Even those of us who love Ireland, enjoy regular road trips, and plan to see every last inch of the land, occasionally need to get out. When you're living in a small country, you're lucky if you don’t get fed up with its limits once in a while. Fortunately, travelling in Europe is a relative breeze. That’s at the least in comparison to what most of the world have to go through, including the UK if Brexit ever happens!
But for some of us, going to any old place is less than ideal. Especially with globalization today, a lot of cities and even countries end up looking pretty similar. Singapore, for example, on the other side of the globe, looks an awful lot like a busy European city, complete with Zara, H&M, Topshop, and Starbucks on every corner.
I love going somewhere with personal meaning. And despite having little idea of any cultural heritage outside Ireland, I realized I could get all that information through an ancestry test. There are ancestry DNA tests for all purposes, including a testing kit if you're looking some serious genealogy details. I used one that would give me the most details of where exactly in the world my family was from.
How did this influence my travel plans?
Turkey, here I come
It turns out that I, like a lot of Irishmen, have significant Turkish ancestry. I had never thought of myself in relation to that region. In fact, I expected to find out I was far more Eastern European than that. However, I’m quite glad for my Turkish heritage. Turkey is an incredible country.
Istanbul was obviously my first port of call, and it really did feel significant that I was traversing the land of my ancestors. What are the chances that I’d be in the same place that those who came thousands of years before me lived?
What was more surprising was that some of my ancestry (a full 20%) is from Eastern Asia. I would never have guessed it, as it is nowhere to be found in my features or in the features of any of my family.
There was something enlightening about finding out this information. It forced me to reconsider the way I considered “us” and “them.” Yes, people in East Asia are very different to me, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, we have a lot in common.
Traveling to Japan was something I’d always wanted to do anyway. It is one of those countries that retains a strong identity in the face of globalization. It is not so different that I felt uncomfortable there, but there was a lot to learn from it as well.
Seeing Japan with my new perspective was not quite the same as seeing myself as belonging there. After all, I’m Irish through and through, no matter where my ancestors lived. However, I believe I was more able to see the similarities between me and the people there than I would have otherwise been able to. When I traveled to Thailand a few years ago, for example, it felt like another world. Japan was as different, but it did not feel nearly as “other”.
I’ve made good use of my ancestry results for travel purposes. It has given me a new perspective on “different” places and cultures, and I’m all the better for it.