Have you ever had that feeling gently tugging at the far corners of your soul, whispering the question, “Is this all there is to life?” A voice so faint that if you’re not listening, it could easily be drowned out by the hum of everyday life. This was my wife and I about eight years ago. But instead of turning up the volume on the TV, we decided to listen to that voice. This is our story, brought to you in partnership with Ancestry®.
Leaving It All Behind
My wife Hannah and I had been working our professional careers for almost a decade. We were about to get married, had good jobs, lived in a nice house—you know, the American Dream. That’s when that nagging voice seemed to creep into the quiet parts of the day. We wanted to fill that void and we decided to satisfy our cravings for more out of life by traveling the world.
So, we came up with a plan to quit our jobs and travel for a year. We planned and planned, saving as much money as we could before our quit dates. When the day came, we packed up our lives into a backpack to hit the road. We each filled our bags with enough quick-dry adventure clothing to last us for a week or so and everything else we thought we would need.
In my bag, besides the essentials, I made sure to pack a belt buckle that my grandfather had given me before he passed away. He and my grandmother were the center of our family. He was a fishing buddy and much more to our family. He served in WWII, which was a big part of his life, but he would never ever talk about it, ever.
This memento was around my waist as we traversed nearly 100 countries, climbed mountains, slept in a tent surrounded by cape buffalo in Africa, endured some pretty hairy small plane rides, and countless other adventures. When the adventure got a bit too…well, adventurous, I would think about my grandfather and what he must have gone through during WWII. These thoughts would always give me the strength to push through to the next adventure.
Hearing the Call of Home
We originally planned our trip to be just a year, but one turned to two years and eventually led to more than five years living on the road in far-flung places like Thailand, Kenya, India, and much of Europe which you can read about on our travel site GettingStamped.
While I wouldn’t give a single second of it up for anything, eventually, those same voices from half a decade started to creep in. We were again living a great life, but there still felt like something was missing at times.
After five years of living out of a suitcase, we took an apartment in my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while still traveling half of the time. We enjoyed being in the same time zone as family again. Seeing the love our family had for us definitely got us thinking about starting a family of our own.
With thoughts of little ones in our heads, we couldn’t help but to think of family and our origins. When Ancestry® reached out to us to work together and sent us AncestryDNA® kits and free Ancestry subscriptions, it felt like the perfect opportunity to see where our roots would bring us.
Reflections Back Home
Little did we know this would lead us down a whole new path of discovery. We both had ties to Germanic Europe in our DNA.
Hannah’s showed the Netherlands, which made sense, since her mother’s father’s family was from there.
We also found facts and stories we had never even heard about in our family trees. We discovered my grandfather’s bravery wasn’t a fluke. His father served in WWI as a special forces Navy Captain. We found a record on Ancestry® that showed he enlisted in the Navy in 1917, at the age of twenty.
We also learned a lot about our families’ voyages from Europe to America. Hannah’s great-great-grandfather came from the forests of Germany to Wisconsin to be a lumberjack here in the same woods we still enjoy today.
Although we found both of our families had Germanic heritage, Hannah’s family, in particular, had ties to a handful of small villages we had been within a few miles of while road tripping in Europe. Without even knowing it, we likely walked along some of the same stone paths and admired some of the same castles that our relatives had hundreds of years ago.
Along with giving us a new perspective, this information helped us relive some of our past travels. By having records from Ancestry
.com tie our family to these places and regions, it gave us such appreciation for our time aboard and long for more.
DNA and Away
As our little guy gets bigger by the day, we are looking at the map and searching through records to find our perfect next trip as a family.
Some of the top places on our list are some of the unexpected and unexplored (for us) places that came up in our AncestryDNA tests.
Next on the bucket list is the Netherlands, where Hannah’s family has strong ties to, and even with all of our exploring, we haven’t ticked it off yet. Further flung are some of my DNA finds tying my family to parts of Eastern Europe that look fascinating.
Between now and then I have time to delve into my family story, see if I can find what parts of my family tree have ties to intriguing places like Pomerania.
New Meaning to Our Travels
I hope one day, my kids and grandchildren still tell the tales of Hannah and I traveling, and we continue those traditions with our son. As amazing as those times in life were, travel only took us so far.
For us, it took going out seeing the world and then coming home to find what was missing in life. Discovering our families’ deep long history and traditions have brought new meaning to destinations we’ve visited as well as put many new places on our bucket list.
This is our story, but next time you hear that little voice – listen! It may just lead you on a trip of a lifetime!
What Will You Discover?
An AncestryDNA test can reveal more about your past than ever before. And Ancestry records can help you discover rich details about your family, like how much money your grandfather made in 1940 or whether any of your ancestors served in the Civil War.