Waking up with a camera in their hands is second nature to Luca and Sara of the widely popular YouTube travel vlog, LeAw Leave Everything and Wander. Together, they traveled the length of the Pan-American Highway (from Alaska to Argentina) in an $800 truck camper. Was it luck, hard work, or a bit of both? To Luca and Sara, luck is giving something, that others would have thrown away, a second chance or new lease on life. Their tell-all stories have warmed the hearts of many and have shattered our Instagram perceptions that only the best and picture-perfect moments should be shared. Sara and Luca begin each video with “good morning (or hello) beautiful people” and then the adventure begins.
We hope that you enjoy reading (and watching) this month’s “Chat with an Expat!”
Where were you born and raised?
Sara: I was born and raised in South Tyrol. It is cool because it’s a bilingual region, so we learn to speak both Italian and German. Then, I moved to Milan and lived there for seven years and went to university there. After, I moved to Lake Como and then Switzerland for four years where I worked for a fashion company.
Then I met Luca…
Luca: And her life changed!
Sara: Then we decided to live together on the road.
Luca: My story is a bit longer. Both of my parents are from Torino and when they got married, they moved to the United States for five years. Then, they went to Copenhagen where my brother was born followed by Lisbon where I was born. From there, we moved to Madrid and then lived 9 years in Brazil. In 2001, we moved back to Italy. In 2013, I moved to Australia for one year and in 2017, I moved with Sara to the American continent where we traveled for about three years.
Why did you (Luca) live in so many places?
It was for career reasons and allowed my family to choose travel.
Between the two of you, how many languages do you speak?
Sara: Four: Italian, German, English, and Spanish.
Luca: I speak Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and English.
Why did you decide to leave behind fulfilling careers and lives?
Sara: I was working full time for a big international fashion company, but it was like 24/7. The job was great, but I did not have time for a private life. I wanted to see more and didn’t want to continue living just for work. I thought, I’m 30 and would like to change my life.
When I met Luca and we started traveling just short-term, one place we went to was Nepal. People there were so happy without having anything. It was then that I thought that maybe I was doing something wrong with my life.
Plus, for many years I suffered from eating disorders. The travel gave me back the time I had lost through it.
Luca: In my case, I think that my priority was not my career. I wanted to continue traveling and explore. Because I grew up the way I did, it was hard to stay in one place. When I met Sara, I told her that I wanted to go to North America and keep traveling.
Sara: He said, I will go and you can decide if you want to come with me otherwise I will go alone.
Luca: I think that happiness is more important than a career.
Sara: It’s about balance and for us it was about sharing our experience.
What are some of the things that you needed to do to plan for such a long trip?
Luca: For the Italian passports, there were two countries that allowed us a working/holiday visa: Australia and Canada. I already was in Australia with a 12-month visa, so when we started the trip, we went for the Canadian visa. It was amazing to start the adventure with this kind of visa.
Sara: Honestly, we didn’t plan a lot because it was really fast from the time I quit my job. Since the beginning, we did want to share everything on YouTube. Everything was done with a limited budget and we left with about €1,750 each. We wanted to inspire younger people so that they would know that they could change their life too.
Luca: For sure we knew that we wanted to make the trip sustainable. So, we tried to work with sponsors, collaborations, and YouTube income. At the beginning it was super, super hard. That’s why in the the initial plan was to only go to Canada and Alaska.
Then, it evolved.[Note: International Experience Canada is the name of the visa.]
Where did you arrive in Canada?
Luca: In Vancouver and with only 2 kilos in luggage.
Sara: We started “WWOOF-Ing” which means to work for farms in exchange for accommodation and food. In these three weeks, we were able to learn how things worked in Canada such as, the car and truck market and the process of driving a vehicle.
Luca: For us, it’s easy to buy a vehicle (in Italy). We had to learn how this worked in British Columbia because every region is different. We bought this $800 [USD] truck with the money that we earned. That was the beginning…
Did you ever worry about driving a truck so old and going that far?
Sara and Luca together: Yes!
