If Travel is a Highlight, Ancestry is the Text.

I don’t mean to be promotional, but when I get jazzed about something, it seems I can’t help but be that overly enthusiastic person. It’s probably a good thing I’m not into Herbalife or Mary Kay or anything like that.

There are a few hours left to enter Ancestry.com and WorldNomads’ Relative Distance contest for an ancestral quest anywhere in the world.

My entry shot me off into the many accounts I had of meeting relatives that, until my 20s, I didn’t know existed. My life, within two years, went from just Mom and me against the world genetically speaking, to what’s got to be well over 100 family members I could reach out and get to know on both my Mom and Dad’s respective sides of the family.

I’ve been striving to string a connection between my passion for travel, who I am, and who I want to be. Sometimes the strings just don’t connect the way I want them to. And sometimes I know if I keep on trying, it’ll come together, like in this post.

I’ve had, in addition to my mother, an amazing non-genetic family that has, as a community, helped to raise me beautifully. But lack of known genetic relatives growing up has contributed to my passion for travel.

Most of the more formative years of my life were spent away from the adoptive family my mom and I have in my Grandma Diane’s best friend and all her loved ones. While cousins spent their early childhood years regularly coming together and forming bonds, learning about themselves alongside one another, I spent them as an only child in another state.

Genetic relation is a part of identity itself. It’s special to have an adoptive family that you love and can see has helped to ground you, but it’s magic when you connect with a genetic relative for the first time and finally come to understand, without feeling inferior, why the observed bond between your adoptive family members felt so untouchable.

I hit on it a bit in my posts about finding my dad and then actually meeting him, but as a woman who grew up feeling that she didn’t really have a tribe, belonging is no doubt what I search for in my quest for new roads, and the endless roster of cultural experiences I’d like to have. That’s the greatest takeaway from blogging about my excursions to meet new family.

The truth that I’m uncovering more and more recently, is that travel isn’t so much for me about venturing somewhere to shed society, responsibility, or belongings, but rather something of a means to find all of these things.

The road trips my Mom and I took together were a space, as a child, that I could learn about my identity as an American, a lover of art, or a spiritual person who loved what the Native Americans had to say. If I couldn’t find a relative who could help me understand who I was or wanted to be, there was a land somewhere inhabited by people with a trait I could absorb or reject.

Travel has been a way to explore my individual identity to the degree I’ve felt I lacked a communal one. Exploring my ancestry, on the other hand, addresses that basic need for a group I know is an inextricable part of the me that other family and friends press up against and shape. That’s why the two have been so difficult to separate in the past few posts: Travel and ancestry both provide self-definition, but if travel is a highlight, ancestry is the text.

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