Traveling My Roots
A DNA Travel Project
I’m Lisette Austin, travel podcaster, writer and adoptee. I am currently traveling to where my biological ancestors are from – in North America, Europe and Africa.
Along the way, l am exploring ancestral places, family stories, Black history, the immigrant experience, the complexities of adoption and being multiracial – and ultimately my identity.
About this project…
What if you grew up not knowing your biological family?
As an adoptee from a closed adoption, that was my experience. I loved my adoptive parents, but was missing a part of myself. Not knowing my biological parents was a strange truth I skirted around, and tried to ignore.
And as a biracial woman, I knew that whoever my Black ancestors were, they were probably stolen from Africa. Even if I could identify that side of the family, I would never know my African lineage.
In my late 20s, I contacted my biological mother. But my birth father was still an unknown. Decades later, consumer DNA testing changed everything. I first tested simply to find out which African countries were in my genetic code. But over time, I successfully identified my Black biological father, a man I never thought I would know.
Now I had all the pieces of the puzzle. I decided to travel to the places my ancestors were from, weaving parts of myself back together. These include Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ireland, Scotland, Sicily, Albania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and Nigeria.
Along the way, I am exploring ancestral places, family stories, Black history, the legacy of slavery, the immigrant experience, the complexities of adoption and being multiracial – and ultimately my own identity.
In sharing some of my stories, I hope to offer a window into what DNA travel is about – and inspire you to uncover hidden family histories and embark on your own heritage travel adventures.
“I think that until you’re in a place where a story occurred, you don’t necessarily have all the pieces of it. You don’t necessarily know the full context of it.”
“To understand and reconnect with our stories, the stories of the ancestors, is to build our identities.”
“Our ancestors are totally essential to our every waking moment, although most of us don’t even have the faintest idea about their lives, their trials, their hardships or challenges.”
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
“Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.”
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
“When I see the past as ancestral wisdom, then everyone and everything is there in the moment. Only then will the bones rattle and the wisdom emerge from the ruins of who and what has been diminished or lost.”
I’m a travel podcaster, also known as Jet Set Lisette. I was the host of the award-winning Globetrotter Lounge Podcast where I interviewed diverse women who found creative ways to travel more. (Listen to episodes from the final season that are relevant to Traveling My Roots).
I’m also a writer, web designer and creator of the online course, Jet Set 101: Becoming a Travel Hacker.
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