Travel Blog Articles

Italian Dual Citizenship Requirements and Process

Reclaiming your ancestral Italian citizenship is a bit of an opera. Overall, it’s a gorgeous, sweet, noble experience ripe with beautiful melodies, duets, ensembles and trumpets. Yet there are potential plot twists and difficult, thrilling high notes to consider. Wanna know how to acquire dual citizenship, honor your bloodline and then take a well deserved bow? Find the answers below.

O Patria Mia

Thanks to your good luck, your Italian ancestry entitles you to dual Italian and American citizenship. You earned this by jure sanguinis, the right of blood, occasionally referenced in its Latin form jus sanguinis. That’s right, amico, you only had to be born to earn this right.

There are some circumstances in which your distant Italian ancestral birthright does not guarantee contemporary citizenship by jure sanguinis. In any case there is a ton of paperwork. Let’s examine

  • General rules
  • Documents you might require
  • Processes
  • Restrictions
  • and Fees

O Mio Babbino Caro

As a general rule, you can only claim Italian dual citizenship via jure sanguinis if your ancestors were still Italian citizens when you were born. For example, if your parents emigrated from Italy to the United States 10 years ago, promptly renounced their Italian citizenship and had you, then jure sanguinis does not apply to you.

If your parents emigrated from Italy to the United States 10 years ago, had you and renounced their Italian citizenship only after your birth, then jure sanguinis applies to you.

Further, if you were born before 1948, then only your paternal Italian ancestry makes you eligible to claim Italian citizenship via jure sanguinis. This is because the law did not grant Italian women the right to transmit their citizenship to their children until 1948. Even so, the general rule still applies if you’re attempting to claim Italian citizenship through your father’s side. Capisce?

If your most recent Italian born ancestors emigrated prior to July 1, 1912, then you are not eligible for Italian dual citizenship via jure sanguinis. Any Italians who emigrated prior to this date immediately lost their Italian citizenship, as did their heirs, perpetually. You would need to apply for Italian citizenship as a non-EU citizen, which eventually requires you to renounce your American citizenship.

You May Pledge Allegiance to Multiple Flags

There is a catch to the above general rule, which works in your favor. Native Italians who emigrated to the United States often became U.S. Citizens without renouncing their Italian citizenship. The U.S. does not require its émigrés to renounce their homeland citizenship.

Consequently, you might still be eligible to reclaim your Italian citizenship via jure sanguinis despite being a third or fourth generation American of Italian descent. You only have to demonstrate that you have Italian ancestor who became naturalized U.S. citizens but never renounced their Italian citizenship and still had a legal right to it.

The Plot Thickens Like All Day Sauce

The stack of documents you need for your application packet varies. It depends on the nature of your ancestral Italian lineage, the nationality laws that were in place when you were born, and whether or nor your naturalized American ancestors renounced their Italian citizenship.

First, collect and list the birth years of every relative in the direct line between your Italian born ancestor and you. Second, compile a list of dates when each of your ancestors who emigrated became naturalized citizens of the United States.

To obtain dates of naturalization, ask living family members who might know, or consult certificates of naturalization. You’ll need copies of these certificates for your application packet anyway. Ask any living family members if they possess certificates of naturalization for your common ancestors.

If none of your family members possess certificates of naturalization for your common ancestors, you may obtain them through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Download, print, complete and mail document g-639 to the address given in the document’s instructions

If there is no record with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, consult the National Archives for any copies of the Oath of Allegiance and Petition for Naturalization that one or more of your ancestors completed.

The Story of Your Family

The following list includes most of the documents you might require to obtain Italian dual citizenship via jure sanguinis. (Naturally, the list skips from 16 to 18.) As mentioned above, the specific documents you require depend on the unique lineage and family members through which you acquire your right to Italian dual citizenship by right of blood.

  • 1. Great Grandfather’s Birth Certificate
  • 2. Great Grandmother’s Birth Certificate
  • 3. Great Grandfather’s Certificate of Naturalization
  • 4. Great Grandmother’s Certificate of Naturalization
  • 5. Great Grandparents’ Marriage Certificate
  • 6. Great Grandfather’s Death Certificate
  • 7. Great Grandmother’s Death Certificate
  • 8. Grandfather’s Birth Certificate
  • 9. Grandmother’s Birth Certificate
  • 10. Grandfather’s Certificate of Naturalization
  • 11. Grandmother’s Certificate of Naturalization
  • 12. Grandparents’ Marriage Certificate
  • 13. Grandfather’s Death Certificate
  • 14. Grandmother’s Death Certificate
  • 15. Father’s Birth Certificate
  • 16. Mother’s Birth Certificate
  • 18. Father’s Certificate of Naturalization
  • 19. Mother’s Certificate of Naturalization
  • 20. Parents’ Marriage Certificate
  • 21. Father’s Death Certificate
  • 22. Mother’s Death Certificate
  • 23. Applicant’s Birth Certificate
  • 24. Applicant’s Marriage Certificate
  • 25. Spouse’s Birth Certificate
  • 26. Applicant’s Final Divorce Decree
  • 27. Birth Certificates for all children under 18 years
  • 28. Declaration of Applicant
  • 29. Declaration of Living Ascendant Born Outside of Italy
  • 30. Declaration of Deceased Ascendant

There is a wonderful list of qualifications that clarifies exactly which documents you need based on your relationship to your Italian ancestor and everyone in between. Some documents require an apostille and translation into Italian.

