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Healing from generational trauma through the exploration of your ancestry is a profound journey of self-discovery and resilience. Delving into the roots of your family history becomes a transformative process, offering insights that illuminate the sources of generational challenges while paving the way for healing and forgiveness.

Can traveling to ancestral lands heal generational trauma? Well, this is what I intended to find out. From my experience, the answer is, “yes”.

Personal Journey

My journey to Ireland evolved as a result of taking a DNA test to see if my dad was truly my biological father. The results were conclusive and matched other ancestry research I’d already completed. So I booked a trip to Ireland, the homeland of my ancestors.

There is a name for this type of travel experience. ‘Ancestral Tourism’ refers to travel and exploration undertaken by individuals seeking to connect with their ancestral roots and heritage. This type of tourism involves visiting the places where one’s ancestors lived, uncovering familial histories, exploring cultural traditions, and experiencing firsthand the landscapes and environments that played a role in shaping one’s family history. Ancestral tourism is often driven by a desire to deepen personal connections and gain insights into one’s cultural identity. My trip to Ireland was driven by a deep desire to heal generational trauma.

Generational Trauma Steals Family Pride

Ancestry research is an effort to foster a sense of identity and belonging. From a theoretical perspective, family trees provide these basic, feel-good fundamentals. However, as a survivor of generational trauma, looking to the past for identity can elicit shame and pain. Therefore, looking for answers regarding my family history is very literal, and aims to break the cycle of substance abuse, abandonment, neglect, and violence. I seek not only healing for myself, but my children.

Embarking on a trip to Ireland symbolized a direct confronting of reclaiming lost narratives due to alcoholism, incest, and shame. These generations of dysfunctional behavior patterns were instilled in me, because I was raised by family members that, for generations before, were also infected with these afflictions.

Reclaiming Family Heritage

Shame causes a person to hide, make themselves small, want to disappear. Going to Ireland represented a reversing of the effects of shame. It enabled me to build connections with my heritage, reclaim cultural practices, traditions, and strengths obscured by the shadows of trauma. Embracing the positive aspects of my ancestry is a source of empowerment and healing. It fosters a renewed sense of purpose, and facilitates breaking the cycle of generational trauma with compassion and insight.

Can Traveling To Ancestral Lands Heal Generational Trauma?

Today I embrace my ancestors with pride, as well as the lands from which they came. It is with humility and gratitude that I accept that I am a product of generational trauma, but the story doesn’t end there. I am also a product of healing.

Visiting The Emerald Island

If you have familial roots in the British Isles, this itinerary may be the one for you! If you are a survivor of generational trauma and have homelands in other parts of the world, perhaps Ancestral Tourism will take you there one day. Finally, if you are looking for unforgettable travel to a magical land with the kindest people on the planet, you’re in the right place.

sign in Ireland pointing author around Ireland for self healing journey to answer the question, Can Traveling To Ancestral Lands Heal Generational Trauma?

However, there is always the option of stretching your budget and using taxi service to navigate for you, rather than figuring out the public transportation system for yourself. If that is where your comfort zone lies, go for it. But the thrill is in the adventure. So I wholeheartedly recommend stretching your safe place and attempt busses, trams, trolleys, and railways. Even though is may be scary, it will be fun! And you will be so proud of yourself once you accomplish it.

Spend the first three days in District known as Dublin 9. There is so much to see and do right outside your door. Not sure if you want to explore on your own? Why not sign up for a walking tour!

Griffith Park

Griffith Park gulls, and park for peaceful time

Take a short walk around the city of Dublin

Dublin biker commuting through town

Order take away dinner for eating at the guest house garden or patio. Be sure to have your field guide handy to record the sights and sounds.

garden patio at hotel in Dublin

Try to pace yourself. Remember, just having the courage and energy to travel alone is a huge accomplishment! Whatever you see that first day will wow you.

For a fee of €200, you will enjoy a comprehensive display of Irish history and entertaining banter from serious to silly. 

The tour begins with a re-enactment of Patrick Pearse’s famous speech which took place on August 1, 1915. Delivered at the grave site of the Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, the dramatization is performed by a uniformed soldier realistic to the times. Significant to Ireland’s history is the fact that just a few months after O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral, the 1916 Easter Rising began. 

Ancestral healing trauma travel
Established in 1832, Glasnevin Cemetery holds the graves of notable historical figures including Michael Collins, Daniel O’Connell, and Arthur Griffith.

The tour isn’t all heavy cerebral lifting. Much of the facts are sprinkled along quirky and true stories of including grave robbers and accidental burials. There is a museum and gift shop included with the ticketed tour price.

National Botanic Gardens

Directly adjacent to Glasnevin Cemetery is the FREE and magnificent National Botanic Gardens.

beautiful flowers in botanical garden

Even if you are not a flower fanatic, you won’t want to miss this rare opportunity to view the exquisitely restored historic glasshouse.

historic greenhouse in botanic garden

These structures, which resemble turn of the century design, will capture your imagination. The National Botanic Gardens borders the cemetery and compliments Irish culture and pride in a unique way. Gardening is yet another way enchanting Ireland will capture your heart.

beautiful sunflowers with purple and pink dotting the background

After the beauty and awe of these gems, stroll through the streets of Dublin for people watching and amazing takeaway food.

