Monday, July 28, 2014

China in October

Things are looking good for an October trip to China, my first time back in China since 2008.  I wonder if I know anyone still in Shanghai?  Actually, it's my first time back in East Asia since 2008.  Hmm, I couldn't find an old photo in Shanghai, but I did happen upon these photos from Hong Kong, Angkor, and Kuala Lumpur.  Excited!  I've missed Asia.






Friday, July 25, 2014

Honeymoon Options

Daniele and I have been doing things at our own pace.

We were legally married in 2013, had our wedding in a castle in Italy in 2014, and will have our honeymoon in 2015.  Why this timeline?  Well, a lot of it had to do with the antiquated marriage related immigration policies that have not caught up with the increased popularity of international relationships.  I get that the policies were created to avoid visa fraud and they won't be changing anytime soon, so we had to play with traditional timelines a bit.  No big deal, we don't usually follow tradition anyway.

With the legalities done and the wedding done, the next step is planning for the honeymoon.  We first tried to find a location that both of us haven't traveled to, which wasn't as easy as we thought.  It would have been too obvious to choose somewhere in South America, and though we are sure we'd enjoy the continent, for one reason or another neither of us felt any strong compulsion to head that direction.

We did end up narrowing it down to three options and here they are in ascending order of interest:

3. Indonesia and Myanmar

Borobudur
Myanmar has been on every traveler's wishlist ever since the new government took over and eased relations with the rest of the world, but that's part of the problem.  Most reports I've heard have related how quickly the Burmese have adjusted to tourism, often creating inauthentic situations.  South East Asia has already become a backpacker's paradise, which is probably one of the reasons why I haven't been in a hurry to visit again.  The pitfalls of drunken backpackers aside, the beauty, food, and culture of both Myanmar and Indonesia still beckon.
Bagan

Pluses:
- Delicious food
- Awe inspiring locales such as Bagan, Inle Lake, Kyaiktiyo, Mandalay, Borobudur, Bunaken (for diving), Bali, etc...
-Gorgeous beaches
Bunaken

Minuses:
- Overcrowded with tourists
-Inauthentic resort feel for some of the more heavily tourist trafficked locations
-Too many gap year backpackers
- Humid heat

2. India
Varanasi

Once we stopped looking for places we both haven't visited before, we started tackling the list of places Daniele would like to go to even though I've been.  We ended up immediately looking at two of my favorite countries, India being one, and the other is listed next.  Traveling India alone was a great experience after the disappointment of Nepal(what it's become through too much foreign interference through the years) earlier on the same trip.  Even though I've been before, I only experienced a small percentage of what there is to experience.  If we choose India the only place we'd duplicate from my first time there would be a visit to the Taj Mahal, which I would be happy to visit again.  Depending on timing, we'd also try to make it to Sri Lanka as well.
Amritsar

Pluses:
-Delicious food
-Afternoon tea
-Varied locations such as Varanasi, Jaipur, Ladakh, Amritsar, etc...
- It's one of my favorite countries
Ladakh

Minuses:
-It wouldn't be a completely new experience for me
-It would be a less relaxing trip, but I'm not so sure if that's a minus

1. Egypt and Iran
The Famous Sudan Nile Steamer

Egypt is probably my favorite country that I've been to so far.  Though in terms of sights, a lot would be repeat for me (Pyramids at Giza, Karnak, Valley of the Kings), it would only be about 3 days of repeat for me.  Egypt was high on our list from the start, but we weren't sure if we wanted to spend the majority of our time diving on the Sinai or traveling to another country nearby since the sights in Egypt can be seen in just a few days.  The moment I chanced upon an article about Iran easing travel restrictions I knew that was our answer.  I grew up knowing a lot of Iranians and talking to them always gave me the idea that a visit to Iran would be a lot of fun.  Although many Americans would tell me Iran is still a threat, I disagree and think visiting in the near future is the perfect time to go.  Mostly for the same reasons why I'm not as interested in Myanmar anymore.  Everyone is heading to Myanmar and now, which in a few short years has already changed the experience.  Plus, with a bit of instability things may swing the other direction and tourism may be closed off in the future.  With that in mind I don't want this to be like my missed opportunity to go to Syria back in 2010.  It's also like Afghanistan, so much of the gorgeous country has been destroyed due to war, a fate I would never wish upon any country.
Persepolis

Pluses:
-Iranian food
-I love Egypt
-Being in Muslim countries again
-The chance to visit two amazing centers of history, both powerhouses during their own time
-Lack of other tourists due to misconception of lack of safety
-Amazing luxury at equally amazingly low prices in Egypt
-Taking a cruise to Abu Simbel from Luxor on the same boat that inspired Agatha Christie to write "Death On The Nile"
-Diving in the Red Sea again
- Persepolis, Yazd, Shiraz, Esfahan, etc...
Sinai