There is a strong possibility you’ll have to request certain certificates from Italy, such as birth or marriage. You can do this yourself or pay a specialist to do it. The process entails submitting the full name of the Italian ancestor, a date or approximate date range of the event, such as birth, marriage or death, and the town or city where the event transpired.

The request must be sent to the appropriate city’s official archives or Registrar of Vital Records (Ufficio dello Stato Civile). Response times vary between six to eight weeks. DIY fees are as little as $20 to $40. The U.S. Embassy has Italian/English versions of certificate requests on its website.

Prepare and Check Your Packet of Documents

Sift through all your documents in search of discrepancies and errors. Check, re-check, and re-check again. Any differences in dates, names, unclear documents, poor translations, etc., can result in the consul rejecting your packet. Which means you’ll have to schedule a new appointment.

Bear in mind that your stack of documents should include several documents that attest to your citizenship and marital status, such as your birth certificate and marriage certificate. Replacement fees for these documents vary depending on the state you live in and the service you use to request them.

Be sure you have any English-language documents translated into Italian replete with apostilles. More than likely, you’ll need to have your Application for Italian Citizenship Jure Sanguinis translated into Italian. The Italian embassy in Washington DC has PDF copies in English.

Visit the website of your local Italian consulate general. Rather like Italy’s various regions, each consulate has a specific way of overseeing the application process. Each website is also a fount of relevant information, instructions, additional forms you may require (yeah!) and lists of recommended professional translators.

Finalmente!

Create a cover letter for your application packet, and schedule an appointment to visit your local Italian consul. You will need to sign certain forms at the consul per the consul’s requirements. As of mid 2017, the fee for a application for citizenship jure sanguinis is $319.40, and the consul only accepts money orders.

The fee in U.S. dollars potentially changes every trimester, so check your consul’s website before raiding any piggy banks. Your total fees depend largely on the number of documents you require, and this depends on the number of relevant ancestors in the direct line between you and your Italian born ancestor.

In your application packet cover letter, specify the city hall or comune in Italy where you desire your registration of your civil status documents. Arrange the order of your packet as follows:

  • Cover letter
  • Application for Italian Citizenship jure sanguinis (with notarization)
  • Declaration of Applicant (with notarization)
  • Declaration of Living Ascendant Born Outside of Italy (with notarization)
  • Declaration of Deceased Ascendant (with notarization)
  • Photocopy of a valid ID showing your current address
  • Your birth certificate with apostille or legalization
  • Italian translation of your birth certificate
  • Ancestors’ certificates starting with Italian-born ancestor and continuing chronologically


Photocopy everything in your application packet twice, and reserve one hard copy in a safe place. Feel free to scan your entire packet into a digital format and keep it handy on a USB flash drive of backed up in a secure cloud.

Perfect Time For A Passeggiata… Or Several

Some consuls allow you to mail your application packet, while others require you to deliver it in person. Since one or more appointments at the consulate are a requirement, and considering all the fastidious sleuthing and preparation you have to do, you may as well deliver the packet in person.

Reward yourself afterward with a glass of chianti or a gelato. You sure deserve it. Clutch your patron saint’s pendant and sit tight. Scoring citizenship via jure sanguinis can take up to one whole year. Ciao!

About the Author:

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Documents International LLC, a leading apostille service for individuals and businesses.

Three Reliable Ways to Support Your Long-Term Travels

There are few things in life better for the body, mind, and soul than world travel. It can give you to the opportunity to break out of a spiritually repressive 9-to-5 routine and truly experience what this marvelous planet has to offer. Traveling will introduce you to new cultures, giving you a unique perspective on life, and will challenge you to exist outside of your comfort zone. Because you are constantly faced with these inspiring challenges, becoming a world-traveler will increase your self-confidence and enable you to become an especially independent self-starter. The longer you travel, and the more places you visit, the more autonomous of a person you will become.


Perhaps you are thinking, “Well, this certainly sounds like a wonderful idea in theory, but how am I supposed to fund all of this globe-trotting on a long-term basis?” It may come as a surprise to hear that traveling for weeks, months, or even years doesn’t have to come with an absurd price tag. In fact, there are innumerable ways to travel with very little cost. Additionally, there are steps you can take to actually generate an income as you travel, giving you the option to continue your excursion for as long as your heart and soul desire.

