Last updated on : Apr 16, 2021

(Last Updated On: April 16, 2021)

One thing I’m continuously intrigued by is retracing my travel roots to figure out how each of us ended up in our current location.  Is where you are now where you grew up, or did you arrive there by some other means?

Last Monday was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, a federal holiday in the U.S., and next week begins Black History Month, which always gets me thinking about my own history.

My family tree can be traced on both sides to Mississippi, a state where “King Cotton” once was the economy.  From slavery to sharecropping to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights era and beyond, my ancestors persevered in the face of bigotry.

Seeking a better life, my grandparents, who were sharecroppers, uprooted my father’s family from a farm in Mississippi to Memphis, a city where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was eventually assassinated.  And even though they had to live in a segregated city, where their movements were restricted by artificial boundaries, such as railroad tracks and overpasses, my grandparents and my parents were determined to overcome.

Fundamentally, education, community, and self-improvement was their legacy, and it’s also mine, too.

One thing is certain–it took incredible strength and willpower for my ancestors to survive the crossing of the Atlantic chained to the bottom of a ship, enslavement on a plantation, and treatment as second-class citizens thereafter.  Undoubtedly, the seeds of their strength and determination have been sown in the DNA of their descendants, such that people like me are even more determined to live the life of our and their dreams.

That’s why I don’t take the ability to travel for granted.  When my parents were young, they didn’t have the ability to explore the other side of the city, let alone another state, solely because of the color of their skin.  And those Blacks that had the courage to travel during that era had to rely on friendly networks and references like the Negro Motorist Green-Book to ensure their safety.

Yet, I am free to go wherever I want whenever I want.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

With all 50 U.S. States visited and more than 5o countries crossed off, I’m fulfilling a dream that my parents could not.  So, as I explore the world, I’ll continue their legacy of breaking down barriers and boundaries, only my boundaries involve venturing across the borders of other countries, not just the bounds of America.

Travel Roots pic2

Listen to my Dad recount a few stories from his childhood, including one of his earliest travel memories.

“I am my ancestors wildest dreams.”

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Taryn White
With 75+ countries and all 50 U.S. states crossed off her list, Taryn's wanderlust and wanderlist continue to grow! She loves historic places, off-the-beaten paths, and beautiful beaches. Follow her pursuits on Instagram and

32 thoughts on “Retracing my travel roots”

  1. Always a good idea to reflect on where you have been and where you’re going. My grandparents, great- grandparents, etc were primarily homebodies- they had little interest in exploring or learning about anyplace other than where they lived. My life is much different and the places I have seen and people I have met have been quite enriching. I haven’t seen as much as you- I have visited 49 states and 12 countries- but these numbers will only grow in the coming years.

    1. Hi Bryan,

      Your roots are so interesting to me! I’ll bet somewhere in your tree was an explorer. I think it’s so cool that you have visited 49 states, and I hope you visit that last state soon!!

  2. This was a really touching post. Traveling our roots isn’t quite the goal of our travels, but maybe it should be more of one. One of us is Morrocan-Ecuadorian, the other is a post-European American mutt. We are getting positioned to live in Ecuador after an initial extended visit, and Morroco is way up on our list. While a trip through the upper midwest and down to Ohio doesn’t sound glamorous, the road’s full of surprises. Thanks for sharing! Congratulations on hitting all of the states, and so many countries! It’s something we aspire to.

    1. Thanks TBT,

      Sounds like you would have a fascinating experience retracing your travel roots. I think travel is more than glitz and glam….all that glitters is not gold. When you get to the heart of something, it’s when you really find out what it’s all about. Enjoy following your travels across the US and around the globe!

  3. That last line sums it all up so perfectly well – you are your ancestors wildest dreams – Wow. Your post made me think of all the travel dreams that have come true for myself & I am ever so grateful for the freedom & opportunities we enjoy today.

  4. This post is incredibly inspiring! I would love to take an ancestryDNA test and travel to where my ancestors came from, and take part of the beautiful culture we once had! Great post!

  5. Wow how amazing! I almost can’t believe how many places you have already seen. I also love that quote “I am my ancestors wildest dreams.” that is so inspiring!

    1. Hi Margriet,

      Thanks for the kinds words. Seeing many places has just made me want to see many more places. That’s why it’s called wanderlust, though, right?!!

  6. Very inspirational post. It is fascinating to just speculate on one’s ancestry. Exploring it through travel must be much more real and effective. My best wishes!

  7. This is such an interesting idea. So many people now are transplants, very few seem to stay any more in the same town where they grew up. Whether due to jobs or other opportunities, people are so mobile now. I love that you took some time to re-examine where you came from, as I think that always helps with perspective.

    1. That is so true Maggie. It used to be that people worked in 1 job and stayed in 1 city. With globalization and technology, people are all over the place now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and so glad you liked the post!

  8. Wonderful post,

    I believe that traveling is the great way to spend your life. The more you see, the more your life has a purpose 🙂

    Thank you

  9. Lovely post Taryn. And very inspiring! I love the determination and boldness of this piece.. Of course we should always look back to where we all came from. It’s such a humbling experience after all, not to mention the motivation that it brings to our being. I wish you all the best. May you be the best dream you ancestors will ever have!

  10. For some of us, travelling can indeed be a form of resistance. There’s a legacy aspect to your travel philosophy that gives the wanderlust the depth of meaning.

  11. Never thought about tracing my roots. It is unbelievable how people back in the day were twice as racist compared to today. So brutal they were! We’re just thankful that we live now in a more integrated world.

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