Check out Native Traveler's full-length IRELAND show!


Amid the remnants of our family homestead in Ulster Ireland, I found myself asking these questions—what about this place made my ancestors who they were, who we are. The quest for such answers has more and more travelers hitting the road to explore family roots the world over. This show celebrates their journeys.

Road Trip Images from Ulster

Ulster Roots

Ulster Roots

My 85-year-old mother’s slumbering inhalations sound like a slow, breathy metronome. In the next seat, my son Mack looks on in genuine, 11-year-old wonder about ten inches from her open mouth. Despite the crush and chatter of passengers settling in for this flight to Dublin, Mom has fallen deeply, blissfully asleep just minutes since our boarding.

My husband Tim exhales with exasperation, standing with bag in hand and peering into the already packed overhead bin. I know the feeling, but not about carry-on.

There is no sugar coating this. Transporting five people with birthdates spanning seven decades across the Atlantic, then squeezing them into a mid-sized Renault hatchback to drive 650 kilometres of remote northern Irish coastline on some ancestry scavenger hunt—well, it’s one big, messy ordeal. Still, if there’s such a thing as shared genetic memory, the idea of our three generations summoning it together just seemed important. And with every sip of my un-chilled airline chardonnay, I’m feeling more hopeful it is.

Going Home // National Geographic Traveler

A version of my Native Traveler Ulster story was part of a collaborative cover feature for National Geographic Traveler Magazine.  The collection won a 2014 SATW Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award and North American Travel Journalists Association Award.  See the essays of my fellow "Going Home" writers below, starting with this stunning piece by National Geographic Magazine staff writer Nina Strochlic.