Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel

My first introduction to the concept of family ancestry came in the form of a social studies class project fourth grade. I'm sure many of you had similar experiences in elementary school! We were each asked to research our family lineage and create a poster and cook a recipe from one of our ascendents' countries for our "world's fair" feast. A fun concept, for sure! The idea of "being from" another country other than the United States toyed with my imagination. 

The project seemed like an easy task for me, considering that I knew my grandfather was a first generation Italian-American immigrant. I had heard many stories about my Pop-Pop being bilingual, working at the steel mill with so many other Italian immigrants, eating "cow-brain" and the seven fishes for Christmas. The choice seemed pretty obvious as to what recipe I should create! Granted, I had some knowledge that my mother's mother was probably German and so was my father's side. We all assumed that their last names "sounded" German, and we had no physical record or recollection of who was the first family member to immigrate to the US... so, at the time, no further questioning came about.

Ancestry was a big deal in my family. My aunts and uncles spoke of "the motherland," they often regarded our Italian heritage with a sense of pride and ownership, a feeling that I have held on to as well into my adult life. My family members would see different personality quirks and identify them as aligned with our Italian heritage. "You're so passionate and artistic... it must come from your mother's Italian side!" "Look at how expressive you are when you get excited. You're such an Italian at heart!" 

Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

It's funny... talk about ancestry to an American and you'll be given a range of excited responses. "I'm three quarter Croatia, one sixteenth German and some kind of mix of Russian and Ukrainian!" Ask a European and they'll probably tell you that they're from whatever country they were born and raised in. Dig a little deeper, and they might tell you where else they're lineage comes from, but more often than not they'll add, "but I'm really just (insert whatever country they're living in)!"  And even after polling my friends on Instagram, many of them shared their own thoughts on ancestry not always encompassing culture, religion and race appropriately or with a holistic lens. It was such an interesting conversation! Hearing everyone's insight on ancestry blew my mind... and it also made me feel so fortunate to have a community of well-spoken, open minded and all-embracing group of friends on social media. 

Ancestry isn't viewed the same way around the world. But I will say, to a born and bred American citizen, the concept of genealogy has a certain romance to it. And as an American, our deep history lies in our immigration stories. The unkept chronicles of our pilgrimages to our country are one of the most curious and puzzling chapters of our families' history. We know that (most often) our history doesn't begin and end in America. In fact, the mystery of it all and the nostalgic relationship to old-world societies is an attractive puzzle for most of us. It's a romantic notion that our beginnings stem further than the location we're currently inhabiting. It's a riddle. It's sometimes a well-kept secret. It's a notion that we, as humans, are so much more than the passport cover we hold. It's a silly idea for most outsiders. "What do you mean you're Italian?! You've never even been to Italy. You're an American!" But it's undeniably intriguing to find a deep rooted kind of connection to the beautiful, wide, wild world. 


About a year ago, both my mother and father bought DNA kits from Ancestry.com. (This post is TOTALLY non-sponsored, by the way, I just wanted to share with you all the discoveries and thoughts I have regarding our DNA results!) Selfishly, I'll tell you, I bought one for my mom for Christmas and she basically started bawling when she realized what she was holding... I mean, she was beside herself with excitement. Definitely one of those moments where you know you NAILED a present! Anyway, the results were super enlightening. A lot of exclamations, disbelief and a ton of interesting stories from our older relatives in the family shortly followed. Soon after, my father took the same Ancestry DNA test. My dad has long been infatuated with his family history. However, he'd run into so many roadblocks along the way, leaving him stumped about who exactly immigrated to Maryland so many years ago. His deep research into his family lineage inspired me to write this post, actually!

Now. The results! From both my parents' DNA results, I've learned that I'm:

  • 49% Great Britain (wayyyyy more than I had originally thought!)

  • 23% Italian/Greece (yep!)

  • 7.5% Irish

  • 5% Middle Eastern (woahhh!)

  • 3.5% European East

  • 2.5% European West

  • 2.5% Iberian Peninsula

  • 2.5% European Jewish

  • And a smattering of others, including Finish and Scandinavian

Needless to say, MIND BLOWN! 

Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

Since learning my ancestry results, I've had a completely different perspective about the various countries my lineage goes back to, almost like an invisible, nostalgic, romantic thread connecting me to countries my forefathers have traipsed through. Initially writing this statement has made me realize how much of a romantic I am for far off places. But, I truly believe it. I now feel a change in my perspective and emotional connection to countries I now know housed and mothered my ancestors. I begin to wonder about the mysterious folklore they believed, the lives they lead there, the food they cooked, the parts of society they felt excited to participate in. Have some my Scottish ancestors died in the Highlands fighting in the Jacobite wars? Did my coastal Middle Eastern ancestors trade with pirates and world travelers? What did their lives look like? What did they wear? What did they worry about? I get swept up in the romance of it all. 

There have been times were I've felt particularly PART of a country... almost like a piece of me belonged there. My time in the Scottish Highlands comes to mind. Trekking through the muck and the cold, bitter wind sweeping my hair into my face felt very right. I hadn't known the extent of my family ancestry when we visited, but the feeling was very deep and very visceral. Visiting candlelit churches in Rome, seeing the Vatican with my very eyes and taking a passagiata before a delicious meal felt like a homage to something greater than me, but one that I was a part of nonetheless. Now knowing that my family lineage extends to places like the Middle East, European West and more makes me long for experiences to connect with there. I wonder if part of me will feel and kinship with the coastal ports of Turkey or the side alleyways of old Monaco or Luxembourg? Maybe these feelings are just me projecting my deep sense of love and appreciation for family and culture, sure. Maybe these feelings are just windswept memories that I've amplified since learning my ancestry, sure. But to me, they feel real and they feel right. 

Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
Adventure + Ancestry: How Tracing My Geneaology Is Changing My Outlook On Travel | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

Ancestry might not mean a lot to everyone, but it sure feels close to my heart. I now look forward to learning more cultural traditions and histories of the countries my family belongs to more than ever. I celebrate the rich history my family has woven in its fabric. I hunger to explore and learn more about the intricacies of my family history so that I can honor the deep history my family extends from. 

Have you learned about your ancestry? How have your discoveries changed your perspective on travel?

8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip

GettingExcitedForTravels15.jpg

Your typical list of things to do before your trip might look like the following:

  • apply for visa
  • research the weather for duration of trip
  • make a list of "must-do" activities
  • PACK
  • check-in online and double check boarding passes/tickets and reservations
  • tidy up the house
  • contact family and friends with itinerary 

Ah, yes, the to-do list before jetting off on your next trip can seem very daunting. However, for many years I've found that the anticipation before going on an exciting journey... that buzzy, flighty feeling that comes in between when you book your flights and touching down on foreign soil was something to savor. That sweet spot in between checking off the necessities and the day before takeoff is GOLD to me. It's during this time that I find myself longing to amplify my excitement and knowledge about our next big adventure. Does anybody else do this? It cracks me up when Luke tells me that before he studied abroad in Rome, he never even knew what the city looked like! Like... what?! I'm a big advocate for entering foreign places with a sense of curiosity, but man... not that much!

Having some previous knowledge about the rich history, cultural and culinary traditions is an excellent way to connect with locals, and also approach our adventures with a sense of humility and appreciation. Not to mention, sometimes, the best part about getting ready for your trip is getting oh so excited for it. Here are eight simple ways to build your anticipation a little more and boost your knowledge along the way before you hop on that big jet plane!

8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

WATCH A MOVIE OR TELEVISION SHOW FROM YOUR DESTINATION

Nothing gets me quite in the mood for adventure than watching a movie set in a foreign place. Seeing the streets of London set in the Victorian age, or the jungles of Thailand, or the trials and tribulations of the American West through a compelling storyline brings out the best of my wanderlust. I'm partial to turning on "Midnight In Paris" and "Roman Holiday" when I'm feeling nostalgic!

Hearing the dialect, getting swept up in dreamy settings, seeing the manner of dress and cultural expectations gives you a bit of insight on how your adventures might pan out. And not only do you get to see the nuances of the location, but you might also get to learn a thing or two about the history and culture. Choose a movie set in your destination, or research some that are considered to be "classics." A quick Google search will bring up lots of recommendations! 

