How I Organize Long-Term Residency and my plans in Europe from late 2016 to 2021

This is a follow-up post to How I Organize Long-Term Travel.

When I organize my long-term residency plans (think from 2017 right through to 2021/2022) I usually approach it only from a fact-gathering / information-gathering viewpoint.  This means that I keep myself open-minded, but still focused, while I gather as much facts as I can about the countries and situations that I may find myself in the future.

Below you will see quiet a few boards, and a lot of it has changed over the past week.  For example, until a couple of weeks ago, I had plans to move to Spain or Portugal later this year but after some research into the visa details felt that it would be too cumbersome for me to arrange my papers.  For example, both Spain and Portugal required police checks in all countries that I’ve lived in, as well as being physically in Australia in order to submit a fingerprint with the Australian Federal Police.  If I was residing in Australia, this would not be a problem but since I have no plans to visit until next year, I decided to hold off the trip until next year.

What are the next option?  Well, the next option is the easiest – and that was to not only stay in Germany for the duration of my Working Holiday Visa, but to also look into options of staying for longer.  Looking into details about Germany, I saw that their freelance visa was actually for three years (not two that I previously noted) and from there, starting reading more about EC permanent residency which would allow me to become a permanent resident of the European Union.  And with this, started plotting my plans to go from freelance visa (including one extension) to EC permanent residency until 2022.  And there you have it.  2017 to 2022 will be all about Germany (so far in this journey…)

However, I still wanted to see what my options are in living and work remotely in other parts of Europe/Germany and I also wanted to have the option of it going beyond the Schengen agreement in case the opportunity arises.  On the road to being an EC permanent resident, I still have the option to reside in Germany or reside elsewhere as long as it’s in Europe.  Since I needed to be self-employed to do this, I decided to first target the self-employment visas followed by the Working Holiday Visa agreements.  Despite the research, I found that Germany was still the most straightforward path from WHV to EC permanent residency in the European Union that did not require a large cash outlay and a lot of paperwork.  However, France has an option to set up as a micro-entrepreneur so now I have France in my sights for summer to fall next year.  And since I am planning a trip back to Australia in December, I can also allocate Spain to escape winter.  In this case, on the road to EC permanent residency via the German residency route I can slowly ‘ease’ myself into German winters 😉

Now, some people are wondering – but what about those immigration schemes?  Aren’t there affordable schemes?  Yes, I am aware of these schemes.  But many of them require a large cash outlay and meeting a lot of other conditions and paperwork.  These schemes may even provide you the pathway to EC permanent residency in the same or a slightly shorter time period.

My only, main problem is that Germany currently has restrictive dual nationality laws.  I am hoping that perhaps by 2022 they will start considering dual nationalities.  However, if I still feel very strongly about having citizenship somewhere in the European Union, at the very least under the EC permanent residency all the requirements will not be as strict as non-EEA/EU residents.  Or, I could save up enough to afford an immigration investment programme.

Berlin is awesome in the summertime

The last time I went out to the city centre was early June and since then, I’ve been outside Berlin travelling.

Now, the city is buzzing with summer crowds and local and visitors alike are enjoying the summer while it lasts.

In Berlin, there are many special ways of doing summer.  You can be out enjoying a drink on a chair by the water or in Alexanderplatz.  Or going alfresco dining in the many quiet eatiers around the place.  Or riding your bicycle around the picturesque parks.  Or having a picnic at Treptow Feld.

Bridge walkway outside Ostkreuz station
I went down to river level and had a fish sandwich and water, watching the people travelling by on the ferries and boats.

And the buildings and structure seems much lighter.

I don’t know about you, but for some reason the visual combination of brick and blue sky, or grey structure and blue sky is really pleasing to me.

The Holocaust Memorial, but there is something that I like about how the light grey of the memorial is interacting with the blue sky.
Staring at this ceiling feels like I am staring at ocean waves. Very calming.
The low building of the Postdamer Platz Bahnof in contrast with the tall structures is visually pleasing and balancing for me.