Work as a Freelance Writer

Anyone with a decent grasp of the English language, and who has managed to recall the simple rules of grammar taught to them in school can make money writing while on the road. Starting as a freelance writer with no experience can be tricky without a degree and portfolio; however, more and more online content sites are hiring first-time writers to produce articles, blog posts, and web content to sell to their clients. Many of these companies only require that you submit a writing sample, or that you pass a spelling and grammar exam before being added to their roster of authors.

Texbroker International is one popular online content site for new freelancers; this content and writing service hires authors on as ghostwriters. As fun as it sounds, this does not mean that you’ll be paid to create tales about the supernatural world; instead, you will write articles on topics you are assigned, which in turn will be consensually published as another person. While the pay is not especially high, a couple hours a day can easily put an extra twenty or thirty dollars in your pocket. A hint for those interested in writing for Textbroker: take your time and submit an outstanding sample article during the application process, because you are paid on a rating system based on your writing style and grammar skills. The higher your initial rating is, the more you will be paid per word.

Apply for Work Trade Programs on Organic Farms

An increasingly popular way to travel the world on a budget (and often earn money while doing so) is to work as a WWOOF’er. WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is an ever-increasing movement in which organic farms and sustainable communities offer room, board, and sometimes meals to travelers in exchange for a portion of their time in labor. WWOOF’ing positions are available in nearly every region of the world and, and they last anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more. However, the average length of stay on one farm is three months. Many organic farms, or “hosts”, that offer this type of work trade do so only seasonally, but depending on what type of farm you are working on, and what climate the region is in, year-round opportunities are attainable. For instance, farm hosts on the Hawaiian islands grow and harvest crops during every month of the year, making it one of the most sought-after destinations in the world for WWOOF’ers to travel to.

The best WWOOF hosts will allow you to eat off the land, in other words, you can forage for vegetables and fruits that are growing on the property. Supplementing what is available on the land with inexpensive staples such as beans, rice, and grains, and cooking meals for yourself will nearly diminish the cost of eating while you are working as a WWOOF’er. Additionally, this gives you the life experience of consuming a pure diet straight from the earth, utterly free of processed food products, and will give you the opportunity to gain practice in self-reliance and sustainability. Better yet, a growing number of host farms offer a weekly stipend. The amount of this stipend is typically quite insignificant, but with no other substantial living expenses to speak of, this pocket money can easily be saved to fund a flight to your next farm in another country.

Another major benefit of doing a work trade as a WWOOF’er is the experience you’ll gain, and if organic farming or gardening is something you want to do regularly, you can easily capitalize on this hands-on learning experience later on. Several WWOOF’ers with some formal educational background in agriculture have said that they gained more knowledge of organic farming in three months of working on a host farm than they did during several years of sitting in a classroom.

Become an Employee While Hostel-Hopping

Hostels are undoubtedly a substantial part of any budget traveler’s itinerary, but some are not aware that many of these culturally-diverse crash pads frequently hire some of their guests. Often these are low-paying positions, and a hostel may require a certain amount of notice and planning before they can sponsor you; however, the perks are well worth it. Not only will you get to earn extra cash during your travels, but you’ll surely form friendships with people from around the world, and will become increasingly familiar with the region that you’re visiting. This is because employees at hostels are often in charge of directing their travelers to places of interest in the area, conducting tours, and accompanying travelers on local outings.

Depending on your destination and the need for workers at the time you apply, many hostels may not be available to pay you for your services with cash; instead, they may allow you free or discounted lodging and possibly meals in exchange for your time. A more lucrative alternative to working or volunteering at hostels is to become an employee with one of many resorts, hotels, cruise ships, and national parks that hire seasonally. These may require full-time work schedules, but the pay is decent, and there are hundreds of desirable locations to choose from.

These are but a few of the many ways you can earn or save money while wandering the globe, making it completely feasible for pretty much anyone to become a world-traveler.

About the Author:

Jessica is a professional blogger who writes for Faxage, a leading company that provide internet fax service for individuals and businesses.

10 Reasons You Should Start A Travel Blog While You Are Teaching in China

Blogging is a completely different world filled with every single thing that occupies a big chunk of every blogger’s heart. You will discover a wide variety of niches in the blogging world, but one thing is common: they are writing something personal – something that consumes their day.
As you begin a new chapter of your life as a teacher in China, your personal experiences are worth writing down. Your highs and lows, and your new discoveries are gems to the world. If you are in a need of a little convincing, here are the ten reasons why you should start a travel blog:

1. It somehow keeps you sane.

Miles away from home, people from the past would write on journals to let out every single overwhelming experience they have had. Blogging works just like writing a journal only that you invite people to interact with you, and be part of your experience. You can be very personal about your journey yet giving the world a chance to walk with you.

2. You discover new things. 

With the chance to share your experiences to the world, it also pushes you to keep on trying something new. China is a beautiful country. As a foreigner, you have yet to discover so many things about this wondrous country. And when you begin to blog, you get more inspired to discover more.

