“I just want to see the Ireland that my mom heard so much about from her grandmother.” “There’s a flyspeck of a village in Sicily that gave us our family name, and I’d like to walk its streets.” “They say we’re of French descent. I’ve always wanted to go feel French for a while, like eating croissants for breakfast every day.”
Talk about a purposeful vacation! Travelers in record numbers are using their trips not just to get away but to dig into the roots of their family trees. That sort of genetic impulse injects an extra level of excitement, and if a trip can help you feel more connected to your family and grounded in the world, so much the better!
The first thing to understand is that you don’t need pinpoint knowledge about your ancestors’ points of origin to pull it off. For every person who can go back 12 generations on Ancestry.com, there’s another one who’s fuzzy about which great-great-whoever came from “somewhere in the Balkans.” A crop of 23andMe customers, with a plot of their genomes in hand, are committing themselves to covering the same ground their forbearers did.
If you know nothing more than there’s Irish blood in your veins, a week with Classic Journeys on the Emerald Isle can still alter your perspective in the extreme. In Ireland (as in all of our destinations), our local guides are deeply informed and accustomed to answering questions like, “Why did the potato famine drive so many across the Atlantic?” You’ll see the cottages like the ones where your ancestors likely lived. You can’t look at those endless sheep meadows without wondering how it felt to land in some major American city and scrape by in a tenement where the view was of an airshaft. What kind of courage did it take? In Sicily, which 100,000 or so people left around the end of the 19th century, you’ll see that traditions hold strong even now…and you come closer to appreciating why they held so fast to the old ways and their language.
If you are lucky enough to have detailed knowledge about the when, where and why of your family’s background, Classic Journeys can tailor a trip that zeroes in, right down to the house where it all started. This summer, we’re helping a family of 10 learn about their Norwegian roots — from Viking museums to a custom extension that will take them to the site of the family’s one-time steel mill in a remote corner of Norway. Another guest called on us to arrange a few days on the Greek island of Lesbos so that he could show his children and grandchildren where it all began. If you call Classic Journeys with the details, our experts will be happy to help follow your personal heritage trail.
Of the trends we’ve seen, DNA travel is the most meaningful and satisfying of all. Who would you be if that long, uncertain journey to the place you call home now had never happened? The question may be unanswerable, but a vacation that helps you explore it is truly one of a kind.