The blue space of Treptow-Köpenick

Treptow-Köpenick is a borough of Berlin and is not what foreigners would typically associate to be a part of Berlin.  It’s just a very nice, liveable, wholesome neighbourhood filled mainly with pensioners and families, and in particular young families.

The first time I came here was to the day before I moved in.  I remember walking towards the apartment and marvelling how wondrously quiet and lush it was.  Pink blossoms were growing on a tree overlooking the sidewalk and it was mainly residential.  There were a number of people riding bikes – some with groceries or pets in tow.

And then there is the blue space of the river…

Treptow-Köpenick is probably where Berliners go to once they are ready to settle down. There are plenty of green spaces with parks and blue spaces with the lakes nearby.  This is Berlin on a whole other level.  Some people will call it suburban, some will comment how far away it is.  But for me, this was an ideal place to live and focus on work and study.  I can catch a ferry and explore the nearby lakes, I am only about ten minutes ride from the airport, many people here really only have German as their only language but they are very cheerful and welcoming.

I endeavour to take a walk up Regattastraße and into the area previously known as Köpenick. On the way you will see little houses with gardens (the Laubenpieper), also the Baumgarteninsel which is small little island reachable by boat containing small lots of houses and gardens.

Some time up north is the Köpenick Altstadt which started to look a bit English with the ducks, cobblestone streets and small houses:

Solo travelling is great, except for the following….

Any destination where it’s better to drive (ie remote eastern Europe)

I can’t drive so in this case, I’d need to travel someone who can.

On the other hand, I’ve been making all sorts of excuses as to why I don’t need a car or drivers license, but now I’m probably more motivated to get one.

Recently I was in Transylvania, Romania. I was travelling with a group, we went through the mountain villages then I was dropped off in Brasov because they had a different travel agenda.

I wanted to check out some destinations near Brasov but it’s better to have a car so you have more freedom instead of relying on public transport. I ended up just staying in Brasov for nearly a week.

Another example was going to Los Angeles, though I was staying in Santa Monia.  When I travelled there, I had no particular plans but I met with a friend and we ended up driving to Joshua Tree National Park and stayed there for the night.

Traffic on the way to Joshua Tree National Park, California

Any destination where it’s just not safe to be there on your own since you have no idea of the lay of the land – for example, seeing Morrocan mountains

Another one was Marrakech – wanted to go see Atlas Mountains but I needed to pay a guide. I ended up paying for a guide but he never showed up.

In this case it would have been better for me to travel with people and also have a guide.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to see the more remote destinations like Ngorongoro in Tanzania.

There are some destinations or activities where I am OK just travelling on my own, but it’s better to have someone that I know well as an emergency contact and who is also in the area.

Sometimes at the end of the day, it also depends on the people around you…

One of the things a solo traveller does where it’s easy to become self-conscious is going out for a meal, especially around dinner time.

In my teens, I used to be self-conscious about eating out or eating in front of people.  But when I moved out and when I started travelling on my own, I was less conscious of this.  I eat on my own – from a store-bought sandwich on a park bench to having a $100 lunch on my own in a hotel.  But, the ‘bubble’ pops as soon as you overhear someone talking about how you’re desperately trying to figure out how to eat clams or the fact that you’re reading a book on your own while eating a pizza.  So, a message to non-solo diners out there – don’t be rude by point out or loudly talking about a solo diner.  It can be difficult enough as it is dining on your own, enjoying your meal and keeping track of your belongings at the same time.

A simple distraction, like checking out the news on your phone, could have helped.  But, I’d rather not stick to being constantly distracted with my phone and instead focus on the moment.

Photo taken while having lunch on my own in a remote island near Istanbul where I was solo-travelling.

