I’ve been planning a lot of trips lately that involve retracing roots and visiting places where my clients’ ancestors came from. I’m also going on a trip to Slovenia in July, the country where my paternal great-grandfather and great-grandmother came from. While I’m there, I’m going to visit the town where they were born in the late 19th century.
There is something extraordinary about going to the land your blood came from. I know the sound of bagpipes and Irish music jostles something in my soul, no doubt from my Scottish and Irish ancestry. I can only imagine what hearing these sounds in situ would do.
Similarly, I am really excited to see the beautiful landscapes of Slovenia and imagine the lives that my ancestors lived over 100 years ago. I’ve often wondered if the mountain valleys of Slovenia are what led them to settle in the mountain valleys of Montana.
Ancestral journeys are more special than regular trips – they are often more emotional; they offer growth experiences; they bring great self-discovery, and can bring people closer together. Many people plan these kinds of trips to celebrate some kind of milestone. One client of mine is planning a retirement celebration trip to Scotland with her family. We are incorporating stops in the itinerary that are places where her ancestors once lived. Another client of mine is planning a birthday celebration for her husband in which they’ll visit a region in Ireland where her husband’s family came from.
Does this sound like a dream vacation to you? Here’s how to do it.
- Figure out where you’re from. There are a few ways to do this.
- Easiest option – ask your relatives! Some of us may not have this as an option. My father’s family emigrated from Slovenia during the beginning of Americanization; therefore, they quickly assimilated and didn’t share much about our heritage. If asking relatives is not an option for you, try….
- Genealogy research – for some this is fascinating, for others it’s aggravating. Ancestry research can be very tricky because of the multiple sources available and the inconsistency in record keeping. I find it fascinating and have done my own research starting with the tools on ancestry.com. This is how I found out where my father’s family is from in Slovenia. If you are not interested in doing the research yourself, there are genealogical societies all over that can help you find a genealogist to hire.
- DNA Testing – there are several ancestral DNA testing packages available on the market to choose from. Depending on your needs and budget, you have multiple options. Prices start at $99 for an at-home testing package. With these, you can find out your ethnic make-up.
- Figure out whom you want to go with – Do you want to go by yourself for some self-discovery time? Do you want to go with one other person to keep it simple and flexible? Or, do you want to go as a family or group to share the learning experience together? Once you’ve figured that out, you’re ready to start planning the trip!
- Hire help! I recommend working with a travel advisor to work out the details of these kinds of trips for two very important reasons.
- Things can get complicated – Whether you’re going as a large group and need logistic/ organization assistance or are going to off-the-beaten-path locations, these trips tend to be a bit more complicated than other similar vacations. Having a travel expert research, book, and manage these moving parts, saves a lot of headache for you. Also, if there are hiccups along the way, you have a travel advisor available to help you 24/7, rather than having to work on things from multiple time zones and/or try to get through voice-prompts with suppliers to a real person.
- Travel advisors make it extra special – Travel advisors know whom to contact to make your trip exceptional. They are able to reach out to contacts on the ground in the destination that can take you to the places your ancestors were from, no matter how far off the main tourist drag it is. They can also reach out to the right travel suppliers to create custom itineraries designed around your ancestors’ former stomping grounds.
If you are thinking this is something you might want to do, start working on it as soon as possible, so you can get the right information. Step one is the hardest and will take the most time, but once you get through that, you’ll be more excited than ever to plan your trip. Once you’re at that stage, please reach out to me to start planning! I love planning these kinds of trips. I would feel very grateful to help make it happen for you.
Maybe you’re already ready? Let’s get this started. Please start by filling out our trip planning form.
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