3. It helps you grow. 

In the pursuit of discovering new things about China, you will also stumble upon lessons that would help you grow as a person. You will gain experiences and you will be with people who will help open your eyes and bring you to a fresher and newer perspective about travelling, about people, and about life.

4. You create an audience. 

You create a community of people who are more than willing to see you grow, and learn from your journey. This community is one of the reasons that encourages you to try out something new.

5. You teach people.

With the community that you have created, you also help open their eyes to the realities of teaching abroad and you welcome them to a life in China far different from what the media would always present.

6. You create opportunities.

You become a key that opens a door of possibilities for your readers. They will begin to discover their passion by simply reading your blog. You attract companies to partner with you, too. And because of this, your readers find opportunities out of being part of your community of readers.

7. You build your brand. 

You might know that in a pool of applicants, recruiters are always looking for people who are experts in their fields. Blogging allows you to build your personal profile. It is like an online portfolio of who you are as a foreign teacher in China, and even as a tourist (if you are also considering it as a job you can take on in the future).

8. You attract recruiters.

As mentioned, recruiters are always on the hunt of the best people to hire. They want someone who showcases their skills and talents into the job. Blogging is a very good tool in connecting people and companies to each other. If they noticed your exemplary passion for teaching, they would be the first one to knock on your door without you even applying.

9. It gives you a chance to connect to people.

This is completely different from creating a community. Blogging gives you chance to meet people from the different walks of life. Some readers would connect us to tour guides, drivers, executives, and/or companies that would expand our horizons and would lead us to be better versions of ourselves.

10. You are a good medium of change.

Before you know it, you become an influencer. You affect people simply by what you post. With this kind of power, you are a good medium in getting a message come across to people. What you write affects your readers in some way or another. You can be a stone thrown out in the pond that creates a ripple of change.

So while you are packing up for your next flight, I hope you are already thinking of your blog name. You are like the Little Prince who travelled the world and shared his wisdom to people. You are a story definitely worth blogging about.

Beach and the City: Europe’s Best Beach Vacation Destinations Revealed

Europeans know how to party in summer which is why increasing numbers of Americans are heading over to the continent to take part. While some like to relax on holiday, others like to let loose and get involved in the local nightlife. Afterall, what better way to spend a party-filled vacation than in some of Europe’s best beach cities?

To find Europe’s most fun-filled fiestas, GoEuro the travel platform for comparing and booking trains, buses and flights across Europe, has surveyed over 1000 European beach destinations to determine the best locations for summer fun.

Here are GoEuro’s top ten European beach cities to stay active all day and party all night:

 

1. Barcelona, Spain

2. Cannes, France

3. Rimini, Italy

4. Ibiza, Spain

5. Saint-Tropez, France

6. Gallipoli, Italy

7. Alicante, Spain

8. Palma, Spain

9. Malaga, Spain

10. Puerto del Carmen, Spain

Number 1 City For Nightlife: Barcelona

An ice-cold cocktail on the beach is a must for many groups of travelers commencing on their Europe trips this summer. Barcelona checks all the boxes when it comes to coastal fun, offering plenty of evening activities with an impressive mix of music options. Barcelona appeals to travelers looking to soak up the sun with drinks at the La Barceloneta beachfront bars. Those seeking a more alternative music scene will be sure to find some hidden treasures in the old city. GoEuro researched and analyzed different nightlife choices available in each city while also taking into account the cost of a 0.5 liter beer. Barcelona takes the crown when it comes to sun, sea and summer fun and also attracts huge crowds every year for its world renowned music festivals.

The Spanish Know How To Party

With six of the top ten European cities for nightlife located in Spain, this Mediterranean haven certainly has a lot to offer when it comes to beachside fun. Aside from the beautiful weather and friendly people, Spanish culture seduces travelers with its effortless charm. Al fresco dining any time of day, with some bars still offering complimentary tapas with drinks and a relaxed ambience, the Spanish lifestyle is the envy of travelers from around the world. When the night owls come out to play, the city really comes alive. The possibilities are endless since Spain’s cities attract some of the world’s best DJs (Ibiza in particular, which came in fourth place) and the party always continues well into the next day.

About the Study: Best European Urban Beaches

For many American travelers, Europe is not renowned for its beaches. However, GoEuro’s list of top 100 beach cities show popular European destinations that also have a beach. Aside from the exciting nightlife, GoEuro also looked into the type of beach, water temperature during the peak summer months, availability of water sports, and travel convenience of Europe’s top cities.

How To Prepare For An ATVing Weekend

Photo Credit: Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism Board

If you’re ready to tackle the weekend in style, then off-roading may be on your list of things to do. However, as with all extreme sports, you can’t exactly go off half-cocked if you want to make sure that you have a good time. Safety and preparedness are always a top priority, which is why you should follow these steps about what to bring ATVing. Whether it’s your first time or your hundredth, it’s always good to know what’s important before heading out.

Know Proper Loading Procedure

You may have seen many videos of people trying to drive their ATVs or dirt bikes onto a truck via a ramp, and almost every time they wind up biffing it or damaging their rig. If you aren’t sure how to load your vehicles onto a truck bed, then look up the right way to do it. Don’t risk injury before you’ve even been out on the trail.