Sara: I can tell you that when we bought the truck, we asked the owner what he thought about our plan to drive to Alaska and explore Canada. He doubted it and told us that we could try. The rest is history!
Why Alaska to Argentina?
Luca: We wanted to start with Canada and Alaska because we can’t find remote places this big and vast in Italy. We drove until the Arctic Ocean and when we reached it, we realized that here was the end (or beginning) of the Pan-American Highway. It’s the longest drivable road in the world. We then dreamed to drive south along the entire highway, but it seemed unthinkable and surreal.
Then, things evolved. We drove south and crossed the United States.
Sara: It’s an overlander’s dream to drive the Pan-American Highway because it’s so difficult.
Learning how to make videos along the way.
Sara: I have a degree in cinema and its history and took an acting class while living in Milan. I was always attracted to movies and videos, but never had a chance to live out my artistic side. We started from zero and didn’t know anything about YouTube, editing, and gear. We just learned day-by-day and edited videos making a lot of mistakes.
Luca: We also watched YouTube tutorials.
Sara: It’s all about the intention because you can easily start with an iPhone. Then, of course, you naturally want to increase the quality.
When did you start monetizing?
After a year and a half of making videos full-time. In the beginning it was difficult because we were working so hard and with no return. Everybody told us that it was a failure, and we would not achieve the success that we had thought.
Our success was in changing our lifestyle. It wasn’t only about YouTube. We said that even if it did not work, we were doing something great: traveling, learning, and exploring. This was our biggest success.
Luca: We were growing as individuals. For us, it was not only about the business side, but personal growth was very important for us.
What place made the most impression between Alaska and U.S. mainland?
Luca: One thing that I fell in love was the wildlife. Here in Italy, we don’t have grizzly bears, bison etc.
Sara: Yes, we have it, but it’s not as visible.
Luca: It was like being in a documentary the whole time that we were there. This is one of the reasons that we wanted to film everything.
Sara: I would definitely go back to the U.S because Italians have the American Dream. We think that everything is so big and cool.
Luca: And everything is possible.
Sara: There are so many beautiful places off the beaten path that we didn’t know. We just learned on the road. New Mexico, for example, is underrated. There was a beautiful discovery every day: deserts, hot springs, mountains, and culture.
What influenced your storytelling skills?
Sara: I always liked to write stories. As I said before, I was in love with this acting class. The ability to share stories is something that I’ve learned from my natural environment. I think that being real is the best way to tell a story. When Luca and I began, we decided to share everything. Not like social media where you only publish the best pictures that you have. We wanted to also share the dark side. It’s this reality that makes everything more natural.
Luca: I have a background in social media and I was working in front of and behind the camera (photographers and videographers). I learned through my TV experience that it’s hard to portray reality. We wanted to be free.
There’s always a story to tell and when you live on the road, you meet people every day.
What are the pros and cons of sharing your private life?
Sara: There is always a debate among people including our families. They ask us, where is the limit? However, for us, it was always natural. You wake up with your camera and talk about your feelings. Of course, we also have time off because it is the key to our relationship. We need time to breathe or it’s too stressful. But we feel very comfortable sharing our lives.
Luca: I think that the only downside is the cyberbullying. Sometimes it can put you on the dark side, but you learn to think only positively and ignore those types of comments. It is good to have a network that supports you. We really feel that.
Sara: We receive so many emails from people thanking us for inspiring them. We decided that for this reason, we needed to keep going. There is the social part of the YouTuber’s job that isn’t really mentioned, but so important because a lot of people can’t do what we did.
Luca: We will do it for you!
When did you meet?
Luca: We met in 2015 and we started traveling in 2017.
What has this experience taught you as a couple?
Luca: I think that we are super lucky because we are soulmates. Since 2017, we’ve never slept one night apart and have lived 24/7 together.
Sara: One of the main questions (we receive) is how is it possible that you can live in a tiny space without killing each other? On the road you have many problems. We didn’t have time to argue about stupid things because it was a matter of surviving each day and finding solutions. We needed to be a team.