Ireland sign

Expect to travel for at least half of your day. Your first bus on the Expressway bus line and fare should come in at around 24 euros. 

Expressway Route 30 / x30

There are two ways to get to your Expressway Route 30 / x30 bus stop, Dublin airport or City Center, Busaras. Both departing points have pick up times about every 1.5 hours. The ride, which takes approximately 4 hours, is mostly highway. 

TFI (Transport For Ireland)

To reach County Donegal, you will transfer to the bus line, TFI (Transport For Ireland) Local Link . Local Link will pick you up from The Abbey Hotel stop in Donegal. There are dozens of eating and shopping venues to choose from if you have an overlap of time or just want to walk and stretch your legs. If you are a people-watcher, you will not be disappointed during your wait.

TFI Local Link

Now that you are safe and sound in County Donegal, you will use TFI Local Link public transportation system. TFI Local Link truly makes public transportation tourist -friendly, because you board your connector bus in the exact same spot as you were just dropped off. The fare on TFI Local Link is around 4 euros for your hour-long last leg. 

The one enchanting attraction not to be missed in County Donegal is Sliabh Liag Cliffs. These majestic cliffs are the second highest in Ireland, and some of the highest in all of Europe. In addition, like many other Irish sea cliffs, it’s cultural gem, steeped in tales of fairies and superstitions as well as being a destination for spiritual pilgrimage for thousands of years. It is one of Ireland’s three holy mountains, and has inspired saints and scholars alike. It provides solitude and self healing for your hike.

cliffs in Ireland
author in Ireland
Bring a poncho because, you know, it’s Ireland.

To get from Glencolmcille to the Province of Ulster where Sliabh Liag cliffs are located, take the Local Link bus which takes you almost all the way there. You need to get off in Carrick then walk the last leg. Along the way you’ll pass the world famous Rusty Mackerel. Another 5 minutes and you’ll arrive at the visitor center where you can pick up the shuttle for a small fee. 

restaurant in Ireland
World Famous Rusty Mackerel

To return home back to Glencolmcille, walk to Carrick and enjoy deliciously hot chicken goujons and chips at Kelly’s Kitchen. Then hop on the Local Link for a 25 minute ride back to Glencolmcille for a fare of 4 euros. 

The Folk Village

One of the best kept secrets in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) of South West Donegal is The Folk Village, which is a living history museum displaying over 5,000 years of Old Ireland.

Each cottage, or clachan, highlights an exact replica dwelling used by the local people of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries time period.

As a living history meaning ‘of the people’ museum, the displays are authentic and represent the traditions and daily life. These sights brought unexpected healing to me, as I created a loving connection to my ancestors. It helped heal my generational trauma.

museum in Ireland
19th century cottages boast decorative displays contribute to enchanting Ireland’s history

There are many group tours to choose from, including St. Brigid’s Cross Making, tapestry weaving, and fisherman’s net mending, just to name a few. 

museum in Ireland
Our guide explained beds were used by many members of a family who slept vertically, not horizontally, to allow nighttime coughs to be more productive

If you lodge close to the Malin More crossroad stop of Local Link, you can walk to the village. There’s even a shortcut (boasting a brief portion of the International Appalachian Trail that overlooks Glen Bay beach and offers a glorious view to accompany you.

Killybegs

There is so much to see and do in and around Glencolmcille that you may not want to leave the immediate area. However, if you choose to venture into a neighboring town, I recommend a day trip to Killybegs.

Here is a portion of enchanting Ireland that includes a seafaring village. The landscape is vastly different from the beaches and sea cliffs close to the Glen area.

 The Local Link bus drops you in the center of this small, easily walkable town where you can cruise unforgettable Irish coastal lands, walk the port to watch harbor seals and jellyfish, take in the remarkable commercial fishing boats, and have lunch along the water from the amazing food truck options. The bus leaves from the same place it dropped you, and costs about 4 euros.

killybegs Ireland
Killybegs Harbour – take a cruise to pass by St John’s Point, Muckross Head Pennisula,
the coastal shore towns of Ballyshannon & Bundoran, the table shaped mountain of Benbulbin in Sligo & the Mayo coast.

The story of Killybegs history is a colorful one. The Charter of Killybegs took place in 1615 by order of King James I, King of England. Just twelve years later, Dutch pirate warships loaded with Spanish gold and silver arrived in Killybegs harbor while awaiting pardon from the Queen of England. Eventually, boats from the pirate ships came ashore looking for food and water. Peace-loving citizens of Killybegs were relieved that the pirates were unarmed except to cut their meat. One glimpse of this historic seaport town and it is easy to see how the history and stories have withstood the test of time.

Sliabh Liag Cliffs- Part 2

Take a cruises along the Sliabh Liag cliffs

Another thing to do in Killybegs is to take a cruise around the Sliabh Liag Cliffs. Taking a cruise along coastline gives you the opportunity to experience this magical place from two distinct perspectives.

Return To Dublin For Departure

Final Thoughts On Traveling To Ancestral Lands Heal To Generational Trauma

Although this trip to enchanting Ireland was prompted by ancestry connection, it’s not the past I went seeking, or found. As a survivor of generational trauma, I sought answers, forgiveness, peace. Although I use the past to learn and grow, I don’t use it to define me.

Ireland was, and is, all about the present. The heart of Ireland, and generations of my people are alive and thriving.

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