Ingredients for Your Bag
It’s hard to be prepared, but to also avoid over packing. When I visited Orlando, Florida for a week last December we were at a different park everyday between Universal Studios and Walt Disney World. By the end of the week, my perfect packing balance was achieved. Here’s what I put into my tiny Jansport backpack:
B. Travel Credit Card
D. Baseball Cap
F. Drivers License
G. Moist Towelettes
H. Hair Tie
A Muggle’s Dream
Like many people of my generation, I grew up with the Harry Potter books and dreamed of attending Hogwarts as a teenager (who am I kidding, I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts acceptance letter). I eagerly lined up for the midnight book releases and stayed up all night devouring the latest J.K. Rowling novels. My best friend and I would report to each other after each chapter with a phone call to discuss Harry, Ron and Hermione’s latest adventures, squeal about it and then continue our binge reading marathon.
At the end of last year I finally had the opportunity to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando with my best friend, my husband and my sister-in-law. It was a dream come true for this Muggle!
Our trip took place during the first week of December and crowds were at an all time low. Wait times were approximately 15-30 minutes during our visit. Due to the realistic and intimate scale of the wizarding villages, everything feels crowded even during the low season. Here is a quick overview of the parks along with some of my favorite activities from our trip.
Proud to be a GerMerican
After living in the United States as a permanent resident for a little over twenty years, I can finally call myself an American citizen. Well, a GerMerican to be precise. Nine months of being grounded in the U.S., one immigration lawyer, and over $2000 later and I’m the proud owner of a German/American dual-citizenship.
To answer the two most frequently ask questions: No, I did not need to marry an American to obtain my citizenship and no, I was not living here illegally for the past two decades. I have been living and working in the U.S. with a permanent resident card (formerly “green card”).
This card gave me almost every right as an American citizen, but I could not vote or perform jury duty. Most importantly, I was unable to leave the country for more than six months without endangering my permanent resident status. It surprises most people that the reason for my delay in applying for naturalization was not due to the stringent laws of the United States, but the laws of Germany. I have been eligible for naturalization for quite some time, however it put me at risk of losing my German citizenship – more on that later.
There are several steps to becoming a naturalized citizen and these are constantly changing. Below I share my unique experience, but I’m obviously not a lawyer or legal expert. For the most current information, check out the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) website and consult an immigration lawyer. I also found the forum Visa Journey to be an extremely helpful resource.
Who Am I?
I was born in Marktredwitz, Germany in Bavaria and lived there until my family relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina when I was eight. I frequently traveled between the U.S.A. and Europe during my teens, but since both of these have always been home to me, neither ever counted as “travel”. I have also lived in Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago and currently Los Angeles, which is likely why I have never felt rooted to a single place.
Travel is in my blood. In the 1970s, my great-grandmother once left for Spain while her husband was at the pub. She didn’t feel that she had time to stop and tell him of her plans, so she left him a note on the counter. It read something along the lines of: “Went to Spain. Be back next Thursday.” His reaction? He hopped in his car and met her there.
My wanderlust began shortly after I left my mother’s womb. Before I was old enough to appreciate travel, my family took me on European vacations to countries such as the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Turkey, and Italy. However, I was old enough to get bitten by the travel bug and it has followed me into my adult life.
I live with my husband, The Gone Guy, and our fur daughter, Buffy. We are both freelance filmmakers and lucky enough to have the time to travel when an opportunity arises. Life is good.