Eagerly Packing up Paints, Brushes, and one Tail-less Cat, Moving to Amazing Albania

Karen Espig
6 min readAug 26, 2021

Six months and counting…

The incomparable Vincent! Photo composition by Karen Espig

Eight months ago, I resolved to quit my day job and relocate to Europe. I have known for my entire adult life that travel was something I wished to do. I had planned to pursue it when I retired (at 60), but working from home gave me the time and the solitude I needed to re-evaluate my priorities, and so I moved that retirement date up by six years.

When I looked realistically at my pension income and monthly expenses, I realized that to have the quality of life I wanted, I would have to move out of Ottawa, Canada and into a smaller town — whether I retired early or not. This city is beyond my budget.

So, my thinking is: If I have to move anyway, why not somewhere new and inspiring, and why wait?

Photo of Berat, Albania by Mark de Jong on Unsplash

Since this watershed moment, I have been devouring all the content I can find on rules of entry, long stay visas, and the cost of living, in a number of countries. I have decided to begin my adventure in the Balkan country of Albania.

I have watched every pro- (and con-) YouTuber video I could find, on, not only Albania, but also Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. I’ve joined over a dozen expat groups on Facebook, and I’ve filled my brain with podcasts about remote work and slow travel by those already doing it. All of this has deepened my resolve to begin. (It has also made me wish I had figured this out sooner.)

I looked into the more conventional options of Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In those places, however, the cost of living, while cheaper than Canada, would be double that of Albania.

Early on in this decision-making process I had my sights set on Croatia, but I have since learned some unappealing facts about the visa options available to me there. Croatia’s digital nomad visa, for example, requires that you not leave the country for more than 30 days for the duration of the visa (which can be up to 12 months). This doesn’t work for me — I want to have…

Karen Espig

I am a contemporary figure painter, working primarily in oils. I am also a Canadian Expat currently in Albania. Follow my art and travel journey. karenespig.art