With families living further apart than ever before and ancestry testing surging, it's no surprise that we are traveling more in search of our roots. Research has shown that one of the primary indicators of a long life-and a healthy life-is connection to family and community. And almost nothing will help connect you to your family story in a deep and meaningful way than traveling to your family's homeland to experience your heritage first hand.
Here are our top tips for planning a successful trip in search of your family roots:
Talk to family members and friends and let them know you are planning the trip and why. You may be surprised at how much detail an aunt or uncle remembers about a location or people and how they play into your family story. The more you know before you plan your trip, the better.
It may seem awkward, but this is the best possible thing you can do to make sure you have an incredible trip. Most of the time the people you reach out to are just as excited about meeting you as you are them, and enjoy sharing their culture and way of life while learning more about yours. Places like Ireland, for example, are so thrilled about visitors coming to experience their culture they have created tons of free resources to help you trace your ancestry while in their country.
Since you are going for more than just sightseeing, make sure you pick the best time to be there. Ask family members what the best time is to travel to really get a feel for the culture of the area and its' traditions. It may not be in its typical "peak" season when it is crowded with tourists, the off season often provides a more authentic experience at a slower pace. Oh and don't forget to ask them the most important question of all - when they will be there to meet!
Read books set in the location, or by local authors. Learn about the food and art of the region. Find out about when the best festivals are or what day the local markets take place. These are some of the things that will immerse you in the country in an authentic way.
Traveling to meet your family in person and spending time exploring your cultural heritage shapes your present by giving you a deep sense of connection to something bigger than you. This helps shape a sense of identity and pride leads to a happier and healthier life. So, travel in search of your roots this year - It's good for you!