Being together was a strength.
Luca: We also have the same dream and goal.
Sara: Our relationship is based on respect. I don’t remember ever having any argument on the road. I have thought, “Wow! This is the right man for me. You’re not going anywhere!”
Were you expecting to reach 100K subscribers so quickly?
Luca: I think at the beginning we thought that it would easier and faster because we studied YouTube. Probably one of the biggest challenges was the language. It is still hard for us because we need to search for words that we don’t know. It took four years. YouTube is very unpredictable.
Sara: In the beginning, it was frustrating because we didn’t monetize for a long time. We thought that we would not make it. In the beginning, you dream about reaching 100K subscribers, but eventually you don’t care.
Luca: It’s not about the numbers.
Sara: it is a milestone and people recognize you for the numbers. We are very grateful for the community that we have.
About being in lockdown in Argentina.
Sara: We were lucky because we were able to complete our mission to travel from Alaska to Argentina and reach Ushuaia (the end of the Pan-American Highway which is 19,000 miles long). However, we had to remain in a police camp for two months.
Luca: It was like being in prison because we were used to moving all the time and waking up almost every day, in a different place. It was traumatic.
Sara: Even the people changed from being so welcoming to being afraid of us because we were Italian. We still have bad dreams about that time.
Luca: In the three years of travel, we met so many other YouTube travelers. We interviewed some who were stuck in other parts of the world and made a series of videos. People did not know what was happening with travelers and governments seemed to only be concerned about their citizens.
Sara: We were told, you cannot stay here or go anywhere else.
Creating content after returning to Italy.
Sara: Our YouTube community let us know that they didn’t care if we were traveling or not. They followed us because of who we were. We then decided to share our lives.
Was it frustrating to vlog only about Italy?
Sara: A little bit, yes. We were of course, happy to be back and close to our families.
Luca: We wanted to keep Italy for last after traveling the world because we have our roots here. It was nice surprise to travel through Italy with worldwide travelers’ eyes. We knew what other people loved.
Sara: And we had an international audience, so we presented Italy from an Italian point of view, speaking in English. This was not on the internet.
Luca: There was nothing.
Sara: It was a big surprise and successful idea. Italy is beautiful and you can find everything from the mountains to the sea.
Did anything about traveling through Italy surprise you?
Sara: I was surprised by the landscape. I didn’t know about the Caribbean-like sea in the south of Italy, for example. Italy is little, but we have so much. I also realized how lucky I am for growing up in Italy. We had traveled through very poor countries where people have almost nothing. Here we have hospitals and schools where you can get a good education. You have a lot of possibilities. I appreciate that more now.
Luca: We discovered parts of Italy that we had never been to before or knew. We thought it was impossible to find certain types of landscapes in Italy. Because it’s small, you really need to go and search for the little places. In a few kilometers, you can go through mountains to sea with a lot going on.
Sara: The history and an open-air museum that you don’t feel in the US and Canada.
Luca: You need to travel slow through Italy (and get off the highways) because in every corner there is something to learn and see.
Sara: I’d say to Luca, “we need to stop here” and then after ten minutes, there was another place to explore.
Discovering nature in Italy
Luca: Unfortunately, van life is not very easy in Italy. Vans and RVs are not allowed in many national parks. There are more rules, so that is a downside. We have some beautiful national parks.
Sara: We fell in love with Sicily because it’s very wild and of course, close to the sea.
Luca: There is also the tropical climate that we love. It’s amazing how many climates can exist in a small country.
Finding Compatible Sponsors
Sara: I think you are touching upon an important topic. Searching for sponsorship is not easy. We receive a lot of proposals, but we try to only accept what is in line with our vlogs.
Luca: Only accepting sponsorship from things that we believe in is not good for the business or a way to support ourselves. But as we said before, it was never really about the numbers. Every time we consider a partnership, we think it through and don’t choose something that we may regret in the future.