Wear the Right Gear

No matter how much of a tough guy you are, you can’t deal with getting your foot or leg pinned between your ATV and the ground. Serious injury happens when people are careless and reckless, when most of the time it could be avoided by wearing safety equipment and practicing correct procedures.

Bring Extra Fuel

Even if you plan on being out for a couple of hours at most, you don’t want to risk running on empty and having to drag your ATV back to the truck. Plus, more fuel means that you can stay later if the mood strikes.

Bring Spare Tires

You never know what can happen on the trail, which is why you should buy cheap ATV tires and bring them along. It’s much better to have spares and not use them then to need them and not have them.

Tool Kit

Repairs may need to happen on the road, including changing a tire. Don’t get stranded because you don’t have the right tools to do the job.

If you need any of this equipment or more for your ATV excursion, check out bikebandit.com for ATV parts and accessories to make your trip even more memorable.

[x_alert heading=”DISCLAIMER” type=”muted”]This is a sponsored post. On occasion, Lost Boy Memoirs accepts sponsored articles or guest authors but all opinions expressed here are of the guest author and not of Ryan Brown or Lost Boy Memoirs.[/x_alert]

Road Trippin’ America: Highlights from the West Coast

Damn does it feel good to be moving again…

The warm California air whipped through the open windows of our camper and the orange jagged horizon unfolded endlessly before us as we rolled on down the empty highway. We both basked in the moment of freedom that a road trip brings, smirks stretched across our face, lungs filling with the desert air.

Beside me sat my Dutch friend Tijs (pronounced Tice) who I met last summer during my time sailing in the Mediterranean, and now my adventure comrade for this last minute unplanned road trip. He had his hand out the window, letting the air carry it up and down like riding waves, and bobbed his head to the music blaring from our speakers.

How cliché this moment was I thought.

Two dudes in a camper van listening to Eddie Vedder’s “Hard Sun” and driving into the unknown on a small American road trip in the wild west. Like something out of a movie.

I watched the hazy asphalt disappear beneath the car and melt into the distance in the rear-view mirror, into the past, with the road before us going into the unknown. It was liberating — gripping that wheel and escaping the city. I felt light and airy and free again on the move. Maybe I’m a fool to think I can ever stop moving because this feeling was the essence of the human spirit, and I’m addicted to it.

How do other people spend most of their lives never doing this?” I mused.

No agenda. No ticking clock of an everyday schedule. Just the open road. Just the purity of breathing and exploring and adventuring and living. Happiness was in that crimson and gold sunset, in the heavy desert air filled with fables of the Universe, hidden within the fingerprints of the earth that are the cracks and crevices of the mountains following along our journey. It waits for all of us to find. We rolled on.

Our West Coast Road Trip

When I say last-minute and unplanned road trip, that’s exactly what it was. And that’s the way I like it.

Hello Lost Ones, I’ve just returned from this very trip that involved a week long adventure driving through sand and snow, up mountains and through valleys, sleeping under the stars and under parking garage lights, towns in wastelands and giant sculptures made of waste. Oh, and I cannot forget that sweet and delicious apple pie in a town known for, well, apple pies.

Ever since I watched Into the Wild, or read On the Road by Jack Kerouac, I’ve wanted to do a proper road trip across the United States. Like many others, the spirit captured in those works inspired me to travel, and I wanted to have an experience like those.

Last year, when I finished up my 5 months as a photographer on sailboats, I told the skippers all I wanted to do was go for a road trip in the States. After wintering in Washington DC, I didn’t think it would happen. But when my friend rang me up asking if I wanted to go on a small road trip, I was all game.

This trip was a quickie and a doozy…

To say it was a whirlwind of a trip would be a very light description of it. We were literally all over the west, to the point where my bank froze my card because of the sporadic spending in multiple states per day.

One day we were in California, the next in Nevada and Arizona. But, with some of the National parks spanning multiple states, that was inevitable. The road trip was a little rushed as well, given my Dutch buddy had only a week to travel around with and had some main points of interest he wanted to see.

So how did we do with time and points of interest?

With the handful of must-see places as our only plan, we let our GPS do the navigating and let random encounters or places on maps that caught our eye guide the trip. For most of the road trip, that worked out awesome. We found hidden places that I haven’t seen anyone else cover, experienced small town America where the kindness and hospitality actually beat out what you see in the movies (Well howdy do ya’ll!), and camped in some of the most beautiful national parks in the United States.

Sometimes not planning is good. Sometimes, it’s really bad.

On the other hand, not planning turned out to be a big mistake in the final neck of the journey when we attempted to drive into Yosemite National Park from the west. That became mission impossible, and it took us nearly 2 days to reach Yosemite.

