The benefits of ancestral travel

Ancestral Travel

We all travel for various reasons.  What we each seek from the experience will be different. 

Perhaps it is to rest and recharge, to visit family, for work and business, to explore, to spend time with our loved ones, to get away, to be inspired, to volunteer or to see new places or be exposed to other cultures.  All of which are perfectly valid. 

My focus now is ancestral travel.  Seeds planted many years ago when I travelled to Dunkeld, Victoria.  A small country town nestled at the base of The Grampians, it was where my paternal ancestors settled after their immigration from Scotland in the mid 1800’s.   Over twenty years later these seeds were watered/nurtured during my first trip to Scotland 2019.  No longer was Scotland the land of my ancestors, it felt like my land too.  And whilst I was set to return in the April 2020 for an extended time to further explore my ancestral roots, covid-19 put a temporary halt to that.  Whilst I sit patiently and wait for the international travel borders to open, I will continue to research my Scottish and Irish ancestors, adding to my list of ancestral lands to visit.

Ancestral travel is about:

  • Connection
  • Insight
  • Understanding + appreciation
  • Healing
  • Reverence + respect
  • History + present
  • Transformation


In her article ‘How travel might become more like spiritual pilgrimage: an autoethnographic study’ Laura Beres shares with us the many therapeutic benefits of ancestral travel, when undertaken as a form of pilgrimage.  I have briefly summarised them below and included my personal observations accordingly.

Ancestral travel / pilgrimage can provide many therapeutic benefits:

  • Physical/biological
    • Eating new foods
    • Walking in new places
    • Sensory activation – smell (air, foods), audial (hearing different sounds)
  • Emotional + mental
    • Psychological health
    • Mental stimulation
    • Expanding awareness
    • Growth – beyond comfort zones
    • Gaining a different perspective
    • Sense of belonging
    • Self-reflection – challenge one’s perception of self, beliefs values, stories told
    • Self-insight – becoming more aware of one’s self
  • Spiritual
    • Deepens relationship with self
      • Gain insight into who you think you are and really are, truth vs. story
    • It facilitates a connection beyond one’s self
      • to another person and tribe
      • to land and place
      • to history
    • Which engenders a sense of belonging
    • Reveals through timeline and exploration an interconnectedness
      • With self to past
      • between self and our ancestors
      • Their life and its impact on where and who we are now
    • Presents the past in an identifiable way
      • Takes you beyond words in a history book and gives you a tangible understanding
      • Puts a name to a moment in time (ie, assisted passage, convicts, war)
    • Expansion beyond physical
    • Clearing the past ties
  • Social
    • Interaction with other
    • Different conversations
    • Creating new friendships
    • Becoming part of new communities
    • Connecting with new family circles
    • Exposure to new cultures and their people


Laura Béres (2018) How travel might become more like spiritual pilgrimage: An autoethnographic study, Journal for the Study of Spirituality, 8:2, 160-172, DOI:10.1080/20440243.2018.1523048

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