Throwback Thursday: Hawaii, USA in June 2016

I was staying at Hyatt Regency Waikiki for nearly a week where I was using their 24 hour business centre for about 2-3 days working to EST time (which means starting work at 3am!) then the rest of the time was heading out.

Went swimming also, but no photos taken.

It was too bad that there was not a lot of exploring. Mainly due to lack of preparation.

Waikiki was very touristic and busy.  Would be interesting to go out to the other islands.

Random thoughts from my two week Romania trip

What was going to be a one week trip, ended up expanding into two weeks just because of the simple fact that I didn’t want to go back home (which in this case, was Berlin).  I was not looking forward to the heat (I ended up being wrong – it’s cooler here) and various bureacratic paperwork that I know is waiting for me back in my apartment.

Anyway, the first week was spent in Bucharest, mainly Vama Veche with some side trips to Mangalia, Agigea, Constanța.  There was a short day trip to Bulgaria seaside which got cancelled because of car issues.

The second week was spent going through stops through Bușteni, Sinaia, week in Brașov, then Sighișoara and finally Cluj-Napoca.  I took the train which meant about 6-7 hours staring at the countryside and generally thinking about life.

And now, some random thoughts…

Your perceptions changes when you arrive near the nighttime.

I was somewhat forlorn that I arrived in Brașov when it was grey and rainy, and the feeling was worse when the hotel was in the middle of residential towers and while it was a short walk to the train station, apparently a haven for pickpockets.  Not to mention that I would need to find a way to catch the train at some point in the near future.

By the next morning, the feeling was gone.  I went for a walk around the residential areas, made a note of where the supermarkets, pharmacies, bus stops were, did some shopping, just normal things.  It was just a normal day in any normal city.

What struck me was the number of older people that I saw in the area that I was staying in.

I noted a pensioner giving a voucher to the supermarket cashier.

There were some goods on sale that were new to me.  For example, seeing small packets of coffee being sold rather than large packets.  Smaller sizes was what struck me in Europe if I compare to Costco/Walmart size stock in North America.

What are the effects of gentrification?

Cities change and the main driver for these deliberate changes?  Are people.

For me, I have mixed feelings about gentrification.

There were quiet a few comments of places being gentrified, most notably was Vama Veche.

In Wikipedia:

Gentrification is a process of renovation of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the influx of more affluent residents.

Conversations surrounding gentrification have evolved, as many in the social-scientific community have questioned the negative connotations associated with the word gentrification. One example is that gentrification can lead to more displacement for lower-income families in gentrifying neighborhoods.

Gentrification is typically the result of increased interest in a certain environment. Early “gentrifiers” may belong to low-income artist or boheme communities, which increase the attractiveness and flair of a certain quarter. Further steps are increased investments in a community and the related infrastructure by real estate development businesses, local government, or community activists and resulting economic development, increased attraction of business and lower crime rates. In addition to these potential benefits, gentrification can lead to population migration.

My other thought around gentrification happened when I was walking around Cluj-Napoca.  It is more of a positive note in that gentrification is good when it becomes a driver to redevelop run-down and dangerous areas into liveable and safer areas, and when it encourages entrepreneurialism.  Sure, it’s not going to solve all problems and it might potentially have some bad consequences.  But, I take no issue if gentrification can do this.

I got so sick of being a tourist after two weeks.

Cluj-Napoca was the best way to end my two week trip in Romania, especially seeing people living in Cluj having fun in Jazz in the Park.  Many of the people that I observed are young – either still in university, or in their 20s working for the many companies who chose to set up their presence in Cluj.  They were relaxed, and simply there to have fun.  Not to ‘be rich’ and to go to a ‘cultural event’.  Having worked in public festivals and cultural events in my early 20s, I know that these types of events are organized to bring together all sorts of people.  You don’t need to buy anything.  Just show up, sit down on the grass and enjoy the music or time with your friends.  I can go on about the benefits of cultural festivals like these in reinvograting cities.