With Google Maps and Waze not showing proper road conditions, and websites not being updated fast enough with road closures, we were forced to drive all the way north of the Sierra Mountains, and down back south to the only road open. And that was after driving through snow flurries and avalanche zones. Wew.

Road Trip West Snow Flurries in Yosemite

This road trip made me fall in love with the spirit of America.

When I say fall in love with the spirit of America, I don’t mean gun-totin’ yee-haw “Murica is the best!” xenophobic attitude it has been stamped with recently. I mean that spirit of exploration, the spirit of the natural beauty embodied in famous paintings and captured in the words of writers and poets.

That spirit of being on the open road, of filling your life with the simple joy of wandering, of the majestic natural diversity of this enormous country. That spirit I uncovered in this recent road trip. Something I didn’t discover on my first road trip across the United States, and only had a small taste of on various train journies across the country.

It made me want to explore more of the United States.

After years of leaving the United States thinking adventure only lived outside of the country, I’ve found there is plenty to be had here in America. And this small road trip made me eager to see more of the National Parks, and to drive more of those endless highways.

Here is a small taste of each location we hit on this week-long road trip, and there is plenty more to write about that I’ll feature in articles soon. For now, come relive this trip getting lost in the wild west of the United States.

West Coast Road Trip Highlights

Los Angeles

We kicked off the road trip in Los Angeles for a night. Even though I’ve been in Los Angeles now for a month or two and I’ve been making it a point to wander the city photographing it, I still don’t know what to do when a friend shows up. Of course, there are some staples most want to see, so we stuck to that. Hollywood sign hike, Venice beach in all of its quirkiness, and all you can eat tacos on Tuesdays. The essentials. Since we only had a night in Los Angeles and both were saving our funds for the trip, we kept the itinerary small.

Panorama Photo of Los Angeles from behind the Hollywood Sign in the Valley, with Ryan Brown of Lost Boy Memoirs watching the sunset while wearing an iconic LOST jean jacket.

Visiting Los Angeles? Here’s how to explore it for cheap!

San Diego

Day 1 took us to San Diego, one of my favorite cities on the west coast. Though it was again a big city and we were eager to get out into the National Parks, San Diego was fun nonetheless. I love it for the food and the beaches and the nightlife. I really had no clue what to show my friend, so we did a lot of wandering around the harbor. The famous monumental smooch from the end of WWII stands near the retired USS Midway battleship which was pretty cool to see.

Super cheesy but one of my favorite spots in San Diego is the Old Town. Made up to be like the old west, it has touristy written all over it, but I can’t help myself. I go there for the old school rootbeer and Tijs found his much prized Dutch licorice inside a shop here. You know the Dutch and their licorice. Good for a wander around, great for chips and margaritas at sunset.

While in San Diego, we wandered around Balboa Park which is another hotspot, and then met up with a friend to hit the San Diego nightlife in the Gaslamp district. Gaslamp has to be one of my favorite places for a night out, the area is packed with different bars and restaurants and was a good way to enjoy our reunion before hitting the road.

Julian

What can I say about Julian town? It’s basically one street long and tucked into the mountains on the way to Las Vegas. But, I will admit, it has some of the best damn apple pie I’ve ever had. That’s what this town is known for if it’s known at all really. On a previous road trip, we accidentally found this town, and I loved the old and classic vibes so much I had to take Tijs here.

I’m glad we visited again. Besides a couple locals telling us about a unique spot to check out nearby, we both had the chance to stop for lunch and have some homemade apple pie. Worth it. I mean, when you roll into a town and they have pies and caramel apples cooling in the window, you can’t go wrong.

I also stocked up on some 35mm film rolls I found in an antique shop since I was running out on the trip already. Hopefully, they turn out even if they were expired!

Galleta Meadows

Galleta Meadows was an absolute gem of a discovery, and only because of some super kind (and extremely talkative) locals in an antique store in Julian insisted we go. Out in the middle of the desert in Borrego Springs stand more than 100 metal sculptures of all shapes and size — from dinosaurs to massive birds to offroading jeeps. I’ll be featuring this in a separate article, but talk about quirky and weird huh? Only in California…

Galleta Meadows Borrega Springs metal sculpture

Jurassic Park anyone? Ricardo Breceda, the artist of these fantastical and fascinating sculptures, was enlisted by Dennis Avery to fill his massive and barren desert estate with sculptures. We couldn’t drive around to see all of them, given that would take an afternoon, but we had some time to explore. And pose…

Photo of Galleta Meadows Borrega Springs metal sculptures in the desert.

Kiss of the dragon?

Photo of Galleta Meadows Borrega Springs metal sculptures in the desert.

I think Tijs will need to work on his raptor skills. But it’s close eh?

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain has a special meaning to me. Back in 2012 after taking the Amtrak across America, Salvation Mountain was a part of a small road trip precursor to a new and exciting adventure abroad. It also came after one of the darkest periods of my life, when a year before I was nearly swallowed whole by a deepening depression.

