Posted by: Ciaran | October 18, 2009

Reasons to love travelling #2 – Getting to know your ‘original’ self

Now, maybe this seems a little bit deep.  I’m not talking here about ‘finding yourself’ by going off to Asia and spending a hazy few months living as some sort of faux hippy; I’m talking about genealogy.

Since the BBC made family trees part of the common consciousness rather than something seen as a slightly quirky hobby with Who Do You Think You Are? there seems to be a greater interest than ever in finding out where we come from.

With this in mind, I frequently head back to a small town in the south of Ireland called Clonakilty to visit family and look at the places where two of my grandparents grew up.  I feel like I can’t really understand who I am or how I came to be me without first understanding this place, what made them the people they are.

Inchydoney beach, Clonakilty

Inchydoney beach, Clonakilty

So I visit family and friends, go to cemeteries and ruins, drink in the pubs – all the time hearing their anecdotes and listening to what shaped them.  The more I delve into my family history, the more I realise why they hold the views they do: the views that they have passed on first to my mother, and through her to me.

Family can provide a great excuse for travel: free food, somewhere to stay, catching up with loved ones you haven’t seen for too long.  But travelling to the places where your family are from and grew up can provide great and intriguing clues to who you are.  I’ve got no special interest in mapping my family tree; instead, the lure for me is seeing the places that my grandparents lived as youngsters, walking the streets, meeting the people, contextualising their stories.

Without doing that, I wouldn’t know why I am who I am.

The Virgin Mary's Bank, Clonakilty

The Virgin Mary's Bank, Clonakilty

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