I'm an American looking/hoping to travel to Thailand to teach English for a while, perhaps six months or so. After that, I'd like to explore parts of southeast Asia and most of Europe (including Western Europe, Croatia, Russia and Scandinavia as well as England, Scotland and Ireland). I don't have a specific timeline of when I'll be going except that I'm hoping to start traveling in September 2013 or so. I need help figuring out who to talk to about applying for any necessary visas. I know many European countries do not require a visa for stays shorter than 3 months, but if staying longer than that one usually is necessary. The thing is, because of my uncertain timeline, I'm not sure how long I'll be staying in each country. Should I apply for one in case I decide to stay longer than three months somewhere? (As you can see, everything past Thailand is more of a whim, which I realize is not always the best for planning.) Does any one know if it's possible to apply for visas abroad just in case? I'd like to not spend the money on flights home just for a visa.
Also, if anyone can help clarify the rules for traveling in Ireland vs. the UK, that would be helpful. Wiki travel help gave some specifics, but I'm afraid I don't speak bureauocrac-ese. The idea is to travel through England and Scotland, and then make my way over to Ireland, probably northern and southern. Will I need a visa if I decide to stay longer than three months? The whole "Northern Ireland is part of the UK but Southern Ireland considers itself a separate country, even though the whole island is referred to as Ireland" thing is confusing to me. I'm sure a travel agency could help, but because my trip is so broad and unspecific, I'd rather book flights/trains myself (unless I can get an amazing discount or something), and I feel bad asking a service for their help when I don't intend to use them.
Thanks so much for any help! I'm sorry I can't provide any more specific information, but I just don't have any set plans at the moment. I guess you could say I'm still in the "information gathering" stage. Ideally, I'd like to have everything lined up before I leave, at least as much as possible. I realize though, that even the best-laid plans can go awry!