One of the movies that inspired me to travel, Into the Wild, featured this amazing and colorful monument in the middle of the desert, and I knew I had to visit. Though I’m not religious, it was meaningful for me to visit it then and leave a memento for my parents who had passed away for wherever they were now. And given this last-minute road trip was so like the Into the Wild route, and we were constantly blasting its soundtrack, it was a fitting place to show my friend that not many people see.

Unfortunately, my memento was no longer there, but the memory still was.

Photo of Salvation Mountain in California from Into the Wild

Photo of paint buckets at Salvation Mountain in California from Into the Wild

Salton Sea

To give my friend a unique perspective of the west from the glitz and glam, and to show him a bit of an anomaly on a road trip, we went to Salton Sea. Once an area of abundance and hailed as a new resort destination for the rich in the 1950’s, an engineering disaster flooded the lake with pollutants and agricultural runoff and froze everything in time.

Now, the surrounding towns are either abandoned and destroyed, salt crusted, or impoverished. Wandering the lake you see skeletons of old houses and piles of fish bones that washed up from the massive lake. It’s surreal and gives you a feeling that this is what a post-apocalyptic world would look like.

Road Trip West Salton Sea

Road Trip West Salton Sea

Las Vegas

Nothing to show really. We arrived late, drank expensive drinks, Tijs gambed (and won!) and we slept in a casino parking lot. I still don’t like Vegas.

Grand Canyon

I’ve always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon ever since I was little. Once upon a time I did, years ago when I was very young, but I don’t remember it. And the last time I drove across the United States, I somehow completely drove past the damn Grand Canyon! This time I finally made it.

We all know the Grand Canyon, but it’s really different to experience it, to hike it, and to camp there. One of the most popular destinations and national parks to visit in the United States, it’ll be busy most of the season, but there’s still plenty of reason to visit. And luckily we got the last available walk-in spot when we showed up.

Talk about lucky.

We only spent an evening and a morning there, but even in that short period of time, it became one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve had. At night we ate by the fire and I taught Tijs how to make s’mores for the first time, and the next morning we hiked down into the canyon.

Photo standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

It really does feel like you’re standing at the edge of the world when you see the Grand Canyon, especially for someone afriad of heights.

Photo standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona at sunset.

Smores by the fire in Grand Canyon long exposure.

Want More Grand Canyon?

Come check out this photo series from the Grand Canyon South Rim!

Read it

Mojave Desert

After a grueling 12+ mile hike down and up the Grand Canyon, we had a long drive ahead of us. We wanted to drive straight from the Grand Canyon to Yosemite, but that’d take us an entire day, so we opted to stop back in Mojave for the night.

A few days before, we drove through the Mojave National Park on our way to Vegas, so both of us wanted to get a good night sleep and see it in the daytime. We stopped in Hole in the Wall campground named for the portion of a mountain in the distance that looks as though a chunk had been eaten out of it, and wow do you get a view of the stars there!

Long Exposure Photo Hole in the Rock Mojave

In the morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise in the desert, surrounded by odd looking plants and cacti, and wildly unique rock formations. Since it was Easter, my travel companion showed me a Dutch tradition.

Road Trip West Majave

Easter Egg in Mojave Desert

Lake Delores Abandoned Waterpark

Out in the middle of the Nevada desert, someone thought it’d be smart to make a water park. It kinda’ makes sense, I mean I’d want to hit a water park often given the heat out there. Being that it is surrounded by a whole lot of nothingness on a hard-to-reach stretch of freeway, and the closest towns aren’t tourist destinations, it was destined to fail.

On my various trips from Vegas to California (no, I’m not a gambling addict — unfortunately I lived in vegas once) I passed by this park and always wanted to explore it. I’m also a bit of an urban and rural exploring junky and am always looking to find abandoned places so this was a must for both of us. It took a bit of offroading to get there, but it’s no longer surrounded by fences and there was no security preventing us from wandering.

Apparently, it was open until 2005, but much of the park rides and water slides were sold off to other amusement parks. It was fascinating to walk around the place imagining it once bustling with people, with kids frolicking about in the attractions, and there actually being life in such a desolate place.

Photo of Lake Delores Waterpark in Nevada

Lake Delores Abandoned Water Park

Death Valley

When asked what my favorite part of the trip was, it’s hard to decide. But one of the favorites was definitely Death Valley. The entire day was packed with road trip adventures already, from waking up in Mojave to the abandoned water park, could have been a good day alone. Somehow, we managed to fit in stops along the barren stretches of highway for cool photos, hiked in a canyon, chilled on some sand dunes, went swimming, and made chili under the desert stars.

Highway into Death Valley

Animal skull portrait Death Valley

Death Valley itself is a profound place. One of the lowest, dryest, and hottest places on earth, you really get an appreciation for the cycle of life and death out there. And the stark beauty of the desert itself and changing landscape is wild. Highways seem to stretch forever into an orange horizon. The beating sun creates mirages on the road as you drive.

