the town of Varenna and taking a lake cruise to see all the incredible villas along the shore.
read the post: Lake Como, Italy
9. Venice, Italy: Two Days
It's easy to see the floating city of Venice in two or three days, including a visit to nearby Burano - don't skip this colorful island, or the bellini gelato! We also visited Harry's Bar, where the bellini cocktail originated. At night the canals of Venice look particularly magical, full of passing boats and twinkling lights, so be sure to take an evening stroll.
10. Florence & Tuscany, Italy: Ten Days
Florence is one of the friendliest cities I've ever visited; it greets you with an incredible landscape, wonderful food, and some of the world's greatest works of art. While we were there, we explored a bit of Tuscany and made our way out to Cinque Terre to see what all the fuss was about.
11. The Amalfi Coast: Two Weeks
This was my favorite place in Italy, where we settled into an apartment in Positano and took ferries up and down the coastline. The best day trips were to glamorous Capri and the hilltop town of Ravello, but every day was a good one here - whether working with a view from the terrace or laying out under an umbrella on the beach.
12. Rome, Italy: Two Days
Our final stop! We soaked up as much as we could of Rome - visiting the Vatican, walking along the Tiber, having dinner in Trastevere - before flying home.
read the post: Rome in Two Days
Once we've told all our stories and shared the photos, the question we get most often from friends and family is, 'Where to next?' We already went back to France last fall, took a day trip to London, and we constantly find ourselves daydreaming about the Amalfi Coast - returning with a group of friends would be a dream come true! In Europe, seeing more of Switzerland would be wonderful, along with Austria, Copenhagen, and Greece. Then again, we could visit Asia (Kyoto, please!), Australia, or Victoria Falls (another one of my official bucket-list items). We haven't been everywhere, but it's on our list.