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?

2018 Is The Year Of Women & Wanderlust

2018 Is The Year Of Women & Wanderlust | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

To the dear female readers who are reading this headline and thinking, "yes, and it's about time" or "girl, it's *been* the year of women and wanderlust." I am right there with you. If there's one thing I hold dearest to my heart, it's this... I believe in the power of women. I was raised by insatiably strong female characters. Seekers, mothers, feminists, hell-raisers, organizers, leaders, artists all the same. Aunts, grandmothers, cousins, sisters in friendship. All these women have guided my path, have demonstrated the power of vulnerability, resiliency, compassion, communication and so much more. 

As a woman (and yes, for a long time, I struggled with the idea of calling myself this... as opposed to "girl" or "lady") who explores the world, I struggle with the masculine implication the word "adventure" has. Perhaps it's the ingrained context of the men who traipsed and conquered new lands I've been taught in history class. Who knows... all I really can say is that at one time, I only identified "world explorers" as men. And you know what's amazing? That notion that I've carried with me since childhood has done a complete 180 in the past few years. What's even more amazing is this, there has been:

  • a 350% increase in women pinning solo travel ideas since 2014
  • a 230% increase in trips designed for women and women-only travel companies
  • 73% more women travelers embarking on solo trips, compared to men
  • growth by 60% in women taking part in backpacking/wilderness trips 
  • a dramatic increase in Google searches for 'female solo travel'... with over 100,000,000 searches at the beginning of 2017

Now, I'm no statistic wizard, but it's a staggering argument that 2018 is without a doubt the year of women & wanderlust. A dynamic duo, wouldn't you say? 

2018 Is The Year Of Women & Wanderlust | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY
2018 Is The Year Of Women & Wanderlust | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

So ladies, whether you're a veteran explorer or about to jet off on your first trip, take heart and know that this movement is propelled by you! Take pride in knowing that you are contributing to a great shift of the ideology of what travel and adventure is. And, more importantly, know that you are not alone! When I began my personal experiences with travel, I was completely unaware of the amazing resources that are available for like-minded women seeking adventure, encouragement and inspiration. Connecting with other women in travel, who share similar perspectives on investing in life experiences and approaches to travel has been one of the most meaningful aspects of what I do at Roam + Golightly.  It's amazing what's out there now, ladies!

SOME OF MY FAVORITE
FEMALE-EMPOWERED TRAVEL RESOURCES ARE:

  • Dame Traveler - My go-to Instagram source for encouragement, inspiration and dreamy photography that immediately makes me want to book that next trip. Connecting with women who are featured on this page (and those who comment on posts) is a great way to build personal relationships with other female travelers out there. 
  • Girls Love Travel - This Facebook group is consistently the place I go to for help on itinerary suggestions, meet ups and meaningful conversations about the ins and outs of travel. Seriously, if I ever have a question about any element of travel, this is the place I go to for answers!
  • #girlstravel - This Twitter chat is literally catered for empowering and connecting women who travel. Even if you're not into joining in on their weekly Twitter chats every Monday from 1 - 1:30 EST, just scrolling through the previous chats is a great way to get some uplifting words and insight. 
  • Women On The Road Podcast - Okay, this amazing podcast is alllll about the amazing stories women have experiences first hand throughout their travels, it makes me so happy inside when I tune in. 
  • Women High On Adventure - Although I haven't personally taken part in one of these fabulous trips, this travel company plans some insanely life-changing adventures and expeditions for women. I'm eyeing up doing something fun from this group in the future! 
  • Women In Travel Summit - This travel summit is great for any lady out there who wants to learn more about making their place in the travel industry. Their yearly organized meeting of the minds is always in a fantastic city and a great way to learn new skills and tips in the blogging, social media and marketing niche. 

I could literally go on and on with resources for female travelers. Is this something you guys would like to have on-hand? Let me know!

2018 Is The Year Of Women & Wanderlust | ROAM + GOLIGHTLY

Happy adventuring you wonderful women, this is
your year to wander!

China: Delirium, Contrasts & Soft Memories

It was a hot-hot teenage romance you and I had together, dear China. You made me sweat (dear god, the amount of sweat I collected that summer), you kept me awake at night, you catapulted unending amounts of attention my way, you enticed me with late nights out past curfew trying new foods in tiny hole in the wall entrances. And yet all the while getting to know you, I realized how much of a stranger I was in your lands. There was no denying, China and I were not made for a persisting, longwinded romance. Oh no. But my summer in China burned so heavily, I still have longwinded stories to tell that I have yet to find the audience for.

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The frenzy. Smells pungent, sweet, savory, spice. Smells that could knock you down with one whiff. Flavors that could send your eyes into a fizzy, frothy tear-stricken hysteria. Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings, fish head soups, peking duck, stinky tofu. Flavors that send me reeling (and undeniably drooling) as I type their names onto page. People kind, yet bold and insistent. Lines upon lines upon unending lines of people. Working people, business men, grandmothers fanning themselves in the midday heat, young students flashing selfies and the younger holding hands of their fast-paced parents decking the streets. The noise of millions. The loudspeaker salesmen, the alarm ridden streets, the running of the subway, the horns of thousands. Sights older than time, more densely historical than I could wrap my head around. Tracing steps of those from dynasties and centuries of family lines and histories. Limitless lights and billboards and seven storied shopping complexes. 

A summer of contrasts. A summer of sweat, and learning, and writing (lots of writing), and dumplings, and creating, and trains, and planes, and lines, and moments of such dizzying bliss/frustration all at once. A summer of split images and five second scenes playing out in my head. One second we were specks beside towering skyscrapers so high that we could barely see their endings, and another we were squatting into toilet holes. One second we would be exploring world wonders so ancient we can barely understand the context of just how old the relics they are, and another we'd be in one of the most slick, streamlined building of the future. 

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The delirium of China sits right in the forefront of my mind.

But the soft moments lining my imagination remain stronger.

Lily pads dancing lightly with the dense, thick summer breeze. The sight of the humpbacked mountains of the south, jetting out of the Li River like the back of a dragon about to take off. The ceramic lined shops where tea was poured and reading was done. The warmth of handmade dinners made with locals in their living rooms. The hours we spent learning about the making and tasting of tea, reaching a "high" of caffeine only questionable if you haven't experienced it yourself. The interactions of inn owners, jokes made over breakfast in the morning and then over drinks in the evening. Late walks around sunset drenched lakes. The joy of a cool breeze that would sneak in from the north. Watermelon for dessert. Showing travelers the absolute JOY of breaking open and slurping up their first soup dumpling (a small bite, savor the broth, pour sauce, sprinkle with ginger, devour). Discovering sugary splendor in the form of a dipped peking duck. Climbing ancient towers, learning stories of dynasties of yore, hearing folk stories of love and revenge and strength. The sound of a lone wooden whistle, playing melodies of centuries old. The pure acknowledgement of gratitude to be able to savor such a place as this. 

These memories persist. They meld into a stirring mixture in my mind. And yet, the ones that rise to the top are those moments, those blips in time, I find myself lost in China. Lost in its age. Lost in its culture. Lost in its food. Lost, discovering, coping, creating, yearning. An amalgamation of fleeting memories. China. I will never know you. But I will have many, many moments to sift through and learn from, from afar. 

I fall in love with places. What about you?