Photo sitting in Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley, Nevada

The campgrounds in Death Valley are pretty freakin’ great. And was the best we had the entire trip, but not the most wild. Luckily they had enough space for us even though we arrived late. At $18 it wasn’t expensive at all for the amenities we had in that little oasis of a campground. Cafés, restaurants, a pool (oh that was so glorious after a long hike), showers, and toilets. The little things that are so glorious after dirty days of long hikes and no showers.

We managed to squeeze in a hike even though it was late, and the Mosaic Canyon hike was short enough for us to tackle before sundown. It also allowed us to make it to the insanely awesome sand dunes Death Valley is known for.

Photo of Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park

One of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. The hot white sand turned purple as the sun fell behind the mountains, and the wind kicked up small sandstorms in the distance. After a while, the whipping sand was too much to handle and we had to leave, but the experience of seeing the sunset while sitting on desert dunes will forever be ingrained in memory.

Yosemite

Oh Yosemite. The end of our road trip, and the most difficult to get to. That’s putting it lightly, it was damn hard to get to! After leaving Death Valley, we drove north following our directions from Google, only to find every road through the Sierra Nevada range closed. I have to say, it was pretty wild of a contrast to drive from desert sand dunes to snow covered mountains in one day.

Sierra Nevada Mountains Lee Vinnie

As we pushed north, we realized we would have to drive all the way around the northern tip of the Sierras, and ended staying at a motel in South Tahoe for the night. South Tahoe wasn’t too much of a highlight, it was pouring rain so we had a relaxing night drinking beers, doing some much-needed laundry, and getting some quality rest. When we woke in the morning, we found our van covered in snow, and the entire day of driving would be through thick flurries of snow.

Road to Yosemite Highway 120 snow covered.

Yes, this bit of the trip was adventurous to say the least, but the fact that we drove a camper through flurries and avalanche zones (I freaked when I saw snow tumbling down the hill side) is pretty crazy in hindsight. We saw multiple car crashes and people stranded, but somehow we managed to clear the snow, only to be turned around for another road closure.

Snowy Highway 120 in Yosemite National Park

Another 2.5 hours driving back the way we came trying not to slide off the mountainside, we FINALLY made it to Yosemite by nightfall. I was so so relieved to get out of the snow safely, even though I still don’t know how we did, and we followed the winding cliff-lined roads into the campgrounds.

Foggy highway 140 into Yosemite

Even after we made it onto the only freeway open into Yosemite, it was still a trial to make it inside the park. From more car crashes to construction detours, it felt like the 10+ hours of driving that day had been completely made up of turnarounds. I never want to hear the word detour again.

Truck Crash in Yosemite National Park April 2017

Highway 140 into Yosemite

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park at Sunset

We only had about an hour of two of daylight left after arriving and finding a camping spot, so we wandered a couple of miles around the campgrounds and visitor center to see something at least. A day filled with snow and scares and storms had a glorious ending as the sun came out and painted the skies over Yosemite pastel colors. Surrounding you from all angles are enormous and uniquely shaped mountains and rock formations, and all of it was unbelievably beautiful. I wish we had more time, I could have explored Yosemite for a week at least.

Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California

The following morning before ending the road trip, we woke up early to hit a big hike up to the top of Yosemite falls. Given I was still sore from the Grand Canyon hike, I knew it’d be brutal. We trudged our way up the winding steep path 2,600 feet high, and with searing muscles, we made it to the top. And all of that work was well worth it. The views from the top of Upper Yosemite Falls are incredible to behold. Everywhere you look there were waterfalls or some famous peak. We had lunch on the side of the waterfall looking down over the entire park and snuck in a nap before hiking back down.

Hiking Upper Yosemite Falls

Road trip West Yosemite

Santa Cruz

Though there was a quick stop in San Francisco for a couple of days, it wasn’t too eventful. My first time there and I didn’t see the main sights! Instead, we caught up with Tijs’s friends, went out for drinks, and sang karaoke. Fun times either way, and at that point I think we just needed a break. So I will say the official end to the crazy road trip would be in Santa Cruz.

So I will declare the official end to the crazy road trip is Santa Cruz a couple days after returning the van.

I forgot just how beautiful it is to drive along the coast of California. It’s just…special. Endless coastline with a silver ocean crashing on the cliffs and rocks below as you snake along the coastal highway through small beach towns. Santa Cruz is where I parted ways with Tijs, who was continuing on to Monterey, but low funds meant I needed to head back to Los Angeles.

Road Trip West Photo of Santa Cruz

Road Trip West Photo of Santa Cruz

Road Trip West Photo of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz really made me want to see more of California, especially these small coastal towns. Surfers hitting waves on a golden day. Sea lions playing under the pier. People relaxing on the beaches basking in the sun and reading. I haven’t seen much of California, but this small experience has me addicted and wanting to see more. It’s no wonder fellow bloggers like Kristen have told of their love for California. I’m not a native to the state like her and others, but I do think I could call it home someday.

Have you ever road tripped around the west before? What were your highlights?