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11 years in the EU


I left my native United States in May of 2000 with a 90-day round-trip ticket. I returned in May of 2011 — 11 years and one week later.

I had no legal right to be in any European country for more than 90 days. I had no right to stay within the European Common Area, either, for more than those 90 days. But I arrived at a time when the borders were opened but the union was not quite federated, so my movement (and non-movement) on the Continent was untracked and unimpeded.

It was a different story in Ireland, which (along with the UK) is outside of the Schengen area of open borders. But, in Ireland, it was a different story indeed. The country was better to me than any place has ever been.

I lived for about two years in the Netherlands,* six months in Spain, and 8 ½ years in Ireland. I spent a New Year's Eve in Paris, and spent about two months in Romania during three visits.


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*When I first left the States, I'd booked a three-week stay on a houseboat in Amsterdam. I lived in Amsterdam for about seven months.

Three years later, I met a Dutch girl in west Ireland and went to be with her in Nijmegen. I lived there for about a year and a half.
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