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Adventure Blog

Do you travel to discover your roots?

Buzz Poole
10/25/2011 - 00:00

How many of you have planned trips to places because you wanted to learn something about your family’s origins? Whether or not it is a generation or centuries that separate us from the places where our families were first named, for most of us in North America our familial heritage begins outside of North America. Travelers leave home to see someplace new. What does it mean to go someplace you’ve never been but for it to be a return of sorts? The trope of re-tracing one’s roots is long popular, but it has taken on an even more complex dynamic in this world where we all come from more than one place.

My wife tells me that in Ireland, the locals who live in its western reaches like to say, “Just keep heading west until you hit the next parish, Boston.” Now, maybe these locals only say this to visiting Americans who also happen to be from the Boston area, as was the case when my wife and sister-in-law traveled to Ireland this past summer. They’d gone to have fun as two sisters; they weren’t explicitly on the lookout for remnants of a past long gone, though the connections still run deep. Indeed, they found ancestral echoes, both in places and in the garrulous, inquisitive attitudes of everyone they met, a quality that brims in both women, and their whole side of the family.

They had not booked the trip as one to track down a long-lost fourth cousin or find the place rumored to have been where their great grandfather had been born. But upon their return, after the tales of Guinness, rolling hillsides jeweled green and driving on the opposite side of the narrow roads while also dealing with tractors and cows, mentions were made about seeing someone that was their father’s doppelganger, and other such whispers that feel more like you read them in a book. They didn’t go looking for anything, but they certainly returned with something new.

How many of you have ever planned a trip to the place where your family began? What did you discover?

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