Festivals are also good for solo-travellers, in fact this city stop reminded me that visiting a new city when a festival is on is a good way to experience the city.

I was disappointed that I was only in the city for one night, as it would have been good to be there for at least a couple of nights for the last night of Jazz in the Park.  Another thing is that there seems to be an entrepreneurial vibe to the place and it would have been interesting to see if there were collectives or small types of shops there.

The tables have turned.

My flight to Cluj was interesting and I think it was ‘symbolic’ of what sums up the city.  I observed on the plane some really young people (late teens/early 20s) who, it became obvious to me, it was their first time on a plane. I think they were from Baia Mare. There was this ‘Wow!’ that came out of them – mixture of amazement at being on a plane, then seeing the countryside below them.  They were taking selfies and photos of the countryside, documenting each trip.  And, I remember sitting back and realizing the first time I flew was when I was really young – maybe 8 years old or even less.  So now, the tables have turned.  Here I was, at the back, pretty much a ‘native’ when it comes to flying and the young Romanians in front were the new, excited tourists.

Socio-economic mobility in Romania

One of the thoughts that I had throughout this trip was social mobility in Romania.  If you were born in Bucharest what kind of opportunities that you have for socio-economic mobility compared to being born in Sibiu?  Those born in the year 2000 were born into the early days of capitalism post-communism, and I am wondering if they have more or around the same opportunities as those born in the mid 80’s who might still remember Communism but were able to enter university and the labour market in time for the early capitalism period.

Many of the those in the late Millenials and Generation X, still have that childhood experience of what it was like in Romania and also affected by parents’ stories of what it was like.  Generation Z, those in the 90’s and the 00’s will have a completely different viewpoint and take on life.  I think that this age group, being unburdened by reliving the past and what the past was like, are going to be the ones to bring the most socio-economic change to the country.

Another thought is around the strenght of friendship and familial ties in and around your place of birth.  Romania did not enter the European Union until 2007 so there is little opportunities of migration being inter-generational (ie, like, a 35 year old uncle moving to another country and having kids in that new country) and thus migration (in the economic / living sense) would therefore still be a fairly new concept.  However I think that opportunities for migration for those in their mid to late 20s are not common – largely due to the recession in 2008 and other years, and also the labor market competition. However I think that there might be more cases like these.


Why I don’t compare.

When I travel, I try to resist the urge to compare one location to another.

Yes, I know that there are some facilities or infrastructure that needs to be further developed. But there is no point comparing the botanical gardens / central park of Cluj-Napoca to Regent’s Park in London. There is no point comparing the walkways to the beach in Mangalia to Ibiza.

Each place has its own history.

Sometimes, my mind automatically wants to compare details. Like, “this cobble stones reminds me of the Distillery District in Toronto which further reminds me of The Rocks in Sydney“.
There is no point doing that type of comparison.

The only time where I could ‘allow’ myself to compare is if I am trying to compare one location to this abstract that I would call ‘home’.
In this case, home is not necessarily a certain street or city or country. It is more abstract. For example, when I went to the Jazz in the Park in Cluj-Napoca, it reminded me a lot of the open-air music festivals that I would go to back when I was living in Brisbane.  So for me, when I am enjoying a music festival in Romania and it reminds me of the times I had with my friends in Australia, I am transported back to those times.  And, I actually feel quiet happy about those times.

Cluj-Napoca and its many faces – from monuments to jazz and street food

I visited Cluj-Napoca on my own.  While some of the locals will remark that there was nothing much to see and do in Cluj and that it’s better enjoyed with people you know, I was surprised to find the opposite.

It so happened that there were some cultural events there – a public opera organized by the Romanian National Opera and Jazz in the Park.

Some tourist shots of Cluj-Napoca…

I found the city to be quiet good in the ‘livability’ index with the number of places that you can enjoy with friends.

…then I enjoy the same things that locals also enjoy at Jazz in the Park