It started as a Christmas gift from a daughter, a 23andMe DNA kit. Open up a test tube, fill it with saliva, seal it, log the kit’s serial number on the website, send it in the prepaid envelope and away we go! My wife did the same procedure with her kit as well. A few weeks later, the reports were in. Some elements were of no surprise, while the more remote elements, geographic heritage in the 1/10 of a percent or less bore some amusing surprises worthy of interesting cocktail conversations.
Intellectually, what intrigued me most were the boundaries and definitions. Most of us view nationality based on current boundaries, for example we are “German” or “Polish” but not “Prussian.” Or, one could be “French/German” because the region has shifted borders countless times over the centuries. I began to think, place is simply place, whereas names typically reflect a current political state. Nationality requires not just location, but the element of time as well. Some things are timeless. Scandinavian countries, for example, will always be near the Baltic Sea. As a result, many in this region of harsh winter challenges for agriculture relied on the sea for food as well as the use of smoking and brine to preserve food for winter. Suddenly I understood my love of smoked salmon may have a genetic root.
I pondered my origin. Knowing one parent was almost purely Estonian and the other primarily a mix of French and the British Islands I subconsciously felt “at home” while visiting these areas. I guess home is where the heart is as well as your origins. Virtually all of us are a blend of origins. Not just your parents and grandparents, but even deeper. Consider this. I am half “Teel” (my father’s surname) and half “Dains” (my mother’s maiden name). Or am I? Go out one generation more, and it’s now 4 last names, another generation makes it eight last names. And in just 8 generations, it grows to a whopping 1,024 last names. That’s 1,024 possible different geographic origins. It’s hard to imagine we aren’t all somehow related, even if ever so slight, and that everywhere in the world has the possibility of being a little piece of home.
No wonder I love to travel. How about you? Do you travel for adventure? Curiosity? To see family and friends? A change of scenery? All of the above? You know, when you travel to see a distant relative or a close relative that geography limits interaction with, you suddenly get to know and understand them. You also understand your own family a little better. The same goes for places. You are seeing more of your “home.” Without travel, it’s almost like living in a home all your life and never bothering to enter many of the rooms.
So get out there and travel and play. You may find out more about who you are and how you got there.