RESEARCH LITERARY "MUST-READS"

There's something about reading a great book set in a fantastic setting that brings us closer to the heart of the history and culture of where we're about to jet off to. Just try to not feel excited about a trip to the English countryside after reading Pride & Prejudice! The same goes for Dracula and Romania, The Good Earth and China, On The Road and the American West... and so much more. 

Do some research and look up classic literature set in your next destination. Nothing will make you feel more swept away and buzzing with excitement! 

GAIN SOME HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Visiting a museum or watching a historical documentary might not seem like a must-do before you set off on an adventure abroad, but doing so certainly ensures that you can enter your destination more informed and with a sense of respect and admiration. Although it's impossible to learn everything about the nuances and intricacies of a place's history, taking an hour or two to gain some insight goes a long way. I loved learning all about Japanese history through quick Youtube videos before our trip a few years ago. I now find myself looking through historical books and documentaries on my next destination because it simply deepens my relationship and understanding to the area and its people! 

8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

TALK TO A LOCAL WITH SOME PERSONAL TIES TO YOUR DESTINATION

This one is the ultimate. Connect with a local, either in person or online. Ask, ask, ask. Hear their stories. Hear their recommendations. Hear the thrill in their voice as they explain something unique or not-to-be-missed. Guaranteed excitement overload! 

MAKE AN INSTAGRAM "SAVED" LIST OR PINTEREST BOARD

The best way to save information is either through Pinterest (check out my Travel board, if you're curious!) or through saving geotagged locations on Instagram with their "save" feature. Anytime I see a gorgeous photo, I take a second and save it for future use. That way, when it comes time to planning a trip, I have a plethora of locations, hotels, restaurants and images to get inspired from. I can't tell you how often I find myself referring to this list when it comes time to plan a trip.

Don't forget to follow as many 'grammers that focus on your destination of choice! A quick search (either under the related Instagrammer channels tab or by searching through geotagged locations themselves) should come up with a ton of people to follow. 

ASK YOUR COMMUNITY 

You know what they said, there's no harm in asking! You never know what someone in your own community has to offer up. I like to ask for recommendations on Facebook to my friends, throw a question on Instagram stories for any followers to share insight, as well as ask questions on private groups I'm a part of (like Girls Love Travel). I'm always pleasantly surprised at the responses! 

8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

COOK A TRADITIONAL MEAL OR GATHER SOME KEY INGREDIENTS BEFORE DEPARTING

The way to girl's heart is through her stomach. And the same goes for girls who travel. Perhaps there is no more intimate way to learn more about a place than through experiencing the act of cooking its food. Getting our hands dirty and deep into the ritualized steps of making traditional meals. Smelling the aromas of each ingredient combining step by step. The joy of making things together. Taste testing. Savoring each bite. It brings us closer to far away places. 

So, look up a traditional meal and get busy in the kitchen!

DOWNLOAD SOME TOP HITS FROM YOUR DESTINATION

Stocking up on music is my favorite way to get swept up in the romance of a place. Discover some of the top hits and classics of a destination is a double whammy. You get hours of entertainment to enjoy on the plane, on public transportation, while getting dressed, etc. while also getting a dose of culture. Win-win, right?

8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
8 Ways To Get Excited (And Educated) For Your Next Trip | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

When it comes time to make your next "to-do" list before jetting off on a big, bold adventure... don't forget to add some of these ideas to it! You'll be gaining some excellent background history to feel even closer to the countries you're visiting AND getting yourself even more amped for the big day you hop on a plane! 

What are some ways you get yourself excited for your adventures?

Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors

Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors

For anyone wondering, I love Lancaster, Pennsylvania! If my incessant Instagrams of our lovely little city isn't enough to make my point clear, here goes... I feel so proud of our hard working entrepreneurial spirit, our gorgeous old homes, our excitement for small businesses and family owned restaurants. Lancaster is honestly one of my favorite places in the world, and I feel so proud to call it my home. 

Having your good old standby hole-in-the-wall restaurants, book stores and quirky gift shops recommendations is one amazing perk of being a local. Being able to welcome strangers or dear friends from out of town with a great list of things to do or see is one of my favorite things to do. I find myself listing off my favorite spots to friends (and strangers alike!) who are in for the weekend, or even an afternoon or two. I'm always so excited to list off the best places for coffee or a scoop of ice cream, but it certainly does get repetitive! Hence, why having a handy city guide to hand to guests or to leave by the bedside for friends staying in town is a great way to welcome them into your beloved home city.

