We all come from somewhere. Whether our parents bravely crossed borders for a better life before we were born, or generations ago our families were deeply entrenched in the southern hemisphere, our bloodlines race with the trade winds across the oceans to connect to another land and another time. Nowadays, more and more travelers are discovering the roots of these bloodlines through heritage travel, which combines the excitement, relaxation and bonding of a vacation with the education of a history lesson. But this is not your regular history lesson, when you slept on your desk in the back of the room during fourth period. When the subject of the lesson is your family, you’ll enjoy sitting at the head of this class.
Discovering your roots through heritage travel is especially poignant if your cultural background is dissimilar from your partner’s. Sharing their heritage with a new spouse or with children is driving more and more people to bypass the amusement parks of the world and head for the homelands of their forefathers. To discover more about heritage travel and how it can enhance your next vacation, talk to a member of ASTA (American Society of Travel advisors). Some of the most travel-wise people in the world, ASTA members know how to connect the glories of your past with a glorious vacation of your present.
Heritage tourism is traveling to experience the places, monuments, museums and relics that tell the story of a people, culture or race. This story often represents eons, tracing the arduous journey of a national consciousness from its primordial beginnings to its present day state. During this story, travelers discover ancestral points of view, symbolic artifacts and all the small pieces that create their cultural identity.
Yet heritage travel is not just limited to the discovery of deep ancestral roots. Often it’s a journey to the recent past to experience the events that shaped our current surroundings. This form of heritage travel is popular in America, where travelers seek out tangible history icons – battlefields, civil rights protest sites – that were instrumental in the development of the nation. States are catching on to heritage travel’s growing popularity. Many have formed cultural heritage tourism programs designed to promote significant sites and monuments within its borders. One crucial step in this promotion is to officially list these sites with the National Register of Historic Places, where currently more than 74,000 historic areas, national parks and landmarks are identified for preservation and celebration.
Not to be left behind, countries around the world are making their heritage sites a priority. Since heritage tourism uses national assets – historic, cultural, and natural resources – that already exist, countries realize the benefit of developing their tourism potential as opposed to creating new attractions. This arrangement works well for the assets themselves, for the prestige associated with national designation elevates these properties as valuable cultural resources, ensuring the restoration and preservation needed for them to be enjoyed for generations to come.
With 192 countries in the world, each with a distinct and unique history, there are a vast number of heritage sites for all travelers interested in uncovering their roots. Visiting the country of your lineage is the most common form of heritage travel, where you can see firsthand the customs and settings of your forefathers by visiting museums, castles, battlegrounds and villages. In the United States, many minority travelers prefer to stay within the borders to investigate the recent past. African-Americans are rediscovering the scenes – of both triumph and anguish – of their southern heritage by visiting historic sites detailing slave life and civil rights struggles.
Aiding these endeavors, many southern states are endorsing African-American heritage sites. Tennessee actively promotes the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, while Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia recently opened the Great Hopes Plantation – a realistic replica of an 18th-century plantation complete with black field slaves and their tiny slave dwellings. Hispanic travelers are also discovering the enormous impact of their forefathers. From the Spanish Colonial era up to the mid-20th century, the Unites States witnessed an influx of Hispanic immigrants from Central America, the Caribbean and Spain. Nowadays travelers are flocking to Hispanic cultural sites, including the San Antonio Missions, De Soto National Memorial Park near Tampa Bay and St. Augustine, America’s oldest city.
Transforming the annual family vacation into a cultural history lesson can be a rewarding experience that adds an unforgettable and personal touch to your travels. However, travel advisors want you to remember that half of a heritage vacation is the vacation – always plan a little R&R time between sites.
To begin the R&R time early, rest easy and get a travel advisor to plan your heritage trip. Armed with a world of knowledge, travel advisors know the best ways to get you and your family to the places you want to go, connecting multiple cultural sites into one, wondrous journey, all at a fair price that will make your ancestors proud. Change history into your-story. Contact a trusted travel advisor today and make plans to explore your personal family history.