When we think about travel, it’s easy to look at the world around us and the possibilities that it holds with the focus purely on popular attractions and destinations. We travel to explore our surroundings, challenge ourselves, and enjoy new experiences. Yet it is important not to forget all that can be enjoyed in our own backyards.
Of course, taking vacations in your home country or heading back to your cultural roots may seem novel given how familiar you are with the place that you live in, but it can be wonderful to conduct research that will help you understand more about where you come from. For instance, the iconic British things the Brits hold onto are those that are seemingly in their blood, and celebrating them is not only fun but offers an appreciation of their heritage. What else can you do to dig deeper into your heritage? Here are some suggestions.
Research your history
Researching history helps you feel a connection to the times that came before you and how your entire set of cultural roots were shaped. For instance, you may take for granted that you’re South African – or of British descent. But where did ‘being British’ come from? There have been so many different peoples, invasions, wars, tribes and other historical events that have influenced the world into where it is today – with others still ongoing, and your cultural and national identity does not necessarily mean that your history is tied to a specific landmass.
For instance, a second-generation immigrant is no less ‘South African’ for having parents that were born overseas as you can easily assimilate yourself into your new country and find yourself more culturally connected to it, than that of your ancestry. Researching your family history will help you understand the forces that come into play to create you, what your parents’ lives were like growing up and those before them.
DNA Profiling and Familial Ancestry
It is good to have a tangible idea of where you come from. Of course, do ask your parents to tell you as much as possible about their childhoods and their parents and grandparents, and for any keepsakes, they may have to help you learn more about your extended family. But not everyone has access to this. Perhaps their parents are no longer around, or they haven’t had much contact with their family over the years. If this is the case, services such as 23AndMe can be useful, as it shows you more about your DNA composition. That in itself can be enlightening, even if it’s just a fun exercise to know a little more about your personal genetic makeup. It can also help you learn more about yourself and dispel ignorance.
In the mid-2000s, an episode of the Trisha Goddard show aired. In it, a vocal white supremacist took part in DNA testing and found out he was 14% of African descent. It’s not hard to see just how delicious that irony is. It’s unlikely you’ll have a situation similar to this of course, but it can be good to have a better idea of just what it means to hold a national identity.
Visit The Cultures
Even if you’re only depicted as 1% of a certain nationality, it can be lovely to explore what that means and what culture is involved with said representation. The more we learn of different cultures, the more we can appreciate them in general, even if we share little genetic similarity with them. Of course, it’s your mind that determines just what kind of person you are. For instance, someone who lived in Japan for fifteen years as a teacher may return back to South Africa and feel at least partly Japanese due to the customs they have experienced and adopted as their own.
I know that was the case with me after living in Israel for four years, and given the amount of time I choose to spend in Lisbon – even though my genetic make-up comprises neither cultures.
But then again what’s more important? The statistical analysis that tells you where you’re from, what DNA you’re comprised of, the experiences that you have, and where you decide to call home? It’s food for thought, and it can help theme your travel and offer a deeper appreciation of the cultures that you explore while doing so. With this food for thought, I hope you’ll consider further researching your cultural roots and your countries of origin.