Here are some tips for creating your own city guide!

Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors

MAKE A MASTER LIST

From your go-to pizza place, to your favorite hole in the wall bookstores... list everything out. No need for organization. The first step is always to make a master list of your absolute favorites. You are the guru, so go crazy! Favorite historic monuments, pizza shops, bookstores, thrift shops, pretty blocks you love to walk down, your favorite houses or architectural buildings, your favorite ice cream shops, sweets, multicultural restaurants... just start that list, baby!

TIP: One thing I did that helped a lot was keeping a master list on my notes on my phone. Every now and then, when inspiration would strike or I left an absolutely fabulous meal, I would add another favorite or discovery to add to my city guide later on. 

SECTION IT BY UNIQUE CATEGORIES

Think like a stranger in your city. What are some unique experiences they should have while they explore? Some ideas might be:

  • THE SWEET TOOTH - a list all your favorite ice cream shops, sweet shops, coffee spots and more
  • THRIFTY FINDS - a list of thrift shops, oddity stores and unique gift shops
  • AN INSTAGRAMMER'S GUIDE- a list your most "instagrammable" spots
  • THE BOOKWORM - a list of bookstores, libraries and cafes perfect for writing/reading
  • SHOP SMALL - a list of family owned shops, restaurants and more
  • WANNA WORKOUT - a list of gyms, great places to run, hiking trails and more

CHOOSE A SMALLER SIZE

One haphazardly genius idea I made while creating my city guide was to print it in a small, handheld size. (I printed mine when Artifact Uprising was having a great sale!)

Printing your guide in a smaller size allows your guests to pop it into their bag or purse while they explore your city. I mean seriously, how many times have you found yourself out on the town wondering "wait, what was that restaurant she said had great drinks?"... I know I'm not the only forgetful one. Having a transportable city guide to sift through while out and about is a serious lifesaver. So, print small and see how happy your guests will be later!

Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors

MAKE A LOOSE SCHEDULE FOR GUESTS

Another great idea is to create some schedules for your guests to loosely follow. Don't feel like you're imposing... guests love to be given a highlight reel of their destination! Some ideas could be:

  • A QUIET MORNING - a schedule of slow, peaceful morning activities like your favorite coffeeshop, a visit to your library, a walk around your favorite couple of blocks
  • A BUSTLING BRUNCH - a more high paced schedule of your favorite brunch options, a couple of shops to stop by and maybe even a great rooftop bar to wash it all down
  • PIZZA CRAWL - one of my favorite schedules, a pizza extravaganza filled with your favorite pizza joints (you could also change this to whatever treat/meal your city does best!)
  • AN AFTERNOON WINDOW SHOPPING - a schedule of shopping spots that are not to be missed, from kitchen knick knacks to shoes to women's clothing and more
  • EXPLORING ______ NEIGHBORHOOD - choose your favorite neighborhood (or even a couple blocks of your town) and make a loose schedule of must-do's in the area
  • A HISTORICAL AFTERNOON - a schedule of your town's most historical finds

BE CHOOSEY WITH YOUR IMAGES

When deciding which photos to include in your city guide... be picky! Because you'll be filling your pages with lots of written content, be sure to take the time to capture photos that truly emulate the mood/feel of your town. Whether it's a picture of you exploring and kicking up crunchy, fallen leaves, or a still shot of your bustling city square... ask yourself, how does this show the absolute best of my city? 

Collage your favorite images, choose the best images to print on a full, empty page and have fun with it!

SHOW THE LOVE

What you love most about your city? It's a hard question, but it brings the best answers. Write down a paragraph or two explaining your love for your town. By including a simple closing thought or two about your city, your guests will be feeling the love and totally inspired to discover the best of what's around!

Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors
Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors
Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors

More than anything, making a city guide is a great exercise in appreciation. After making my city guide for Lancaster, I found myself feeling even more grateful to live in such an amazing place. And I'm positive you'll feel the same after making your own as well!

HAPPY CREATING! Can't wait to see what you guys make!
Lancaster folks, I have ONE copy of my city guide to Lancaster available in the shop

Tips For Creating Your Own City Guide For Visitors