Genealogy tourism: routes to your roots

“Is it possible to be nostalgic for a place and a family that you’ve never met?” Are you a diasporic descendant and your answer is yes? Then maybe it’s time for you to be a genealogy tourist!

What is genealogy tourism

Diaspora which stems from the Greek words dia (through) and speiro (to scatter) refers to the dispersion of immigrants, expatriates, refugees, and other communities from their ethnological homeland. So genealogy tourism, as a special form of tourism, targets diasporic communities who wish to learn more about their roots. Τhe fact that an important share of national populations worldwide is a result of diaspora and the travelers’ demand for meaningful experiences explain its fast development.

Why it’s a must-do trip

As a genealogy tourist, you will travel to destinations where your relatives were born, raised, lived or live. The latter is a good incentive for visit on occasions like anniversaries or weddings if there are bonds with your distant family. But if not don’t worry because this is exactly the genealogy trip’s objective, to foster this relationship.

During your trip, you’ll have a stronger connection with the destination and its people than other tourists, a paradoxical sense of being a tourist in your own home (Wagner, 2008). Also, the journey will continue after your return, but this time internally. Like the recognized cultural identity unites a nation’s citizens, the self-identification and emotional engagement via genealogy tourism is able to unite a family, carrying on its legacy (Santos & Yan, 2010)!

© Annie Spratt,
Ways to find your roots

Detailed research on your roots is pivotal. If you are lucky enough, your parents and grandparents can give you historic clues whereas your distant relatives, with the help of technology, could inform you about the family’s current condition or even be your personal guides and connections with other family members upon your arrival. It’d be a unique opportunity to spend some quality time together and strengthen your relationships in your forefathers’ land.

Alternatively, you may look for tour operators that offer genealogy tourism packages in which apart from accommodation, food and sightseeing are included information about your genealogy tree. To add more, those specialized in genealogy tourism collaborate with DNA analysis companies whereas, in some cases, is provided DNA testing kit together with customized tour program based on your desires and budget.

Apropos, if your budget is limited, you can search directly for a DNA analysis company (23andΜe, Αncestry, etc). Nowadays, with data digitalization, you might find information about your ancestry up to the 18th century! Consequently, you could travel solo (it’d be a vividly spiritual experience!) with the help of a certified local guide at least for your first contacts with distant relatives.

Make your trip sustainable

Most touristic activities take place in summer but genealogy tourism is not necessarily seasonal. Therefore, you can schedule your trip according to the flying and staying costs or based on local events which will give you a good taste of your ancestors’ culture in combination with your visits to familial, historic and natural sites. This way, you contribute to more stable and less seasonal revenues for your homeland’s people, something that might motivate them offer high quality services during all year.

In addition, a sustainable trip will not only cost you less but also your money is more likely to be distributed directly to the indigenous. You may buy locally produced goods from small shops, try the traditional cuisine in restaurants that use local raw materials and, in case you travel solo, choose to stay in a micro lodge [be aware of your food waste during breakfast :)]. Moreover, your feedback concerning the quality of products and services is important for the region’s entrepreneurs. This direct support to the local communities is an ethical trend in tourism that most contemporary tourists embrace. You?

Safety first

You need to know if your destination ensures the basic security standards. Probably you won’t have any problem but if the criminality is high, the transportations risky and the location remote then you should be well prepared for your safety, taking under consideration advices by relatives, your guide or other visitors online.

Building communication bridges

Concerning your communication either with family members or locals it would be wise if you’d balance your common ethnological root and your cultural gap with adaptability. For instance, if your homeland is multicultural, probably its people will be more communicative and interactive, contributing positively to your experience. On the other hand, if you come from an isolated area, its people may be more reticent. Thus, an empathetic and respectful attitude can help you build communication bridges with those closed but undoubtedly authentic communities.

Tip: you could take courses on your mother language before the trip. It would help in communicative level since the common language unites!

Be your homeland’s ambassador

The visit to members and sites of the family may be in less popular places that most mass tourists don’t know. Your travel experience could play a valuable role in putting those areas on the touristic map, especially if we talk about developing economies. So, you can be the best ambassador of your homeland with recommendations to your friends, photographs on Instagram and positive comments on TripAdvisor, helping it gain recognition!

A leaf has to know that the water running through its veins comes from its roots. So do you!

By Despoina Fostiropoulou

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