Sara: It’s also important for it to be an organic part of the video and story. When we were traveling, we only agreed to accept sponsorship for things that we could use. For example, technical shoes because we needed them to hike.
Luca: We were living an extreme minimalist life so we couldn’t accept things that we would not use.
Sara: We are in a strange position because we are Italians who speak English and with an international audience: mostly North American and northern Europe. Because of this, we did not get Italian sponsorship. When it comes to things like social media, Italy always arrives ten years later. They don’t understand the potential of YouTube right now.
We do receive a lot of collaboration proposals from the U.S. but when sending things to Italy there are a lot of fees. Sponsors prefer to send things to content creators in the United States. We have a special niche.
Do you feel that you’ve become ambassadors for tourism in Italy?
Sara: Yes, we feel that. We are very proud and receive many grateful comments from our audience. At the same time, it was frustrating because we never received the support from the Italian tourism board. We did a lot of content about places in Italy for free so, it has been bittersweet.
Luca: Then, you see some of them collaborating with other YouTubers. As we said, they are ten years behind.
What is it that made you leave Italy behind? What were you searching for?
Luca: We were searching for an open and big space.
Sara: I think that everyone is searching for something different. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” You have expectations and always think that you’ll find something better. I think we were looking for something we couldn’t find here.
A lot of young people are leaving Italy for better careers.
Luca: Yes, it’s hard to find jobs here in Italy. Going abroad becomes easier. We, in fact, show in many videos (made in Italy) places where houses are being abandoned. People move to the cities or leave Italy.
Sara: Young people are leaving because they feel that there aren’t opportunities here. They feel that foreign companies will value their work and education and then they can build a career and have enough money to raise a family.
Luca: We left to discover other cultures.
What do you think about Live in Italy Magazine’s audience: people leaving their lives behind to move to Italy?
Luca: I definitely understand that. The food here is amazing! In the three years of traveling, I was missing the food.
Sara: The cheese and bread!
Luca: There are things that you take for granted when you live here because you are used to them. However, when you go abroad, you start to miss these things. You then understand why so many people want to go to Italy.
Sara: Especially if you don’t need to work here. Retirement is the best option. You are not stressed out and can enjoy life. Like Italians have the American Dream, others have the Italian Dream!
Luca: And because of the pandemic, a lot of people are now working from home. They don’t need to be in the office and it no longer matters where they physically are. Plus, the hospitals, schools, and every service Italy gives you is good.
Sara: Foreigners want the small village life that Italians must leave. It is affordable and a real experience. What is not right for one is good for another.
Why did you choose names with Lucky?
Luca: We gave a second life to our truck that was junk and we did the same with the house because we gave an abandoned home a new life. It would have become a ruin if we had never bought it.
Sara: It’s funny because we believe in hard work and not luck. At the same time, ‘luck’ is magical and relates to this second life and chance.
How will you travel with a baby?
Luca: She’s coming in March and we’ll have to see if she’s okay with it.
Sara: Our plan is to continue although not right away. In Italy, children here don’t have to go to school until five or six years. We’ll decide then if it’s best to live permanently in Italy.
Will you return to Argentina?
Sara: Yes, we must because we can’t leave the truck camper on this private property forever. We agreed for one year and now it’s almost two years. Lucky LeAw is part of the team.
Luca: We really miss being in the truck and the freedom. We hope to bring it back to North America where it belongs, where our main audience is, and visit more.
Is there anything that you miss when traveling and know that you can’t replace it anywhere else?
Luca: My answer is the food. The main ones are cheese like Italian mozzarella.
Sara: It’s the ingredients and not the dish. We tried to cook some Italian dishes abroad…
Luca: But it’s impossible to replicate.
Sara: Plus, we have a lot of history here.
Luca: The only downside is the YouTubers’ vibe and we don’t find opportunities here. That’s why we love going around the world. Especially in the US: everything is possible there.
Sara: And it’s recognized as a job.
Luca: Social media in Italy is treated only as entertainment and not a job.
Sara: You can’t say influencer here because that means a person who is not working. It’s difficult but we will do it.