Is DNA Travel the Next Biggest Trend?

Is DNA Travel the Next Biggest Trend?

We may be more virtually connected than ever, but how much do we really know about our identity? Thanks to advances in genetic technology and a more affordable entry point, DNA travel is in vogue. If you’ve ever been curious about your cultural heritage or wanted to trace the footsteps of ancestors, this is how to go about it.

trees have been used to chart our genealogical ancestry
since the 11th century, but they’ve often been something of an
inexact, long-winded and expensive science. That is until the Human
Genome Project – a global, 13-year project to map the three billion
base pairs of DNA in a man or woman – marked a watershed in the way
we approach genetics.

Today, family trees have blossomed in the popular, public
sphere. You can buy DNA-testing kits for as little as £49, with the
resulting information being pinged to your inbox. By 2019, more
than 26 million people had taken a home DNA test.
Celebrities trace their roots on our televisions in programmes such
as BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?, ITV’s Long Lost Family and
Australian docuseries Go Back to Where you Came From.

Where digging into your history was once a pursuit for the
elderly, it’s now become de rigueur among a younger, millennial
audience. According to a survey by ORC International, 76 per cent
of millennials wanted to know more about their DNA compared to just
32 per cent of respondents over the age of 65. We want to know
ourselves better.

Yet if we really want to understand where we came from, it makes
sense that we should trace the footsteps of our ancestors
physically as well as from behind a computer screen – and tour
operators are making it easier to do so than ever before, with
immersive itineraries that probe into customers’ cultural heritage.
Based on their results, adventurers may find themselves in a
Cambodian jungle, a Scottish castle or a Brooklyn tenement. Where
would your journey take you?

Is it really worth it?

Depending on your DNA results, your personal journey could take
you to some of the most unexpected heritage sites or the most
mundane locales. According to Ancestry, some of the most popular destinations
for DNA travel include Ireland, Italy, Scotland, Germany and
Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Visit Scotland claims that in 2012,
213,000 trips were made based on genealogy travel.

Exciting destination or not, what’s great about heritage travel
is the chance to meet new people, to forge connections and expand –
or perhaps cement – your idea of identity. Where our hunt for
family history was once hampered by inaccessible records and
documents, genetic testing makes it easier than ever to dig out our
roots and establish an emotional connection with places and even
people, be they long lost relatives or friendly faces we meet en

One of the most optimistic takeaways from DNA testing is the
idea that our human experience is one that is interwoven across
cultures and countries. There are no borders when it comes to
genetics. When travel-and-lifestyle company Black & Abroad
began a pan-African tourism campaign, the phrase “go back to
Africa” was stripped of its negative connotations and used to
celebrate diversity. By understanding and embracing our heritage,
we strengthen the barriers against racism and xenophobia.

DNA travel can be affordable and easy

Thought that DNA testing and travel would be an expensive
venture? Think again. Thanks to a new molecular engineering method,
the prices for DNA testing have reduced dramatically, while the
convenience of being able to take them at-home has made the whole
process more accessible.

Once you’ve got your hands on your results, there are several
travel agencies and tour operators such as Classic Journeys offering tailor-made trips based on
your genetic history. Airbnb
partnered with 23AndMe
to provide recommendations for
accommodation and activities after receiving customers’ ancestry

Such a demand for bespoke journeys is part of a shift in the way
we think about travel and what we want from our trips. Where
five-star poolside getaways were once the epitome of luxury, we now
crave personal, culture-rich experiences – and there are few things
that can get more personal than the genetic material that makes us.

Do I need to use a travel agent?

While using travel agents, tour groups and personalised
itinerary planners have their perks, there are ways to DIY your DNA
expedition. Here’s how.

1. Assess what you have

What better way to start a detective hunt than with what’s
already right in front of you? Look through what you have at home,
including your old photographs, letters stuffed drawers, old
diaries – you know the drill. Once you’ve collected what’s most
useful, talk to your elders and family members, or the people that
knew them.

2. Research

Online resources such as Ancestry are a great place to start building
your family tree and accessing digitised records. Once you’ve done
this, you may wish to broaden your search by visiting a public
library or archive where birth records and the like are kept.
Organisation will be a key weapon in your arsenal; make a folder –
you’ll thank us later.

3. Get a DNA test

Once you’ve made a start on the physical records, it’s time to
dive deeper with a genetic test. Of course, there’s a plethora of
testing services available; popular options include AncestryDNA
and MyHeritage. A great part of digging into your family
history is the chance to connect with far-flung relatives. Many DNA
testers include an option to leave contact details available for
potential matches in the future – look out for this service when
you’re choosing your kit.

4. Plan your trip

Pin down the ancestral destination that excites you the most and
plan a trip, it’s really as simple as that. Ahead of travel,
research sites of interest and records that may be of use to you,
perhaps pick up a few words and phrases in the native language and
read around the heritage and traditions of the area. It’s sometimes
worth reaching out to locals social platforms to, for instance, ask
about your family name, or see if there are any local forums
dedicated to family history.

5. Bon voyage

We can’t promise this will be an adventure of a lifetime, but
taking the time to embrace a physical and emotional connection with
a destination can help you to experience the place in a more
profound way.

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