Minuses:
-None for us, though others may disagree

Though it sounds like we have our minds made up for Egypt and Iran, a lot of recent uncertainty can affect that preference.  I know both countries are not exactly most people's idea of a honeymoon, but we're both more interested in adventure than the idea of sipping fruity drinks by the beach all day long.  Going somewhere tourists are avoiding and having a chance to talk to those in the tourist industry and locals when they are at their most relaxed are definitely upsides to getting to visit endlessly fascinating places.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dual Citizenship - Gaining Italian Citizenship

Lately I've been looking at visas and discovered how inconvenient it is to have an American passport for some of the more interesting countries, in other words,  the types of countries I like to travel to.  Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the freedom that being American affords me, but having a European passport would be an advantage in these cases.  Here are just three examples I've run into lately:

1) Obviously having a European passport is beneficial for entering the EU nations including the United Kingdom.  When traveling with Daniele we always have to split up when going through immigration in Europe since I have an American passport and he has an Italian one.  In every case this has ended up with Daniele waiting for me to either get through a much longer line or spend extra time being questioned by immigration while he flashes his passport and gets waived right through.

2) I'm planning a business trip to China for my first visit since 2008.  Visas to China for Americans cost a flat $140 regardless of number of entry.  That means single entry, double entry, multiple entry for 6 months and multiple entry for 12 months all cost the same for an American.  For all other nationals the cost vary from $30 - $90 depending on number of entry.

3) Iran has reevaluated its travel regulations for tourist entering into the country.  This has resulted in the availability of visa free (for a few countries) and visa on arrival (for the majority) for most countries excluding Britain, United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.  Daniele and I have been looking around at options for our belated honeymoon and I kind of like the idea of revisiting Egypt and tacking on Iran as well.

I know this works both ways and there are benefits that come with having an American passport over a European Union passport, but so far the only one I've seen is the cost of a visa for Egypt is half the cost ($15 for single entry) of a visa for EU nationals ($30 for single entry).  You would think it would be a benefit entering into the United States, but since my port of entry is usually SFO, I've often seen the non-citizen line sorter than the citizen line.

Of course the obvious solution is to get dual citizenship, which is the goal for both Daniele and I.  Though I feel like I am getting more benefits out of gaining Italian citizenship versus Daniele gaining American citizenship.  As an American, Daniele gets the right to work in the United States and the right to vote.  On the other hand, when we move to Europe any income we make will be taxed twice, once in the country where we earn money and once by the United States.  Which means it makes the most sense to keep our source of income based in the United States even when living abroad.

We've been married a year now, and with only two more years before I can apply for Italian citizenship through marriage (spouses can apply for citizenship after 2 years if residing in Italy or in 3 years if living abroad, this time frame is cut in half if children are involved) I've been looking at the process.  Though we still have two years to go, there are two things we can do now to assure a smoother process.  Keep in mind these requirements are up-to-date as of the time of writing, check official sources for changes.

Things to do now:

1. Italian citizens living abroad must register with the A.I.R.E. department within the Italian consulate.  Technically all Italian citizens living in the United States are required to register.  (I had to do something similar while living in China, but didn't know about this requirement until I needed to extend my visa and almost got in trouble for not registering.  Oops. )

2. Register our marriage in Italy to obtain ESTRATTO PER RIASSUNTO DELL’ATTO DI MATRIMONIO .


After getting the above two requirements done it's a matter of waiting for two more years to pass.  Then another few months afterward before Daniele will be eligible for American citizenship.  We're working on a few things now to get us ready for a future split between living in California and in a location of choice in Europe.  Now if only Turkey would apply for and be granted membership in the EU within that time and we'll be set. ;)  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fire!

I've been terribly inconsistent with my blogging, I know.  For the few people who still check back from time to time, I apologize.  After coming back from Europe it's been a bit nonstop for me.  I'm working on a business venture and it's taken me on a road trip along the Pacific Northwest to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.  I swear I have never seen so many waterfalls in my life.

The second incident that's been keeping me busy is a fire that occurred at the house I bought.  I've been a homeowner just shy of a year and how lucky am I to have the only house in the neighborhood to catch fire on July 4th due to idiots playing with fireworks.  All last week it's been nonstop worry and stress.  On the bright side, I've learned quite a bit about how to build (and demolish) a house, if the need ever arises in the future I'll probably be able to piece together something livable.

This means the next few weeks my focus will be on rebuilding, then a trip to Los Angeles to continue my business research.  Pepper in a few health issues and that pretty much covers what's been taking up my time. Just to not end on a dreary note, here are two picture of my ultra cute nieces, it's unbelievable to think there was ever a time they did not exist:
Zoey Getting Ready For Carnival In Germany

Nicole And Half Of Zoey Dancing Before Going Out For Fireworks