Why Traveling to Italy Made Me Feel Connected to My Family Roots

It doesn’t take a psychology degree to know that people need to feel as if they belong to groups. This is why religion, cliques and interest groups even exist. We all have an inner desire to fit into a group, and this is especially true with our background stories.

Some of us are more familiar with where our family is from than others. Some might even be born in that country. If you are like me, however, your family came to the United States around the turn of the century, and you may be easily identified as an "American tourist" in foreign countries.

You may want to connect with your roots and travel back home if you can. If you can visit, I highly recommend you do. Here are my top three reasons why you should visit your family’s country of origin and why the experience was inspiring for me.

1. It's eye-opening in so many ways.

When I took my first step in Italy (where my family is from), I felt at home. Among other cities, we went to Pompeii and Positano. My family happens to be from nearby towns, and Pompeii used to be a cultural hub. There was a very likely chance that my family walked the same streets I had — thousands of years before me. Something about the experience just made the trip more meaningful to me. It really made me appreciate where I came from.

2. It can be a lot of fun to trace your roots.

Even before you go on the trip, logging into ancestry.com or even taking a DNA test is so much fun if you have the opportunity. I love history, so about three years ago, I expanded upon my aunt’s family tree. Three years later, that tree expanded from 15 people to 1,374 people. It was a lot of fun to meet new family members and find out together where we came from. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find family members that still live in your country, and you can go visit them!

3. You may gain a sense of belonging — even if you're in an unfamiliar place.

When you land in your country, you very well might feel as if you belong there. This is normal, as you have built a connection to this place. Explore this connection in an environment where you can really get to know your family’s cultural roots. If you know a little of the language, speak it to a native and get a better feeling for your family’s home.

When I was in Venice, I had a whole conversation with a woman who didn’t speak a lick of English. How? I studied the language through workbooks and Duolingo and even practiced it with my family. Learning Italian/Venetian helped me connect to my roots, and it made me feel more at home.

It is hard to understand what I am talking about if you haven’t gone through this process yourself, but trust me, if you ever do go through it, you will be glad you did it. My family as a whole feels more connected, and when I go to Italy, I always feel safe and at home. Going to a foreign country can be scary, but once you take the first step in a place that your family stepped in themselves, the foreign world feels achievable.